Basic Fiberglass Rapier Simulator How-To

By Brian Hunt

This article tells you how to make a very stiff, 4 foot long, Fiberglass Rapier simulator or waster. These rapier simulators have the advantage of being far stiffer than either the flexible steel blades commonly used as rapiers or many modern replicas which are typically made much too whippy. True rapiers are extremely stiff blades and their actual techniques requires that quality. The following design is approved for ARMA rapier practice and free-play. They have the added advantage of being fairly inexpensive to produce. Partial credit goes to an article I saw on the web in about 1995 on how to build a Trimaris SCA style fiberglass rapier. These are an adaptation of some I made back then. Images courtesy of http://www.florilegium.org/files/COMBAT-RAPIER/ATFRCGuide.html

Tools:

Hacksaw
Drill
3/8" drill bit
Small bastard file
High temp hot glue gun
Waxed paper
Black sharpie marker
Ruler
Small knife/razor blade/box cutter
Bench vise (optional, but helpful)

Optional tools for making your own thread on pommel

1 1/4 tap
1 drill bit of appropriate size for tap
Access to a drill press will help greatly for this.

Materials

1- roll of   1 1/2" strapping tape (this is the kind with fiberglass fibers)
1- roll of 1/2" strapping tape (this is the kind with fiberglass fibers)
1- roll of aluminum tape (optional)
4- fiberglass rods - 4 feet in length X 3/8" diameter - found in most large hardware stores as driveway markers.
1- one quart stainless steel mixing bowl. (I got mine at Walmart)
2- 1" X 4" X 1/4" thick pieces of wood for the grips (could also be plastic)
1- vinyl furniture end cover just large enough to fit over the tip of the completed blade
1- miscellaneous wire if you intend to do a wire-wrap grip, or a tennis racket grip wrap.

Materials for screw on type pommel 

1 pommel – pre-threaded preferred. An alternate pommel can be made from several things if you have the tools and the knowledge.
1 piece of all thread to match the thread type of your pommel.

Materials for a nut & bolt style pommel 

1-  1" electrical coupler (this is the type with threads and a small nut on one side to fit an electrical box, and an opening to accommodate 1" electrical conduit) similar to the one pictured.

1- nut or inch pipe black pipe cap that will screw onto the electrical coupler.
1- short bolt that screws into the nut, if using a nut instead of a pipe cap.

Making the Blade

Take the fiberglass rods and scrape the reflective tape of off them with a sharp blade of some type. Be sure to cut away from yourself (safety first.). Also remove the vinyl end covers and set them aside for later.

Next take two of the rods and using the hacksaw just barely cut off the points, taking as little of the rods as necessary to remove the pointy bits. (Do not breath this dust; fiberglass is not good for the lungs. If you have a cheap respirator mask, wear it when cutting fiberglass, if you don’t have one I would recommend purchasing one).

Now cut a third rod to a length of 32 inches if you are building a simulator that will use a nut and bolt style pommel, or to a length of 28.5 inches if you are building one with a screw on type pommel. Mark all measurements with the black sharpie, and cut them with the hacksaw. (Mind that dust).

Now you will need a flat surface. A kitchen table works well, but don't get glue on it. I lay out about 4 to 4 and half feet of waxed paper to work on. Take the two rods you removed the points from and set them on the waxed paper, next take the third rod and place it in the middle of the two rods. If this is a nut and bold style rapier, just line the end of the inside rod with the other two ends of the outside rods, they should be square. If this is a screw on type pommel, you will need to mark down 3 and half inches from the ends of the 2 outside rods. This will be where the end of the inside rod begins. The 4 and a half inch long piece of all-thread will fill the empty space. This will be used to attach the pommel.

Now plug in your Hot glue gun and let it warm up. After it is hot, carefully hold the 3 rods so that they touch one another, but lay flat on the waxed paper. First you will want to tack your rods together with the hot glue.

You will now start to fill in the low spots between the rods with hot glue. You will want to do this in a couple of passes. On your first pass be sure to try and force the glue down into the crack between the rods. After the first pass, check and make sure everything is flat, and not warped in any way, then do your second pass.

You will also want to put some glue bridges in the foible area of your blade after the rest of the blade has cooled. Be careful, you can warp your blade at this point. Make sure everything stays flat and true.

Now comes the interesting part of the blade. Take the side of the nose cone of the hot glue gun and use it to slowly level the glue so the sides of the rapier will be flat.

Turn the blade over and repeat these steps on the other side. (Be careful not to warp the blade).

At this point we will want to tape the blade. Start by taping with 2 winds of the 1/2 strapping tape at these approximate locations.

Now cover the blade lengthwise with the 1 and a half-inch strapping tape, with the fibers running lengthwise with the blade. Keep it as smooth as possible. Unlike the illustration, cover every part of the blade.

