Armoury Tip 4 – Rewiring a blade

I have to say this is not for the faint hearted! It is a messy operation and should not be done on the dining room table nor on a kitchen preparation surface! A vice on a desk or bench and a covering on the floor such as an old bedsheet is advisable together with a solid rubbish bin. ie not the mesh type, for all the detritus.

You need, in addition to the usual armourer’s toolkit:

  1. Mini blowtorch (as used in the kitchen for brules or the portable gas soldering iron type with exchangeable tips). Or a hot air paint stripping gun. This is used to melt the glue in the blade groove to remove the old wire.  An alternative to this is to make a sealed tube from copper pipe with a blank end soldered on and filled with acetone in which the blade is pickled overnight to soften the glue. I am far too impatient for that! Keeping the tube vertical and storing/pouring and dealing with spilled acetone has its own issues…
  2. Pliers to pull the wire from the groove. Somewhat safer than fingers..
  3. Mini-drill with cutting disc or narrow hacksaw blade to clean the groove of surplus glue. Personally I have never found a blade narrow enough for a foil groove.
  4. Safety goggles for use with 2 and 4.
  5. Superglue. Needs to be quite runny
  6. Something to hold the blade in a 45° curve. This keeps the wire tensioned while the glue is applied and until it dries. I use a length of small chain with 15mm and 22mm (for epee) copper end caps from the hardware plumbing section but use your own ingenuity. Either way different lengths are needed to tension the different size foil and epee blades so I use a dog lead clip to shorten the length of the chain as required.
  7. Electrical solvent cleaner to clean the blade. NOT the switch contact cleaner used on the point; it contains lubricant…
  8. Rewire kit or the components thereof in bulk consisting of wire, base contacts, base nylon cups, the plastic sleeving to protect the wire in the guard and new barrel and point components if necessary.
  9. Point seating tool. This makes sure the base contact is at the right depth and angle inside the barrel.
  10. Threadlock. Optional to prevent the barrel becoming loose, a common cause of white lights due to poor contact with the blade.
Safety considerations:
Naked flames. Don’t set fire to the place! Extinguish blow torches asap. Do not prop them on the bench while they are still alight even if they have built in stands!
The blade will get very hot… do not burn yourself and risk of cuts. Ensure a First Aid box is nearby!
Fumes from melting and burning superglue contain cyanide (as in cyanoacrylate glues…). Do not inhale! Ventilate the work area.
High speed rotating discs. Wear safety goggles while using these to clean the groove and ensure nobody is in the firing line if the disc fragments at high speed ie to your right.
Superglue.  Let’s not get this on fingers or in the eyes, use safety specs/goggles again

First, DO make sure you really need to do a rewire! See Armoury Tip 3 Fault finding.

Second. Is the blade really worth saving? If it has up and down bends, has more than a 2cm gap between the centre of the blade and a table surface on which it is resting, does not straighten without treatment on the blade after every hit, is generally very soft or has anything more than minor surface rust then for safety sakes scrap it. It is likely to break anyway within the life of the rewire and is a waste of time. Treat yourself to a new one and the best you can afford at that. See the Buying a Blade Armourer’s Tip.

Set up the blade horizontally in a vice near the forte and disassemble the hilt. Then relocate the blade in the vice to about 250mm (10inches) or less from the point, strip all the insulation and dismantle the point. Retain the point components on a magnet or in a pot but examine grub screws for ‘ledging’ (flat areas on the end of the screw) and consider replacing on reassembly.

Use the spanner to remove the barrel. If the point is too far from the vice the whole blade will twist. Not good for the blade, it could even break. If it really will not shift try gentle heating with the airgun/blowtorch to melt any wayward glue from the previous wiring process or to release a seized/rusty thread. If it cannot be removed the blade is scrap.

Removing the barrel will rip off the existing base contact from the wire and it will need to be ejected from the barrel together with the nylon cup.

