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Dagorhir Gear
Making A better Dagorhir style Sword

This is a high quality sword & thus requires a little more technology than the standard beater. It also requires the use of better materials. For example you want to use Evalite & fiberglass instead of Blue-camp foam & PVC pipe. This page is an update of the original page because I've been able to expand on the original design due to experience & helpful suggestions. For example: I've simplified the cross-guard to be ethafoam instead of the bund-rubber & foam composite. I've also added tape reinforcing to the inner blade & used a built up tip.

I would like to especially thank Güntar von Keitz of the Vardrotta (a Dagorhir unit) for his insights, suggestions, & discussions of techniques as they have improved the overall quality of sword construction.

Please note if you use the PVC core option then you can easily make 4 swords from 2 of the PVC cores & one sheet of the 1/2 Evalite (no need for the 3/8" Evalite) which reduces the Sword cost for all materials to under $10.00 a Sword. Cut each PVC core in half for 30" long cores including handle & cut the Evalite along the shorter edge. You'll have a shorter sword but a lot of savings done fast.

Material list:

1) core: use either


PVC: less expensive & a little more whippy in action.
  • Square PVC core: McMaster-Carr Solid square PVC rod PVC Type I Square Bar 1/2" Square, 5' Length

Fiberglass:

  • 3/8" × 3/8" × 36" square fiberglass rod
  • a 34 inch length of type 43 Nupla core
  • alternately McMaster-Carr fiberglass rod (part #8543k23 [10 foot by ½ inch round]) sanded down to a 3/8" square profile.

Remove any glaze off the blade area of the core for best adhesion.This length is assuming a 6" long grip & a 27-½" blade. If you wish a longer grip please add to the basic core length.

2) Evalite foam: McMaster-Carr part# 86095K24 [24"x48"x1/2" sheet] --- Cut 2 strips 26" long by 4" wide.

  • Evalite foam: Additionally you will need 3 rectangles of the ½ foam that are 4" by 1-1/2".
  • Evalite foam: Additional foam pieces will be use to build the pommel.
  • Evalite foam: (PVC core only) 2 strips 26" long by 2" wide

3) (fiberglass core only) Evalite foam: McMaster-Carr part #86095k23 [24"x48"x3/8"] --- 2 strips, 26" long by 2" wide.

4) Original formula (red-can) DAP contact cement.

5) Small disposable & inexpensive brushes - don't use foam brushes. - hardware store

6) Strips of 1/4 ounce square lead weights - from a model railroading store. Alternately you can use thin lead sheet for counter-weighting.

7) 2 tongue depressors

8) Nylon strapping tape, 1-1/2" or 2" wide - hardware store

9) Duct tape - hardware store

10) Electrical tape - hardware store

11) Hockey tape - from a sporting good store

Optional cross guard:
12) A rectangle of 1" Ethafoam 6" by 2-1/2" (McMaster-Carr part . I use scraps from making foam-core shields.

Sword cover:
13) Use a soft stretchy material with some durability, such as poplin. - fabric store.

Cautions: When working with fiberglass especially or any power tools, it's important to wear appropriate safety equipment. This includes a breathing mask to prevent inhalation of the fiberglass dust; Safety goggles to protect the eyes; & gloves to protect the hands. Also when using fiberglass or glue, allow for adequate ventilation! Also make sure you have plenty of light to work by & that your tools are in good repair. -- (please note that figure 1 shows me without gloves or my safety boots. This was done so that you could see the picture more clearly & no power was on the sander)

Instructions

1) Using a belt sander shape the blade part of the fiberglass core down to a 3/8" by 3/8" profile. See figure 1. Lightly round the edges & top point to minimize the core cutting into the foam but not so much as to destroy the flats. Make sure any glaze (polished areas) has been sanded so that you get better adhesion.

Figure 1.

2) Wrap one layer of nylon strapping tape around the top tip of the fiberglass & lightly cover the end. This helps to lengthen the life of the sword by minimize the core cutting into the foam. See figure 2.

3) Glue the two strips of the 3/8 Evalite to both striking edges of the fiberglass core or the 1/2"x 2" strips for the PVC core. See the middle sword of figure 3. Allow it to dry completely.

