Help Choosing a Foil for a Y12 Fencer

Discussion in 'Parent's Corner' started by FoiledOnceMore, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. FoiledOnceMore

    FoiledOnceMore Rookie

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    Hello-

    My 11 y/o son has been fencing for a little over a year and will be competing in his first tournament in a little over a month. He had been using a #2 foil but his coach suggested moving to a #5 so he doesn't sacrifice reach. He's been using a #5 for a couple of weeks and seems comfortable with it.

    I need to buy him two electric foils for the competition and I had the idea that maybe looking for a light weapon would be good for him since he's young but also a little small for his age. This is where things got complicated because once you move away from the basic weapons there seem to be a huge amount of options that get incrementally more expensive and I don't have the background to understand what would be good for him. I plan on talking to his coach when I have time but thought others may have some suggestions.

    At base, my question is "is it misplaced to try to find a light weapon or should we just stick with the basic electric option?" If it's not misplaced, are there any specific weapons we should be looking at.

    I was thinking of the Absolute Fencing AF ULTRA FIE MAR. FOIL (I'm not sure if it's ok to add links to products, some fora don't like that...) which is $112. The website says it is probably the lightest blade available. Given the price of a lot of youth sports equipment, this doesn't seem outrageous to me, esp. since I imagine it will last a while. There is also the Leon Paul Standard Foil which is a little bit less (around $90). I cannot find the weight of either weapon (though the LP website has weights for most of its weapons). Also there is the LP Advanced Lightweight Foil which is $250 but that seems like overkill for an eleven y/o.

    My son has been really enjoying fencing and while you never know with kids seems like he will stick with it so it seems worthwhile to invest in a good product at this point but I can't figure out how to choose. Any advice?

    Thanks
    Foiled Once More
    (ps. wasn't sure this was the correct forum but the armory forum seemed pretty technical ...)
     
  2. fencer-dad-of-fencer

    fencer-dad-of-fencer Made the Cut

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    I don't find the weight difference very significant, but my daughter actually prefers to use non-FIE blades because they tend to be lighter. They do break more.
     
  3. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    I am in a similar position. My son is 12, he has been fencing for 6 weeks, his first tournament is in two weeks. The tournament is held at his fencing club, and the club recommends it for beginner fencers - the kids are not even required to have their own blades or wires or lames, if they do not have it, club will provide the equipment. It is not even a regional level event, more like a club event, but it follows the standard tournament format. He is eager to gain tournament experience at this event and try regional tournaments. We will see...

    it is interesting that you are thinking along the same lines as we did. You mentioned two of the blades which we ordered.

    He wanted to get his own weapon(s) to practice with them before tournament; he will be moving into Youth 2 class after the tournament, and he will be required to have his own electric foil. Leon Paul "standard electric foil" with French grip arrived today. It weighs 388 grams (we measured the weight, LP does not have this info on its web site) with leather french grip, and he thinks that it feels better than anything that he used at the club (which were mostly Absolute Fencing foils). 388 g is the weight which you've been looking for, which LP did not publish. This foil is quite flexible and he very much likes the weight and feel, but he did not fence with it yet. We have the advanced lightweight foil (the one you mentioned, for about $250) on order (we used "build your own foil" option with the same components, and it came out about $20 cheaper and 7 grams heavier than the pre-configured foil, not sure why - we do not see any difference in configurations). It will arrive, I estimate, in about a week. That foil according to the spec, should weigh 340 grams, i.e., 48 grams lighter - but this is not exactly apples to apples as the high end weapon will come with a Belgian grip which he tried and liked. The reason I mentioned the grip is because it may have impact on weight. In this forum, there are many discussions how GB-Pro blade feels and what type of fencers it suits best. My son decided it is well suited to what he sees as his developing style of fencing.

    Absolute Fencing does not publish the specs, which makes decisions difficult. Their blades are OK, I guess, our club uses lots of them, but it is mostly "made in China" stuff... Except a few European brand name blades (like BP) which Absolute Fencing sells as "high end". The blade which you mentioned does not appear to be one of those brand names.

    In our club, they do not allow kids to use pistol grips without permission. It usually takes 1 to 1.5 years of fencing with a french grip until they are allowed to move to pistol or Belgian. Therefore, the FIE GB-Pro blade will be his "competition" blade, and he probably will be able to use it in the private lessons. Check with your son's coach what grip he is allowed to use.

    Part of the weight puzzle, as far as I understand, is the balance point of the assembled weapon. It determines, using tennis terminology, its swing weight. GB-Pro is known to have center of mass of the blade closer to the grip, so it should feel lighter than blades with more traditional weight balance. We have high hopes that this foil should feel very agile and quick.

