Armoury Tip 5 – Disassembling and Assembling the hilt

Tips for disassembling the hilt 

The hilt comprises the tang, guard, body wire socket, pad, handle and pommel or nut.

The most vulnerable bit is the wire where it enters the glue in the blade. It only needs a few wiggles to break the darn thing which is an instant rewire job. Do get something to hold the weapon still, a table vice or pile of heavy books with the guard over the side of the table. Or rest the guard inside the ring of a gaffer tape roll. Put a plastic sheet, old towel or similar on the floor to catch bits and stop them bouncing or rolling under the furniture never to be seen again.

Remove pommel/nut, then hold the pad down while removing the handle (can be quite stiff) to avoid dragging the wire and socket off in an uncontrolled way. Likewise steady the body wire socket while removing the pad. Remove wire from socket by unscrewing the connecting screw. Remove screw and washer completely do not just loosen it (see assembly…) place on magnet or in small pot/cup.

Carefully lift off the guard. Avoid bending the wire where it enters the glue in the blade…

Tips for re-assembly

New blades come with a straight tang and this is no good for fencing with. Your palm is not straight! The handle has to curve inside and under the ball of your thumb and these angles are different for everyone. (The manuals recommend an angle of 9 degrees but I find this too sharp and the handles try to twist uncomfortably in the hand while fencing).

 So you will have to change the ‘set’ on the tang to ensure it is at the correct angle for your hand (left or right handed) and personal comfort. You will need a firmly fixed bench vice for this. Tape the thread to protect it from the vice jaws, use aluminium angle jaw protectors if possible as these are softer. Place the tang in the vice leaving 5mm behind the base of the blade as the bending point. Pull the forte to place a right or left angle on the tang and again to put in a downward angle. Put a handle on the tang and try some circles and arm extensions to ensure the blade really is an extension of the arm without bending the wrist in any direction ie keeping it straight.

Now place the blade vertically in the vice held by the sides of the blade.

Keeping a finger on the place where the wire enters the glue, straighten the wire to aid sliding on the plastic insulation sleeving which also needs to be as straight as possible! Don’t twist the sleeve onto the wire, it stresses the wire at the blade..

Ensure the sleeve goes into the base of the blade ie through the guard, to ensure maximum protection of the wire. Leave about 4-5 cm exposed at the other (socket) end.

Thread guard over wire whilst lowering it onto the tang. Thread wire through socket bracket and lower bracket over the tang. Do NOT feed the wire between the bracket and the guard it will only get pinched and short out even inside the plastic sleeve.

Attach wire to socket. This can be fiddly and there are a number of steps here especially if mounting a new blade.

Use a match or lighter to burn off 1-2 cm of the cotton covering and also the lacquer on the wire. It may go black, just scrape off with your thumb nail until nice and shiny.

Wind the exposed copper around your small screwdriver to make a circle and then place the socket screw, with the washer attached, through the wire circle. This should be nice and tight to hold the screw steady!

NB. The wire should go clockwise around round the screw (looking down onto the slot) to ensure it tightens as the screw goes in. If it goes the other way round it will unwind as the screw is tightened. Also make sure that the washer is between wire and screw head! This is very difficult to do without removing the screw completely from the socket and I see so many wired incorrectly, with the wire between screw head and the washer, where someone has tried to do this with the screw in place. This is basic engineering good practise. Doing it wrong risks high resistance readings and future faults.

Using the wire to manipulate the screw and with screwdriver ready, screw into the socket by ‘unscrewing’ first to find the ‘start’ of the thread. You will feel and probably hear this, then screw in. While attempting this note that the socket bracket is loose and you need three hands to hold it still.

IF it doesn’t want to ‘take’ (just goes round and round without tightening) or tightens prematurely, the nut in the socket is probably out of alignment. Do not force it, you will cross the thread and have to chuck the whole socket… Remove the socket and ensure the nut is seated correctly using the tip of your screwdriver. Have another go!

Align the socket roughly according to whether it’s for a right or left hander and coil the surplus wire/sleeving so it is behind the pad but not under the socket bracket where it will get pinched and short out! Place the pad and then the handle. Tighten pommel/nut, re-check  alignment of the socket so that the plug will not bind on fingers or thumb, double check the wire isn’t pinched… tighten. Check resistance from socket bracket to blade (earth side route). See Armoury Tip 3, Fault finding

Some pommels and nuts can come loose easily after a period of fencing. Use a threadlock liquid or paste (Maplins and engineering/some hardware shops) to prevent this (also used on point barrels).

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