This tutorial will run through the process of building a Longsword. The tutorial will demonstrate one of the common Pompfen/Spar construction methods in Australia. Furthermore, while this tutorial will cover the creation of a Longsword, the main construction principles can just as equally be applied to any cored Spar.
Since this is designed to be a beginners guide, each step includes a detailed explanation and the reasoning behind it.
This tutorial was originally posted in the Australian Jugger League tutorials forums. For more information about Jugger in Australia, please have a look at our website.
Step 1: Specifications and Components
As of 22/06/2015, the following requirements must be adhered to:
Max Length: 1400mm
Max Striking Surface: 1000mm
Minimum Striking Surface Padding:
20mm thick padding around the core along the length, soft enough to compress at least 10mm but not so much that the core can be felt.
40mm of padding past the tip, soft enough to compress at least 20mm but not so much that the core can be felt.
Thrusting Tip (i.e. the far end of the striking surface) must be a minimum 70mm diameter across the top.
Tools and Components
1: Foam and Padding
1.a Open cell foam, such as mattress foam. This will be used primarily for the thrusting tip so the thicker the better. The foam in this picture is 50mm thick, I would not recommend any thinner unless you intend to stack layers. For safety, you want the end of the Spar to be a soft and squishy as possible.
1.b Insulation foam. These two tubes combined will form the striking surface. You will need to get one tube for the inner layer that will fit snug over your core, and a second for the outer layer that will fit easily over the inner tube. In this case I’m using a 13x13mm tube and 9x38mm tube, which suit a core of 14mm to 16mm diameter very well, and gives a total of 22mm of padding from the core.
1.c 10mm closed cell foam, such as EVA 30. This will be used to create a collar around the thrusting tip.
1.d 20mm closed cell foam, such as EVA 30. This is used to pad the end of the core for the thrusting tip. I used to use 10mm foam but I found it compressed too easily after frequent use. I have found 20mm or more ensures there is adequate padding past the core tip even after compression from heavy use.
2. Core components
2.a The core. In this case a 14mm solid GRP rod.
2.b Rubber stopper. 55 cents from Clark Rubber. Used to cap the core.
2.c Squash ball. Used to create the pommel.
3. Grip Components
3.a Rope, used to thicken the diameter of the core around the grip and provide a good, high friction surface. I find 5-7mm rope provides a good thickness.
3.b Bicycle tube. Optional. If you wish to cover the rope with a different sort of surface to grip, this is one cheap option. For my personal gear I spend a bit more and buy tennis grip.
4.a Hockey tape. A cloth tape use to tape up hockey sticks. This will be used to cover the striking surface. It’s more expensive than the other tape types, but it’s less prone to tears, compresses better on the thrusting tip, and causes less of a slap when striking another player. Can be difficult and expensive to find in Australia, as a cheaper alternative, use Cloth tape (below).
4.b Duct tape. Optional. Cheap tape used for securing internal components. Excessive heat tends to melt the glue, so it’s no good for external parts or anything that sees a lot of wear and tear.
4.c Cloth tape (not the same as Hockey cloth tape). Stronger and sturdier than Duct tape, but more expensive. You can forgo the Duct tape and just use this if you don’t mind using it for the parts that don’t need as much strength. It’s also a viable alternative to Hockey Tape for the striking surface, but as mentioned above it doesn't feel as nice to get hit by.
4.d Double Sided Tape. Used to secure the Insulation tubes to the core and to each other. The other option is to simply use glue, but I find that messy and an awful hindrance if you ever want to strip the Spar back for a re-build.
Other equipment should be self evident from the photo: a saw or something to cut the core, tape measure, blade and/or scissors, marker, ruler.
GRP (glass reinforced plastic, a form of fiberglass) is the most common type of core used. It is strong and flexible. While this tutorial uses a solid rod, hollow tubes are preferred where possible. They are just as strong but much lighter, making your Spar faster and more effective.
If you are willing to spend a little more, you might also consider roll-wrapped Carbon Fibre tubes. They are strong and ultra light, but don't flex like GRP. An excellent choice for Short Swords and Longswords, and popular with other classes as well.
For size, 14mm - 16mm is good range for core thickness, with a 2mm thick wall for tubes. Thinner walls have been known to break. However it is possible to use smaller cores and/or thinner walls for Shortswords, as they don't see as much stress along their length during play.
Cutting Components To Length
You can cut the core to length at any time. It will need to be: length of spar minus pommel minus thrusting tip. In the case of this tutorial that’s about 1320mm for a 1400mm Longsword.
However, to make things easier you can do what I will do in this tutorial: build the striking end first, measure, then cut off the excess (taking into account 10-20mm for the pommel). It does mean you have an unnecessarily long rod to work around, but it also means you can play around with different amounts to padding for the thrusting tip without having to worry about the final length.
Likewise with the striking surface padding. You can cut it to length to start with, or attach the whole tube, measure, and cut off the excess.
Step 2: The Striking Surface: Tipping the Core
Tipping cores is required under Australian Rules and the purpose is primarily to stop the core cutting into/through the foam padding under normal gameplay use. It also ensures that if it does force it’s way through it is not an exposed core end, making it ever so slightly safer.
There are a variety of methods for tipping cores, including using cut squash balls, or a small cut of hard rubber floor matting. For this Longsword I went with a cheap and lazy option, the size 12 stopper fit nicely over the 14mm core and is reasonably smooth. Never-the-less I used the blade to shave the edge off and round out the top. Finally, it’s taped it into place to ensure it won’t work it’s way off.
Step 3: The Striking Surface: Preparing the Insulation Tubes
There are several ways to go about attaching the tubes to the core, including taping them on at the ends. I’ve used that method for Short Swords, however on multiple occasions I’ve found this to be insufficient for longer spars as the extra weight from the longer foam tends to result in the tape tearing and striking padding sliding off the end of the core.
A second option is to glue them on. Run glue down the length of the core then slide the tube on. It’s messy and horrible if you ever want to strip it down, but it works.
In this case, I’m using loops of double-sided tape, which are easier to work with and easier to remove. However it does require more work to attach the foam and you can’t simply slide it over the top.
First, split the tubes down the down the length as shown.
Note you don’t need to go all the way to the end if you’re worried about weakening the foam near the tip, just far enough that you can be sure the foam will be stuck sufficiently to the core.
You’ll also need to brush out all the white powder inside the tube, as it will prevent the tape from sticking properly.
Step 4: The Striking Surface: Attaching the Inner Tube
Run loops of double-sided tape down the length of the core that will be the striking surface. A few loops will be enough to hold the foam in place. Remove the outer layer of tape and wrap the foam around the core securely. Note that once the foam begins sticking to the tape, it won’t come back off without tearing the foam, so be careful to get it right the first time!
Finally, run a strip of tape down the seam to hold it securely together. You might also consider placing some sections of double-sided tape in the seam itself to help hold it together.
Step 5: The Striking Surface: Padding the End
Cut a circle out of the 20mm closed cell foam matching the diameter of the inner padding over the core, and tape it to the end. This will form the base layer of padding for the thrusting tip and can be done prior to step 7, but it’s easiest to do it now.
Step 6: The Striking Surface: Attaching the Outer Tube
Split open the larger insulation tube if you haven't already done so and clean out the powder. Repeating step 4, run loops of double-sided tape down the padded core, wrap the foam securely over it, and tape up the seam. Be sure to offset the two seams in the tubes so that they are not sitting on top of one another. In this case I have them on opposite sides of the core.
If you have used thick enough foam tubes, this is all the padding necessary for the striking surface.
Step 7: The Thrusting Tip: the Collar
Australian rules require that the striking end of the Spar be at least 70mm in diameter with 40mm of padding past the core, I highly recommend making them a lot softer, especially if you are still new to the sport or if this is your first Spar. Your opponents will thank you.
Collars add strength to the thrusting tip, which often increases in necessity the more padding you add to the end. Without a collar, spars with a lot of foam on the end will be allowed to bend more and thus become damaged from use faster.
Collars also widen the diameter of the thrusting tip, helping to reach the required 70mm.
A 10mm thick collar, in conjunction with the sizes of the core and insulation tubes used in this tutorial, brings the Thrusting Tip out to a little more than 80mm. Thinner, denser foam can also be used for a structural collar.
Cut the 10mm closed cell foam into a length that will wrap securely around the padded core. Too tight and it will compress the foam beneath it causing it hit harder, too lose and it will wobble and break easier under normal use.
Cut the collar between about 100mm and 150mm wide. The exact number largely depends on how much foam (especially open cell foam) you intend to have past the core, as it is this that the collar is lending rigidity to - the more foam, the wider the collar. A too-small collar will will fail to provide rigidity, while an extra-long collar adds unnecessary weight. In this tutorial, I have cut it to about 120mm, but anywhere within the above values is usually fine.
Position the collar such that it overlaps the end of the internal core, extends a short way down the padding, and about 10-20mm past the end, and tape it together.You can tape it or double-sided tape into place, but I tend rely on the outer layer of Hockey tape to hold the collar on, as it allows for easier adjustment and repairs.
Step 8: The Thrusting Tip: Thrusting Tip Foam
Cut out a circle of the open cell foam equal to or greater than the diameter of the collared tip. Cut a shallow slit into the foam a few millimeters up from the base (equal to the depth of the collar past the padded core). In this case, about 15mm or more. This cut allows you to squeeze the bottom section of the foam into the collar without the top mushrooming out.
The foam should extend a few centimeters out from the collar, or the dense foam of the collar will negate the purpose of the soft open cell foam in creating a soft tip.
Step 9: Taping It Up: Measure and Cut
A Note on Taping
Taping up the striking surface protects the foam from wear and tear.
For the following steps, we will be using the Hockey Tape to cover the outer striking surface of the Spar. As mentioned earlier, if you don’t have access to Hockey Tape the cloth tape is a viable substitute, but will result in a harder, slappier surface and it more prone to damage.
When taping up the outer surface, be sure to overlap each piece of tape by 3-5mm. Failure to do so will create a weak point and the foam will tear at the seam under normal use.