    I can report back in probably a week and a half, after he gets a chance to fence with both, on how my son feels these two blades compare between each other and with club-owned Absolute Fencing electric foils (which are not FIE, probably the most basic ones).

    Perhaps you could contact Absolute Fencing and ask how much their assembled foil which you are considering weighs?

    As for us, after we got to feel and touch an LP foil and LP body and mask wires, the difference to standard gear from Absolute Fencing which we see all around the club was quite striking.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  4. Mac A. Bee

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

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    Guide your fencer to select light components which he can assemble. Someone at your club should be able to show him how to change balance point by bending the blade's tang. Get him invested in his own kit to off-load you and enable his independence. He'll also care for the kit better.
     
  5. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    I am following this thread, and this is something that I do not quite understand. I get it that balance point may be affected by position of center of mass of the blade and weight of the grip, but how and why bending the blade's tang changes the balance point? I thought it is bent only to achieve the correct position of the tip of the blade in a naturally-relaxed hand position.
     
  6. FoiledOnceMore

    FoiledOnceMore Rookie

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    Thank you all for your replies.

    A couple of days after posting this, we were a little early for a lesson and his coach mentioned (unprompted) that he might do better with a lighter weapon. So he must have seen something. I said I had been thinking the same thing and had been looking for a lighter weapon and he said they usually recommend LP blades to their younger fencers. So I decided to go with that.

    I was all set to order the basic electric weapon when I decided to use their custom foil creator and I swapped in the lightweight guard and pistol grip. I had read about the issue of balance and was a little worried I might be screwing that up but figured we could probably fix that if it became an issue and it seemed worth getting the lighter components. I don't remember the exact cost but I think it ended up being a little more than the AF lightweight weapon.

    I'll report back after he has a chance to use it and would be very interested in hearing about Andl's experiences as well.

    This is such a great idea! My son is definitely one of those kids who loves tinkering with stuff and I could see him absolutely loving this. I had assumed this was difficult to learn but it sounds like maybe not. He has wonderful coaches so I'm sure there is someone who would be able to show him this. Really great idea, thanks!
     
  7. Mac A. Bee

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

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    If only there was a way he could find videos, here or otherwise, that do exactly that.:rolleyes:
     
  8. FoiledOnceMore

    FoiledOnceMore Rookie

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    :(

    it's a shame i didn't think of this because he's also one of those kids who teaches himself things by watching videos.

    but seriously thanks, this is really good advice and i'm sure he will love it!

    [this was in reference to finding videos...]
     
  9. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    Probably too late as it looks like you already placed your order, but Leon Paul has a DVD on sale which shows how to assemble and fix fencing gear. It is available for $10 (in the section More -> Clearance - Clearance More).

    https://www.leonpaulusa.com/na-48.html

    I have one on order, will only know how good it is when it arrives.

    Likewise, there is a book "The Care and Feeding of All Things Fencing" which is available for about $18 as a PDF file with instant download or for about $25 as printed version. About 170-180 pages, lots of details on how to take care of weapons and how to repair them. Started reading it today, so far looks like a very detailed and thorough book.

    http://www.thearmorersstore.com/Books & Printed Stuff.html

    Your fencing club might have training sessions on weapons maintenance as well.

    Your coach does not mind him using pistol grip, right? One cannot swap a pistol grip for a french grip. My son is getting a "competition" blade with a Belgian grip, and he is fully aware that he will not be allowed to use it in classes for at least another year. They say, French grip trains kids to use their fingers, while pistol-type grips allow one to rely on wrist actions, and bypasses the part where finger use is trained.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  10. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    As promised - the LP foil with GB-Pro FIE blade and Gryptonite Belgian grip arrived. We measured its weight as 350 grams. LP's weight estimate was 340 grams. Compared with the LP training electric foil (non FIE) with french grip which weighs 388 grams, as measured on the same scales, the "GB-Pro" foil surprisingly feels slightly heavier, despite its nominally lower weight. I believe this is because its center of gravity is further forward. A lighter grip shifts the center of mass forwards and makes the foil feel heavier. Sounds like the racquet swing weight in tennis.

    We talked about this with one of the coaches. He took us to the armory room and demonstrated us how the feeling of a foil changes when one swaps pommels - from heavy to light to very light pommel, and by how much it shifts the center of mass and changes the feel of the foil. Coach's assessment of GP Pro blade from just swinging it was medium stiffness, a little on the stiff side. Etoile is somewhat similar.

    My son will fence with both foils tomorrow. Then he will know which of the two he likes better and perhaps will be able to quantify the difference.

    So far, the learning was that lighter components do not necessarily make the weapon feel lighter. This is obvious for experienced fencers, but we, "fencing parents", are going through the learning curve with that.
     
