This method has been used by me and a group of friends for some time now. Note that it does not simulate realistic sword combat, but it is even more fun than being locked in a kennel in Ronald Reagan's basement.

Equipment - 28-35 mm diameter wooden dowels of the appropriate lengths (see below), hard or soft insular foam tubes (plumbing section of your local hardware store/make sure it fits on the dowel!), duct tape (never skimp).
Tools - Wood saw, scissors, pencil, some time away from E2 (yipe! Don't worry, it will be worth it)

Step I: Mark and cut the dowels to the appropriate lengths; mark the length of the hilt. Be careful not to cut any short people that may be standing around. The following is a basic list of lengths we use for swords:
Short Sword   Katana     Longsword    Bastard   Claymore
75(18)        102(27)    130(32)      140(35)   160(42)

(figures in cm) The numbers in parenthesis are the hilt lengths, and the numbers outside are overall lengths. Also, the lengths are _not_ historically accurate, but they represent my experience the lengths which help produce the most enjoyment.

Step II: Cut appropriate lengths of foam tubing for the blade sizes (overall size - hilt size). Slip the tubing on, and tape it down using duct tape (use a lot of tape, make sure it is securely fastened!). Cut about 1-2 inch length of foam for the bottom of the hilt and tape it on also.

Step III: Cut the tubing in two so that you get a nice, 3-inch long strips of foam. Place the strips over the tip of the sword and over the bottom of the hilt, and tape them on.

Thats basically it! If you want more life out of your tubing, cover the whole thing in duct tape so that the blows won't cut through the foam. Remember: Always fight one another in a safe manner and, if you intend to poke someone's eye out, make sure he has health insurance first.
Ow, ow, OW! Although the above writeup has a good basic set of information, for the love of any body parts you have, please dont use dowels! Dowels are very very prone to shatter--or even worse splinter--when hit hard. Rattan is the best, if not only, sword-making material. Basically a cousin of bamboo but solid all the way through, it has its grain running along the length of the piece and is very very dense, making it nearly shatter-proof. (But remember, a hard enough blow will shatter nearly anything.) Much "wicker" and patio furniture is made out of rattan, but the stuff is fairly hard to find uncut. Some hardware stores carry it. If you can't find it locally, look online with keywords 'SCA' 'rattan' and possibly if you have no work 'raw' or 'uncut' rattan.

In terms of construction... a lot of SCAidans use pure rattan as their blades. But more and more of late, a good number are using a retan core and coating it with rubber/plastic tubing, some bastardized half-cousin to pvc pipe but much less brittle.

For the 'traditional' sword where one does not use this "sheath" outside the retan, there is another way to make it less shatter-proof. Coat the sucker with heavy-duty strapping tape. Not packing tape, *strapping* tape. The stuff with all the funny stringy little 'cords' running thru it? Yeah, that stuff. Wrap the entire blade up and down, wrapping around the blade at least once from bottom to top, if not back up agian. This helps stabelize the wood a little bit, absorbs a bit of the blow, and most importantly, if the wood *does* break, the stickiness and strings will hold it together so half of it doesn't go flying across the room and thwack someone, or send splinters and small wood chuncks flying. After this is done, *then* coat the sucker with duct tape.

Some time ago, I was involved in a live action role-playing organisation, eventually leading it. Mostly people made their own padded weapons, but we also had some standard broadswords made up for monsters, casual players etc. I will present plans for both the standard broadsword, some of the more notable player-made weapons, and some important things to avoid...

Instead of dowel or rattan, we typically used a fibreglass rod for the 'spine' of the sword. This material was intended for use in agriculture as fenceposts, particularly for electric fences and where strength was not as desirable as boundary marking (plus, light farm machinery such as quadbikes could roll right over a fence and it would stand back up). It was available in yellow 7mm diameter or white 10mm diameter gauges, and lengths rarely exceeded 1.5m off the shelf.

NB: Care must be taken when cutting fibreglass, with regard to the nasty glass and epoxy particulate that results - you don't want to handle or breathe powdered glass. Cutting underwater or in oil may contain the particulate, but I cannot recommend cutting fibreglass in general. Fencepost lengths are usually about right for swords...

