Evolution of the test box

Discussion in 'Armory - Q&A' started by DHCJr, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. DHCJr

    DHCJr Armorer

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    I made a post on the thread https://www.fencing.net/forums/threads/worth-the-upgrade-to-bayonet.143367/ and it was getting off-subject. sdubinsky asked a good question and it got me thinking about the evolution of the fencing test box.


    There are a number of U.S. Armorers who are making wonderful, useful and innovative test boxes and it all started with the experiences of the '84 games. One of my jobs was in charge of inventory and testing the equipment we got, so I have first hand knowledge of this.


    At that time Uhlmann was the standard, but those of us who worked the games were wondering why. There were the scoring boxes. For years before and after they were the go to when hosting a Worlds, but they didn't follow the rules. At the time, the rules stated the buttons were to be on the top or front of the box and the clock was required to be visible to the fencers. The problem the buttons were on one side and the clock was on the other and unless you were right in front of the box, you couldn't read it. From the on-guard line you could not read the clock.


    We had to fix almost half the gauges, either buying 0.5 shim stock and modifying it for thin gauges or filing down the 1.5 shim. The Uhlmann weights were considered the most accurate in the world and they were until 1984. The problem was they started their Blue phase. They added some beautiful blue plastic to their steel weights, but this added between 2 - 2.5 grams. We had to drill out a lot of weights to make them legal.


    Their lamé test weight were made out of steel and had a 4 mm diameter tip. We weren't too worry about the steel (the rules required brass at that time), but it should have been 4 mm radius. We used ones that Dan had made.


    But the real tragedy was the test boxes. They were built to work off of 220 volt/50 cycles. The 220 volts was not a problem as we had transformers, but the 50 cycles was. It had a single meter and was not designed to detect shorts in body cords, nor in Epees. But that wasn't the worse, switch between the inputs gave us different readings on the meter. We couldn't trust it, but we were lucky. Dan had built 50 test boxes. This wasn't the Dan boxes everyone is familiar with and bought by over 20 national teams. These had 5 lights, 3 green and 2 red. We proved these were more accurate and more usable then the ones built by Uhlmann. At 5 ohms, the green lights would dim and at 10 ohms the would drop out completely. Yes they wouldn't show the difference of 0,1, 2 or 3 ohms resistance in body cords or weapons, but so what. If the resistance was under 5 ohms in each line that is still well under 100 ohms for the entire circuit including reels, floor cords and we had tested the machines to handle at least 200 ohms. For lamé we had a number of Simpson 262 ohm meters with their 7" 4.5 ohm center scale to cover that.


    Because of that Dan designed 2 main test boxes. A 1-meter for an Armorer to carry to the piste and a 3-meter for control. Since he worked for General Dynamics he had access to military spec suppliers so what he built would be extremely accurate. Since his background was as a commercial artist an Armorer could be handed one and know instantly how to use it. Since he believed in planning for different needs, he made it versatile. Each box was unique to the Armorer who got it.


    When Dan, Joe and Ted designed the Armorer Certification, to achieve the highest rating, the Armorer had to design and build a test box. Mine was a machine test box. There are a number of better ones, but this was mine and I still have it and use it often. Since then many U.S. Armorers have come up with their own version of a test box, each with their own take. There are a number of European & Asian companies who are selling their own test box, but I have not seen any that can hold a candle to many of our home grown self-built test boxes.

    I have experienced why being called a U.S. Armorer is considered one of the highest honors in fencing. The SEMI report for the '84 games stated their were more International level Armorers in the U.S. then in the next 5 country combined.
     
    Angelo Tringali and Quinn like this.
  2. Purple Fencer

    Purple Fencer Podium

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    I remember when you and Dan and one other (Carl Oberg?) were behind the table at Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas (the first year in the Tropicana...in that loading dock area). Dan's rig was a set of three ohmmeters connected to the test probes...and every time I saw him after that, the rig was improved, put in a casing, etc.

    Buying that single meter box when I started armoring was the best buy I ever did for myself, and it lasted a LONG time before I needed a three-meter one after he stopped making them.
     
  3. sdubinsky

    sdubinsky DE Bracket

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    That's really cool, thanks for sharing! I love stories from back in the day. If you told some more I'd be grateful.
     
  4. DHCJr

    DHCJr Armorer

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    How about the World's smallest test box. For the '96 games Carl Oberg gave each fencer and cadre the 'World's smallest fencing test box. It was a electronics board about 10 x 26 mm. On it were soldered 3 tubes that the outside was insulated, 2 surface mounted LED's (one green & one red) and a button battery holder soldered to the bottom.

    Now this has been copied and if you bought the copy. If you paid anything you paid too much. First the copy did not have the tubes insulated, so if you threw it in your bag, you would likely find it had shorted out and drained the batteries. Replacing the battery was FUN. The battery was soldered directly to the board. That wasn't the worse, the lights were incandescent so they drew more power than LED's, but also they stuck up so far, they got broken very easily. The best part, the Green light was for B-C short (Foil & Epee short (bad) & the Red was for A-B Epee good?
     

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