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What Should be in Your Fencing Repair Kit

Fencing Repair KitIf you think that weapons problems happen only to novice fencers, think again. Issues with weapons happen all the time to every fencer, even to world class fencing athletes.

Weapon Issues can be Major for Fencers

One such incident happened in October 2015 in the Men’s Foil World Cup team event right here, in San Jose, California. It was just at the end of the quarterfinal match between Russia and Japan, before the last 9th bout. The two anchors from each team were the most recent world champions, Alexey Cheremisinov, Individual Men’s Foil 2014 World Champion from Russia, and Yuki Ota, Individual Men’s Foil 2015 World Champion from Japan.  The Russian team was leading 40:39 with the match going until the first team reaches a score of 45.

The referee checked Cheremisinov’s foil and it did not pass weight – an immediate yellow card. Then the referee checked Alexey’s second weapon and it had the same problem. This resulted in a red card that brought the score to a tie at 40:40 before they even started to fence! This weapon’s non-conformity cost the Russian team the match as they lost 45:44. A simple weapons issue cost them the chance for a medal.

Nearly every fencer has likely experienced a similar and of course incredibly annoying moment  during the referee’s inspection of their weapon before a bout – something doesn’t work. Then they get a yellow card, and sometimes even a red card for a second penalty which will be given to a fencer with a non-conforming or broken piece of equipment.

Fortunately, preventing most of the potential equipment problems is possible and fixing them by the fencer or their parent can be relatively easy even in the heat of competition.

This post explains what should be in your fencing repair kit and which quick fixes you could do during the competition to keep most of the problems away.

But first let’s see what might go wrong.

A Good Routine Before Each Bout

You never know when something might break. A “perfect” weapon or body cord in a previous bout can easily become imperfect without warning. Do not try to appeal to the referee that “she just saw this weapon tested in a previous pool bout and everything was ok!” This happens all the time – a good weapon in a previous bout becomes a non-conforming weapon in this bout.

Why? The answer is very simple – every piece of equipment has the potential to go wrong. A screw can loosen up during the bout and fall out without you noticing it. A spring (pressure springs in foil and either pressure or contact springs in epee) can give in to the force of a touch and become deformed, a wire can tear off without you noticing it, a body cord can break near the socket. And since some of these things can be impossible to notice during the bout and even do not affect performance (a screw will not affect your touches), once you are back on the strip for the next bout, the referee will test and see that there’s non-compliance and thus penalize you without any mercy.

Frankly I have rarely seen anyone (and I must admit – this includes myself with my own kids) who checks their weapon before every bout. If you can develop a good habit, for example, rigorously checking before start of the pools and start of DE’s or DE bouts, and doing quick visual inspections before each pool bout, then it’s a good step forward!

Fencing Repair Kits

As is the case with every piece of equipment, things will inevitably break at some point in time, you better have a repair kit in your fencing bag to make small fixes before the next bout. My recommendation to every fencer and their parents is this: always carry a repair kit in your fencing bag. It will save you embarrassment, nerves and even money in the long run.

The content of the fencing toolkit differs for foil and epee, so I will explain separately what I recommend for you to have for each weapon. If you are only a foil or only an epee fencer, you can skip on down to the relevant for you section. If, however, you are a parent of two different weapons fencers like I am (my oldest daughter is an epee fencer while my 3 other kids are foilists), then a combination of both toolkits is a good idea.

Content of Epee Repair Kit

  1. Epee Weight – 750 gram
  2. Pack of tip screws
  3. Pack of contact springs
  4. Pack of pressure springs
  5. Pack of epee tips
  6. Shim (small and big)
  7. If you fence with pistol a grip – inside/outside allen key (depending what type of hex nut you have)
  8. Tester box
  9. Screw driver for tiny screws
  10. Screw driver for body cord, socket and prongs
  11. Small white towel/cloth to spread out and do all the repairs on it
  12. Small utility knife
  13. Small zip lock bag for used/broken parts
  14. Small compartment bag that fits all these and which you can put inside your fencing bag

Very important note: the spare parts (tips, screws, springs) must be the same type as your weapons. That means, if the weapon is assembled with German point parts, for example, the respective spare parts must be all German: screws, tips, contact and pressure springs.