  11. Mac A. Bee

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

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    The forte is heavier and foible lighter, resulting in stronger parries and quicker ripostes. YMMV.
     
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  12. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    The kid tried his both foils, LP with non-FIE Etoile blade, and LP with FIE Golubitsky Pro blade, in his private lesson on Wednesday. He likes both, but prefers GB-Pro. His feedback was that the tip felt more "airy", which is in line with more specific description given by Mac A. Bee above, where he wrote "..foible lighter ... quicker ripostes". The comparison was not apples to apples as he has french grip on Etoile and Belgian grip on GB-Pro.

    The lesson that he learned is that one should not necessarily aim for the lightest grip possible. For his next foil (Alberto Francini "Esprit"), currently on order, he opted to go with LP Gryptonite, which he already has on his GB Pro, to keep center of mass closer to his hand, rather than with the lightest LP's Belgian grip, Mag-Tech, which he was eyeing in the past.

    I will share his feedback on Esprit once the parts arrive and he assembles it, but it may take awhile until the next opportunity to test it as he is not allowed to use Belgian grip in his classes until he earns a permission to switch to pistol grip. He plans to use his FIE blades in tournaments.

    I am providing all these details because FoiledOnceMore, who started this thread, was considering the same blades for his/her kids, and was talking / asking about weight and the idea of picking a lighter weapon. This of course is a topic perfectly suited for the "Parents corner" as adults or older kids are stronger and presumably less sensitive to balance and weight (or sensitive on a different level). Unfortunately, it is difficult to find information / experience shared by parents which blades work best for beginner fencers.

    I learned from skiing and tennis that well selected gear can significantly assist with progress, while poorly selected gear can create unnecessary obstacles and hurdles. I believe, fencing works the same way.
     
  13. Mac A. Bee

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

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    Same here - though heavier Absolute.
    Some recommend using the same in practice and competing to retain muscle memory. I use the same blade, though medium flexibility for practice - and thus more resilient, and soft for competitions.
    Given the fencer's ability, i.e. better kit for the better fencer.
     
  14. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    FoiledOnceMore, just curious what your kid's impressions about the lightweight foil which your ordered. You promised to provide feedback! As we are in a similar situation (kids are relatively new to fencing, somewhat similar age), I am interested in gathering as much information as possible.

    Our progress so far, coach's recommendation was to use a heavier pommel on LP Etoile foil (we ordered their standard configuration, with french grip), to improve balance which currently seems to be a little forward. The kid does not feel that the balance is not optimal, but how can he know unless he tries a couple of options and compares his feelings? Our club has a drawer full of different pommel nuts. We will experiment with it next week, and will also experiment with tang bend angles for both, pistol and french grips. We are going to use the cheapest Absolute blades, ordered as a sacrificial blades specifically for this purpose, to test how different angles feel, as well as to practice bending them. We got a Michael Mergen's tool for that. Fun, fun, fun! Lots to learn!
     
  15. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    For what is worth, the kid is 2.5 months into fencing, with a huge effort, focus, and desire to catch up with kids who have been fencing for several years. The next biggest learning experience, which started with a tip from a coach, was that angles to which the tang is bent down (in a vertical plane) and in (in a horizontal plane) are very important, and not just for the feeling of how light or heavy is the foil (there was an opinion on the forum that a change in tang angle engages different muscles groups and this may change the perception of weight balance).

    We ordered sacrificial blades, the cheapest available, to experiment with tang angles for Belgian and French grips. The idea was: take an unwired cheap blade (if it breaks during bendings, it is OK), take key components (grip, guard), assemble, test through fencing with a dummy, disassemble, change the tang angle, repeat, repeat again, until it changes from uncomfortable to very comfortable and then, with increasing angles, uncomfortable again. Experiment until both angles are determined. I used Michael Mergens' bending tool with a digital level attached to it, so the kid could change the angle by a predefined amount, e.g., add 2 degrees at a time. So far, we ran only tests with Belgian grip. Through this, we determined that his optimal angles are 5.5 to 6 degrees down and 7 to 8 degrees in. To his surprise, optimization of tang angle resulted not so much in a change in comfort, but in a significant increase in accuracy of the tip control. It was, like, Wow! I got so much better with tip control after changing the tang angle! It felt like a total revelation.

    The foil which we bought assembled from Leon Paul, non-FIE, with Belgian grip, had tang bend angles of 8.4 degrees down and 7.7 degrees in. (All measurements were done by taking a picture from two directions and measuring angles in Photoshop). As-received bend turned out to be about two degrees too much in the direction down compared to my son's optimal settings found through trial and error. This difference was quite remarkable in "feel". Bend "in" was OK. We ended up changing the angle of bend down by unbending the tang by about 2 degrees.

