Armoury Tip 2 Weapon Maintenance – The Point

If you have followed the advice in Armoury Tip 1 but are still getting intermittent white lights  then you need to do some proper maintenance on your weapon! This tip does not deal with rewiring a blade. See Armoury Tip 4 for advice on that. Quick Fix: If you do not have spare grub screws this tip might keep you going for a while. You need a small screwdriver and standard electrical insulation tape. Remove the tape from the barrel to expose the grub screws and turn them anticlockwise by 45 degrees. This turns any flat spots on the screws away from the point base. This may get you through the competition or a few more club sessions. Test on a box, replace insulation and carry on! A second quick solution is to swop the screws over. The threads will likely start at a different point and the flat spots finish in a different position. Ideally do a full maintenance as below. A full maintenance kit needs to contain:
  • Allen Key. Quarter inch for LP handles, 6mm for others
  • Sharp penknife/stanley blade
  • Jewellers screwdriver for point screws. (A magnetised screwdriver is really useful. Just attach a strong magnet and leave it awhile).
  • A slightly larger eg 2mm screwdriver for the bayonet socket connection
  • 7cm (3inch) table vice Those with a table clamp mean it can be set up as required. A roll of tape to rest the guard in will also stop it rolling around
  • Cheap ie thin, cotton buds
  • Switch Cleaning Lubricant (eg Servisol Super 10),  isopropyl alcohol or other electrical solvent cleaner (all available online). Take note of health warnings. Some armourers do not like using lubricant in the point due to its claimed tendency to attract dirt but shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t put the point in a dirty bag!
  • Fine and coarse emery paper
  • A magnet (best) or shallow dish/pot for point, spring and grub screws.
  • Spare grub screws (from your blade supplier. Screws are not interchangeable between different brands of point).
  • Spare point springs. Again, make sure they are compatible with your point
  • 5mm open ended spanner (6mm for epee). You may get away with a small adjustable wrench if it has a good ‘action’ ie not a sloppy mechanism. If you use Mole grips take care that you don’t distort the barrel. (But most armourers would shoot me for suggesting you use these).
  • Point insulation tape From your fencing supplier. Usually black but there are no regulations on this. Some now use the coloured blade tape. I do not recommend ordinary electrical insulating tape. It is very thin and gungy.
  • Cloth tape for insulating the blade. From your fencing supplier. I have not seen anything on the general market to do this.
  • Thread lock. Something like Loctite 221. Not glue, especially not superglue! Thread lock goes hard on the exclusion of air but comes loose on firm application of a spanner. It is used on engineering fittings subject to high vibration. (Officially you should use soft solder)
  • Test lamp. A cheap digital multimeter  less than £10, I have seen them for £3 is best even though you only use one resistance setting on the whole thing! (200ma)  Get leads with crocodile clips on the end. The test points supplied are inconvenient and sharp! Leon Paul do a test box but it’s not cheap and only tells you there is a fault not where it is! See Armoury Tip 3 for how to use a test meter/multimeter to test a point and blade. (Easy when you know how)
  • Test weight to check the spring is strong enough.
  • If a grub screw falls on the floor you can generally forget about finding it again!
  • When you remove the second grub screw the point WILL shoot across the room and you may lose the spring. So keep your thumb on the point and the palm underneath to catch the screw if it falls
If you have a test meter, test the circuit through the bodywire socket and at other points to confirm the location of the problem BEFORE disassembling. Be aware that there may be a fault in more than one place. (see Armoury Tip 3) Also test the spring (with a test weight, 500g for foil, 750g for epee) while you are here so you can replace that at the same time if necessary. If the spring can keep the weight up then all is good else the spring will need replacing. Some armourers stretch weaker springs but getting it right is difficult, can often distort the spring and it will only need replacing sooner than later. Hold the blade firmly. If using a vice, clamp the blade about one third along from the point end where the blade is not so tapered. Or place the guard in a roll of tape roll to stabilise it. Remove the insulation tape from the barrel with a sharp knife if necessary. Take care! If you can see bare blade through the cloth tape strip this off too. If it leaves a sticky residue remove with the electrical cleaner and a cloth. Best to use the knife on the underside of the blade. You don’t want it slipping into the point wire and breaking it or the insulation. Check that the barrel is tight. If it is loose slowly tighten it with the spanner. There should be some flats to slip it on to, otherwise you have to risk some mole grips or pliers but it is really bad practise and it will chew up your barrel. Put in a drop of threadlock if you have some as it will stop the barrel coming loose again. (The official way of doing this is by soldering!) There is some risk to tightening the barrel as it can break the wire. Check the circuit. If it is now completely open and the point fails to work you are likely to need a rewire. Have a magnet/small pot handy.  Cup a hand under the barrel and hold the point in with your thumb just in case removing the first screw releases the point! Remove a grub screw and keep it safe then rotate blade in the vice and, with thumb on the point, remove the second grub screw. If you have a good magnifying glass (or very good eyesight!) you can see if the grub screw has a flat spot on the end. This is the likely problem as it only needs a fraction of a millimetre gap to cause the point to misalign in the barrel and cause a break in the circuit or a high enough resistance to cause problems. (Resistance on a weapon should be 2 Ohms or less) Remove the spring and put that on the magnet too. If you had an open (broken) or intermittent circuit on the test, insert a pointed probe on the test meter into the base of the barrel with the other end in the bayonet socket (or on its screw connection) to check where the break is and probably confirm the bad news; a break between the brass contact and the wire. Sometimes you will get intermittent contact and resistance bouncing around erratically to silly numbers, like 150 Ohms Go to the rewire page. If all ok use a cotton bud and electrical contact cleaner to clean out the barrel. You may have to pull some cotton off to get it to fit. It will probably come out grey and nasty. This could be dust but mainly carbon from arcing on the screws. Replace spring, point and fit new grub screws. (This is where a magnetised screwdriver is really useful!) Tips:
  • Do keep your palm under the barrel and thumb on the point while you do this as there is a high risk of the grub screw or spring falling on the floor!
  • To make sure the threads do not get crossed begin by turning the screw backwards (unscrewing direction) until you feel/hear the thread fall into the start position then screw up gently. Not too tight. If it feels tight or difficult to start back off and find the start point again. If you cross the thread it probably means a new screw or even a new barrel which means a full re-wire!
  • On some makes of point (German/French design) with a collar you need to tighten up each screw bit by bit in turn to ensure it does not take the point shaft off centre and stops it sliding… Another Tip with these is to apply the pliers to the bronze ferrule that keeps the point together. A weak point with these is this comes off and sends the point and spring into space!
After reassembly of the point, test with the meter. If the resistance is still over 2 ohms twiddle the point for a few seconds a little to bed in the screws and shine them up. If there is no improvement we need to look elsewhere for our problem. See Armoury Tip 3 again! If all is ok, check that the spring can raise the test weight (500g for foil, 750g for epee) and if ok re-insulate the blade with 15cm (6 inches) of cloth tape and the point with insulating tape. Ensure the whole barrel is covered. If not then you may get a short circuit between your point and your blade on your opponent’s lamé and your hit will not register! Once complete, make one last resistance and point check to ensure there are no other faults and off you go. Updated: June 18 On to Armoury Tip 3 White Light problems – fault finding Return to the Armourer’s Bench