Assembling Your Piece

Preparing the Pipe

The first thing to do is to cap each end of the pipe with duct tape. Each end is cushioned with open-cell foam, which will slide down into the pipe if it's not blocked. You'll notice I'm using grey tape instead of brown. The color doesn't matter, so use the strongest tape you have. In my case, that's the grey stuff.

Now is the time to test the fit of the foam over the pipe. If it's loose, try adding a layer of duct tape over the pipe to improve the fit. If there's not too much gap, you can probably just add extra glue during the next step.

Attaching the Foam

The foam is held in place with glue. In most cases, Elmers Glue-All is enough to hold it steady. I've found that thinning it with about 1:5 water: glue helps keep it from gumming up while I'm still working with it.

If you want a bond that's never coming apart, something like 3M's Spray Adhesive will last forever. It will also last forever in your carpet or clothes, so treat a can of this stuff like a loaded weapon. (And you will get it on you.)

Note: If you have the slightly too-tight foam, use something slow-setting like Elmers. Don't use spray adhesive; it sets fast, typically bonding before you've worked the foam more than half-way down the pipe. Congratulations, you now have a new piece of modern art. Start over.

Dealing with Splits

This is why you wanted to get the wider insulation. You can repair the split, but you're going to be dripping glue all over yourself while you work on it. Enjoy.

Wrap a loop of duct tape around the foam at either end of the split. If it's a long one, add one more in the middle. Use as little as possible; remember, this is what's going to be hitting people, and more tape equals more pain.

If there are still gaps, add a few short pieces of tape to hold it together. None of us like going home with bruises, so if your weapon looks like a mummy wrapped for burial, we're failing it.

The Thrusting Tip

Both ends of your weapon should look something like this now: 1" or more of hollow insulation past the end of the pipe. You're going to stuff that hollow bit with open-cell foam to help it keep its shape. This is why you had to cap the ends of the pipe with duct tape earlier.

Cut a bunch of open-cell scraps and just jam them in there. Neatness does not count for this step.

If you made a sword cross guard from a hollow tube of insulation, you'll want to stuff it too. Your hand will slide up the grip and compress it into a flat oval otherwise.

When it's well stuffed, cap it with a hunk of duct tape. If this is the pommel (i.e., the non-business end of the weapon), it's done. The end that might hit someone (that's both ends on a staff) gets an open-cell thrusting tip in addition...

Here's where that spare inch comes in handy. Remember this was a 24" pipe with the insulation extending 1" past each end? Well, it's somehow 27" long now. I told you they grow when you're not looking.

Also, my first attempt at a thrusting tip was barely a 2x2x2" cube, meaning it will compress down to under 2" long once the duct tape goes over it. Not good enough. I cut a longer piece, and thanks to the slack I gave myself earlier, it will still come in at just under 30" total.

Also note that I've trimmed the corners of the new piece. Jagged corners tend to stick out under the tape, and you can't add extra tape to cover them up.

Add Duct Tape

Duct tape both covers the foam and anchors it to the pipe. Do not spiral-wrap the weapon! Lay the tape along the length of the blade or haft, leaving several inches to attach to the bare pipe of the grip.

Cover the thrusting tip gently don't compress it by pulling the tape tight. Again, this is the bit that can get stuck in my eye.


Secure the ends of the tape to the grip. You'll have make a few small cuts in the sides to keep it from bunching up on the corners.

Do it again at right angles to the first strip. This should cover the entire cylinder. If not, apply half-width strips of tape to cover the gaps.


The corners will stick out on the thrusting tip, too. Cut a notch in each corner and fold the resulting flaps down. Remember, this is the place you do not want to add extra tape.


Do the same for the pommel. Feel free to pull this tape tight there's no thrusting tip to keep soft.

You'll probably still have some bare pipe left on the grip. Wrap tape around it until it's covered. Try to get this an even thickness your hands will notice odd bumps and troughs in the grip.

Finish the Thrusting Tip

No, we're still not done. The thrusting tip we've built is nice and squishy, but it'll be a solid lump after a few fights. The last step is to puncture the tape with a pin several dozen times. Letting air come and go allows the tip to spring back to full size after every hit. Test it by flattening it with your hand a few times.


This is what a finished thrusting tip should look like. My eyeball thanks you profusely.


Done

You've now finished the most basic weapon possible. Still, there's no reason not to spruce it up a touch.


The Finishing Touch - Friction Tape

I can't stand getting duct tape glue all over my hands every time I fight, so I wrap friction tape around the grip. It also gives your weapon that "finished" look.


Cut the end of the tape to a long taper. The spiral is going to be very shallow; each turn around the pipe will only rise a half-inch or so. Don't worry if it doesn't fit flush against the end of the grip, just come close. We'll fix the ends in the next step.

Now you've got an ugly gap on each end with a thin point of tape begging to come unraveled. Just wrap a separate piece of tape a few times around each end, and both ends of the spiral will be secure.


Now you're done.

If you ended up with "gummy" friction tape that gives you a handful of tar (not much better than a handful of glue), you can de-tar it by rubbing J&J baby powder into the grip a few times.


Learning from Your Mistakes

No weapon will turn out perfectly. Look it over a few weeks later to see what you could have done better.



For instance, I cut a thumb notch into this club, and then turned it into an axe. I attached the axe blade to this club after the thumb notch was finished, and they ended up not exactly opposite each other. The angle that resulted happens to work fine for a right-handed webmaster with the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome, but a lefty would never want to use it.

Also, this weapon had a 6" grip, the maximum for a one-handed weapon. I have fairly big hands, but that's still a bit much, especially with the thumb notch I added later. I'm putting a 5" grip on my next one.