Fencing FAQ (part 2)

Discussion in 'Discussion Archive' started by Morgan Burke, Feb 21, 2005.

  1. Morgan Burke

    Morgan Burke Guest

    Archive-name: sports/fencing-faq/part2
    Last-modified: 2002-Nov-18
    Version: 5.46



    This is Part 2 of the 3-part rec.sport.fencing Frequently Asked
    Questions list. All parts can be found on the UseNet newsgroups
    rec.sport.fencing, rec.answers, or news.answers. Otherwise, consult
    section 3.8 for information on finding archived copies of this


    Equipment & Maintenance:

    2.1 Clothing
    2.1.1 FIE Uniforms
    2.1.2 Colours
    2.2 Masks
    2.2.1 Bibs
    2.3 Shoes
    2.4 Gloves
    2.5 Metallic Vests and Jackets
    2.5.1 Repair
    2.6 Armour
    2.7 Grips
    2.7.1 Traditional
    2.7.2 Pistol
    2.8 Blades
    2.8.1 FIE & Maraging Blades
    2.8.2 Tangs
    2.8.3 Bends and Curvature
    2.9 Guards
    2.10 Points & Blade Wires
    2.11 Body Wires
    2.12 Glue
    2.13 Scoring Apparatus
    2.13.1 Wireless Systems
    2.14 Tools


    2.15 Foil
    2.16 Epee
    2.17 Sabre

    NB: equipment merchants are listed in section 3.2.


    2.1 Clothing

    Fencing clothing includes the jacket, pants, sous-plastron
    (underarm protector), and socks. Some companies manufacture
    unitards (combined jacket and pants). Inexpensive practice gear
    is fashioned of synthetics or heavy cotton, but competition
    clothing is required to pass an 800 N puncture test. Casual and
    beginner fencers can rely on cotton or synthetic jackets, but
    should consider using a plastron for extra protection. Track
    pants or baseball knickers are also thrifty alternatives to
    genuine fencing clothing, although they afford little

    Jackets are cut differently for men and women, and also for
    right- and left- handers. Ambidextrous (back-zip) jackets are
    available, but generally not with homologated fabrics.
    Ambidextrous (double-sided) plastrons are available from some

    Knee-high sport socks (such as for soccer/football or baseball)
    can be purchased from most sporting goods stores. Skin should
    not show between the socks and pant legs nor the cuff and glove
    of the weapon hand. The trailing hand and back of the head
    should be the only areas of exposed skin on the fencer's body.

    2.1.1 FIE Uniforms

    FIE-certified (800 N) uniforms are fashioned from special fabrics
    such as kevlar, Startex, or ballistic nylon. Some uniforms (in
    particular, older uniforms of kevlar construction) offer partial
    800N coverage in vital areas with lighter 350N fabrics used
    elsewhere. Full-coverage 800N uniforms are now the norm in
    FIE clothing.

    The rules for FIE 'A' level competition demand FIE jacket
    and pants. As of April 1, 1995, an additional 800N plastron is
    required. CFF and USFA competitions have less stringent uniform

    FIE clothing generally provides the highest degree of quality
    and protection available. It is strongly recommended for serious
    competitors, and for anyone else concerned about their safety.
    Although considerably more expensive than practice gear, many
    fencers find it well worth the price.

    Kevlar clothing should be washed with mild detergent-free soap,
    and no bleach. Hang dry away from sources of ultraviolet light
    (especially direct sunlight). Store in a dark place (a closet or
    your fencing bag, for example).

    2.1.2 Colours

    Traditionally, fencing clothing is all white, but the rules have
    recently been relaxed to allow "light" colours on the body.
    Other colours are permitted on the limbs. The fencer's last name
    and country can appear on the back or the trailing leg in block
    blue letters; this is required in international competition.
    National colours can be worn on an armband on the trailing arm,
    or printed on the leg or sleeve. Club or association badges can
    be stitched to the upper trailing arm.

    2.2 Masks

    Masks must pass a 12 kg punch test to be certified for
    competition. Consider subjecting a used mask to such a test
    before using/purchasing it. Older masks can have smaller bibs
    and weaker mesh (rated to 7 kg), making them less safe. When
    punch testing a mask, depress the punch perpendicular to the mesh
    without wiggling it. Do not apply more than the required amount
    of pressure. Pay particular attention to parts of the mesh that
    have already been dented or bent, including the center crease
    line. Unnatural dents in the mesh can and should be pushed or
    hammered out.

    Masks with a clear lexan panel in front of the face are
    available from several manufacturers. Although the FIE has been
    encouraging the use of these masks, there has been resistance
    from fencers concerned about safety, and their future remains

    2.2.1 Bibs

    The best masks have FIE homologated bibs to protect the throat,
    and are required in high-level competition. 1600N bibs are
    standard in FIE competition as of the 1995/96 season. The CFF
    requires 800N bibs as a minimum in elite competition, while the
    USFA has no FIE bib requirement.

    Although it was announced that the bib would become part of the
    foil target in the 1995-96 season, those plans were dropped.

    2.3 Shoes

    Fencing shoes are available from many vendors and manufacturers,
    including Adidas, Asics, PBT, Estoc, Sport-Escrime, Starfighter,
    and various vendor house brands. Prices typically range from
    US$50 to over US$200 per pair. Distribution of certain brands is
    often geographically limited, and limited to fencing equipment
    vendors in any case. In other words, don't bother checking at
    the mall. The best mass-market substitutes for fencing shoes are
    lightweight indoor court shoes, such as for squash, badminton,
    racquetball, or volleyball.

    Hard heel cups are widely used to absorb the impact of lunges.
    They are integrated into some models of fencing shoe, but can be
    purchased separately from specialty athletic and orthopedics
    stores for other shoes. Softer rubber (eg. Sorbothane) inserts
    are also commonly used to provide extra cushioning or prevent
    chronic injuries from flaring.

    2.4 Gloves

    Gloves should have leather or equivalent construction in the
    fingers and palm, have a long cuff to cover the sleeve opening,
    and have an opening for the bodywire. They should not fit too
    snugly, or they will be more susceptable to tearing. Varying
    degrees of padding are available in the back of the hand and
    fingers, which can be useful for epee and sabre fencers.

    Gloves can deteriorate rapidly under heavy use, often lasting a
    single season or less. Some gloves are washable; saddle soap or
    other leather treatment can extend the lives of other gloves

    Economical alternatives to genuine fencing gloves include
    precision welding gloves, motorcycle gloves, and even common
    workman's gloves available at any hardware store, provided the
    fingers and palm are unpadded and supple enough to maintain the
    feel of the blade. It may be prudent to hand-stitch a longer
    cuff onto the glove, if the normal one doesn't cover the
    sleeve opening (the cuff should run halfway up the forearm).
    In all these cases, a small wire opening may have to be cut into
    the wrist.

    2.5 Metallic Vests and Jackets

    The higher quality metallic vests are made of stainless steel,
    which is much more corrosion resistant than copper. Your foil
    vest should come to your hip bones, and be form-fitting but not
    too tight. Most vests come in right and left-handed versions,
    but ambidextrous (back-zip) versions are also available and
    sometimes have higher hips.

    Careful rinsing of your stainless steel vest in lukewarm water
    following a tournament or rigourous practice will wash out most
    of the sweat and salts that will damage it. Old sweat turns
    alkaline and can be quite damaging to the lame' fabric. The salt
    crystals left behind from dried sweat can also be abrasive and
    conducive to corrosion. Occasional handwashing in lukewarm water
    with a mild detergent (eg. Woolite or dishsoap) and a small
    amount of ammonia is an excellent way of cleaning your stainless
    steel vest/jacket and prolonging its life. Some fencers
    recommend neutralizing the alkaline deposits in the vest with
    lemon juice added to the bath.

    Rinse your vest after washing and hang dry on a wooden or
    plastic hanger. Avoid folding, crumpling, wringing, or abrading
    it. All of these will fatigue the metallic threads in the

    Similar care should be taken with sabre metallic jackets, cuffs,
    and mask bibs.

    With proper care, quality stainless steel vests and jackets
    should last 3-5 years of regular use. Copper jackets will
    usually not last more than 1-2 years under regular use.

    2.5.1 Repair

    Electric jackets can go dead for several reasons, including high
    electric resistance due to oxidation and corrosion (usually
    accompanied by visible discolouration), broken metal fibres, or
    tears in the fabric.

    High-resistance areas that are due to oxidation can often be
    temporarily resucitated by moistening them with water. As the
    moisture soaks up salts and other deposits in the fabric,
    conductivity will increase enough for the material to pass the
    armourer's check. Sweat from vigourous fencing will have the
    same effect. Some fabrics do not rely on conductive fibres, but
    rather are coated with metallic powder; these will lose
    conductivity when dirty, and require regular washing.