You now have the basic core blade for your rapier.

Construction of the cross

Now cut 2 pieces of fiberglass rod at 8 inches and 2 pieces at 6 inches.

Mark off the center points of the 8-inch pieces with the black sharpie, then on either side of the center mark, mark two more points inch away from the center point. This will give you the center of the cross where the blade will go through.

Place all four pieces of the rod on the waxed paper. The two 8 inch pieces will be placed horizontal to one another with their ends matching, much like an equal sign. The two 6 inch pieces will be place in-between the two 8 inch pieces with one end placed at the marks made to either side of the center mark on the 8 inch pieces, leaving a 1 inch gap in the middle for the blade core to be able to just fit through tightly. Then glue the cross together in the same manner as you did the blade core.

Glue cross to blade

At this point you must decide where you want to place the cross of your sword.

For a weapon with a screw on type pommel I place the cross 4 inches down from the back end of the blade allowing for a 4 inch grip.

For a weapon with a electrical coupler type pommel, I place the cross a little further down from the back end of the blade at approximately 5 inches, give or take a little depending upon the depth that your electrical connector will fit over the back end of the blade.

Once the position for the cross has been determined and marked with the black sharpie, you will then slide the cross into position and make sure it is straight, then glue it to the blade on both the top and the bottom of the cross. Once the glue hardens, take a couple of strips of strapping tape cut to about a inch wide and wind them around the point where the cross meets the blade in the form of an X, this helps stabilize the cross when it receives any type of an impact.

Making the bell guard

Place the stainless steel bowl upside down on a workbench and mark the center of the bottom of the bowl with the black sharpie. Then mark a line 1” long centered through the center mark on the bottom of the bowl.

----+----

Use a set punch and a hammer and center punch three positions on this line, one in the center, and one inch in from each end of the 1-inch line.

Take your electric drill with a 5/16-inch drill bit and drill three holes at the positions you placed center punches.

Now using a round file, file at the bowl until you have created a slot in the bowl that will fit over the blade of your rapier. Slide the bowl over the front of the blade with the bottom pointed towards the point, and the lip of the bowl touches the cross to form a bell guard. Mark the position on the blade where the slot in the bowl is at on the blade, and then remove the bell guard. Take some strapping tape, about a wide and wrap it around the blade a few times where the slot in the bell guard stops on the rapier blade, this will protect the fiberglass from being cut by the sharp edges of the thin stainless steel. Replace the bell guard on the rapier and hot glue the lip of the bowl to the cross, then hot glue the position where the slot in the bell guard is both inside and out to the blade.

With use the bell guard will pop free from the cross if it is only held with hot glue, this in not a big problem since in can be easily fixed with a little heat from the glue gun down the road, but if you don’t like regular weapon repairs, I would also drill four holes in the lip of the bowl on either side of the cross in order to thread some stainless steel wire around the cross and through the lip of the bowl in order to tie it down and then place a little hot glue over the wires, this will make the connection between the bell guard and the cross extremely strong.

Attach the grip

Take the two slabs of wood that are 1 inch wide by 4 inches long by inch thick and hot glue them down on either side of the rapier blade against the cross where the grip will be placed at the back of the blade. Then using a rasp and sand paper, round off the square edges of the wood so the grip is easy to hold in the hand. For here you can either leave the grip as it is, or you can wrap it with leather, wire-wrap it (this is what I do to my weapons), wrap it with tape, or even wrap it with tennis racket grip tape (this is a nice easy option).

Attach the pommel

Once the grip is attached, it is time to attach the pommel. If it is a screw on pommel, just screw it down into place, if the all thread is a little long, just cut it off to length with a hacksaw.

For the electrical type coupler pommel, first hot glue the electrical connector to the end of the back of the blade with a liberal amount of hot glue. Wait for the glue to cool and harden. Remove the small nut that came with the coupler. Then fill the inside of the electrical coupler with BB’s or lead pellets up to the top and hot glue them in place. If you are using a pipe cap, screw this into place. If you are using a nut and a bolt, the bolt needs to be cut with a hack saw so that it can only screw part way into the nut, and the nut is then screwed onto the end of the electrical connector.

Attach vinyl end covers

Take the two orange end covers preserved from the beginning of this build and glue them down to each side of the cross.

At this point if you want to cover the blade in aluminum tape, do so.

If you have finished with the aluminum tape, or chosen not to use any, you will now take the large vinyl end cover and glue it to the point of your sword. This should be a tight fit and the cover should have to be slightly stretched in order to achieve a good fit.

The finished weapon

Congratulations, you should now have a completed rapier simulator good for both training and sparring.

 
 

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