Comparison of the German screwless foil point designs

Discussion in 'Armory - Q&A' started by Emfuser, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    [​IMG]
    (The FWF (L) and Uhlmann/Allstar (R) screwless points disassembled (outside) and assembled (inside).)

    Preface: I am not a professional armorer. I am a tinkerer and engineer who likes to try new things and I like to share my findings. I'm also not selling anything nor was I provided free parts. Everything I'm writing about was acquired entirely at my own cost at full price. Yes I know this posting will call up all sorts of history and stories and opinions about these sorts of things. I usually enjoy that sort of stuff.

    Introduction
    This article compares the FWF foil tip, which they call "FWFSF" and Uhlmann/Allstar screwless point designs. Hereafter the latter will simply be referred to as the Uhlmann design because that's what I bought. In their naming schemes, Uhlmann calls their screwless point "LUX" and Allstar calls theirs "ULTRA". They are identical.

    Screwless point designs are not new to fencing or foil fencing in particular. In prior years both Schermasport and Estoc ventured into this arena. Schermasport simply called their design "screwless" whereas Estoc called theirs the D3000. The German designs much more closely resemble the Schermasport design in layout and functionality. Politics at the time (~2007) made screwless point designs illegal for a time, but that has since gone to the wayside. Both of these designs have received FIE approval at the time of this writing.

    Basic Construction
    The FWF and Uhlmann designs are fairly similar in construction in that they feature a tip assembly that screws directly into the barrel and tightens with the application of a wrench on the flat sides of the top of the tip assembly. The main driver behind developing the screwless design is to avoid the pitfalls of very small parts in handling and potential for material damage during use that renders removal and replacement difficult. The challenge is doing so while retaining the desirable smoothness and reliability of the more common designs where most people favor German or Italian.

    [​IMG]

    Both of these are pretty similar in appearance on the outside, though you can see some differences in construction which become even more obvious once each tip is disassembled. Each of them uses the same springs used with the standard design tips.

    FWF
    [​IMG]
    (Disassembled slightly used tip and an assembled new tip. I had the top-hat style contact flange that screws to the bottom of the tip, which is on the far-left, upside-down in this picture by mistake.)

    The FWF design uses all stainless steel parts save for the internal plastic insulating bushing that is sheathed almost in its entirety inside the main contact by a second polished stainless steel bushing. The outermost piece is the collar that screws into the barrel. The width of the flats is 6mm. I was able to remove and replace the top-hat flange on the tip without damaging it at all.

    The FWFSF barrel is the same outside diameter as their "EXTRA" (thick) foil barrel at 6.75mm, but is not thick-walled like the standard tip version. The barrel wall thickness of the FWFSF is 0.65mm whereas the standard tip EXTRA barrel is 1.15mm thick. I suspect this is for a little weight saving since the collar of the tip assembly appears to be the main structural reinforcement to prevent impact damage that could bind the tip like can happen in regular steel thin-walled German tips. The FWFSF has a more narrow internal diameter cylindrical seat at the base where the wire cup and spring sit. I was able to get a wire cup to fit neatly and easily into the base of the barrel and a spring sits perfectly centered with a good deal of clearance to the barrel walls. Sliding the wire cup back out was smooth and easy.

    Uhlmann
    [​IMG]
    (Uhlmann - Disassembled used tip, assembled used tip, and new tip.)

    The Uhlmann design is the lighter, less bulky of the two German screwless designs because it's narrower and uses less metal in its contstruction. In order to accommodate this, the Uhlmann tip assembly does not have a second metal bushing to sheathe and reinforce the plastic insulator bushing that covers the main shaft of the contact piece of the tip that moves in the collar, which is the part that screws into the barrel. The Uhlmann design also uses a fairly soft brass top-hat contact flange at the bottom of their tip assembly. You can see the damage I caused to the brass by using common steel tools to remove and replace it on the tip. Brass tools or specialty fit tools designed for this specific part would help avoid such damage.

    The dimensions of the Uhlmann design much more closely resemble a standard German foil tip in that it shares the same outside barrel diameter of 6mm and barrel wall thickness of 0.75mm. The Uhlmann tip is also tighter. Getting a wire cup to seat in the barrel requires a tip-setter and getting them out can be difficult if you don't know armorer's tricks (#8 drywall screw!) for removal. Early versions of this tip were improperly machined and would not properly take a wire cup and contact. This could be fixed with a reamer, but Uhlmann admitted their error and provided me replacements at no cost.

    Measurements
    Errors here, where you notice the dimensions don't all add up, are likely due to instrument hysterisis and the limitations of conventional bar calipers at measuring internal diameters. I wasn't using a particularly good set of calipers. These numbers, while not design quality, give you a good enough idea for relative comparison.