    Small dead spots can be "field-repaired" with a paper stapler or
    metallic paint.

    Larger dead areas and tears in the fabric can only be reliably
    repaired by stitching new metallic fabric over the affected
    areas. If no patch material is available, the fabric from one
    dead vest can be cut up and used to repair another (the material
    from the back is generally in better shape). Note that large
    areas can go dead due to broken fibres in a relatively small
    patch. Patching only the region of broken fibres can re-activate
    the entire dead area. Careful testing with an ohmmeter will
    determine where the dead zone exists. Patches should be folded
    over at the edges, and the stitch should overlap the edge to
    prevent flaps that will catch points.

    2.6 Armour

    Padded jackets, plastrons, and gloves are available to take the
    sting out of hard hits. Most coaches will use special
    heavily-padded jackets or sleeves when giving lessons, but these
    are not intended for competitive use.

    Some masks have extra coverage at the back of the head to protect
    against whip-overs. Elbow protectors are also commonly worn by

    Athletic cups are important for men, and breast protectors are
    essential for women. The latter can take the form of individual
    bowls to cover each breast, or more complete full-chest
    protectors that cover the ribs up to the collarbone. Hard chest
    protectors for men are also available from some suppliers, and
    female groin protectors are available from some martial arts

    Neck gorgets for additional throat protection can be found from
    some hockey equipment suppliers.

    2.7 Grips

    For foil and epee, there are a wide variety of grips
    available that fall into two broad categories, traditional and
    pistol. Sabre grips are all fundamentally of the same design.

    Most grips are fashioned of aluminum or plastic; the latter,
    while lighter, are also much more fragile and prone to cracking.
    Some metal grips are insulated with a layer of enamel (colour
    coded by size) or rubber paint. Such insulation will turn an
    epee grip into valid target, but it is useful on foils to prevent
    grounding. Many traditional grips are surfaced with leather,
    rubber, or twine.

    2.7.1 Traditional

    These are the French, Italian, and Spanish grips. All consist of
    a relatively simple handle, a large, exposed pommel, and in the
    case of the Italian and Spanish grips, crossbars or similar
    prongs for extra grip.

    The French grip is the simplest of all fencing grips in
    construction, and the most economical. It emphasizes finger
    control over strength, and provides considerable flexibility, and
    a variety of possible hand positions. It is the most common grip
    used by novices, and remains popular (especially in epee) among
    advanced fencers.

    The Italian grip is noted for its strength, but is fairly rare,
    partially because it requires a special tang on blades that are
    used with it. It is the only ambidextrous fencing grip. Italian
    grips are often used with a wrist strap, and contrary to rumour,
    they remain legal in modern competition.

    The Spanish grip is a compromise between the French and Italian
    grips, but is illegal in modern fencing competition, due to a
    technicality that forbids grips with orthopaedic aids from being
    grasped in more than one manner. There are modern variants of
    the Spanish grip that do not use the French pommel, and these may
    be legal in competition if they fix a single hand position.

    2.7.2 Pistol

    These are modern, orthopedic grips, shaped vaguely like a pistol,
    but still grasped in the traditional way. They provide a
    pronounced strength advantage over the traditional grips, but can
    encourage wrist movement over finger movement. Pistol grips all
    have the features of a large protuberance below the tang for the
    aids to grasp, a curved prong above the tang that fits in the
    crook of the thumb, and a large prong that extends along the
    inside of the wrist. There are many variations in shape, size,
    sculpting for the fingers, extra prongs, and so on, although
    certain designs enjoy wide popularity. Most pistol grip designs
    have names (eg. Visconti, Belgian, German, etc.) but these are
    not always consistent between manufacturers or regions.

    2.8 Blades

    There are a large number of variables to consider when shopping
    for blades, including stiffness, length, durability, flex point,
    weight, balance, corrosion resistance, and (of course) price.

    Stiff blades provide better point control, but less
    "flickability". Some brands of blades (eg. Allstar) are sold in
    different flexibility grades. Blades that feel heavy in the tip
    often provide better point control, while those that are light in
    the tip often make for faster parries.

    Blades generally come in 5 sizes, 5 being the longest (90 cm for
    foil and epee, not including tang) and by far the most common.
    Shorter blades are somewhat lighter and quicker of action, and
    can be useful for children, fencers who prefer the lighter
    balance, or those who often provoke infighting in which a long
    blade can be disadvantageous.

