Thursday, August 30, 2012

Satisfied customers

Well deliveries for the first two customers occurred tonight and both were very happy.  Yeah us.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Purpleheart Handles

 Today, I made two new handles.  I used a blank of Purpleheart for each of these.  These blanks of purplehart have much more of a brownish tint, however in some light, you can definitely see the purple tinge.  I was able to get the drill press working for drilling out the holes for the tang.  This should make the process that much better.
This handle is for Brendan Firebow's Popinjay rapier.   It replaced a round  handle that originally came with the blade.  

This is my 30" Darkwood rapier.  As detailed in an earlier post, I swapped out the original handle on this to my 38" Darkwood clam shell.

These handles just have a finish of Tung Oil on them.  They really look great.  I feel productive.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Get a Grip - Custom Rapier Handles

So today I went to pick up a new band saw at Harbor Freight.  The local store was out of the table top one, and the Ryobi band saw was only $10, but I was running late and Ray Edwards was already at my house waiting for me.  So Jennie and I picked Ray up, we had lunch, and then it was off to Home Depot.  Got the band saw and the lines for the cashiers were long, so to self checkout we go.  I lifted the band saw up and scanned it.  Jennie hoisted it back into the cart, and the guy working the self checkout line said to her "Did you just lift that all by yourself?  Damn!" to which she replied the affirmative.  He was impressed, and she continues to impress me daily.  So back home we go and unpack the band saw.

Box Edler Burl
We tried to turn a handle on the lathe, but trying to use a rectangular stock just wasn't working.  I tried to cut it down on the chop saw and the piece sort of exploded.  Thank god for quick reaction.  So Jennie and I went out to pick up a few more supplies and stuff for dinner.  While we were gone, Ray was able to start and complete the Box Edler Burl grip for his rapier.

Redheart Handles

We then cut the Redheart for Don Orlando's grips.  As you can see, the Redheart makes for a gorgeous handle.  Ray did most of the work on these.

Argentine Osange Orange

For Brendan Firebow, we used the Argentine Osage Orange.  This was a long grip, measuring just about 5" long.  I did the majority of the work on this grip.
Work completed on August 26, 2012
So we were able to get four new handles done, and I am very happy with how each one turned out.  So if you're for a way to make your rapier stand out, let us know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This picture is what first got me interested in fencing.  Every time I fence, there is that little kid inside me saying "Touche, monsieur pussycat!"

Practice Report - 8/23/12

Last night had a good turnout for practice.  Too bad I was unable to fence.  Joining the usual attendees were Lord Po from Aethelmearc, Don Andre and Eldrich from Iron Bog, and a lady from CAID (who's name I did not catch).

For those who don't know, Lord Po is on a mission, assigned by the Queen of Aethelmearc, to secure words from 10 White Scarfs, OGRs, or their equivalent.  Last night, he was able to add three more signatures to his book, Sir Antonio, Don Andre, and Don Orlando.  He now only needs one more name to complete his quest.

Me, I was on the sidelines, spectating, wishing I could have been out there, but better to sacrifice a week than risk further injury.  I was showing off my wood yesterday.  It was in a box.  There were some really nice pieces that were delivered.  We'll be making a matched set of Redheart handles for Orlando.  Also going to making a set of handles for Firebow (not sure out of which wood).  We should be making the handles on Sunday, so if anyone wants to come over for a day of woodworking, let me know.  Oh, and I'm going to be picking up a band saw to help in this endeavor.

As for practice last night, it was good to see Jehane.  She had not fenced in about 6 months due to injury.  It was funny as she looked at Adam and Ralph, asking who they were.  These are our newest crop who have stuck with it.  Both are coming along nicely and having a lot of fun with it (since they keep returning).  I told them to read up on the rules, as they are both at the point where they are more than ready to authorize (I think).

In other news, I will be running fencing at White Mare's Bones in the Shire of Frosted Hills (Wappinger's Falls, NY) on Saturday, September 1st.  So come on out for a nice day by the river and fence your butt off.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good and Bad

So today has been a good and bad day...

Good:  Day off from work
Bad:    Had to take a sick day as I barely slept due to my back acting up.  I think this may be partially due to bowling on Saturday.  My ankle was bothering me Sunday to Tuesday and I was limping, which means I was not walking properly, which aggravated something in my back, and now I have strained the sacroiliac joint in my pelvis, and its mighty painful.

