A Guide to Acquiring Fencing Armor
Curtesy of Lady Aurelia Colleoni a’Buccaforno
Once you catch the fencing bug, you may be eager to start buying items for your fencing kit. There is no rush. That is what loaner gear is for! But if you want to start buying stuff, here is some useful information to help. This is the gear that you need to fence in the SCA:
The first thing that we recommend buying is a pair of gloves that fit you. Loaner gloves are the one thing that we don’t have a lot of, nor do we have many different sizes. Proper fitting gloves will make all the difference when you are getting use to handling a sword. That being said, don’t feel obligated to go out and buy fancy leather period gloves. Anything will suffice to begin with. Go to your closet, your garage, Walmart; as you can see, any type of glove with a cuff will work. Then, when you are ready, you can update to a more period appropriate glove that goes with your persona. The rules for gloves in the East Kingdom are as follows:
“Hands shall be protected by gloves made of abrasion resistant material. …Gloves must cover the wrist opening of the sleeves adequately (three inches as a guideline), so that a blade cannot go up a sleeve.”
Here are some of our favorites:
The next thing on the list is a gorget.
“When using heavy rapier…, the neck and throat must be
additionally protected by rigid material, consisting of some
combination of gorget, help and/or hood insert that covers
the neck from all sides, extending down to the collar bone
in front and protecting the cervical vertebrae in the back.
It is recommended that such rigid material be backed by
Examples of rigid material are:
22 gauge stainless steel (0.8mm)
20 gauge mild steel (1.0mm), 16 gauge aluminum
copper or brass (1.6mm)
one layer of heavy leather (8oz, 4mm)
Resilient padding can be materials equivalent to 0.25 inches of closed cell foam.
In the Shire, most people tend to buy from:
(They have two styles, one that is marked as for fencing and one marked for heavy list. Both with work for our purposes).
If you want to make your own leather gorget, there are various patterns online. Here is an example of one:
You can also inquire within the Shire, as there are many people who do have experience working with leather, making their own gorgets, and would be willing to help.
I know that I can’t go on much further with mentioning where to buy a sword. I know what you’re thinking about! A sword will be
the most expensive thing that you will need for your kit. I highly recommend trying out various swords at practice before committing to one. Prices tend to vary from economy stock to custom builds, but remember, you get what you pay for. Some of these sites sell swords that may not be for what we do, so make sure that the blade you are purchasing is SCA Rapier Legal.
For heavy rapier and cut and thrust, here is most information than you probably want to know, but here it is anyway:
“1. Blades must be made of steel
2. Blades must be no longer than 48″ as measured from the tip to the top of the tang (i.e. where the tang and forte meet)
3. Blades must be reasonably flexible. Heavy rapier blades must flex at least 1 inch (25 mm) when tested as described later in this section. Dagger blades (those under 18 inches), and cut and thrust blades must flex at least 1/2 inch (12.5 mm). Any blade 18 inches or longer, being used in melee combat, must flex at least 1 inch (25 mm).
4. Orthopedic (or “pistol”) grips will not be used unless the fencer has approval from his or her Regional Marshal to do so for medical reasons.
5. Quillions can be no longer than 12 inches (30 cm) end to end. The ends must be blunted and all edges rounded. Quillions must be fixed in place.
6. All steel blades must be reasonably flexible. If doubt exists about a weapon’s flexibility, an acceptable field test is: Hold weapon parallel to the ground, supporting handle against table or bench if necessary. Hang a 6 ounce weight (170 grams) one inch (25mm)from the tip. If the blade of a dagger (out to 18 inches blade length) flexes at least 1/2 inch (12.5 mm) the blade is reasonably flexible. For a heavy rapier blade (18″ or longer), the blade must flex at least 1 inch (25 mm). For use in cut and thrust rapier, the blade must flex at least 1/2 inch (12.5 mm).
7. Any blade 18 inches or longer, being used in melee combat, must flex at least 1 inch (25 mm).
8. Prior to having a tip applied, the point of heavy rapiers and cut and thrust rapiers must tbe cut or filed so that the tip is either flat, or rounded, with no sharp edges or burrs.”
Here are our favorites, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask around:
The benefit of getting your own sword is consistency. When you’re borrowing different swords, each will have different lengths and weights that you need to adjust to. With your own, you can more quickly identify measure, adjust to the weight, and focus more on the other aspects of your practice.
When you order a sword, most places will also ask if you would like to order a blunt rubber tip. The answer is, Yes! That being said, the East Kingdom prohibits the use of Darkwood Armory tips, so if you do buy a sword from Drawkwood Armory, you will have to purchase a rubber tip from elsewhere.
Furthermore, a washer or metal casing needs to be put in the end of the tip to prevent the end of the blade from wearing through the rubber. Tips must be firmly taped or fastened in place using contrasting colored material as described above. That means your tape needs to be a different color from your sword, and your tape needs to be a different color from the rubber tip.
I know you love sharing the community helmet, but when you are ready, there’s nothing like having your own helmet that only has your own sweat. There are plenty of options out there as long as they meet the East Kingdom requirements:
“The mask must completely cover the front and sides of the head, and be securely fastened. Some form of mask tie down is required, such as a snug Velcro closure or tie down. Both modern fencing masks and rapier helms shall show no evidence of impending failure (e.g., significant rust or dents, or other defects including spread open mesh, broken weld points, etc).”
Something to consider when purchasing a mask is whether
or not you want a removable lining. Masks get gross, and
they are quite hard to clean. A removable lining allows
regular cleaning, and when the lining eventually wears (and
it will in any mask), it is easy to purchase a replacement. The
removable lining will change the fit of the helmet, especially
compared to the loaner helmets that you might be used to.
It will form to your face and head over time.
When your purchase your new helmet, it will require some
fitting. This might take some time, so do not get discouraged.
It will eventually work out with enough squeezing and
shaping. If you’re having trouble fitting your helmet, ask for
help! We have all been through it and are more than happy
to help you get it fitting right.
Here are some places with SCA legal helmets for heavy rapier:
There is a second type of helmet available. Some of you may have seen the metal helmets that some people wear. These are suitable for all types of heavy rapier play. For Cut and Thrust, you will require your helmet to have a hard backing.
With a standard fencing helmet, you will also require a hood.
“Protection for the back of the head must be puncture-resistant material. A fighter’s back of the head protection must extend down below the ears and cover the back of the neck. Again, no skin shall show, regardless of the fencing position of the fighter. If the marshal can touch hair or skin above the base of the neck, the back of the head protection is insufficient.”
These can either be attached to the fencing helmet or worn underneath it. Many people sell the later type:
Hoods are super simple to make on your own. For ones to attach to your helmet, simply cut out a semi-circle of puncture-resistant material. You can sew it directly to your helmet or sew it onto a band that you can slide on and off your helmet for easy cleaning.