Measure and Cut
Now that you have a striking surface and thrusting tip, it’s a good time to measure your Spar. If you haven’t already cut it to length, mark off the length of the striking surface and cut off the excess foam. If you have already cut it, remeasure it anyway in case your thrusting tip was longer than expected.
Remember, Australian Rules require Longsword Striking surfaces to be no more than 1000mm in length, from the end to the thrusting tip to the start of the grip. Personally, I prefer to shorten it to closer to 900mm. (Beware some country's rule-sets do not allow for variation in length).
Save the excess foam, it can be used for the pommel.
Step 10: Taping It Up: Thrusting Tip
Tape over the thrusting tip using the Hockey Tape. You can either stop the tape on the collar, continue down onto the insulation foam, or continue it all the way down the length of the striking surface (as per Step 11). I would recommend against the third option as it makes repairs difficult. Taping it onto the insulation foam will secure the collar in place better but once again make repairs difficult. In this case I have stopped on the collar, and will use the taping in Step 11 to secure the collar in place.
When taping over the open cell foam, try not to compress it. You want to allow for as much compression as possible during play, not go onto the field with it already compressed. You want it to be as soft and squishy as possible.
Remember to overlap the tape by about 3-5mm.
NOTE: If using cloth tape or something less breathable than Hockey tape, it will be necessary to poke holes in the tip with a pin to allow the air to re-enter and the foam to expand after compression.
Step 11: Taping It Up: Striking Surface
Run lengths of tape down the length of the striking surface, overlapping the end of the tape covering the Thrusting Tip.
You can also loop the tape around the Striking Surface, spiraling down the length in one long strip. However this has a two problems: firstly, you risk compressing the foam (and like with the Thrusting Tip you want to compress it as little as possible); second, you create many more potential tear-seams if you are not careful to overlap each loop properly.
As a result, I prefer to run the tape down the length. However this has a problem of it’s own: the tape tends to fray and lift along the edges. To help combat this, run several loops of tape (being careful not to compress the foam) around the surface at key points to help stop it lifting. These points are marked on the image in green.
Step 12: The Pommel
The pommel protects the far end of the core. It does not require as much padding as a striking surface, but should be sufficient to prevent injury should it come into contact with a player.
The pommel can be added at any point, but it’s best to add it after the striking surface is built and the final length of the pompfen can be accurately measured, and before the grip so that the grip can be built to length and wound over the top.
There are many different ways to build a pommel. This tutorial uses a very simple method that I have used on several pompfen recently.
In the image are the components used in this method.
A squash ball to cap the core.
Excess open cell foam to pack into the squash ball and fill up the empty space.
Excess foam to pad around the ball, such as left over insulation tubing and some 10mm closed cell foam for the end.
Step 13: The Pommel: Measure and Cut Again
If you haven't already done so, cut the core to length. With the Thrusting Tip built, simply measure to your target length and subtract about 15mm for the pommel.
Step 14: The Pommel: the Squash Ball
Cut a cross into the squash ball. Take the open cell foam and pack it densely inside, then place the ball onto the end of the core.
You want to pack the foam in as densely as possible, the idea being to fill up all the extra space so that the core has little to no room to move about. If you have done it properly the ball will feel very secure even before it is taped on.
When you are happy, tape down the ball securely.
Step 15: The Pommel: Pommel Padding
How you pad out the pommel will depend on what foam you have available. In this case I used some left over 9x38 insulation tube and the 10mm EVA 30. I cut triangles out of the tube to allow it to fold in around squash ball, and cut a circle out of the EVA 30 to cap off the top.
Before taping it up, measure the Spar once more to make sure it is under the maximum length now that the pommel is in place. If it’s too long, remove the pommel, shave off a bit of the core, re-attach the pommel, and measure again.
When you’re ready, tape up the pommel securely. Finally, measure once more to check your final length.
Step 16: The Grip
A Grip provides a comfortable, high-friction surface with which to hold the Spar. However you chose to create it, you will want to widen the diameter around the core to a point where it fits comfortably in your hand.
Rope of about 5-7mm thickness generally works well for a 14mm to 16mm diameter core.
Under Australian Rules, the core must not be left exposed at any point.
Adding the Rope
Wind the rope tightly around the core. Taping off the ends to hold it in place. Before cutting off the excess rope, ensure that it is wound tight. A loose rope will unwind itself through use.
There are several ways to help prevent the unwinding. Glue can be used to hold the rope to core, but as in all cases it is messy and horrible to repair. Alternatively, just glue down the ends and leave the middle.
For this Longsword, it placed a loop of double-sided tape at the top and bottom of the grip to help hold the ends of the rope in place.
Optional Step: Adding Grip
You can leave the Grip as is, or you can cover the rope with another another layer of something nicer to hold. Tennis grip is good, or as in this case: bicycle tube cut into a strip about 20mm wide and wound tightly over the rope.
As with the rope, if it is not wound tight enough it will unwind itself through use.
Onec you are happy, tape off the ends to hold it in place.
Step 17: Conclusion
The Longsword is now complete!
If you want to take it a step further, consider personalising it by sewing a cloth cover. Cloth covers help protect the Striking Surface from wear and tear, as well as looking spectacular on the field!