Making Noodle Swords

RenFair event 2004 (73K)

The noodle sword consists of a swiming "noodle" with some tomato stakes inside and duct tape outside. Sometimes called "boffo" swords, this particular design has been tested in our fencing club for maximum ease of handling with minimal chance of actually hurting. We tried a number of other materials for the inside, but a bundle of tomato stakes turns out to hurt the least when wielded by over-enthusiastic fighters. They do break, but are cheap to fix. PVC pipe that fits in a noodle won't break, but it will leave a nasty bruise.

We normally use a variation of fencing rules we call "sabre-epee" meaning that a hit with the edge or end anywhere on the body counts as a point. If both hit within a 25th of a second (a slow hand clap), then neither hit counts. Except for advanced fencers, and even then whenever possible, we always have a director to run the bouts or matches. If we have people available we also have judges, but unlike regular fencing, judges watch for hits either way. We also insist on salutes before and after. Depending on the situation, we sometimes use fencing masks, sometimes not. The masks are not very good when the hits come from the side with any force at all. We've also used baseball helmets. Best is a director who will call a halt if things are getting out of hand.

The Materials and tools for making a noodle sword

The materials are a swimming noodle, tomato stakes, duct tape and a plastic bag. The tools are a knife and hands. Also helpful is a tape measure, a table to work on, a vise to hold the swords and a tape dispenser. Entirely optional is some Elmer's glue. Parts needed (165K)

The noodles come in different lengths, the ones I've been using are 5 feet or 60 inches long. Tomato stakes also come in different lengths, get the 36 inch ones.

Making the noodle sword

The optimum length seems to be 30 to 32 inches of noodle. Cut the noodle in half or cut off the appropriate length. cut it (65K)

Next stuff the plastic bag down one end. We want to insure that the ends of the tomato stakes cannot come through the business end. If you have very thin plastic, you might need two of them. You want at least a full inch to inch and a half of compressed plastic there. stuff plastic in end (39K)

Check for enough plastic by sliding one of the tomato stakes down to where it stops.

Tape over the end. You will need to cut duct tape off the roll, then tear it lengthwise. Otherwise it won't fit very well. tape end (67K)

Now gather 6 or 7 tomato stakes into a bundle and test fit to see how they slide down the noodle. You want a tight fit, but not so tight you can't slide them down. You want a mix of thinner and thicker stakes, and you will also want to mix the orientation so that not all the thin ends are at one end. Tape one end of the bundle, the end that you will be sliding down inside. I've found that taping the other end works better after the stakes are in place.

tape bundle (79K)

Slide the bundle down into the noodle until it is firmly seated against the plastic. Push it a little more until it starts to bulge out the end, then push it back in from the end. We want to make sure it is nice and tight and snug against the plastic cushion. I've found that putting some Elmer's glue along the top half (towards the handle) of the bundle gives the sword better handling characteristics and helps prevent the bundle from coming loose.

Now you have to decide on the handle length. I normally just take what is left, around 7 inches or so. This gives the players the choice of two or one handed fighting. If the handle end is irregular, some of the stakes are longer than the others, tape it tight around just below the shortest one. Then cut off the extra tips, using pruning shears, a knife or a saw. Then tape the end up good.

If you have a clamp, use it to hold the sword vertical with the handle end up. We want to tape the stakes to the noodle at this point. We want to tape it so that the bundle is minimally likely to come loose.

Handle end (113K) Now we can begin taping. At first I always tried to do spiral taping, and still do for the handle.

spiral taping (60K)

But now I prefer to do lengthwise taping for the main body of the sword. This pretty much requires you have either a tape dispensor or two people. lengthwise taping (85K)

That's how I've been making them, I hope you have lots of fun with them.

Brandon Smith
redwoodtwig at yahoo