Figure 2.

4) Run a length of the nylon strapping tape that covers both foam pieces & the core up the centerline of the inner sword. Do the same on the opposite side. See the bottom sword in figure 3. The nylon strapping tape will hold the foam to the core better & prevent tearing. It also is a much better surface for the Dap to stick to than any other tape, fiberglass, or even the foam. Be careful not to carry the tape to far out to the edge as it will make the sword to rigid & even cause the center foam to tear by preventing proper compression.

Figure 3.

5) Glue the long ½" Evalite strips to both faces of the inner sword. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

6) Use a short (approximately 3" long) strip of the nylon strapping tape to go up & over the tip of the sword from face to face. Do not cover the striking edge.

7) Glue the 3 pieces of 1/2" Evalite to the tip of the sword & allow to dry thoroughly.

8) Mark a taper for each edge of the foam so that the blade graduates up from 3-1/4" at the tip to 4" at the grip end. The taper should be centered about the core so that the fiberglass is in the very center with the same amount of foam on each edge.

a. Use a long sharp knife to cut out the taper.

b. Then using the belt sander, sand the edge smooth to an exact taper of 3" at the tip & 3-3/4" at the grip end of the blade. Use the sander to slightly round the tip if desired. (Note I only recommend rounding if you are very accomplished at sewing.

9) Reinforcing the tip: Note that building out the tip from separate pieces of foam & adding the reinforcement tape you will extend the life of the overall blade since it is easy to rebuild the tip. The tip is usually the first part of the sword to breakdown. See figure 4.

Figure 4.

a. Add a scuff of nylon strapping tape to the face of the tip. This will help prevent tearing of the foam on grazing blows.

b. Take a 12" long strip of nylon strapping tape & center it over the tip of the sword so that it extends down both faces of the blade. This strengthens the tip.

c. Take a 7" length of the hockey tape & tape down the tip & onto the striking edge. This supports the tip against separation & yet is soft enough to not hurt when hitting someone. Avoid the folly of doing the entire striking edge, as that will actually increase the chances of foam tearing on the blade edge.

10) Building the optional cross guard: Using the Ethafoam to make your cross-guard provides you with a stiff yet safe protection for the hand. However some people prefer swords without this extra complication. I usually use a scrap piece of foam left over from shield or axe making. Note that you should not shape the guard such that it violates the Dagorhir rules. Certainly other types of guards could be made such as a leather cup-guard. This is up to the builder's discretion within the Dagorhir rules.

Figure 5.

a. Mark the center of the cross-guard face & punch a small hole through it. Slide it partway onto the fiberglass core. See figure 5.

b. Before sliding the guard into place, use the Dap glue to join the guard to the blade & to the core. Allow the glue to dry.

c. Take a strip of nylon strapping tape & join the flat of the blade to the cross-guard on both sides. Use a smaller bit of nylon strapping tape to join the edge to the guard. Finally tape the guard to the core.

d. Carefully cover the guard with Duct tape so it's smooth. Put a strip of Electrical tape around the edge to soften the Duct tape. See the top sword in figure 3.

e. Put a band of Duct tape around the blade by the guard. This secures the tape & becomes an attachment point for the "sock" to be added later.

11) Building the grip: Be sure to leave ½ inch of exposed core for the pommel. On example sword here we will have a 6" long grip, which should be more than enough for most fighters.

a. Sand the core if needed to remove any glaze or smooth areas. This will allow glue to stick better.

b. Sand two tongue depressors or popsicles sticks to match the fiberglass core on the flat (non-edge) sides of the blade. This widens the core so that it matches the model train weights. Glue them in place with the DAP & allow to thoroughly dry.

c. Weigh the sword if possible.

d. Put a layer of nylon strapping tape over the grip to secure the wood more tightly to the core & to create a better adhesion surface for the weights.

e. Cover the two faces of the grip that are on the same side as the edges with the ¼ ounce model train weights. Use the DAP glue as well as the sticky they come with. This should bring the sword up to the 12oz minimum weight. I usually stop at 11-1/2 oz since the remaining tape, foam, & sock will make up the rest with a little over for sloppy scales. If more weight is needed then add them on the tongue depressors as needed & glue into place.

f. After the glue has thoroughly dried. Cover the grip in nylon strapping tape. An additional layer of hockey tape will cover this after the pommel has been secured.