The first step is usually to pad up the tip of the rod with a bit of closed-cell foam and some duct tape. following this, the shape of the blade is cut out from more closed-cell foam - sleeping mats may be your best source of this material. Standard broadswords were made with two identical shapes, outlines matching the outer edge of the blade, and sandwiched over the rod (the rod was taped to one side). This made a heavy, thick sword that was fairly durable and mostly safe. Player-made swords evolved to contain the rod within the layer of foam (ie; a U-shaped bit of foam with the rod filling the space) and featured a thinner layer of foam on the flat of the blade, plus a decent layer of tape. As the aerodynamics of this design are better than round (tube foam over dowel) or double-thick foam as in the standard broadsword, flat-blade strikes were rare, although a bit painful. The important thing is to ensure that the rod is securely held inside the foam, as the foam will bend on impact and a potential to be struck with the rod itself is always present (no different than with dowel or rattan in that respect). All swords were then taped up with silver duct tape, and hilts added. Naturally we had our share of extremists who had to make weapons that were a bit, well, different. Carved closed-cell foam featured prominently, as did the tubular foam mentioned elsewhere (mostly on pole-arms). One madman had a foam-spiked basket-style hilt, with a morning-star made from a tennis ball and more foam attached by string to the hilt... which got disconnected pretty swiftly as there's not much you can do with a reverse-handed chain weapon. That particular weapon was also our first to incorporate tinted latex instead of duct tape (sacrilege!). Naginatas also featured, as did staves and short- or paired swords. I had a pair of leaf-bladed swords with double-hilts - they could be held pistol-style or underhand pistol-style and attached via cuffs to the arm to point straight out. Shortswords were usually cored with the lighter 7mm diameter fibreglass rod. A short-handled warhammer with a head made from expanded polystyrene worked well, although it was a bit shorter than every other weapon and was relegated to use by dwarves (of which we had few)...

In short, fibreglass-based and closed-cell foam-padded swords were the order of the day. The materials were robust, easily sourced and versatile - there was even some recycling available, as the fibreglass seldom broke, compared to dowels.
The absolute easiest and quickest way to make an "amtgard-legal" sword is to get a length of PVC (1/4") and a Funnoodle pool toy. The kind with the hole in the middle of it. Yeah. You also need two pennies and some amount of campfoam (or good foam cuttings skills).

A shortsword is up to 4' long in Amtgard, so for our purposes I'll go with this length. Cut the PVC pipe with a hacksaw or dremel (do this outside, it stinks!) to an inch shy of 4 feet long.

Next, you want to cut the foam so there is a blade along the majority of the PVC, a small handgrip (slightly larger than your hand is desireable), and another small (4-5") piece at the base of the weapon for protection and grip.

At the ends of both pieces of funnoodle you would be advised to duct tape the noodle to the PVC so it won't easily come off durring combat. Some glues have been reported to work well for this instead, your mileage may vary. Before doing this however, it is advisable to put a penny at the each end of the PVC pipe as to make it harder for the PVC to push through the foam.

Second to lastly, you cut campfoam into round disks and duct tape them to the ends of the sword. Two disks is plenty for the 'grip' end, and three is suggested for the 'bussiness' end.

Lastly, put two layers of stockings over the entire length of the sword and tie it off at the 'grip' end. These two layers not only make it look good, but also add to the lifespan of the weapon. I have weapons that I've used for two years with only minor repairs. I also advise using some kind of grip tape around the hand grip, the kind is up to you. I happen to get a good grip on duct tape, so I use it.

The most important thing to remember when making any boffer sword is to not use too much duct tape. If you must use tape for some reason other than securing something, use packing tape. It has the same amount of grip strength at far less than half the weight, and is also far more plyable.

This style of making weapons may sound very wussy-fied, and in comparison to Rattan-based weapons, it is, but it is safe enough for anyone that doesn't have a calcium deficiency to use and be hit with.

Flat Bladed swords are much harder to make but infintely better in the long run. For this you need:
a fiberglass (Wal-mart or Meijer, sold as property stakes or "snow guides". Long, orange/red, and $1.99.) or a graphite (old golf club) core. This will be the most expesive part.
A length of PVC equal to however long you want your hand grip.
Blue camp foam (the kind you sleep on).
Packing tape.
Electrical or Duct tape (your choice, Electrical looks better IMO).

Cut the foam to length and width, 2 inches is a good width, and the length should be whatever is left over from the fiberglass after the hand grip. Leave a good inch extra at the tip for safety.

Next, spray-glue (if possible) both pieces of foam and sandwich the fiberglass between them. Make sure it's straight and to leave a good inch at the top! If you don't have spray glue, just forget it and packing tape the two pieces together with the rod between them. If you do it right, you can make some interesting sword shapes. Pay close attention to the tip, and make extra sure to put lots of tape there to ensure the rod won't poke through.

Next, put one or two pieces of camp foam (strips) into the PVC pipe and sandwich the fiberglass between them. It will take some work, but is quite do-able.

Make a pommel by putting a good bit of camp foam onto the end of the sword. Make sure you can't feel the PVC through it. The penny trick above would be a wise thing to do also. Again, tricks with using tape can make for some interesting effects.

Cover the sword with two legs of tights or something form-fitting along those lines (not panty-hose, but socks will work if you are creative), and end the cover by taping it to the grip for a nice smooth finish. This style of sword will last a bit less longer than the aforementioned one, but I assure you it will look better and hurt far less, especialy if you use fiberglass, as it has a slight whip to it and will bend easily if forced to. It requires more maintainence, but again, looks and general "ooh, pretty!" factor are well worth it.

After trying your hand at these weapons, make sure to stop by your local Amtgard group and have a jolly good time bashing people for no good reason!

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