    FWF: OD - 6.75mm, ID - 5.5mm, Barrel Wall - 0.65mm, Base Flat - 5mm, Top Flat - 6mm, mass - 4.5g
    Std. German: OD - 6mm, ID - 4.5mm, Barrel Wall - 0.75mm, Base flat - 5mm, no top flat, mass - 3.75g
    Uhlmann/Allstar - 6mm, ID - 4.5mm, Barrel Wall - 0.75mm, Base Flat - 5mm, Top Flat - 5mm, mass - 3.5g

    Overall Impressions
    These two designs are pretty similar in their execution and I would prefer either of these to returning to the standard German, French, or Italian design. Both designs work great and have shown me no odd behavior registering touches. My method for installing a point involves use of red Loctite (271) to fix the barrel to the blade. For the screwless design I use blue Loctite (242) to fix the tip assembly in the barrel and I haven't had one come loose on me since I started doing that. This does necessitate cleaning the interior (female) barrel threads and tip assembly (male) threads of old loctite each time the tip assembly is removed, and then new loctite 242 applied for reassembly.

    My experience using them thus far is that they're both reasonably sturdy, but FWF wins out here. The FWFSF is a little bulkier, and has that extra metal bushing, but also seems to involve higher-quality machining and fabrication. As best I can tell, it is built to be a little more durable to the various abuses a tip will see. While lighter and thinner, the Uhlmann design is a little less durable due to the less robust dimensions and lack of the second metal bushing to protect and reinforce the tip contact shaft. That exposed plastic bushing can get damaged and it's more likely that a hard off-angled shot could cause a bend of the tip shaft or the top flat of the tip, which is the one way so far that I've damaged an Uhlmann tip that I had to throw away. Serviceability also factors in here as the FWFSF has a stainless steel flange contact screwed on the end whereas the Uhlmann has a soft brass flange contact. I have found the latter to be more difficult to service and will probably get some brass long-nose pliers for those. In comparison I removed and replaced the FWFSF contact flange with a cheap adjustable wrench without issue. I use red loctite any time I replace that little contact flange piece.

    Though I have more use time on my Uhlmann screwless points thus far, I'm leaning more towards the FWF design because I strongly suspect they'll show me a better track record on durability. I expect them to be every bit as durable as the standard German design tips and I know that's a selling point given their increased cost over the standard design. Either way, I'm pretty happy to not have to deal with any more damn tip screws. If you've been considering trying the more recent screwless tip designs, I highly recommend you take this information I've provided and give whichever interests you a try.

    Production issues:
    Uhlmann - The first batch of points and spare parts I received from Uhlmann had barrels that had been incorrectly machined and the inside diameter was too narrow. When I inquired about this they confirmed their mistake and sent me replacements at no charge. If you end up with some from these early production runs you should know about their admitted mistake and get up with the vendor who sold them to you to get replacements. This occurred with parts purchased directly from Uhlmann in Nov 2017.

    FWF - The first batch of points and spare parts I received from FWF had tips with the contact flange (top hat) not properly pressed onto the tip shaft. This meant the flange would come loose and the tip would rattle. Also not good for conductivity. Red loctite would not secure the flange effectively. I contacted FWF and they confirmed this error in their production, described a fix that is basically pinching the flange with side cutters to deform the flange, and also offered replacements at no charge. This occurred with parts purchased directly from FWF in May 2018.

    So both vendors made some production mistakes, freely admitted the error when presented with inquiry, and provided replacement parts for the defective ones at no charge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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  2. jkormann

    jkormann Podium

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    Thank you for the excellent write-up!
    Question 1: What has your experience been regarding resetting the tip for weight? I'm looking for something where the tip could be checked once at the start of a competition and trusted not to get too far out-of-spec during a competition, thus not needing re-checks before each bout.
    Question 2: What's involved in changing a spring?
     
  3. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    You're welcome. I'm glad you like it.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "resetting the tip for weight". There's no reason you should have the tip dimensions or travel changing during use. I showed disassembly for purpose of the write-up. The little top-hat contact flange at the bottom of either design is the same you'll see on the standard design tips and should not move around. I use these things for weeks or months on end without messing with them, which was my same experience for standard design tips, and they keep passing weight.
    Note: they use the same springs in use for standard tips.

    Quick: Unscrew tip assembly from barrel, replace spring, screw tip assembly back into barrel, & tighten.

    Thorough: Unscrew tip assembly from barrel, clean loctite from threads, replace spring, reapply loctite, screw tip assembly back into barrel, & tighten.
     
  4. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Cup removal: toothpick doesn't penetrate cup for resuse. Tip/barrel Loctite: thanks. Been relying on barrel tape to secure. Damage: yup. Interrupts circuit. Thought it was just loose top flat that wouldn't remain tightened. Glue drop on shaft before tightening didn't fix.
     
