Wasters - Not Just Any Wooden
off with a good waster will make a difference in both your
skill development and enjoyment of historical fencing. Believe
it or not, there is more to choosing the right waster than
just picking up a wooden sword and swinging it.
Several Companies make wasters commercially, but buyer
beware! Different companies run the gamut from wonderful to
pathetic, both in waster quality and in customer service.
We have found a few companies that make fencing quality wasters
for a good price with world-class service. Here is a listing
of our recommended suppliers.
Sword Length - One size does not fit all! Longswords
and bastard swords (both large swords designed to be used
with one or both hands) need to be fitted to the person. Ideally,
the sword should extend from the ground to breast level, with
shorter being better than longer. If the sword is too long,
it will hit the ground during techniques, while a waster six
inches shorter than ideal will work fine.
Sword Weight - Remember "Conan the Destroyer"
where the princess tries to pick up Conan's sword but can't
because it is too heavy? That is utter nonsense!
The actual hand and a half swords used in the Renaissance
with a 40"- 48" blade weighed between 2-1/2 and
3-1/2 pounds. Remember, you are talking about a weapon that
you might have to use all day in battle!
Weapons - Some students
have asked about using heavier weapons (even double or triple
weight) to improve their performance and speed in swordplay.
Our answer is this: work first on learning the techniques
properly with a standard weight waster. Then, and
only then, and only if you still feel it would be beneficial
to practice with a heavier weapon, do you want to try it.
The reason is this; the heavier waster will cause your swordplay
to be sloppy, and if sloppy is the way you learn to fence,
you will have to unlearn your bad habits and then relearn
the techniques properly.
Waster Materials - This is extremely important. Your
waster will be subjected to all forms of abuse during practice.
Make sure that your waster is made of impact-grade hickory!
Some companies are selling wasters made of softer woods like
butterwood, which will literally disintegrate during practice.
This can lead to huge splinters (read: shrapnel) flying across
A Note On
Pine - Pine is a brittle
softwood, but even worse, most of the pine available today
is Ponderosa pine, a fast-growing variety that until the
mid-80's was considered useless because it created such
weak lumber. A pine waster or dowel rod may shatter just
from the force of swinging it, even without striking another
object. Again, this would lead to dangerous shrapnel flying
across the classroom.
Using a Wooden Dowel as an Alternative - If you are
unable to acquire a waster, you may start out using a 1-1/4"
to 1-1/2" diameter wooden dowel rod, cut to the proper
length as described above. Make certain, though, that:
- the dowel is one piece of wood, not sections
that have been cut and glued together
- that it is made of a hardwood like hickory
or oak, and not a softwood like poplar or pine.