What Can Go Wrong with Epee

In a competition epee is inspected for 4 major things by the referee:

  1. All tip screws are in place
  2. The epee holds required weight
  3. The epee passes big shim test
  4. The epee passes small shim test

Also, prior to starting the bout, fencers should test that the weapon is properly grounded by touching each other’s guards.

Simply said, if any of these 5 things (4 inspection points by the referee and bell guard testing by the fencer), isn’t there, the fencer receives a yellow card – even before the bout starts. Not a nice thing.

Also, a wire can be torn in few typical places: anywhere on the blade, near the bell guard and near the socket.

How to Fix Minor Things in Epee during Competition

So let’s see how to repair thing that go wrong in a competition.

First, check whether all tip screws are in place. Also, tighten them. If one screw has fallen out, spread your small white towel or cloth on the floor or table (if you have an access to one), put the tip of the epee on the towel and place a new screw. The reason for the towel is because tip screws are not the easiest thing to put due to them being so tiny (and, let’s admit, most probably your eyes not what they used to be), so they would refuse to go in and will continue to fall out of their place until you finally get them in. You can easily pick a falling screw up when you clearly see it on white cloth, and trust me – I lost more than one screw when they fell onto the ground.

Next, connect the epee to the tester with the body cord. Test for the weight and both shims.

If the epee does not hold the weight – change the pressure spring. Again, spread the white cloth, put the epee tip on it, hold the tip with your finger and unscrew both screws. Take the tip and the spring out of the barrel. Replace the pressure spring and screw everything back into the place.

If small shim test fails, then the problem is with the contact spring. You can change only this spring, but I would postpone it to later. Meanwhile I would just take a new tip that comes with the preinstalled contact spring and a new pressure spring and replace the old tip and spring with the new one. Later at home you can remove the contact spring from the tip and put a new one.

BTW, discard every spring that failed the test – springs are unrepairable (at least by us mere mortal fencers).

Often the epee wire that is connected to the socket is torn. Admittedly, in the last few months it’s  happening less than before, given that the USFA made changes in the rules regarding  how wires are allowed to be connected to the socket. But still broken wires happen all the time.

In most cases you can easily repair it as well, even in the field conditions of a tournament. Using a utility knife, cut the spaghetti tube by the required length to expose the underlying wire and connect the wire to the respective prong on the socket (here’s where the screwdriver comes handy too!)

Very important – after you complete every fix, carefully test the weapon again with weight and shim tests.

What can go Wrong with Foil

Similar to epee, your foil can fail you at any time. Foil inspection by the referee is not as rigorous as it is with epee. Nevertheless, the weapon will be checked and you will be penalized if it’s not good.

Most of the test will be a weight test with a 500 gram weight.

But additional things might go wrong. The most common in foil is that the tape wears out, which is not a technical fault and you will not be penalized with the card, but you might punish yourself by not registering valid touches due to lack of the tape.

How often have you seen beginners (or not so beginners) who have their foil bare without any tape?

Content of Foil Repair Kit

The content of foil repair kit is very similar to the one of epee, but of course with some minor differences.

  1. Foil Weight – 500 gram
  2. Pack of screws
  3. Pack of foil pressure springs
  4. Pack of foil tips
  5. If you fence with a pistol grip – an inside/outside allen key (depending what type of hex nut you have)
  6. Tester box
  7. Screw driver for tiny screws
  8. Screw driver for socket prongs
  9. Tape to isolate the foil end
  10. Small white towel/cloth to spread out and do all the repairs on it
  11. Small utility knife
  12. Small zip lock bag for used/broken parts
  13. Small compartment bag that fits all these and which you can put inside your fencing bag

How to Repair Minor Things in Foil During the Competition

If the only problem is the tape, then remove the old tape and put a new one. Tape wears out fast – it can be just few bouts and the tape might be severely torn out.  Changing the tape in foil is as common as recharging the battery in your cellphone. Make it a habit to inspect the tape now and then and replace with a new one once signs of wear start showing up.