12) Building the pommel: The pommel can be made complex as long as it conforms to the Dagorhir rules for circumference. You can shape for example a Viking 3-lobe pommel using scrap Ethafoam leftover from a shield. For this example I'm showing a basic pommel built of Evalite.

Figure 6.

a. Cut 5 squares 2 inches by 2 inches of the ½ inch Evalite. With a large nail pierce the center of one of the squares so that it can slide onto the core.

b. Glue the pierced square of foam onto the core & then glue another square on top of that.

c. Secure the first 2 layers with nylon strapping tape.

d. Glue the remaining 3 squares onto the anchored squares.

e. Carefully cover the pommel with Hockey tape.

f. Wrap all but the top ¾ inch (the end away from the grip) in duct tape & taper it tight at the bottom into the grip area.

g. Cover the tapered pommel & grip all the way up to the cross-guard in hockey tape. Secure the ends of the hockey tape with a band of electrical tape. see figure 6.

13) Making the "sock" for the sword: The fabric purchased for the sock should be durable like a heavy poplin & should have a little bit of stretch too it. It should be not too stiff, scratchy, or furry. Your local fabric store has varying selections to choose from & they will very from season to season. Don't use denims (too stiff), wools (to scratchy), or muslin (too flimsy). I recommend using a pinking shears for all fabric cutting since that will extend the life of the sock & prevent fraying.

Figures 7 & 8.

a. Cut a rectangle of fabric 12 inches wide by 29 inches long.

b. Pin the fabric firmly without stretching it or compressing the foam around the sword as in figure 7. Note that the end is also pinned closed. Be sure that the fabric is pinned inside out so that the hem selvages will be on the inside.

c. Remove the sock & check how tightly you pinned it. If the sock is really difficult to remove you've pinned it to tight. If it falls off or looks really baggy, it's too loose. If either of those conditions occurs, re-pin the sock to get it right!

d. Sew the side of the sock closed. Do not sew the end closed! Be sure to stay about 1/8 of an inch to the outside of your pinning. This will give you a little give when putting the sock on. This amount will be adjusted with practice & is dependent on how tightly you pinned the fabric. Get used to your style. You may have to make more than one sock when you are learning.

e. Trim off the hem selvage (the excess) to ¼" using a pinking shears.

f. Most beginners call this good enough, sew the end closed, slide the sock on & call it good. Let's try going a little further for a better sword. Grab the end of the sock with your fingers & straighten it out so that the edge seam is now on the flat side. The end of the tube & the side seam sort of form a "T". Pin the end & now sew the end closed. Trim your hem excess to 1/4" using a pinking shears. See the top picture of figure 8.

g. We now will eliminate the dog-ears than most beginners get on their socks. Grasp the sewn end of the sock by the side seam & the fabric on the opposite face & gently pull them in opposite directions. Notice how the end seam forms two ears at the ends of the seams. Flatten those down so that the seam goes up the center & the tips form a point. Pin them down. Then sew across the flaps at right angles to the seam & about 5/8" to 3/4" of an inch down. Trim off the dog-ears. See the middle & bottom pictures of figure 8.

h. Turn the sock right side out & notice you have a nice box end for your sword tip.

i. Slide the sock onto the blade. Trim it so there is approximately ½ of exposed duct tape at then cross-guard end of the blade. Then tape the sock into place.

Your sword is finished!

Figure 9.

A classic method of determining the appropriate blade length for a fighter is to grasp a yardstick as if it were a sword & hold it down at your side so that the tip touches the ground as in figure 9. This will give you the maximum length of your blade plus the cross-guard. Subtract the width of your cross-guard to determine your exact blade length. The reason for this measure is that medieval sword styles often have you doing a circular recovery as well as low leg blows. Thus, if your sword is too long then you will hit the ground often, slowing blows & preventing you from being able to in-fight in tight circumstances like melees. Experienced fighters can compensate for this & may choose a longer or shorter sword depending on their personal preference & fighting form.

Special thanks to Aggelgorod for sharing this design.