Monday, September 1, 2014

What I did on my Labor Day vacation, a story by me.

I started in on making the first of at least a few rapier hangars. Yay!

I'm using 4-5oz leather. I dyed it with Eco-Flo Water Stain (which according to my research doesn't need painting over with acrylic or anything), which was super easy to work with. (Maybe I'll try vinegroon soon, for more A&S goodness.) Some neetsfoot cream finished it (and made it smell pretty nice, too). The leather's a little stiff, but I imagine that'll break in with use.

I've got some rivets in the mail, and as soon as those get here I can assemble the whole thing, which will be pretty great. Then I can start in one the next one - I've got at least three I want to make, each of them being a little (or a lot) different in some ways. Actually, four - I think I want to make a yellow one for a Protege Rapier Hangar, for no good reason other than my own amusement.

I should grab some scraps and practice putting rivets in, though. You know, because. That seems like a good idea.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Capo Ferro, Plate Seven

Since I've been wanting to work through Capo Ferro in a marginally more structured manner, I'm going to be moving through plate by plate. While the plate I'm starting with is pretty basic, and we've been going through Guy Windsor's hierarchy drill regularly (so we've been indirectly working on some of the basic plates already), I want to really pay attention to each one individually.

Plates 1-4 illustrate the guards. 5 is the lunge, and 6 is how to gain the blade on the inside. (Maybe I'll go back and touch on those specifically? That seems reasonable.) Plate 7 is the first action that we see, so here we go.

Plate 7 - This Illustration and the Following Show Various Ways to Strike to the Outside, After You Have Gained the Opponent's Blade to the Inside and He Performs a Thrusting Attack by Cavazione

To start, Fencer A gains the blade of Fencer B on the inside. Fencer B performs a cavazione to the outside to thrust to A's chest, and A rolls his hand into seconda while thrusting B "in the left eye" with either just an extension or a lunge as needed, all in a single tempo.

If B was "a prudent opponent," the play goes differently. A gains B's blade on the inside, and this time, B feints the attack by cavazione, keeping his body withdrawn (but A does bring his blade to the outside, and extend somewhat if necessary). A rolls his hand into seconda and begins to push the attack. This time though, B parries to the outside with either the false or true edge, and responds with a mandritto to the head (if parrying with the false edge) or an imbrocatta to the chest (if parrying with the false edge). B then recovers in low quarta.

Comments: This is one of the most fundamental sets of actions in Capo Ferro's rapier. The first part of the plate is a straightforward contratempo action - B takes an action, and A responds in the same tempo, reclaiming the line and striking. It's also the fastest way to reclaim the line - there's no contra-cavazione, it's just turning the hand over into seconda. As the first and most basic action to learn from this manual, I think that says something.
Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say to move to seconda as part of the counter - he simply says to strike. It's very clear in the picture that A has moved his hand into seconda, and A must do this to get his true edge into play, but it's worth noting.
As an aside, A would do well to remember the last comment given by Capo Ferro immediately preceding this play, and not put his point directly into his opponent's forte. That'd be bad.

The second part of the play has B performing a feint by the cavazione instead. Capo Ferro notes that B should keep his body "somewhat back" and immediately move to parry A's counter. Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say that it's a two tempi action, but I think it's pretty clear that it has to be. The use of the word "parry" carries this implication to me (though I admit this could be flawed, or also a result of the translation), and the fact that Capo Ferro points out that B must parry and then counter lends weight to this. Also, the mechanics that have to happen to counter and then riposte - either with a cut or rolling the hand into something resembling prima for an imbrocatta really pull it into two tempii, albeit two that flow quickly from the first into the second. (And hey, both Guy Windsor and Tom Leoni agree with me here, so we can all be right!)
Capo Ferro's note about keeping the body back is important to me; you don't commit the body forward until you're sure that you're safe, and you haven't closed that line with the feint. It also says to me that B has begun his movement already planning for it to be a feint, and that he's not falling back to it. I imagine that if A doesn't take the bait, B could far more quickly move from a feint by cavazione to an actual cavazione and push the attack home rather than bailing from an actual attack into a feint or an abortive parry?

Going through this plate live at practice tonight should be pretty good, if we can pay attention to a lot of the little details and not draw too many unsupported conclusions.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Post-Pennsic Plans and Such

Pennsic happened! As is usual, I'm coming out of it with a lot more enthusiasm for Doing Stuff and Learning Things and Teaching It All.

So this entry is really more for me than for my readers (ha, like there's more than one of you) but here we go.


  • Fencing is life. Keep doing that. Drills, fighting, more fitness and conditioning, the whole ball of wax.
  • While I'm enjoying working on Capo Ferro, I really want to start trying to work on Fabris. It's super interesting, deeply cool, and visually distinctive. I have no idea where to start, but it's pretty exciting to me.
  • Take so many notes from all my Destreza classes at DeKoven.
  • Finalize my C&T gear. Some of it is in the mail, the rest I can assemble without much of a problem after that. Then I can work on some Manciolino and Fiore woo! 
    • Hey, I should get a less wobbly blade for my longsword. Huh.
  • Prepare for the Carolingian academic event's poster display. Aaaaaaaaaaah. I'm looking forward to it, but aaaaaa.
  • Internalize some of Fiore's basic grappling and knife plays, so I can teach a class on them.
  • Leatherworking! Make those belts for myself and others! Make a buff coat! So much riveting and sewing!
  • Do more heraldry! Pretty straightforward.
  • Basic camp life improvements and repairs. Gotta repair the clothesrack with heavier cross-braces, and maybe make a new bedframe.

That's that, really. It was a fantastic couple of weeks, and I'm gonna ride this enthusiasm train as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Looks like I'm teaching at GNEW!

With the kind encouragement (and buttkicking) of others, I've signed up to teach a class on Gaining the Blade and Guards and Counter Guards at Great Northeastern War.

I feel a little like I might be combining two classes here. I could probably teach a whole class on Gaining the Blade and a lot of little technicalities and drills and nitpickiness around it, but the thing is - I don't think many people would find that really enthralling for 45-60 minutes. But I do think it's necessary to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of how it works to really apply using Guards and Counter Guards. (Which means that I'll end up at least touching on using and abusing tempi, because of what happens when you form a good counter guard, but that's neither here nor there. I'm pretty sure that if I teach a class and mention neither tempo nor distance that I have wildly screwed up.)

So I think the plan at the moment (which is open to change at least until I write up a handout, if not until I actually start teaching the class) is to do maybe 15-20 minutes on what gaining the blade is, how it works, and lead into how you do that to form a good counter guard to your opponent's guard - then how you can keep playing the guard-counter guard game and then mention tempo and measure in terms of how this lets you hit someone.

I will also no doubt use the phrase, "simplifying your decision tree" because that is still, I think, the best summary of what you're trying to do with this whole thing.

There may be a bit of playing around with blades involved, based on what Christian Fournier did at the last KWAR. (Note to self: find that handout, cite accordingly, abuse for ideas.)

Anyone got any thoughts on this (or things you'd want me to cover)?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hey, is this thing still on?

So real life happened, and I fell off of updating this. My bad.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Going through Capo Ferro again; both Leoni's translation and Windsor's training manual based on it.

I also picked up a new translation of Giganti, by Aaron Miedema. I haven't gotten into it yet, but I really can't wait. Miedema seems to have a lot of issues with Leoni's translation and how he's interpreting the actions. I love Leoni, but questioning these sorts of things is how we improve our understanding, so I think I'm going to be doing a couple rereads along with Leoni's.

I think the Thursday night Carolingian practice is slowly starting to turn a lot of historically-minded people into a pack of Italian rapier folks, which makes me happy. (It's not everyone there by a long shot, but that's not the point.) There's a single Meyer holdout, but that's cool. He keeps us on our toes.

I'm idily putting together a class on Finding The Blade and Guards and Counter-Guards. I've got the material in my head, I just need an excuse to put some notes down on paper, and maybe a handout. I should find an event that has classes at it to teach.

That's about it! I'll try and get more stuff up here more regularly, and not slack off quite so much.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leather flask, essentially done.

I made a thing!

Okay, so I need to get some rope and tie it on there, and I need to whittle down a stopper, but whatever. I made a bottel!

Like I said I was going to, I threw some thread up by the mouth of the bottel just to make sure it wouldn't gap apart. Nothing fancy there, and nothing weird happened.













Then I melted the cheese wax and poured it out of the wax pot, so I could melt beeswax. I ended up using two pounds of it, which seemed to be just the right amount to fill up the bottel and let it soak into the leather. Then I poured it back out, rattled a stick around in there to make sure there weren't any clumps of wax and sand, and did it again.










That's what I ended up with! The wings have no wax on them, and that's okay - I opted away from the full immersion method mostly due to available pot size as well as economy of beeswax. There's some clumping and blobbing of wax on the bottom of the bottel, but not unduly so.

Also, it seems like there's an uneven amount of wax on the sides. Like, on the surface that's not soaked in. Maybe this week I'll warm it slightly in the oven and wipe the sides down to remove it. Would that help? I think it might, but I'm not sure.

Right now though, I'm gonna let it sit, try and find some rope for it, and either repurpose a wine cork or get a dowel and shave it down, but I'm pretty much done!

Also, now I have a pot full of beeswax I can melt and make another one with, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leather flask, part three!

Despite the terrible loss of an hour of sleep, I decided to take some time before I had to run out of the house today for guitar practice to get the next major step of the flask done - pounding sand.

In short, I needed to soak the leather and then force as much sand into it as possible to get it stretched into a bottle shape. Soaking it was easy. Happily, it took exactly as long as it took me to go grab a shower. Coincidence? Surely not! (Note the kind assistance of Darcy, our local helpful housecat.)

After that was done, the real work started. This took the following tools:

  • A bag of sand.
  • A funnel and scoop.
  • A wooden spoon.
  • A dowel.
  • A hammer.
Eventually, I settled on a kind of system to maximize the amount of sand I could force into the flask, while minimizing what was scattered around the counter. I recommend starting by blowing a puff of air into the bottle to force the leather apart and give the sand somewhere to go. Then insert the funnel and pour in the sand. When it backs up, start using the handle of the wooden spoon to force more through the funnel.

That will eventually not work out anymore; start using the spoon inside the flask itself. Force it down, remove the spoon, repeat. Add sand as necessary. When it starts to fill up, use the dowel and the hammer. Don't be gentle here - I found that the leather was super resilient, stretched a great deal, and pounding as much sand in as I could was really entertaining. Seriously, you will use more sand than you think will fit. 

So that's all done. Now I'm just letting it dry, which will take forever. Once the leather's dry, I'll probably whip a little extra thread from that top stitch up on each side of the neck, to keep it from gapping more, but that's not a big deal. Then I need to get some beeswax. The plan now is to melt the beeswax, pour it inside, let it soak in, pour it out, repeat a bit, and to call it a day! I'm excited.