    Cheap blades (including some Eastern European and Chinese brands)
    are typically not very durable or of poor temper, being inclined
    to snap, bend, and rust easily. Fencers who are gentle with
    their blades and clean, sand, or oil them regularly may
    nevertheless find them to be a good value.

    Blades typically break at the flex point in the foible. Less
    commonly the tips will break off, or the tang will snap at the
    base of the blade (this latter failure mode is fairly common in
    sabre). Other serious modes of failure include sharp bends in
    the middle of the blade and S-bends in the foible, both of which
    are difficult to remove and will rapidly lead to fatiguing and
    eventual breaking of the blade.

    2.8.1 FIE & Maraging Blades

    FIE-certified blades have the FIE logo stamped at the base of the
    blade, along with the code letters for the forge that produced
    the blade (caveat emptor: some disreputable forges have been
    known to falsify these marks). They are mandatory at official
    FIE and other high-level competitions.

    Maraging steel foil blades have a reputation for lasting
    considerably longer than regular steel blades, and are supposed
    to break more cleanly. They are made of a special alloy steel
    (incorporating iron, nickel, and titanium) that is only 5% as
    likely to develop the microcracks that lead to eventual breakage.
    Many fencers find them a superior value - although they cost
    twice as much, they last much more than twice as long. As they
    vary in character in the same way as regular blades, similar
    caution should be exercised when purchasing them.

    Maraging epee blades are also available, although there are
    alternative steels that have also received FIE certification.
    Leon Paul produces a non-maraging FIE epee blade worth
    mentioning; it is stamped from a sheet of steel, rather than
    forged whole. These blades are lightweight and flexible; some
    older ones passed the wire through a hole to the underside of the

    FIE 2000 sabre blades are stiffer than older sabre blades, which
    is intended to reduce the incidence of whip-over touches.

    2.8.2 Tangs

    The length and thread of the tang may be an issue; some blades
    are threaded for French or pistol grips only, and some blades
    with French grip tangs require an extra fitting for the thread.
    Italian grips may require a special tang, since part of it is
    exposed in the hilt. Metric 6x1 threading is standard, but not
    universal (esp. in the USA, where a 12x24 thread may be
    encountered); dies to re-thread the tang can be found at most
    hardware stores. If the tang must be cut to fit the grip, be
    very careful to leave enough thread to screw on the pommel nut.
    Tangs often have to be filed down to fit in tight grips.

    Tangs are attached by an exterior pommel on traditional grips, or
    by a pommel nut in pistol grips. Pommel nuts are typically
    fitted for a 6mm Allen wrench or hex key, 8mm socket wrench, or a
    standard screwdriver.

    2.8.3 Bends and Curvature

    Many foil and epee fencers prefer a bend at the join of the tang
    and blade, so that the blade points slightly inside when held in
    sixte. Such a bend is best applied with a strong vise to avoid
    bowing the tang. A few fencers prefer to put this bend into the
    forte of the blade instead. Be gentle; blades will snap if
    handled with too much force.

    A gentle curve in the middle and foible of the blade is also common,
    and helps to square the point against oblique surfaces. Such a bend
    must be smooth and gradual. Sharp kinks are prohibited. Foible
    bends are best worked into the blade using the sole of one's shoe
    and the floor.

    For foil and epee, the total curvature of the blade is measured
    at the widest separation between the blade and an imaginary line
    drawn between the the join of the forte and tang and the point.
    The blade can be laid across a flat surface such as a table top
    to measure the arch. Epees must not rise more than 1 cm above
    the surface, while foils are allowed 2 cm. If the objective is
    to angle the point to hit oblique surfaces better, this is a
    significant amount of curvature. If the objective is to "hook"
    the blade around blocking parries or body parts, however, these
    limits are fairly restrictive.

    Remember that the wire groove on epee and foil blades goes on the
    top (thumb side) of the blade, and the outside of the blade

    Sabre curvature is handled differently, it being the deflection
    of the point from the line of the forte. 4 cm is all that is

    2.9 Guards

    Foil guards vary mostly in diameter, being between 9.5 and 12 cm
    across. The largest guards (eg. Negrini) may fail the weapon
    guage check if they are dented or misshapen.

    Epee guards are almost always the maximum diameter (13.5 cm) for
    best protection, although they can vary considerably in profile
    shape, depth (3 - 5.5 cm), weight, and eccentricity (up to 3.5 cm
    off of center).

    Sabre guards come in left- and right-handed versions (the outside
    of the guard being larger). Competition guards may include
    attachments for a capteur sensor. If not done by the
    manufacturer, sabre fencers may wish to insulate the edges of the
    guard (and the pommel) to prevent it from shorting to their cuff.

    2.10 Points & Blade Wires

    Many fencers have experienced trouble mixing their points,
    barrels, and wires. They are best used in matched sets. There
    are many brands to consider, each with different qualities. Some
    brands are cloned by Chinese and eastern manufacturers; you may
    notice a difference in quality or durability when using

    Points are regularly tested in competition. Both foil and epee
    points must pass a weight test, by lifting a mass (500g for foil;
    750g for epee) after the point is depressed. (Technically, epees
    only have to lift the mass 0.5 mm, whereas foils must lift it to
    the top of the point travel.) In addition, epees must pass two
    shim tests, the first to make sure that there is at least 1.5 mm
    of travel in the tip, and the second to make sure that the point
    doesn't light until the last 0.5 mm.

    If the weight test fails, the main spring can be replaced or made
    heavier by lightly stretching it. If the fencer thinks his point
    is too heavy, the spring can be replaced, compressed, cut down,
    or softened by heating one end in a flame.

    If the epee 0.5 mm shim test fails, the secondary contact spring
    is too long. It should be adjusted or compressed. If the 1.5 mm
    shim test fails, your point may be improperly set up, or may be
    mismatched with the barrel.

    Most points are held together by a pair of screws on the side of
    the barrel, and adjusting the springs requires disassembly. Some
    makes of epee point are adjusted using a small wrench or a single
    screw in the tip. FIE epee points use a solid contact in place
    of the secondary spring. Lighting distance can be increased by
    carefully filing the contact.

    Epee points work by closing the circuit between the two blade
    wires when they are depressed. Dirty or faulty points will
    normally cause the weapon to fail to register touches. Foil
    points work in the opposite manner, by opening a closed circuit
    between the blade wire and blade. Dirty or faulty points will
    usually cause the weapon to produce spurious off-target lights.
    See Troubleshooting (sections 2.15, 2.16), below.

    Blade wires are typically insulated with cotton to facilitate
    gluing and cleaning. Nevertheless, inexpensive wires can be made
    at home using 26 to 36 guage wire-wrap or magnet wire from an
    electronics store. Use the cup from an old wire, and attach the
    new wire by heating the solder connection with a soldering
    iron. This is more difficult with epee wires; the contacts may
    have to be removed from the plastic base before soldering -
    whether this is possible depends on the brand of wire. In a
    pinch, with foils you can spool a bit of wire in the bottom of
    the cup; this will work for a short period, but eventually the
    spooled wire gets fouled with the spring and causes faults.

    Blade tips are threaded metric 3.5 x 0.60 for foils and 4.0 x
    0.70 for epees. Rethreading with a die is difficult, but
    possible with adequate preparation. Pre-filing the tip into a
    long, blunt cone (5.5 mm long with the top 1.5 mm narrower than
    the inside diameter of the die) will assist in guiding the die
    through the initial turns; the extra metal left behind can later
    be removed with a file. The leading edge of the wire groove
    should be rounded and the groove filled with epoxy putty or
    similar hard compound to prevent the die from jamming on the
    groove edge. The putty must be removed afterwards, of course.
    No more than 4 mm of threading is needed to affix the barrel.

    2.11 Body Wires

    The primary question with foil and sabre body wires is bayonet
    (eg. Paul brand) vs. two-prong (eg. Uhlmann brand). They are
    equally functional; the primary difference is in cost and

    Two-prong is a simpler design, and usually less expensive, but
    sometimes has a reputation for being less reliable (depending on
    the brand). On the other hand, bayonet designs have recently
    also acquired a reputation for unreliability; this is probably
    due to the arrival of cheap no-name bayonet body wires that give
    unreliable performance. Brand-name body wires usually give
    superior reliability.

    Of course, choice of body wire also determines the choice of
    weapon socket (or vice versa). One of the primary considerations
    in deciding which format to go with should be the prevalent
    format in your club or region. Going with the local favourite
    will make it easier to borrow weapons or wires when yours

    Epee body wires are all of the same basic 3-prong design. The
    main reliability concern is how well the prongs maintain contact
    over time. Some brands accumulate grime or corrosion, while
    others simply wear down and become loose in the socket; sometimes
    the prongs can be periodically re-bent to maintain firm contact.