  5. Privateer

    Privateer Podium

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    i was cleaning mine for a vet tourn tomorrow and noticed this weirdness on one of mine:

    the metal part of the point would unscrew from the plastic. doesn't pass weight test this way. screw it 'down' and it passes perfect. only noticed it once i disassembled and didn't feel like taking it apart again to figure out what was going on.
     
  6. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    Now I find myself wondering if most of the shaft of the tip assembly is threaded in order to fix that plastic bushing into place.
     
  7. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Intermittently not opening circuit. Banging point sideways against hard object fixes for a while. Replaced tip. Replaced spring. Ran screwdriver tip around contact. Can't figure this one out.o_O
     
  8. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    Sounds like a short that could be some place other than the tip.
     
  9. dcchew

    dcchew Podium

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    I'm assuming that you're referring to a foil. It sounds like you have a short somewhere between the wire and blade .Likely locations are the tip barrel, guard, and socket.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
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  10. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    Added the following to my original post:

    Production issues:
    Uhlmann - The first batch of points and spare parts I received from Uhlmann had barrels that had been incorrectly machined and the inside diameter was too narrow. When I inquired about this they confirmed their mistake and sent me replacements at no charge. If you end up with some from these early production runs you should know about their admitted mistake and get up with the vendor who sold them to you to get replacements. This occurred with parts purchased directly from Uhlmann in Nov 2017.

    FWF - The first batch of points and spare parts I received from FWF had tips with the contact flange (top hat) not properly pressed onto the tip shaft. This meant the flange would come loose and the tip would rattle. Also not good for conductivity. Red loctite would not secure the flange for awhile, but it would always go back to rattling. I contacted FWF and they confirmed this error in their production, described a fix that is basically pinching the flange with side cutters to deform the flange, and also offered replacements at no charge. This occurred with parts purchased directly from FWF in May 2018.

    So both vendors made some production mistakes, freely admitted the error when presented with inquiry, and provided replacement parts for the defective ones at no charge.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  11. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Wish I knew before paying for replacement tip.:( Thought it was use-damage.o_O
     
  12. Privateer

    Privateer Podium

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    super interesting - I bought my first set of them in October and had a lot of problems with them. no lights on touches even my opponents said should've lit, mostly, but also mystery white lights i couldn't never track down. Failing weight tests towards the end despite constant cleaning and swapping springs- never solved it. I recently retired one of the points and one full tip. i'll have to see if anything changes on performance, but seemed good last night.
     
  13. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Any way to distinguish the replacements?
     
  14. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    With the Uhlmann tip the bad ones wouldn't take a foil wire cup. My FWF replacements are waiting at the post office since I just came back from summer nationals. I'll post if there's a visible difference. Otherwise it's noticeable that the bad ones start rattling pretty soon after you start using them, and then you can rotate the end of the tip and feel it loose.
     
  15. Alfred Tay

    Alfred Tay Rookie

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    We put 3 of the UHLMANN ones on 3 LP FIE Epee blades.
    The feel of the touches were amazing.
    However, after 1 month, they start to fall apart.
    1 of the tip broke off right in the midst of competition.
    2 of the tips keeps failing the gauge test. We reset the spring, it passes for 2 days, then will fail again.

    The quality of the tips were quite inconsistent. We went through 20 tips to ones that depresses smoothly. Often when you depress the tips, you can feel the grit inside.
     
  16. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    This is the foil point thread. Here is the epee one.
     
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  17. Privateer

    Privateer Podium

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    so i just rewired a blade with a screwless tip. glued blade/wire and final assembly, continuity checked fine on my multimeter. passed weight test. took tip apart, blue loctite, reassembled. Didn't pass weight test. unassembled, cleaned barrel again, didn't pass. cleaned off all loctite, replaced spring, didn't pass. took apart and reassembled 3 or 4 more times, trying different little tweaks, still didn't pass.

    replaced the tip itself with a brand new one, worked fine.

    Not sure I understand what happened between first assembly and second assembly. too much loctite maybe? the 'old' point wasn't that old, but I suppose it could've been part of the bad batch mentioned above.
     
  18. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Stretching the original spring? Alternate point's passing spring on this point?
     
  19. ktinoue3

    ktinoue3 DE Bracket

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    Too much loctite can into the tip and gum it up causing it to not move as smoothly.
     
  20. Emfuser

    Emfuser DE Bracket

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    The bad parts on the Uhlmann/Allstar design were incorrectly machined barrels. The tip assemblies weren't an issue. The bad parts for the FWF design were the tip assembly, specifically loosening of the contact flange. Which are we talking about?
     

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