Our First Event: Samhain 2010 Part 1  

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I'm going to jump out of order for a bit so I can try to get my thoughts up while they're still fresh in mind.  We hit a few Amtgard meetups but I've spent so much time participating lately that I haven't had time to write much about them.

But anyways, back to Samhain.

Reading the Belegarth boards, you get the impression that events are where it's at.  They're the reason the game exists.  Fighting at your local realm is all well and good and you need to start learning somewhere, but events are where you move from dozens of folks to hundreds of folks fighting.  People bring out their best equipment and gear to show off, new and interesting scenarios are set up, the game becomes everything for a small period of time.

I'd been keeping one eye on Samhain during our wedding, wondering if it was toon soon afterward to try and attend.  We were pretty burned out from planning the wedding and I wasn't sure if either Autumn or I would be up for getting everything made and ready in time for the event.  I broached the subject with her and she seemed excited so we pushed ahead with plans to go.

As I mentioned in my last post, my first blues were only a semi-success in that they were constructed properly but were way too whippy and likely wouldn't pass weapons check at an event.  So I went out and purchased some 3/8" inch fiberglass fencing poles from a local ranch store and just to be safe, DAP'ed, strapping taped, and liquid nailed them together into a solid dual core.  I worked on them every night up to the event and we finished the covers at midnight the day before.

We also lacked fighting garb.  We had the pirate garb we bought for our wedding but it wasn't exactly something we wanted to roll around the mud and grass in.  So we stopped by Jo-Ann's and picked up some green, black, and brown trigger cloth, which happened to be on sale at 40% off.  Being pressed for time we went super simple and just made a couple tabards from the cloth based on a pattern Autumn found online, modified with splits and points at the bottom edges.  I got some plain ring-belts off Ravenswood leather to wear around them and we were mostly set.  I would have liked a pair wrap pants for each of us as they look much better than just wearing levis but we ran out of time.  We also picked up safety equipment like a cup for me, volleyball kneepads and speedbag gloves to protect our hands and we were set, game-wise.

We planned for a second camping trip in less than a month, packed our gear into the car and headed out.  Unfortunately because of work, last minute packing, and childcare needs we didn't arrive in Ogden until after dark and missed the Friday evening fighting.  We did arrive just in time for full fledged drunken revelry.  Loptr was already three sheets, Breeder (whom we'd gotten to know through Amtgard) was comfortably buzzed, and there was a nice festive atmosphere.  We quickly got our tent set up and roasted some hotdogs over a campfire for dinner, chatting with our Uruk-Hai neighbors who were also relaxing around the fire.

One thing that surprised me that first night was how many people were walking around in garb, even though they weren't fighting, even though it was a little chilly.  It definitely lent to the atmosphere of the event, enough so that I decided I would toss on my simple tunic and ring belt under my coat.  We stayed with the Uruks for a bit, and I had an educational conversation with Forkbeard about the history of foam fighting in Utah.  The guy was just as big as I imagined and, despite of his internet persona, one of the nicest guys I talked to at the event.  After a bit we wandered down towards the drumming drifting from the center of camp.

We found it at the Black Lions camp and listened to a few folks try their hand, with the dancers trying to keep to the sometimes irregular beat. I'd read about bellydancers at other events so I wasn't entirely surprised to see some at Samhain, though it did seem kind of cold for them.  It was also our first exposure to the larger-than-life Lilith as she harangued the drummers and cracked everyone up as she danced.  I didn't get too drunk, just enough for a nice buzz that enhanced the experience.  Being the old responsible adults with a new baby, we turned in pretty early.

In all it was a nice way to ease into the culture of the group, to meet a few new faces and settle in before the fighting proper the next day.

First Attempt: Semi-Success  

Posted by Don in , , ,

I've been meaning to post this for a while but we ended up diving into our local foam groups head first so finding time to post about it has been scarce.

I completed our first swords and took them to our second Belegarth practice.

Loptr hesitantly took a look at them, as first attempts are usually a little scary.  He was impressed with their construction, though the cores I used on them ended up being way too whippy.  I thought I was using 3/8 inch fiberglass but it was only 1/4 inch and probably not as good quality as some rods you can find.

They were still well enough made that he didn't mind us using them at practice.  There's a noticeable difference when switching between ours and others swords, in both weight and rebound after a strike.  They've been serviceable for practice at home so they weren't entirely a waste, and the kids will get great use out of them.

They've also help me learn the pitfalls of construction so I'm better prepared for my second attempt, dual 3/8 inch cores made from fencing post I found at a local ranch store.

I Have The Coolest Wife  

Posted by Don in , , ,

In the car on the way home from practice Celeste suggested that the next evening after work she would watch the kids if I wanted to head out and pick up supplies for making our own swords.  Hint hint.

I hit the Geddon article on constructing a blue and made up a shopping list for everything I'd need.  We didn't have a hacksaw and I've always wanted a dremel anyway so all told I ended up spending around $80-$90 on the endeavor.  Here's everything spread out, including the 3/8th's inch fiberglass cores from the driveway reflectors you can pick up at any home improvement place.  I cut them to the suggested max for 3/8th inch cores, 27 inches.

I'm a fairly craft-comfortable guy, having made some Halloween props, tabletop RPG scenery, and costume accessories but there's always a learning curve jumping into any new project.  The article is very well written, though, and I had no trouble following along and getting close to expected results.

I cut the core-width pieces of foam and painted them and the cores with dap, let them dry, and they stuck like nothing else.

I then finished the boxes over the cores cutting pieces the width of cores plus the attached sides, then capped them off and reinforced them with cloth/hockey tape.

The boy was a huge help during this process.

After the core boxes I was finally ready to start attaching the striking layers of foam.

The biggest issue I had during construction was making sure to cut straight down into the foam rather than at an angle to prevent slight warping of the blade face.  Eventually I got into the habit of staying directly above where I was cutting and not cutting the entire length sitting in one position, which seemed to help.

After adding the two striking layers of foam I started working on the handles.  With such a thin core they needed to be widened, and I wanted to make them oblong to try and prevent striking with the flats of the blade.  The pennies were added mostly to prevent the cores in the handle from rolling around one another. (though it was unlikely anyway, as well attached as they were with DAP)

I wrapped the cores and pennies in double-sided carpet tape (holy nasty sticky stuff) and then attached some cheap, natural rope to the core with duct tape, wrapping it around to thicken the handle.

And then over the top of that with hockey tape for aesthetics and grip.

When I started the next day on the pommels I forgot the camera until after I had already attached the second layer.  I did get a shot before I attached the final bottom cap, though.  I had to unwrap a bit of the handle because I didn't realize I'd need to duct tape the pommel to the core under the rope.

After getting the bottom cap dapped and cross-taped to the core I re-wrapped the rope and hockey tape on the handle. 

I actually finished hockey-taping the pommels and marking them as blue last night but I haven't got any pictures of that yet.  We're also making some covers from leftover faux-suede material I used for legwraps for a Luke Skywalker costume.  Hopefully we'll get them done before practice tonight so we can use our own blades, but even if we don't we'll have them done this week for practice at home.

I'm pretty pleased with the results for a first attempt and I'm hopeful they'll pass weapons check.