    2.12 Glue

    Recycled blades must be cleaned before they are re-wired. 10
    minutes with a utility knife to remove all traces of glue from
    the groove is usually sufficient, although chemical solvents
    (acetone, nail polish remover) may be helpful with some glues
    such as super-glue. New blades sometimes require a small amount
    of cleaning as well, to remove grease and grit from the machining

    Popular wiring glues include Duco cement, 5-minute epoxy, and
    cyanoacrylate glues (ie. super-glue). Some fencers have reported
    success using rubber cement, silicone, and white glue. Cleaning
    and gluing techniques will vary depending on your choice. Thin,
    quick-drying glues such as cyanoacrylates are best put down over
    top of the wire as the wire is held in the groove. If you use a
    thicker glue such as epoxy, you can carefully prepare one surface
    first. For foil wires, coat the wire in glue, and then gently
    pull it tight and lay it into the groove. For epees you can
    alternatively lay a bed of glue down before setting the wire in
    the groove, then make a second run of glue over the wire to seal
    it in place. Top glue the blade, and let it dry while the blade
    is held in a flexed position with the point in the air.

    An acetone bath for cleaning blades can be constructed from a
    length of copper tubing, sealed at one end. Fill with acetone,
    drop in your blades, and let soak overnight. White glues can be
    soaked in water to soften them.

    A blade-bowing tool for holding blades flexed while the glue
    dries can be constructed from a length of cord or chain attached
    to some small cups (film canisters work well). Place the cups
    over either end of the blade, and the tension of the cord will
    hold the blade bent for as long as you need it. Alternatively,
    stand the blade up with the point bent under the rim of a counter
    or table.

    2.13 Scoring Apparatus

    The scoring apparatus consists of the reels, floor wires, and
    indicator box, and optionally a timer and scoring tower(s).

    As of February 1, 2000, the scoring lamps indicate who scored the
    touch. Older scoring boxes are wired to indicate who received
    the touch. Reversing the cables on older boxes will cause them
    to function in the new manner.

    Modern foil scoring boxes should display only a coloured light or
    a white light for each fencer. Older boxes (or ones with older
    firmware) may display both if an off-target touch is immediately
    followed by an on-target touch. Modern sabre scoring boxes
    should tolerate sabres without capteur sensors. Older boxes will
    display white lights with capteurless sabres, unless the sensor
    leads are shorted on the weapon.

    It is possible to defeat older foil scoring circuits by grounding
    your own weapon to your lame' (your opponent's touches will fail
    to register, but yours will register). This is illegal, and
    scoring boxes must be equipped with a grounding light to detect
    when fencers do this. Newer boxes have an anti-fraud feature to
    eliminate this hazard and allow touches to be scored in spite of
    grounding. Boxes without such an anti-fraud circuit are useful
    for detecting dead spots on lame's (ground the lame', and then
    touch the opponent's lame'; white lights indicate a dead spot).

    Reels are typically portable, spring-wound devices (either
    "turtles" or "snails"). Less portable (but often more reliable)
    systems involving pulleys and bungee cords are used at some
    salles. These systems require firm anchor points at the ends and
    middle of the piste, so are not as portable as reel systems.

    2.13.1 Wireless Systems

    Wireless scoring systems are currently prohibited in competition,
    due to the difficulties in distinguishing between real and forged
    signals. Various modern electronics technologies hold the
    promise of circumventing these problems, and some wireless
    designs are currently in development. The FIE is experimenting
    with some systems, and is expected to rule on their use in the
    near future.

    Simple "buzzboxes", compact battery-powered devices that signal
    touches with a light or buzzer, are available from various
    sources, but have very limited functionality. As a rule, they
    cannot distinguish between targets (on/off, bell hits, etc.), or
    distinguish the timing of hits, and do not work with sabre at
    all. Some manufacturers claim to sell advanced buzzboxes that
    alleviate some of these problems (see, for example,

    2.14 Tools

    Every fencer needs a small toolkit for equipment maintenance. The
    following tools and supplies are essential:
    -- precision screwdrivers for point maintenance and
    assembly; also handy for body wire repair.
    -- pliers for tightening points; wire cutters are also
    useful, and are incorporated into many pliers.
    -- Allen wrench, screwdriver, or socket wrench for pommel nuts.
    -- quick-drying (eg. cyanoacrylate) glue for emergency wire repairs.
    -- cloth tape for insulating foil tips.

    Fencers who do a lot of maintenance will also find the following
    tools useful:
    -- metal file for fitting tangs into guards/grips.
    -- hacksaw for cutting tangs down.
    -- blade-bowing tool (see 2.12) for gluing.
    -- scraping tool for cleaning old glue out of grooves; an
    old jeweller's screwdriver will do, provided you don't mind
    ruining it. Utility knives will also work.
    -- Lighter for burning off wire insulation or softening springs.
    -- vice-grip pliers for heavy-duty work away from a work bench.
    -- Swiss-army knife for everything else.
    -- weapon-tester box.

    Serious armourers will need many other tools, including:
    -- workbench with vise.
    -- ohmmeter or multimeter.
    -- mask tester.
    -- metallic fabric tester.
    -- body wire tester.
    -- set of weights and shims.
    -- soldering iron (light for wires; heavy duty for pistes).
    -- Dremel tool.

    2.15 Foil Troubleshooting

    Weapon fails weight test.
    1) The spring is too soft.
    2) Friction between the barrel and point is overwhelming the
    3) Too much tape on the end of your blade is jamming
    against the hole in the weight.

    Hitting the strip produces a light.
    1) The strip is not grounded, or is dirty/corroded.
    2) The exterior of the foil point is dirty/corroded.

    Valid touch produces a white light.
    1) Opponent's lame' is not connected.
    2) Opponent's body wire is broken. Diagnose by testing at the
    lame' clip and at the reel wire connection.
    3) Opponent's lame' has a dead spot. With some boxes, dead spots
    can be diagnosed by grounding the fencer's weapon to his
    suspect lame', and then probing the lame' with the other
    fencer's weapon. This does not work with boxes that have an
    anti-fraud feature.
    4) Your foil body wire polarity is reversed.
    5) The exterior of your foil point is dirty/corroded.
    6) Foil circuit is breaking just before the touch (see below).

    Foil produces white lights when the tip is not depressed.
    1) The tip is jammed shut.
    2) Grit in the tip is breaking the circuit.
    3) The barrel is loose.
    4) The foil wire is broken. If the lights are intermittent, try
    flexing the blade to trigger the white lights; success means
    the blade wire is probably broken. If the lights are
    triggered by shaking the blade, the point or clip may be to
    5) The body wire is insecurely clipped to the weapon.
    6) The body wire is broken. Diagnose by shorting the two
    connections on the weapon end of the body wire. If the lights
    continue, the body wire or reel is at fault. Short the two
    close prongs at the other end of the body wire; if the lights
    stop, the body wire is to blame. If not see (7).
    7) The scoring apparatus is broken. The connections, reel wire,
    reel contacts, floor wire, or scoring box may be at fault.
    Short the same wires as in (6) at the various points of
    connection to successively eliminate each.
    8) The pommel is loose.

    Foil produces coloured lights when the tip is not depressed but
    is in contact with the opponent's lame'.
    1) The circuit is broken; see previous problem.
    2) The circuit is breaking when the blade flexes as it contacts
    the lame' or when the point is jarred. Could be caused by
    grit in the tip, a broken wire whose ends normally remain in
    contact, or a separated wire and cup.
    3) The box is on the wrong weapon setting.

    There is no light when a touch is made.
    1) You are not hitting properly.
    2) Friction between the barrel and point is preventing the
    point from depressing.
    3) Spring is too heavy.
    4) Opponent is grounding his weapon to his lame'.
    5) You are grounding your own foil to your opponent's lame'.
    Improve the insulation on your foible (15 cm is required).
    6) The foil wire is shorting to the weapon. Check the integrity
    of the insulation along the wire and beneath the cushion.
    Also make sure no wire ends at the clip are touching the rest
    of the weapon.
    7) The scoring box is on the wrong weapon setting.
    8) There is a short in your body wire. If there are no lights
    when the weapon is unplugged, but there are lights when the
    body wire is unplugged from the reel, the body wire is at
    9) There is a short in the scoring apparatus. If there are no
    lights when the fencer unplugs from the reel, this is the
    problem. It can be isolated by successively unplugging
    connections to the box.

    Wrong lights go off when a touch is made.
    1) The scoring box is on the wrong weapon setting.
    2) The floor wires are reversed.

