NOTE: None of the vendors below are being endorsed, guaranteed or otherwise recommended by the SCA or it’s subordinate organizations. This list IS incomplete. The businesses listed are solely responsible for the quality and safety of their product. This listing is merely for reference. Some of the information provided at the links below MAY be out of date. Always verify the latest Society and Kingdom Rules before making a purchase.Orlando Giovanni
While I try to cover as much about equipment selection here you should always seek the advice of your local experienced fencers. This includes local marshals, White Scarves and Masters of Defense. These folks should either be able assist you or find others who can.
What do you need to participate in Rapier in the SCA?
Well, at first visit your local group should have loaner gear available. You will need to bring your own athletic cup though *chuckle*, and probably long pants and closed toe shoes. If you decide you like rapier you’ll want to get your own kit:
- Fencing Mask
- Gorget (throat and cervical vertebrae protection)
- Body Armor
What should you get first? Do you have to get it all at once?
Depending on your budget you can outfit yourself completely or assemble your kit one piece at a time relying on loaner equipment to fill in the gaps. What you get first will probably depend on what is most difficult to borrow locally and/or what is most difficult to borrow in a size that fits you. Gloves and hoods are the least expensive. Hoods, body armor & gorgets can be made or purchased.
The requirement is for a 12kg fencing mask. You can find these on any Olympic fencing equipment site and a few SCA specific ones. I highly recommend getting one with a removable, washable lining/bib. These range in price from a bottom of around $45 to almost $300. They will require some minimal maintenance because they will get minor dents that need pushed out and the coating on the mesh will eventually be worn or scraped here and there requiring rust preventative measures be taken (your breath is quite moist from the perspective of steel *grin*). Stainless versions resist rust better but affect visibility more in bright lighting due to reflection from the mesh. I used to list some vendors here, but it’s easier to search google or amazon.
Or you can always get an SCA Rapier Helm:
The requirement is for rigid material covering the throat down to the jugular notch, and covering the cervical vertabrae in the back. Rigid material is defined as material that will not deform under a 12kg pressure (e.g. a mask punchtester), some items that should pass the rigidity test are a. 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm), b. 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm), c. 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm) or d. One layer of hardened heavy leather (8 ounce, 4 mm minimum). The following links are to gorgets starting at $45 and up:
- Winter Tree Crafts
- Windrose Armory (If you want to make your own look at their kit for a pattern idea)
- Darkwood Armory
- Zen Warrior Armory
Or you can always make your own after talking to your local Rapier Marshal:
The entire torso (the chest, back, abdomen, groin, and sides up to and including the armpits) must be covered with puncture-resistant material. For more explanation of just exactly what “puncture resistant material” is and various options, read “The Rapier Armor Cheat Sheet.” There are various people either local to you or your kingdom, or on sites like Ebay that will sew custom rapier armor for you, but please make sure that they know the requirements of your kingdom.
Make it Yourself Armor
Many parents make armor for their youth fencers. You will see everything from fancy Italian doublets to plain old t-tunics. The important thing is that the garment meet the SCA armor requirements for fencing. You can learn more by looking at the Rapier Armor Cheat Sheet.
The SCA generally prefers adult fencers to wear armor that appears to be “medieval or renaissance” when entering a tournament BUT it is “culturally acceptable” in the SCA for youth fencers to wear modern or less than medieval looking fencing armor. Kids are still growing and it can be expensive to outfit them every time they have a growth sprt. You can usually find modern fencing armor for sale on Ebay or in used sports equipment stores. This armor meets the standards for SCA legal armor and it’s an easy way to outfit your kids quickly.
New Ready to Wear Armor
Warning…these options are going to be expensive! The following links show ready-to-wear body armor that, in some combination or other, will get you out on the field AND possibly looking quite nice:
- Gypsy Peddler
- Palace Gallery (Gypsy Peddler’s etsy)
- Zen Warrior (Best Value)
- Darkwood Armory
Or you can always make your own. Check out the Armor Cheat Sheet
The portion of the head not covered by the fencing mask must be covered with puncture-resistant material. People have met this requirement in various ways. There is the snug fitting hood/coif that covers the head and is worn under the fencing mask (and often under the gorget), the large hood/drape that fits over the mask and head and the permanently attached drape that is connected to the back of the fencing mask and covers the required areas. Every armor provider mentioned above also sells hoods.