    Leon Paul, I must say, did a lousy job assembling the foil (or at least it is my non-pro's perception). The tang bend started about 10-15 mm too high, consequently the task of removing the grip which got stuck on a crooked tang became a major chore (I had to build a small jig to hammer it out without breaking the wire in the process). This effort however did not save the day. Spaghetti tube with wire was glued to the tang to the length of about 10 mm (instead of being glued into the wider groove in the blade itself), which was way too high, and this forced the wire to go through a 180 degree bend inside of the groove in the grip when that was installed. Spaghetti tube was crashed and partly damaged because of this. An attempt to detach the tube (which, in retrospective, my kid did not do in the most foolproof way) eventually ended up in a wire breakage... which I was able to fix using a soldering iron, acetone, and a heat gun, thus fixing the LP's (how should I phrase it to remain politically correct?) - not optimum way of assembly. Somehow I thought they would have top notch armorers there in London, but apparently I was wrong. They should get Merg's tool and read his book to learn how to do it right.

    Lesson learned: one has to establish what are the optimum grip and tang angles, and assemble each new one yourself. Tang angles are individual for each fencer and have to be found through trial and error. Buying an assembled weapon is not the best path as one has to rely on luck with the tang angle.

    Now my son has matched, I believe, within a degree, tang angles on his Golubitsky Pro and Esprit foils.

    The task of determining optimum angles for the French grip is planned for the next week, holidays permitting, and contingent on timely arrival of parts needed to assemble a sacrificial foil with French grip for testing. After he correctly sets up his LP Etoile and BF white (a new addition to his arsenal) blades with French grip, he will be in a position to compare all four, from a 12-year old kid perspective.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  16. Mac A. Bee

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

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    All wires bend 180 degrees transiting from blade to guard's inside surface. Acetone or heat gun to remove glued tube.
     
  17. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    Granted, I am learning, but I am not sure I understand the reasoning. Why can't the wire bend 90 degrees between the guard and thumb pad and go where it needs to go, as opposed to going through the guard and thumb pad, making a 180 degree kink in the grip where there is no room for this kink, looping back towards the blade through the thumb pad, and only then making a 90 degree turn to continue between the guard and thumb pad towards the socket?

    I wonder if I was not very clear with my description, or you really mean a 180 degree loop followed by a 90 degree bend.
     
  18. jkormann

    jkormann Podium

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    If I read your posting right, the wire came from the blade, through the hole in the guard, through the hole in the socket's arm, then through the guard-pad, up to the socket?

    The wire should go through the guard and the socket's arm, along the guard and to the socket. It should be under the pad and out of the way.

    As for the length, that's up to the installer. Usually a good installation will have a small looping of wire leading up to the socket. That is in case something happens (a break, etc) and you need to reconnect to the socket without rewiring. A direct wire won't give space for small fixes like that.

    If you have any photos to post, that would be appreciated.
     
  19. Mac A. Bee

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

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    Concur. That's the 180 to which I referred, otherwise it's a 90 bend against the guard thence routed to the socket connection.
     
  20. AndI

    AndI Made the Cut

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    Thank you very much for the feedback!

    The picture below shows how the blade looked like after the grip, pad, socket, and guard were removed. This is the factory job of Leon Paul.

    Am I right in thinking that it is not an optimal way to do it - or is it, in fact, a common and correct practice, and my assumptions were all wrong?

    [​IMG]

    The wire, apparently, went through the hole in the guard, through the hole in the socket, through the hole in the thumb pad, further up along the tang into the grip as far as spaghetti wire was glued to the tang, then made a 180 degree loop, went back through the hole in the thumb pad and then turned 90 degrees and zig-zagged to the socket connector. Damage in the spaghetti wire, evidently comes from where it was jammed between the tang and the grip. The foil worked fine as received, spaghetti wire was stripped by the grip, but isolation of the wire survived.

    Red arrow shows where the wire ultimately broke, after my son tried to detach the spaghetti wire from the tang. It broke off surprisingly easily. Since the wire was not protected by spaghetti wire in this area, it is conceivable that it was severed by the guard during factory assembly or use. I was able, using acetone and heat, to remove glue from the wide part of the groove in the blade without damaging the wire, soldered a replacement short piece of wire, slid spaghetti wire over the soldered joint, and glued some 7-10 mm of spaghetti wire into that wide groove in the blade with CA glue. I did not glue it to the tang at all. I used waxed baking paper to separate spaghetti wire from the tang, so that it does not get glued to where I did not want it to glue to.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2018

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