Faq II: Equipment & Maintenance:

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".  A flex point less than 1/3 of the length from
     the tip indicates a strong middle, but may also indicate a whippy
     or less durable foible.  A lower flex point may make the blade
     feel spongy, slow, or tip-heavy, but may also indicate a stronger
     foible that is more durable and less easily dominated.  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) 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
     Maraging steel foil blades have a reputation for lasting
     considerably longer than regular steel blades, and are supposed
     to break more cleanly.  They are mandatory in many high-level
     competitions.  Many fencers find them a superior value, in spite
     of their high price.  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
     blade.

     Maraging sabre blades do not seem to be so well received, and are
     not required for FIE competition.

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.  Some 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 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 join of
     the foible and barrel.  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
     curvature.

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



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