The weight problem is also easily fixable. Clear the tape from the foil’s end, put it on the white cloth, unscrew the screws, take the tip and the spring out of the barrel, put a new pressure spring, put the tip back and fix with the screws and re-tape the end.

Where to Purchase a Fencing Repair Kit

The first place to look for a fencing toolkit and its content is of course online. My favorite site for such things is Absolute Fencing Gear (*). You can purchase a testing kit box with an initial set of tools and complement it by adding spare parts for either epee or foil. You can also purchase every item separately and put them in your own tool box.

The tools page can be found here for Absolute Fencing Gear.:

The parts pages are found here:

The other place that you’ll find fencing repair kits is at major regional and national tournaments such as RYC’s, SYC’s, ROC’s and NAC’s, where some of the fencing vendors will set up their booth and you can shop there.

Now you know:

  • why you should carry a repair kit in your fencing bag
  • what should be in it
  • how to test your weapon for compliance and readiness to the bout
  • how to fix things if they go wrong during the competition.

We hope you will follow this advice and never receive a yellow card because of some preventable weapon problem. You have enough worries prior to the bout – a yellow card should not be one of them!

Good luck!

[*Full Disclosure – I do not receive any sort of compensation from Absolute Fencing Gear for mentioning them here or recommending their brand and none of the links are affiliated. The only reason I mention Absolute Fencing Gear here is because I personally shop on their site most of the time and find it good enough to use their service and their stuff]

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9 Comments

  1. R

    As an armourer/fencer, I check my weapon after every pool bout with the *referee’s* weight to insure it still “conforms” (rule statement) i.e. passes, after a bout’s-worth of touches. If your epee fails shims, you may request (but have no right to demand) that your ref use another ref’s set, to insure their set is valid. Also, carry an extra retaining clip, which when I’m reffing, I check during my pre-bout weapon inspection.

  2. Anthony Densmore

    I carry a small magnetic pad (in my case, a 4″x4″ fridge magnet) to work on. It keeps small screws and springs from rolling around.
    It was a tip I learned from my club armoured.

  3. Ricardo Arveras

    Hi Igor !
    I don’t know if around 2016 you knew about a new 2012 design epee screw which made this tricky screws on-off operations much more easy .

    The main difference for a fencing parent which, among his countless supporting duties, is usually oblied to struggle with this 2mm sized items, finding himself laying on the floor over a towel for 5 minutes ( at least) for each on-off-on screwing operation . Add the preassure of a yellow probable card-. This hell becomes a 5 second simple operation using NEPS.

    NEPS screws (hollowed, collared, both ends appliable ) are compatible and currently featured products on the main fencing gear US carriers ( AFG, LPUSA, BG,..) and AMAZON. So congrats to fencing Moms and Dads for this technnical advance that can help them to relief the preassure and better enjoy their child’s fencing passion !!

    Thanks in advance

    Ricardo

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Ricardo,
      Thanks for the comment! I know about NEPS screws, but personally I never had any issue with regular screws, so never tried the NEPS. But for sure I know few adults that would appreciate them 🙂
      Igor.

      • Ricardo Arveras

        Hi Igor,

        won’t mind if I send you a sample kit and Info doc justo keep you updated in this subject? Please tell me where should I send it?

        • Igor Chirashnya

          Sure! You can mail it to our club address: Academy of Fencing Masters, 86 Railway Ave., Campbell, CA 95008

  4. Do you care if i let you a taste sending you a sample just to have the chance to experiencie it by yourself ? I’m sure you are keen on being updated in this matters. Thanks in adv

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