    2.16 Epee Troubleshooting

    Weapon fails weight test.
    1) The main spring is too soft.
    2) Friction between the barrel and point is overwhelming the

    Weapon fails shim tests.
    1) The contact spring is too long.
    2) Point and barrel are mismatched.

    Hitting the strip produces a light.
    1) The strip is not grounded, or is dirty/corroded.
    2) The tip is dirty/corroded.

    A touch to the guard produces a light.
    1) The guard is dirty/corroded.
    2) The exterior of the tip is dirty/corroded.
    3) The body wire (in particular the ground) is faulty (test
    against the ground pin of the body cord; if the lights
    continue, the body wire or reel is at fault).
    4) The contact between the clip and weapon is faulty or corroded.
    5) The guard is loose.
    6) The ground pin socket is loose in the weapon clip.

    Epee produces lights when the tip is not depressed.
    1) The tip is jammed shut.
    2) Grit in the tip is shorting the circuit.
    3) The blade wires are shorting to each other.
    4) The scoring box is on the wrong weapon setting.

    There is no light when a touch is made.
    1) You are not hitting properly.
    2) Friction between the barrel and point is preventing the point
    from depressing.
    3) Main spring is too heavy.
    4) Contact spring is too short.
    5) The barrel is loose.
    6) Point contacts are dirty/corroded.
    7) The blade wire is broken.
    8) The blade wire is shorting to the weapon.
    9) Something has come unplugged between you and the box.
    10) The wires are improperly fastened to the weapon clip.
    11) The body wire is broken.
    12) The reel or floor wire is broken.
    13) The scoring box is on the wrong weapon setting.

    2.17 Sabre Troubleshooting

    Box displays white lights.
    1) The box requires sensors; or the sabre is not shorted
    for sensorless operation.
    2) The sensor is malfunctioning or jammed.
    3) The wire in the sabre is broken, or not fastened securely.
    4) The mounting bracket for the sensor is loose.
    5) The body wire is loose in the socket.
    6) The body wire is broken. Switch to foil setting, and diagnose
    as for foil.
    7) The scoring apparatus is broken. Switch to foil setting and
    diagnose as for foil.

    There is no light when a touch is made.
    1) You are not hitting hard enough (with sensors).
    2) The opponent's lame' has dead spots.
    3) The opponent's lame' or mask is not connected.
    4) The sensor is malfunctioning.
    5) The clip is not properly wired to the weapon.
    6) The opponent's body wire is broken.
    7) There is a break in the scoring apparatus on the opponent's
    side. This may be in the reel, floor cable, or scoring box.
    8) There is a short in the body wire. Switch to foil setting and
    diagnose as for foil.
    9) There is a short in the scoring apparatus. Switch to foil
    setting and diagnose as for foil.

    Box indicates a touch following weapon contact or a parry.
    1) You aren't parrying well enough.
    2) The weapon is shorting to the lame'. Insulate the edges of
    the guard and the pommel, or hold the weapon in such a way as
    to prevent the contact.

    Wrong lights go off when a touch is made.
    1) The scoring box is on the wrong weapon setting.
    2) The floor cables are reversed at the box.



    Author: Morgan Burke ([email protected])
    Contributors: special thanks to Suman Palit, Guy Smith, Greg Dilworth,
    Kevin Taylor, Eric Anderson, Blaine Price, Steve Hick, Kim
    Moser, David Glasser, Bryan Mansfield, Donald Lane, Ann McBain,
    Hagen Lieffertz, Mark C. Orton, Mike Buckley, Dirk Goldgar,
    Scott Holmes, Arild Dyrseth, David Airey, Renee Mcmeeken, Marc
    Walch, Eric Speicher, Anton Oskamp, Bernard Hunt, Francis Cordero,
    Kent Krumvieda, David Van Houten, John Crawford, Kim Taylor,
    Brendan Robertson, Ivo Volf, Kevin Wechtaluk, Frank Messemer,
    Benerson Little, Mark Crocker, Eileen Tan, Mark Tebault, Tim
    Schofield, Peter Gustafsson, Kevin Haidl, Peter Crawford,
    Camille Fabian, Matt Davis, Fernando Diaz, Anders Haavie,
    RĂ¼diger Schierz, Todd Ellner, George Kolombatovich,
    Padraig Coogan, Steve Lawrence, Bryan J. Maloney, Colin Walls

    (C) 1993-2002 Morgan Burke
    Permission is granted to copy and distribute all or part of this document
    for non-profit purposes.

    End of rec.sport.fencing FAQ part II

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