2006-06-19

Full gallery of photos on how to make practice weapons

Recently I’ve been wanting to be able to go with much harder contact with my sticks and knives.. unfortunately the sticks I practice with are rattan and the knives are metal. I’ve been wanting to buy some, but they’re expensive ($5-15 per stick.. and it’s not easy to find foam knives) and the cheaper ones don’t look very well made anyway. Also the ends of both practice sticks and knives are generally not padded.. so yo can’t stab or really strike at all with the end of your weapon; so I would’ve had to do custom work to them anyway.
I ended up making a set of four sticks and one knife for about $9 in parts. The process takes a couple hours.

This tutorial is for:

  • Those who want to make homemade weapons
  • People looking to be able to practice with a much greater amount of contact
  • Frugal folks
  • People who want a different kind of practice stick/knife than what you can buy

Questions before you begin

These were my major questions before I made these and maybe they’re yours too, so I’ve given some answers:

  • Will they work ok for disarms? (Yes)
  • Will they bend too much ? (No)
  • Are they safe? (Yes)
  • Will they hurt too much to use full force? (Maybe)

The parts I use for these are very sturdy and these sticks don’t bend very much at all. They’re very strong and almost exactly the same weight as a 1/2″ diameter rattan stick or a wood practice knife. These work fine for disarms and are great for realism.
These aren’t all that soft. They are significantly softer than rattan, but you will still feel it if you get hit. These aren’t funoodles. If you’re going full force and you’ve got a lot of power you might hurt someone. I think these are just the right strength though because you can still hit and get a reaction out of someone and you can also still very easily hit pressure points with these. In short I believe that these are some great contact practice weapons.

How to make them!

Things you will need (with approximate cost for materials)

  • $5 - Carpet tape (indoor/outdoor)
  • $5 - Duct tape (color of your choice)
  • $1.25 - 1/2 inch x 10 foot 600psi Schedule 40 (S40) PVC pipe
  • $2 for two - 2x 3/4 inch x 6 foot Tubular pipe insulation, pre split
  • Hacksaw
  • Boxcutter (not pictured)
  • Small piece of cardboard or wood (to protect the surface under your box cutter) (not pictured)
  • Permanent marker or other marking device
  • Yard stick
  • One sticks and a knife you like to train with (optional)

Total price: $12.25
Using these parts you can output 4 sticks and 1 knife.
Yes I know I said it would be $9. This tutorial assumes you probably have duct tape and even if you don’t you won’t use an entire roll to tape these.

About the parts

Carpet tape is important to have. It is double sided tape (has paper on the outside initially, so don’t be fooled when you buy it) and extremely strong, reinforced by fiberglass. You can find it at Lowes.

It is very important you get the right kind of PVC pipe - not all PVC is the same. There are different thicknesses and strengths. Schedule 40 is the kind you’ll most easily be able to find. It is decently light weight. Make sure you get 600psi at 1/2 inch. The lesser the PSI the weaker your pipe will be. If you want bendy-er sticks then get weaker pipe, but I don’t recommend it; they will flex and your sticks won’t hold together as well. The PVC pipe can be found at Lowes.

The insulation foam is also important. This stuff should fit snugly over your PVC pipe. They sell these in 6 foot sections; you will need two of them. If you’re buying the PVC pipe from the same store that you are the foam then take the pipe over and make sure the foam fits around it very tightly. It should slide in easily, but it should be touching the foam. Get the pre-split kind. Try not to get the pre-split kind that has adhesive stuff at the seam. This can also be found at Lowes.

Step one: Measuring and cutting your PVC pipe

Take your yard stick and measure 27 inches from the end of your PVC pipe. Make a marking at this spot on the pipe. I use 27 inches because I like 28 inch sticks; the extra inch gives us a bit of room to tuck in some foam at the top. Measure your own sticks to find the length you like; whatever it is jus subtract one inch for the PVC pipe and add one inch for the foam.
Put your 10 feet of pipe on a couple of sawhorses or something that is elevated at least a foot off the ground (I used two metal car ramps that were about 1.5ft high). This is required to make your cutting job significantly easier. Saw straight through the pipe at a 45 degree angle at your mark. You should come out with a perfect 27 inch section of PVC pipe.

