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Construction of ARMA Padded Contact-Swords

*Note: The ARMA no longer relies on nor actively utilizes actively padded contact-weapons in its curricula.

For safe, serious, unarmored or armored free-sparring this new design offers even greater performance in simulating the use of real blades. As with our prior contact-sparring swords, realistic handling along with close to accurate weight and balance is the entire goal. This second generation discernable-edge contact-weapon is without question the most realistic simulator for cutting swords we have ever used. While just as safe as previous designs they are much faster and allow for cleaner strikes while actually having even more padding at the point of impact. As they are much thinner than prior ARMA contact-weapons they also have less wind resistance and it is easier to determine when edge blows and cuts have been made properly. Unlike earlier contact-weapons, their flat sides require much less padding and this allows for superior blade control and action. It is even easier to make correct parries, beats, binds, and to distinguish flat hits. This design is also easier to construct and to balance than previous models. 

Basic construction consists of a simple solid core of 2 oak slats taped together (DO NOT GLUE THEM), with a thin aluminum bar running approximately 80% the length of the blade on the blade (each of these are obtainable at most hardware stores). One aluminum bar is placed on one side and then a shorter section of aluminum bar (approximately one-quarter of the blade length depending upon desired weight) is placed on the other side along the ricasso and handle (actual position depends upon the desired balance sought).  The padded edges are strips of high-impact foam glued onto the wood core with strips of thin leather then glued onto them. The entire weapon is wrapped in duct tape and covered with a canvas or thick cloth cover.

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Balance is adjusted by the aluminum strips and the hilt is made of close-cell foam shaped and wrapped with duct tape. As with prior ARMA contact-weapon instructions, follow the directions explicitly and use only solid oak hardwood (no pine, fir or soft woods) and High-Impact closed-cell foam (L2000 flotation foam or Landau padding found at foam distributors and upholstery or auto-interior shops --don’t ask us where, just try searching).

Prior to adding the edges, round off the tip of the wooden slats and file its sides smooth. Always add another 1" of additional ordinary soft foam-rubber on top of the thrusting tip (for a total of 2" of composite foams).

For the best handle, first file down the wood to create a "tang" and pommel. This allows your grip wrap and padded pommel to be more secure and easier to shape.

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Measurements of width and thickness of the edge and flat pieces are construed for maximum safety at minimum size. They must be followed exactly for proper performance. Any thinner and they are too unrealistic. Important: Use only actual high-impact, closed cell foam (flotation-foam and Landau padding/L2000) and not any other (e.g. pipe insulation, sleeping pads, foam rubber, etc.).  For padding on the flat sides of blades, if you cannot find the high-impact/floatation foam in the " thickness, there is a suitable alternative. Get some black rubber pipe-foam such as Armstrong brand Armaflex black rubber tubing. Please note this is RUBBERIZED foam and NOT the other kind of camping-pad type of pipe-insulation foam. It comes in convenient " thickness, is inexpensive, and once split and folded out is perfect for use on sword flats -DO NOT USE IT FOR SWORD EDGES. It is too rubbery and bouncy for that. One tip, to prevent their tearing add a thick piece of flexible leather or plastic cloth across the length of the cross-guard.  For Medieval blades capable of safe contact fighting as well as full-contact, use the exact prescribed wood slat size to achieve correct weight/balance and blade-play. Even minor changes will affect the simulation and feel of the weapon.

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Above is a life-size cross-section of the blade of a new ARMA padded contact-sword to help give a clearer conception of the design. A quarter is shown for scale. This particular portion was taken from about 6 inches away from the point. The cloth cover has of course been removed from this blade. From the photo the various parts are visible including the inner core of oak slats (and in this case one of hickory) and the aluminum slat on one side. Note both the wood slats and the metal have actually pulled away slightly from one another during the sawing of this sample. Also, this metal slat is not as wide as those used in some later models. Note the thin leather strips (in red) around the foam edges (in white). Thick plastic fabric can be substituted for leather. The foam edges are actually a few millimeters wider than they appear here but after being taped and then hours of abuse, they compact slightly. The thin side foam on the flat of the blade is actually black here and not easy to detect from the surrounding duct tape. Only two to three layers of duct tape were used and they were not wrapped tightly. Note that on this particular spot on the blade, the leather was somewhat too short and did not fully wrap around the left side edge foam as it should. The leather on the right edge shows the correct full covering. Also, note that this sparring sword has been through a lot of abuse so there is some distortion of the overall shape.

 
 

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