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The renewed discussion about blades and the related issue of suppliers reminded me that it is time to make a new equipment/parts list. This is something that I write up as a suggested inventory for our fencers and students. New, because so many things have changed in the last year. We witnessed the demise of Santelli, the breakup of TCA, France Lames is no more just to name a few. Additionally, the market is bifercating more radically into Sport or SCA fencing equipment - there is less of a middle ground than there once was.
With this in mind I thought it would be efficient to utilize a public forum where many fencers from different regions could cooperate in making such a list. It could include reviews of vendors and suppliers, reviews of equipment, etc. and could point the interested customer to current and relevant data.
Please contribute and discuss.
My first item on the list is Dennis Graves. The one stop shop for all things metal and leather for your weapons (except blades unfortunately). From foils to PdAs to Rapiers to Dueling Sabres, this is the place. Yes, the initial price is higher than the regular sport vendors, but as an investment the quality of the purchase will outlast the initial sticker shock (and actually I find his prices very fair and reasonable for what he is offering). Couple this with a true dedication to his art and the personal attention each person receives, it is quite difficult to do better.
Overall score = 5 out of 5
Pros = quality, period; customization
Cons = each piece is given personal attention so unless you want something that matches what he may have already made and available you may be waiting a while
Last edited by Akilles (2007-08-28 22:15:27)
Staying on the general category of vendors I will follow up my recent comments regarding Triplette Competition Arms and Zen [sic] Warrior Armory.
I am happy to say that recent changes at TCA/ZWA have given me good reason to amend my previous review of the company and their products. The company is back under a single management, the customer service experienced recently was excellent and finally the new classical jacket on offer. The jacket is a double layer cotton material (high quality twill) cut straight across the waist, choice of regular or quilted front, choice of snaps or buttons along the inside line seam and a high collar. This is the best fencing jacket I have ever owned and fenced in. The current price is $75 + shipping, available in colors. Additionally, the version I purchased has two features that add distinction to this jacket. The weapon arm closes at the cuff with velcro giving a tight fit under the glove. On the opposite cuff the sleeve closes with matching snaps. Inquiries for this jacket should go directly to the TCA phone number. When ordering ask for the Myer's Classical Jacket.
Our previous parts list was split in half between the sport and theatrical/SCA offerings from TCA. the company split made this procedure even more difficult. Since the company split, the sport side has increasingly changed its focus to a very competitive market and shows little actual knowledge about fencing. We have had some very strange dealings with them. The online ordering is a nice option but is not yet ready for primetime as the user will encounter many ambiguous menus and product codes. The prices for some things appear random and other identifiers for product make no sense at all (for example - what is the difference between a white blade and a red or blue blade?) Unfortunately, if you need something that falls more in the sport category (less in the SCA category) you _must_ order the part via TCA (for example a standard foil blade, NOT the X series blades). Also included here are some gloves and jackets. Masks appear to be the only item you can safely get from either. We used to use the tunic style jacket - and indeed most of us still wear them - but the last dealings with Zen [sic] for these broke the camels back.
Which segues to Zen [sic] Warrior Armory. Nice idea, bad implementation. First off - why cater only to the SCA? We have been in communication with Walter for over 10 years - has he simply forgotten that he has a market here? Even American Fencing and The Fencing Post have made observable changes to their catelogues to reflect the CF/TF markets. ZWA decided not to for some reason and it shows. Honestly, I think the only reason I can see for purchasing from them now is sloth. Two short anecdotes will show you the lack of customer service: first, I needed a new jacket but wanted one with a taller collar. The default size of collar ends up rolling downward with wear and offering no protection whatsoever. Sure they said, it will add a custom price for that - no problem said I. So with the understanding that I wanted a collar tailored larger than the normal size they added a tailor fee no less than $20 to the jacket. You may not be surprised to learn that what I received was just the next jacket off the rack. Secondly, they flat out refused to sell a jacket to two of my female students because - they were women. They claimed that they wouldn't be happy with the fit and just refused to sell it.
So apart from the masks they do have some blades that are usable. Standard foil and epee blades. If you need an S2000 style sabre blade - go ahead. The schlager blades seem to be ok - but then again they have always been a bit point heavy and flappy.
Overall score = 4 out of 5 | there is nothing here that you can't get anyplace else anymore.