Or you can always make your own:
- Techniques of Making Rapier Combat Armour has a pattern on page 6
- Making a Coif (Pattern only because the recommended material is NOT legal for a rapier hood)
Yours hands must be protected by gloves, preferably overlapping significantly with your shirt sleeves. You can buy leather “gauntlet” style gloves that come with a pre-attached long cuff, or you can find a pair of gloves that fit and make and attach a cuff yourself. Gloves do not have to be leather (check locally first though) but strong gloves are required. Many people can find rose style gardening gloves locally that come with a long sturdy cuff. Motorcycle gauntlets are another good source, the insulated ones proving quite useful on chilly days while the unlined ones are nicer in warmer weather. Leather gloves will come in pigskin, cow, goat or deerskin. Pigskin and deerskin are both generally much softer and more flexible than cowhide, although they tend to be less rugged. Goatskin is a good middle ground Nevertheless, I think the improved grip and feel of the deerskin is worth more than the longer lifespan of the cowhide. The following links are affordable gloves with gauntlet style cuffs:
- My person favorite, for starter gloves, are these gloves sold on Amazon.
- Ravenswood Leather
- Darkwood Armory
- Deluxe Rose Pro Gardening gloves
- Ren Boots
Finding weapons for Youth Rapier can be difficult. In Ansteorra each division has it’s own weapon requirements. The divisions are primarily used to determine what weapons are used during competition. Division 1 is restricted to light rapier for tournaments. Division 2 can compete with either light rapier or heavy rapier. Division 3 can compete only with heavy rapier. You find descriptions of each in the Society Fencing Handbook. Divisions are defined in the Ansteorra Marshal’s Handbook and the Youth Rapier Rules Updates.
My NUMBER ONE RECOMMENDATION is to never purchase a weapon without trying out a similar weapon and seeking advice. For instance, if you’d like to purchase a Darkwood starter rapier then find someone with that weapon and try it out first. Youth fencers can always find a used weapon or borrow a weapon from loaner gear.
Considerations When Selecting a Weapon
- Balance of the Weapon: Many fencers will focus heavily on the balance of a weapon. The balance is point along the blade where the sword “balances” and does not fall forward or backward. Some fencers prefer a slightly tip heavy weapon while others prefer the weapon the balance directly at the ricosso. For most youth fencers I recommend a balance just above the ricosso.
- Overall Weight of the Weapon: Many fencers neglect to consider the overall weight of a weapon. Most modern epees (light rapier) are 27 to 35 oz. overall weight. In my experience, heavy rapiers have a surprisingly broad range of weights from as light as two pounds to as heavy as five and half. The weight can be from the blade itself or based on the weight and complexity of the hilt and pommel. This also makes most heavy rapiers much heavier than most light rapiers. When considering the overall weight parents need to know their children. Most division 1 kids cannot wield a heavy rapier for any period of time and will initially have a great deal of trouble with light rapiers at first. Division 2 kids vary the most and you may have to work them up to heavy rapier slowly. Healthy division 3 kids will usually have the same problems that adults do with the heavy rapier. They will struggle at first but slowly build strength and stamina. As always, know your kids limits AND check with your doctor if you have any concerns about the weight of the rapier.
- Length of the Blade: The correct blade length depends on MANY factors that we cannot possibly go over in details here. Length selection is the combination of many factors including the height of the fencer, their preferred weight and balance, and the style of combat they intend to study. Seek out the advice of local marshals, white scarves and Masters of Defense in determining what length of blade your child should choose.
- Type of Guard: You can find many types of guards. The type of guard you choose affects the protection provided to your primary hand. For youth fencers I highly recommend finding a guard that includes finger rings and quillons at a bare minimum. Also, remember that the guard selection can increase or decrease the overall weight of the weapon AND it can affect the balance as well. For SCA combat, I usually recommend against bell guards. These are extremely protective guards BUT they generally are after the period that the SCA tries to stay in (600CE to 1600CE).
You can find many used weapons on sites like EBAY and the SCA Trading Post and other sites on Facebook. YOu can also find used weapons for sale in your local group. As always check with local experienced fencers before making any purchase.
Brand New Weapons
For brand new heavy rapiers there are many vendors here are several of them: