Getting Started with SCA Rapier
(AKA Basic Kit)
What do you need to participate in Rapier in the SCA?
Well, at first visit your local group should have loaner gear available. You will need to bring your own athletic cup though *chuckle*, and probably long pants and closed toe shoes. If you decide you like rapier you'll want to get your own kit:
- Fencing Mask
- Gorget (throat and cervical vertebrae protection)
- Body Armor
What should you get first? Do you have to get it all at once?
Depending on your budget you can outfit yourself completely or assemble your kit one piece at a time relying on loaner equipment to fill in the gaps. What you get first will probably depend on what is most difficult to borrow locally and/or what is most difficult to borrow in a size that fits you. Gloves and hoods are the least expensive. Hoods, body armor & gorgets can be made or purchased. One or two places will sell you a starter kit that will get you almost out on the field in one fell swoop (Zenn Warrior Armory for one).
The requirement is for a 12kg fencing mask. You can find these on any Olympic fencing equipment site and a few SCA specific ones. I highly recommend getting one with a removable, washable lining/bib. These range in price from a bottom of around $45 to almost $200. They will require some minimal maintenance because they will get minor dents that need pushed out and the coating on the mesh will eventually be worn or scraped here and there requiring rust preventative measures be taken (your breath is quite moist from the perspective of steel *grin*). Stainless versions resist rust better but affect visibility more in bright lighting due to reflection from the mesh. The following links are to masks at decent prices and you should be able to find others online quite easily:
The requirement is for rigid material covering the throat down to the jugular notch, and covering the cervical vertabrae in the back. Rigid material is defined as material that will not deform under a 12kg pressure (e.g. a mask punchtester), some items that should pass the rigidity test are a. 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm), b. 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm), c. 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm) or d. One layer of hardened heavy leather (8 ounce, 4 mm minimum). The following links are to gorgets starting at $45 and up:
- Winter Tree Crafts
- James The Just
- Anshelm Arms
- Windrose Armory (If you want to make your own look at their kit for a pattern idea)
- Zen Warrior Armory
The entire torso (the chest, back, abdomen, groin, and sides up to and including the armpits) must be covered with puncture-resistant material. For more explanation of just exactly what "puncture resistant material" is and various options, read "Making Rapier Armor in Ansteorra." There are various people either local to you or your kingdom, or on sites like Ebay that will sew custom rapier armor for you, but please make sure that they know the requirements of your kingdom. The following links show ready-to-wear body armor that, in some combination or other, will get you out on the field AND possibly looking quite nice:
The portion of the head not covered by the fencing mask must be covered with puncture-resistant material. People have met this requirement in various ways. There is the snug fitting hood/coif that covers the head and is worn under the fencing mask (and often under the gorget), the large hood/drape that fits over the mask and head and the permanently attached drape that is connected to the back of the fencing mask and covers the required areas. The following hoods should be legal in most kingdoms:
Yours hands must be protected by gloves, preferably overlapping significantly with your shirt sleeves. You can buy leather "gauntlet" style gloves that come with a pre-attached long cuff, or you can find a pair of gloves that fit and make and attach a cuff yourself. Gloves do not have to be leather (check locally first though) but strong gloves are required. Many people can find rose style gardening gloves locally that come with a long sturdy cuff. Motorcycle guantlets are another good source, the insulated ones proving quite useful on chilly days. Leather gloves will come in pigskin, cow or deerskin. Pigskin and deerskin are both generally much softer and more flexible than cowhide, although they tend to be less rugged. Nevertheless, I think the improved grip and feel of the deerskin is worth more than the longer lifespan of the cowhide. The following links are affordable gloves with gauntlet style cuffs:
Unfortunately, starter weapons are almost non-existent. Local and kingdom resources for used weapons are your best bet. Failing a good local used weapons there are a couple of other options. Buy a Hanwei/Paul Chen Practical Rapier on Ebay (around $85-115 plus shipping), buy a Zen Warrior rapier with a T03 blade ($170 to $190 by blade length). After that is a "Economy" rapier from Darkwood Armory w/ a Hanwei blade (around $185). The next step up from those weapons are a rapier from James the Just with a Hanwei blade (around $220), then the Darkwood economy with a Darkwood Blade (around $265).