Step two: Measuring and cutting the foam

Take one 6 foot piece of foam and measure 29 inches from one end. 29 inches will allow us one inch at each end to wrap the foam on the pipe so you can stab and hit with the end of your weapon. Place the foam on your cardboard and flatten it at your mark. Cut it with your box cutter - it should only take two or three cuts to make it through.

Step three: Putting on the carpet tape

Clean the PVC pipe. No dust or anything on the outside. Carpet tape has two sides, one sticky and one stick with paper. About one inch from each end of your pipe, wrap a piece of tape all the way around it. You’ll probably have to cut it off with a box cutter because this stuff is strong. Place another strip of it in the middle. If you want (I did this) place a couple more strips (just very small pieces) between those three. If you did this you will have a total of five pieces of tape - three that wrap all the way around and two that go around about half way. The paper part will still be on top.
Removing the paper is probably the hardest part of this whole thing. To remove the paper from the carpet tape you should scratch with your fingernail at the top corner of the end of a piece. Luckily the tape is extremely strong so the sticky part should stay on the pipe and the paper part should come up with ease. Work around the entire top and peel off the paper; at this point it should come off very easily. You should now have 3 or 5 pieces of exposed tape.

Step four: Putting the foam over the PVC pipe

If you have pre-split foam this will be very easy - Take your thumb and poke through the part thats split - it should separate easily. Run your thumb down the entire length of the pipe so that it is completely split open. You should now be able to place your pipe inside the foam like a hotdog. Do it one end at a time because the tape is extremely sticky and the foam won’t open enough for you to just drop it in at once. Make sure you keep the pipe about 1 inch from each end of the foam (there should be an extra inch of foam on each side). Once the pipe is all the way in wrap the foam around it and squeeze so it bonds with the tape.

Step five: Wrapping with duct tape

Almost done - Split the end of your foam open on the opposite side of the original split on each end of the stick so that it only goes down to the PVC pipe. You should now have two splits so that you can fold one piece down over the other. Hold one down, put the other on top. Put a piece of tape over top of it to secure the foam. Do this on each end.

Start your tape at the very top of one end of the stick. Leave about 6 inches extra at the top to wrap around when you finish. Wrap the duct tape tightly around at a 45 degree angle. The tape should overlap the last row by about 1/4 inch. You will have to adjust the angle of the tape so it doesn’t overlap too much or too little throughout the wrapping. Wrap till you get to the ends.. leave about 6 inches at the end to wrap around more than once. All the foam should be covered and you should only see duct tape.

You’re done!

Repeat this process for each stick and your knife. You should have enough foam and PVC at the end that you don’t even need to cut to make a knife.
At the end you should come out with four 28 inch sticks and one 14 inch knife. If you think the knife is too long then cut it down more. You will also have a little bit of foam left. If you come up with something cool to do with it put it in the comments on this page.

Notes

  • You may want to wrap these with duct tape again. If you do wrap starting on the opposite end and go in the other direction so that if you could see through the layers they would criss cross.
  • These are extremely close to the same weight as rattan sticks and practice wooden knives.
  • The extra foam at the ends could actually be used instead to make each foam piece a few inches longer so that when you fold it over there is more protection on the tips. I will probably do this with my next set.

7 Responses to “How to make foam practice escrima-kali-arnis sticks and knives”

  1. Mr. McDonald Says:

    Hello.
    I read through your construction steps, and felt compelled to leave a comment. I don’t mean to be a critic, but I see a few flaws in your construction (though they may be simple typo’s) that could lead to severe injury if fallowed as is. but first so that you don’t think me a novice, I have been building and using foam practice weapons for almost ten years now. I am also building a business manufacturing standard and custom weapons and equipment for various organizations. you can see some of my products at the website I posted with this message.
    Now, as to the construction:
    the first and most important is the cutting of your PVC pipe. you said “Saw straight through the pipe at a 45 degree angle at your mark.” while I’m sure this was a typo I must state that cutting at a 45 degree angle will leave a slanted and substantially sharp point that when thrusting can easily penetrate the foam cap and the flesh of the person you are practicing with leading to potentially serious or even deadly injury. I’m sure you are aware but a new comer may take your directions literally and harm themselves or someone else.