Good:  Made a leather piece for Malcolm's dagger to help protect his hand.
Bad:     Spilled green leather dye on my hand.  Got most of it off except around the nails

Good:  Going to practice tonight.
Bad:     Not going to be fencing due to the back.

Good:  Having Percocet for the back.
Bad:    Not able to drive to get a massage while on painkillers.

Good:  Order of exotic woods arrived.  (Yes, I have wood!)
Bad:    Not being able to take a piece down to the wood shop to make a handle out of it yet, due to being on painkillers and working with power tools.  Its just a bad combination.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I got wood

I just ordered a bunch of knife and pen blanks in different woods for turning into rapier handles.
Box Elder Burl
Black Palm
Brown Ebony
East Indian Rosewood
Argentine Lignum Vitae
Argentine Osage Orange

Monday, August 20, 2012


So no one showed up for stretching tonight so i did a half hour of it by myself.  I think yoga would be good for me.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Practice Report - 8/16/2012

 First practice since Pennsic and my rediscovery of my joy for the duel.  It was a good turnout last night especially for being the week after Pennsic.  People wanted to fence, which was nice.  We started the night outside reinspecting weapons and making slight modifications to new gear.  People showed off Pennsic purchases, Antonio with his new Darkwood blade, me with the new dagger, etc...

So onto the fencing, as that is what I'm blogging about.  I had some trouble establishing my distance with the new blade.  5" doesn't really sound that much in the grand scheme of life.  It is a little more than half the length of my foot.  But finding my distance was what I was working on last night and will need to continue to work on.  I felt like I was setting up way too close in most of my bouts.  I fought Malcolm and was unable to keep him from closing the distance in the later fights, which resulted in fun but ugly kills both ways.  Against Orlando, I felt better, but still coming up shorter than I wanted to and setting up too close.  I need to take half a step back and relearn how to close the distance.  Antonio had me me wishing for the 43" blade just to keep him at bay a little longer.  I was in that space where no one wants to be, where he could reach me and I could not reach him.  I tried to work the cross parry with the dagger against him to keep my blade free.   Eventually he wound up hitting me with an un-tippedl blade in the left arm, as his tip had gotten caught in the guard of my rapier.  OUCH...

With that I called it a night.  I iced the arm, and this morning, thankfully there is only a small bruise.  

Monday evening a few of us are getting together to work on core strength, balance, stretching, and stamina.  Anyone have suggestions for exercises?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reshaped grip

So this is the reshaped grip for my 30" rapier.  I set up the new sander and used the belt to flatten out the two sides and then used the disc portion to smooth out the transition.  Putting the grip into a clamp helped to save my fingers for the rough shaping, but I had to take it out for the smoothing as it was just to tight to work with otherwise.  This change feels much better than the round grip it was prior.

Repairs and fixes

There will be fencing tonight.  My gear is not where I want it as detailed a little bit yesterday.  With work being light this afternoon, I took a few minutes to go down to the shop to make some fixes.

First up, I swapped the grip from my 30" blade onto the new primary.  This meant I did not have a handle on the 30".  But I had an extra handle though it would not fit, due to the 30" having a wide tang.  So I tried to file it down from the inside using a set of needle files.  That was not working, so I broke out the power tools.  I found the width I needed (1/2") and made a mark with painters tape on the shank of the drill so I would not go too deep with it.  If my drill press had a longer throw, I would have used that, but alas, I used a cordless drill.  Test fitting the newly drilled handle it still didn't fit just right, so I used a 3/8" bit to create a little more room at the shoulder.  Once that was done, I needed to cut down the handle to size, so to the chop saw I went.  Test fitting again, and I needed to used a few leather spacers to get the fit just right.  I'm not satisfied with the grip as its perfectly round and I prefer a more oval grip, so after work, I'm going to break out the new sander I just picked up over lunch and work on that.  

Next up was fitting a better handle to the new dagger I just got.  I broke out the new tap and die set and proceeded to cut new threads in the tang so that I could mount a shorter grip on the dagger.  It was easier work than I expected.  Then it was measure the grip and cut the tang.  I used a large bolt cutter to cut the tang.  I then beveled the new end on my grinder and tapped the end again to clean up the thread alignment.  As I left the tang a bit long for the intended pommel, I had to cut, grind, and tap the tang one more time.  Almost perfect, I used a leather washer between the pommel and grip to make up for any slop.

I taped a new tip onto the new 38" blade.  I also took all the tape off the 30" blade and was going to tape a new tip on.  When I took the tip off, the washer I had in there came out in two pieces.  I am not sure how long ago the washer split, but the tip was in good condition, so I put a new washer in and taped it on.

For sanding down the sides of the grip, I figure I am going to use a clamp from both ends of the grip so that way my fingers will not be near the sanding surface.  Then it will just be flip the grip in the clamp and sand the other side.  A little finish sanding and I think it should be good to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fencing Related Projects

On tap for this coming year in terms of fencing related projects:
  • Turning new handles for my rapiers

    • I'm not satisfied with the grip I purchased on the new dagger, and I've always wanted to learn how to use a lathe to turn wood, so since I have a lathe, found a site for exotic woods, have access to a pretty decent wood shop in the basement, Ray and I are going to be making some nice grips.
    • Somewhat related to this is I want to make a set of plates, bowls, and drinking vessels for feast gear.
  • New buckler
    • I'm hoping to use my knight/pelican's metal shop to pound out a wavy metal buckler in the style of Marozzo.  I made one in leather, and it was my first leather tooling project ever, but I always wanted to make a metal one.
  • New rapier belt
    • Since I took a lateral transfer from squire to protege under the same peer, I'm thinking I may need to make a new rapier hanger and belt.
  • New garb
    • I'm learning how to sew and helped Jennie make some new Viking apron dresses prior to Pennsic.  I think its time I stopped buying garb and learned how to make some of it myself.  Maybe make myself some pretty fencing garb from linen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Weapons

So continuing the thread for stuff at Pennsic,

I picked up a new dagger, well acquired the guard in a trade for future considerations via Ray.  It matches my Darkwood rapier with the clam shell motif.  But Darkwood blades are so expensive so I got a blade, pommel, and grip for it from Zen Warrior (Triplette).  The grip is massive and long.  I'm going to have to do some work on it to get it to a profile I like.  The tang is long too, so I picked up a tap and die set last night from Harbor Freight so I can cut the tang down and put new threads on so it works better.  The dagger blade is much stiffer than the Alchem Safe-flex blade I am used to.

Speaking of my Alchem dagger, I loaned it to Ray during the terrain battle.  Someone chopped down at him and he used the blade to parry the shot (thankfully).  It cleaved the dagger blade in two.  It didn't pop the blade out of the mount it was epoxied into, but actually snapped the blade in two.  So I took the rig to Zen Warrior and had them mount a new dagger blade to the rig.  Again, its a lot stiffer than what I am used to.

On Friday, I picked up a new rapier blade from Darkwood to replace the Hanwei blade I had been using in my primary sword.  It originally came with a truck leaf spring thick Darkwood blade which I replaced with a Hanwei 43" blade.  I'm dropping the length down to a 38" blade.  We shall see how this works out.

So do I order a new dagger blade from Alchem?  Last time I ordered from them, I had to threaten a lawsuit to get what I ordered.

One Duelist's Tale

Its the first time in many years where I have come back from a Pennsic excited about fencing.  It was a good Pennsic, a relaxed Pennsic, one that has re-instilled something I think I lost over the last few years.  At this year's Pennsic, I did more fencing than I had in past years.  Still not as much as I would have hoped to do, but it was better quality than what I have been putting out there.  I can trace the a-ha moment when things seemed to click for me and I rediscovered my love for the fight... but more on that later.

I started SCA rapier in December of 2002 as a way of continuing to rehab from an ankle injury.  At the time, I was out of work, 10 years younger than I am today, and was able to hit 2-3 practices a week.  Usually it was the South Orange and Piscataway practices.  At the time, South Orange for me was focusing on drills and technique and Piscataway allowed me to play more and bout.  I fenced a lot of single rapier for a while, authorizing in April of 2003.  My goal was to just have fun, but soon discovered that winning was more fun for me than losing.  After my first Pennsic, I set a goal of being on the East Kingdom Rapier Champions team.  This is still one of my continuing goals when it comes to SCA rapier.  I want to be considered among the best in the kingdom and the SCA.