Pros = available and relatively inexpensive
Cons = complete weapons, X series blades
Last edited by Akilles (2010-02-24 16:52:38)
One comment regarding Triplette: I ordered something recently from them and when I called back to add something to the order, I actually spoke with Mrs. Triplette on the phone. It seems that the people who purchassed TCA had financed the purchase and defaulted on the loan. The company is back in the control of Walter Triplette again, it seems. How, if at all, this will affect TZW I do not know.
I spoke with a representative from American Fencers Supply the week of November 1st. I was calling for information about their cotton, quilted, snap-close jackets. The good news is that they plan on continuing to offer this product. While they search for a good match between material and fabrication, we can expect normal production to resume sometime mid 2008. The bad news is, despite the continued interest from fencers, American does not consider the market large enough to continue producing the old style sabre cut jackets.
Short review of the jacket: American had one snap close quilted cotton jacket left over in their "back closet". This is an important thing to know about because you can almost always have an employee search it and find what you are looking for. I had them send it right away. Regular shipping took about 5 days via UPS. I only have two negative comments about this garment as it was shipped so I will get them out of the way first. #1 - the strap. Oh yes, the dreaded crotch strap. Preaching to the choir so I will stop there. #2 - the overall cut of the jacket suggests that all fencers are the same shape, that we are all semi-barrel shaped. I would like to see more of a fitted taper to the jacket as it meets the waist.
Positives. Numerous. The cut of the jacket above the waist is very comfortable. The snaps are within easy reach which means you can actually put this one on yourself. Also, at the shoulder and neck they have replaced snaps with small velcro sections, making a fast escape possible, or simply getting the neck open and aired out an easy task. I liked this option a lot. The material seems lighter weight than 12oz cotton duck. This could be for reasons beyond my reasoning. At first touch it makes you worry about its protective quality, but then when you wear it the feel is so nice you forget that. The cotton comes to us after an industrial bleaching process so its very white. I wonder how much better the wear might be if these jackets were made in an unbleached material.
Future. This jacket will be altered. The plans may address some of the issues with commercially available fencing jackets these days. I will also be doing this myself (with assistance from the haggencrone) but similar alterations can be made by any local seamstress (for a price). First, the jacket will be cut in a straight seam at its lowest point at the waist. Second, it will be taken in a bit for a better fit. Third, I want to add a straight waistline of an extra 2-3 inches of material that can be fastened adding a little overlap to the bottom of the jacket.
Overall maybe the best commercially available fencing jacket right now. I have been wearing the TCA tunic style jacket for years and I don't think I will go back to it now.
Look for this product in American's product line and let them know that we are interested in these jackets.
Check out Twin Arms Fencing - a new source of Italian foils, conversion pieces, grips, & pommels.
Twin Arms is also offering some nifty services. He is (as far as I've found) the only fencing supplier that can "parkerize" your weapons. [Full disclosure] The fellow who runs this, Nick Johnson, is my sallemate.
I present this information to you all, simply as a bit of news that I hope is of some interest.
I leave discussion of the quality of his work to those better qualified to comment...
Lookee here, no crotch strap!
http://www.fencingstar.com/Beginner-Fen … /z44-2.htm
The only issue I can see with this product is the color, but perhaps they could change it. The only other place I could find a regular retail fencing jacket sans cuissard was Negrini, and it was quite pricey, as one might imagine.
First, I want to congratulate Nick Johnson on his new venture, www.twinarmsfencing.com. More choices can only be a good thing for classical fencing. From what I can see on his website, his products look well made, if vaguely familiar. ;-)
About jackets; I was aproached by American Fencers Supply and asked my opinions on what classical fencers would want in a jacket. I polled my salle mates: buttons or snaps? quilted or plain? croissard or sabre length? and was told the same thing that David was - all sport fencing weapons require the croissard, so if you don't like it, cut it off yourself. Either there aren't enough of us yet to change the manufaturer's minds, or we aren't vocal enough about our preferences.
David's jacket also seems to be a newer model than mine. There is no velcro on my snap close jacket. I can dress myself in a reasonable amount of time now, but I always seem to miss one or two snaps. Mine fits like a glove, but then, barrel shaped might be a kind description.
Hi, Tom - long time no speak! Hope things are absolutely fantastic for you. Please give my regards to Kevin and the entire TCAS family.