    the Second is that over a very short time the pipe insulation (1.8lb Polyethylene foam) will split lengthwise and the weapon will core on your opponent (though the carpet tape will help to delay this splitting). additionally heat and cold will cause the foam to deteriorate and turn to dust (though rapping it completely in duck-tape will slow this process it will happen turning the foam inside into a sort of powder. the strength of your blows and frequency of use will also increase this deterioration. also, the foam itself is extremely thin for full contact any swings with them should not be thrown from more than a 45 degree angle from their target. greater distance will equal greater force and the weapon even freshly made and leave broken bones and concussions. I would recommend that you use 2lb Polyethylene or heaver foam for safety and use at least 1 inch thickness. but do not exceed 4lb, because the foam becomes to hard itself. for thrusting I would suggest some amount of uncompressed open cell foam (like couch foam) on the thrusting tips to ease the impact.

    Thirdly, if you are going to use PVC you should be aware that anything over 2 1/2 feet of core will likely whip unless you upgrade to 3/4 inch. which will carry you to about 3 1/2 to 4 feet in length. PVC also tends to warp easily in moderate heat, and becomes increasingly brittle in cold temperatures to the point that a single blow can shatter your core.

    Lastly, I would suggest that you make regular checks of your equipment before each use to confirm that they are still safe (I say before use because any manner of things can happen while a weapon is stored to care deterioration of the weapon to an unsafe point, such as another object resting on the foam will cause it to dent and create weak or shallow points in the foam).

    Good luck and I hope you have fun with your practice weapons

  2. jessecrouch Says:

    Mr. McDonald has all very good points and should be noted to other people looking at this page since I know it’s being looked at by a few LARPers and such.

    I neglected to mention these were not constructed for LARPing or anything of that nature. These are constructed as replacement weapons for real blades and sticks. Regularly I am hit with real metal and wood, so safety with these isn’t really a big concern going into making these. We rarely practice anything full-force as our practice resembles nothing like a belegarth match or any other foam fighting I’ve seen. Another important factor is that these practice weapons are not used by angsty young males who just want to hit things and have little concern for their partners in practice ;) These are not designed for full-force battle. Anytime these are used for hard shots there is a significant amount of safety equipment worn.

    Again - these are all extremely valid points and should be taken into consideration by many of the people reading this. I just wanted to clarify why there is less of a safety standard going into the construction of these weapons.

  3. jessecrouch Says:

    Also the 45degree angle is meant to be a vertical one, not a horizontal one that would create a point. As in - don’t try to saw straight up and down or exactly parallel with the ground.

  4. Mr. McDonald Says:

    JC,
    I understand, the weapons you constructed were for specific careful use only. My concern was for people who were looking for full contact weapons since this site comes up when such things were Googled. and my primary concern was the need to cut the pipe at a 90 degree angle not 45. =) generally weapons such as these are referred to as “Limited Swing” weapons. denoting that there are restrictions on swing these types of weapons.

    Sincerely,

    Mr. McDonald
    Xplaysports@xplaysports.com

  5. Steve Says:

    Nice! The construction makes good sense, will try it out. The article seems to be about 2 years old - how have the foam practice sticks held up?

    Thanks! Steve

  6. jessecrouch Says:

    @Steve
    They’re still in use today. I have four sticks and one small knife (the ones shown in the photos) and haven’t had a need to make more. The initial foam cushiness degradation happens the first couple times you use them, after that they pretty much stay the same.

    Admittedly though I don’t use them very hard. I’ve found their use is best for accident prevention more than it is for hitting flesh. I use them when trying out somewhat dangerous tehcniques or doing techniques at dangerous speeds or in open-ended fight scenarios.

  7. jessecrouch Says:

    Took a couple years, but I finally had one break on me. Was using it pretty rough while practicing and it just snapped in two. No damage to anyone, but it’s done for. Lasted a lot longer than I thought it would though.

    Don’t yet have plans for building new ones. Might break down and buy some of those manufactured ones.

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