The second goal for me is to be named as a companion of the Order of the Golden Rapier.  Again, this is to be accepted into an order for the best in the kingdom.  Acceptance in a group has always been something that I have strived for, that feeling of belonging.  I can get into a whole lot of regression and therapy here, but lets just say that I've felt like I have had to fight for acceptance in every group I have belonged to.  From childhood until today, I have always been a shy person, who no matter what has always felt on the outside, having to battle my way to being accepted.  I know in the past that some have called me arrogant while on and off the field.  Well that was a shell I used to protect myself.  Over the last year, I have learned to open up a lot more.

A few years ago, I set another goal, which is to be named Queen's Champion of Rapier.  While anyone can have a great day in a list and take the overall tournament, I want to be the guy that people look at and think he's good, honorable, clean... all the virtues that one would associate with the selection.  This is a much harder goal, but one I try to take with me in every tournament, practice, and melee.

So where was I after this diatribe....

Pennsic... something clicked there this year and I actually had fun.  It had been a while since I have come back from Pennsic more excite than before going to Pennsic.  I only had a couple of issues with calibration, once in the cadet tournament with a guy from Northshield who had he hit me with the chop I took on the dagger would have probably broken my wrist, and a weird shot over and around a dead guy in the first field battle where the blade was not able to bend due to the person between us.

This year I was tapped to be Co-Commander of the Southern Region Rapier Army with Griffith.  To celebrate, the week before Pennsic, a few of us made a Southern Region Army banner (Molle, Antionio, Malcolm, Charity, and myself).  I flew the banner on the edge of the field during the town battle on Monday. During the armored battle, I tied it to Baron Jabril's spear so he could carry it in as the commander of the Southern Region's armored units.  The banner got a little war torn, so we got it repaired and I got a pole to hoist it on.  Prior to Tuesday's terrain battle (building/broken field/open field), I had asked Baron Larry if after I carried it into the fight, he would grab it and carry it back in.  Later in the melee, Lilia carried the banner back into the fight.  It was awesome to see people having fun.

As for command, this year was really easy as our major ally was the Midrealm.  We know what they do well, they know what we do well, so planning the battle strategy was pretty simple.  Both generals had very similar ideas on how to use our forces.  It was a real pleasure fighting along side our 40 year enemy for the first time.  I'm hoping that there is a rotation among the new principal kingdoms so that every three years, the East would get to fight with Aelthelmearc, Atlantia, or the Midrealm.

I actually got to fence in a tourney this year.  I've organized the Don/Dona & cadet tournaments for the past 3 years.  For the cadet tournament, Edmund agreed to be marshal in charge so that I could fence in it.  JP has been a tremendous help in organizing the tournament so that it runs fast and is fun.  Without the two of them, I would have been stuck.  Oh, and let me not forget to thank Master Liam, who came to help out with the signups.  So I got to fight in the cadet tournament.  I did ok, losing in my second bout to a black tiger from Northshield (see above about calibration).  I got tentative against him after blocking his chop shot.  In the loser bracket (1 loss bracket) I picked a fight with the guy who won last year and came in second the first year of the tournament.  I was able to take him out.  Overall, I was pleased with my performance.  Wish I had done better.

Regarding Rapier Champions team, I was selected as an alternate.  On Saturday, my knee was killing me, so I told Wyatt, who was organizing this years team, to pull me out of contention for an open slot for Sunday's tournament.  Rain pushed it back to Wednesday, but by then all the spots were filled.  But I was suited up, ready to go in case someone no showed or worse.  I offered to help people warm up and am glad I did.  I warmed up Ian, and while doing so, something clicked inside me.  I was varying my game, trying to push him a little to get him warmed up.  I think I started smiling, beaming inside.  Something had woken up and I started fencing for the joy of it, not pressing.  When Ian won his bout, I was more proud of him than if I had been in the tournament and won a bout myself.  He gave me a big hug and said the warm-up was just what he needed.  I also helped to warm up Orlando and Sean.  All won their bouts and I hoped that I helped them out just a little.

So with a new vision, happiness in my heart, rediscovering my love for the duel, here's hoping 2012/2013 are going to be my year.