What burns me about American and the jackets is that it appears to be an order of convenience which drives the current mindset there. Afterall, as we have witnessed before, they could easily charge us an extra $50 - $75 per jacket if it was cut right. Most fencers I know of who have had their jackets tailored end up spending at least this much. So it seems to me that they could easily recuperate any expenses if not make an additional profit. Hell, considering what I am going through with the new jacket (not yet tailored) I would have been happy to have paid another $100 knowing that it would come to me ready to wear.
Regarding the new fencing pieces, yes I am sure Nick started with your models as a starting point. However, he has made a few changes and made those changes permanent, such as the quillon block ending round to receive a round grip, while the ricasso is still rectangular.
All the best - Dave
Hi Dave - it's good to hear from you, too. The worst part of not handling my own retail business is that I've lost touch with so many friends.
In retrospect, my comment about Nick's new products looks a bit snide, and I apologize. That wasn't my intent. I like the look of Nick's pieces. He has obviously put a lot of thought and work into his design.
I hate to bite the hand that feeds me, but TCA might be more open to new jacket designs now that Walter is in charge again.
Unfortunately we are getting inconsistent responses from American Fencing right now regarding their quilted cotton snap closure fencing jacket. The story now is that there is not enough interest in the community for them to make these jackets. Ironically, they say this every time a fencer calls asking for the jacket.
Maybe we could organize a phone-in campaign? Perhaps if they get a call or two everyday they might change their corporate mind?
Just a thought.
Last edited by Akilles (2008-03-20 12:13:02)
Thanks for posting about the jackets- I was thinking just this morning about asking you what was happening with those.
Have they ever said anything about what would constitute "enough interest," or is this just a canned response?
I have no new information on the jackets. I have meant to call many times but somehow the entire month of March just passed by and I barely noticed. My experience with AmerFenc is that your success depends entirely on who answers the phone and whether or not they understand how to get the information you require. Right now - on the heels of other fencers making the same request - it sounds like a canned response. I will try to get on the phone sometime soon and find out.
I asked Cole Harkness at AFS about thius last week. Here is his response:
"Yup, I have been getting a small but steady stream of requests. It all
comes down to resources. I know I can sell them, but the costs for
basically getting a new line of clothing up and running is not cheap.
The old patterns weren't working so well when they were in use, so it is
new patterns, new mill, new quilter. I have the mill and the quilter as
of last Summer (I hope they are still around) but no patterns.
Once the patterns get done (usually takes about 3 versions) you have to
get inventory. Right and left-handed.
Repeat for the ladies version.
This business has been hard in recent years, so our resources have
become more limited. It has been a big area of frustration to me that I
haven't had the wherewithal to get this going. I hate leaving an
untapped market unexploited. I had considered going off-shore, but my
two-year search for decent foreign-made regular fencing jackets has lead
me to believe that unless I have direct access to the manufacturer, it
is going to get screwed-up and cost me more money than I would save.
I forgot to mention that I always get the croissard strap, etc., removed
when I get a new teaching jacket. Waist-length is the way to go."
Maybe it would help to mention to Cole et al that most fencers wanting this jacket would be happy to pay more for it than its current/old list price. I know that a group of fencers in Seattle have been working with costumers to make such a jacket and the anticipated cost is at least $150 and could easily be more. Personally, fencers I know have bought the standard jacket ($80) and then taken it to a seamstress to be altered ($60) - so the total cost easily becomes twice what AFS is currently thinking they can sell them for. I think that a jacket made to the quality checks AFS is known for but of a design that we all want would sell easily for $150 - I know I would jump at it.
Might that help them out?
Just a quick note to mention that if you are looking for fencing shoes circa 1970-1980s there are brands still releasing them. I bought my last pair at Zappos.com - bought with regular delivery and received in 3 days.
I hope I'm not being too inappropriate by posting a commercial message here, but I wanted to let everyone know that I am back in the retail business. I couldn't find anyone on the East Coast interested in carrying classical fencing equipment (at least not my stuff) so I have opened my own website, http://www.rockwellclassicalfencing.com. Nothing has changed with the folks in California, I just really felt the need for an East Coast outlet.
You will likely get my business.
I have purchased your points d'arret via American Fencers Supply, but find them not terribly communicative. (They were out of stock and never notified me until I telephoned two months later to ask what the hold up was.) Whenever possible, I just prefer dealing with the source.