Relocate the blade in the vice nearer the mid point to make it more stable and remove the existing wire. (Some armourers prefer to mount the blade vertically for this operation)I start from the point end, grasp the wire with the pliers and apply my mini-blowtorch. Do not focus the flame on one spot for too long. Waft the flame/air gun backward and forward along the blade about 50mm at a time and use the pliers to lift the wire from the groove as the glue softens. Be prepared to put out the burning glue/cotton covering! Stand back! Do not inhale the fumes! You won’t drop dead on the spot but they are definitely not good for your health.

If the wire breaks due to overenthusiastic pulling you will need a very thin blade to dig out the end of the wire or start again from the forte end.

Do not worry about the heat altering the temper of the blade. This will only happen if it starts to go red. In which case you have probably fallen asleep holding a flame gun…

With the wire removed use the rotary disc cutter or thin hacksaw blade to clean out the groove. This can be a dusty operation (also a noisy one, not to be done after 10pm if you want to stay friendly with the neighbours) and, again, avoid inhaling powdered superglue…

Place some paint masking or electrical tape around the tang so you can wrap the new wire around it without damaging the insulation.

If making your own wire point,  thread the wire through nylon cup and then burn off 1 cm of cotton and lacquer from one end (clean off with finger nail or emery paper) and thread through a base contact. Make sure the cotton covering is hard up against the base so that no copper is exposed. Whether making your own wires or using a kit, use the pliers to ensure the wire is well crimped into the base contact. Not for the first time have I pulled the wire into the barrel or put the wire under tension (a later step) and the wire has come right out… Cut off surplus wire from the point end.

Thread the wire through the barrel (ensuring you have ejected the old base and nylon cup…) but only by a couple of inches. Apply threadlock, if you have some, to the blade thread and carefully screw the barrel on while checking the wire is not trapped. [By having only the first two inches inserted through the barrel and ensuring you have a good length of wire, any damaged part can be discarded later whilst preserving the point end]. The barrel should be VERY tight.

Now pull the wire through the base, being careful not to shred the cotton covering, and use the seating tool to push the base contact in its cup into the barrel whilst pulling on the wire. Ensure it goes in up to the shoulder of the seating tool. Push the wire into the blade groove, while pulling reasonably firmly, and wrap around the taped tang to keep some tension on the wire. Burn off 2cm of the tang end of the wire.

At this time I reassemble the point and do an electrical test and point travel test (on epee). Better to find a short circuit or other problem now than after gluing…

If you do catch the cotton and expose the copper very slightly, don’t fret. Use nail varnish (preferably clear varnish!) to seal it… It’s got me by occasionally. Also where wires pop out of the groove while in use and expose copper…

Apply glue to the forte for a length of about 50mm ensuring you don’t glue the wire to the tang… Infact don’t glue the first 5 mm into the forte so that the plastic sleeving can project through the guard. Use a piece of paper to suspend the wire at this point or even a micro amount of vaseline to prevent adhesion. For epees use the special rewiring jigs (from Leon Paul) to hold the wires into the forte.

Allow to dry. Then tension the blade so that the foible is at least at 45° from the horizontal, fix vertically into the vice and apply superglue from the point end. DO NOT get any into the point barrel! The glue will creep along the wire in both directions from the point of application, defying gravity… run glue all down the wire ensuring it is pressed into the groove (with a small screwdriver blade, NOT your fingers…). Leave it suspended by the chain/tensioner while it hardens so the glue runs away from the tang/point.

Recheck the circuit. If all ok tape the blade for 15cm (6inches) from the barrel using suitable cloth tape. I overlap the first 5mm of the barrel too to make it easy to apply the insulation to the barrel which follows last of all making sure it goes right to the edge of the barrel. Recheck the circuit again… and if ok shout “Eureka!” Well done!

Tips for reassembly of the hilt.

Return to Armourer’s Bench

Updated: