Cheap & Safe Three Section Staff




Introduction: Cheap & Safe Three Section Staff

Make a cheap and safe three section staff that you can use for practice or sparring!

The number one reason I made this is to be able to practice three section staff moves fairly safely against a resisting opponet.

Some of my primary concerns were
1) that it would be safe and absorb impacts
2) it must be strong and durable
3) it must be easy to repair.
4) it must be inexpensive

Step 1: The Materials: ▼

+ Dremel Tool or other Small Drill
+ Hacksaw or other tool for cutting PVC pipe
+ Knife or Scissors
+ Lighter

Suggested Materials:
+ 10' length of generic 1/2" PVC pipe - had to bend it to get it into the Geo Metro
+ 2 lengths of 6' Split Foam Insulation for 1/2" pipe - If you can find unsplit, it's probably better. (0.97$ each)
+ 6 of 1/2" PVC Endcaps - Just bought a ten pack myself. Maybe I'll use the other ones for another project.
+ Electrical Tape (really cheap - you probably have some laying around.)
+ Nylon String - I used some generic-but-strong nylon string I had laying around.

+Measuring Tape
+PVC Glue
+Thin Bit of Stick or Wire

Step 2: Measure and Cut PVC Pipe: ▼

You will be making three equal-length sections of pipe which will be the "skeleton" for the three section staff. One will be the middle-section and the other two will be for the two end-sections.

There are three different ways you can measure the length at which to cut the PVC sections.

1) Compare to a real three section staff.
This is how I did it.

2) Compare to the length of your arm.
The ideal length of a section is from the tips of your outstretched fingers to the center of your armpit where it meets your body.

3) Measure with your optional measuring tape.
My three section staff has lengths of 1/16" less than 26".

You might want to cut a bit short. Having an endcap on each end will add about 2/8" to the length of each section.

I marked my measurements with a little nick from the hacksaw.

Remember the addage, "Measure twice, Cut once."
Be absolutely sure it is how you want it before you cut so you don't waste materials.

Step 3: Drilling Holes: ▼

Choose a drill bit that will drill holes about twice the width of your string.

Drill Holes in Endcaps:
-Drill through the middle of the top of 4 of your 6 endcaps.

Drill Holes in Two Pipes which will be the End-Sections:
-Drill a hole about 3/4" down from one end of the pipe. Drill all the way through the center so you end up with two holes on opposite sides of the pipe.

Drill Holes in the One Pipe which will be the Middle-Section:
-Same as the End-Sections except on both ends of the pipe section, so you have two sets of holes. You will have two holes on both ends of the pipe.

These holes will be where the string passes through and anchors the sections together.

Step 4: Measure and "Cut" String: ▼

The two flexible parts of my real three section staff are 4 and 1/2" long, so the string will have to be more than twice that. The wrapping around the PVC might take about an inch or two of string on each side and you still need enough string to tie a few knots.
I "cut" both of these more than 2' long just to be safe.

The way I cut the string is with fire.

Bend the nylon string in a loop and heat it over the lighter flame until it melts.
Now pull the two ends of the string away from each other till they separate.
This finishes the ends of the string and cuts them in two quick and simple steps.

I didn't prepare all the string at once, but you can if you'd like.

Also get a bit of scrap string that will help you pull the string through the holes in the PVC parts. 7" should be plenty.

Step 5: Thread String Through Pipe: ▼

Here you will be threading a long string (cut during the previous step) through the holes you drilled on one End-Section of pipe.

Each end of the string should be going in from the outside of the tube through one of the holes you drilled in that end. The tips should then be going out of that end of the pipe. See pictures for clarification.

You can use the scrap string or stick to pull the strings out through the pipe.

Step 6: Pull Through Endcap: ▼

Use the scrap to thread the newly connected string through the endcap. See pictures for clarification.

Step 7: Knots & Endcaps: ▼

Tie figure eight knots next to the endcaps you just put on and tighten it down as close and tight as possible. This will help keep everything in place.

A figure eight is a nice, easy, bulky knot to keep the rope from somehow going back through the hole in the endcap.

Now tie another knot 4 and 1/2" down the string from the first on each End-Section.
I actually tied mine a little short because with use, all the parts of the three section staff will tighten down and stretch out a bit.

Now, using the techniques discussed in step 6, thread the strings of each End-Section through another endcap-with-a-hole. The large openings of the endcaps should be facing away from the knots as demonstrated below.

Figure Eight Knot

Step 8: Attatching to Middle-Section (Threading): ▼

You are going to start attatching the end section to the Middle-Section.

This step can be broken down into three sub-steps:
First, you will thread the free ends of the strings on the End-Section through another endcap-with-hole. As shown.
Next, you will push some loops of scrap string into the holes you drilled into the Middle-section and use those loops to pull the free ends from the End-Section out of the PVC pipe, through the holes, from inside.
Finally, you are going to pop the encap on to the end of the Middle-Section and take up the slack in the strings.

Step 9: Attatching to Middle-Section (Knotting): ▼

Now, it is time to finish attatching the End-Section to the Middle-Section.
You will be knotting up the free ends so they don't move. For this, I have selected the Reef Knot because it is easy to tie and is very secure.

Reef Knot a.k.a. Square Knot

Be very sure that you don't tie a granny knot because, though it is very similar, it is not very secure. You don't want your Three Section Staff flying apart!

Difference Between a Reef (Square) Knot and a Granny Knot.

I will Be tying three of these Reef Knots. One on one side, on the opposite side, then on the same side again. That way, it should stay nice and tight and not slip.

After the knots are tied, it is probably a good idea to wrap them in electrical tape for a little extra assurance.

My original design had one reef knot on each side and no electrical tape, and though it held well under a lot of force, after a lot of use it may have shown some signs of slipping just a little. Still not bad, but I wanted to be sure.

Step 10: Insulation for Middle-Section: ▼

Measure a length of insulation about an inch longer than the final measurement of the completed Mid-Section. Approximations are fine. The idea is to have a bit that will fold over and cushion the ends of the section. I just went ahead and marked and cut mine at 27 and 1/2".

Go ahead and cut two more lengths like that for the end sections. They will also need to be covered eventually, but not yet. Right now we're just focusing on the Middle-Section.

Now just slip that bit over the Middle-Section.

Step 11: Attatch the Other End: ▼

Connect the other End-Section to the other side of the Middle-Section as you did for the first end section. The only difference is that now, you will have to push the foam out of the way to attatch the End-Section.

Step 12: Put on Some More Foam: ▼

Slide the other lengths of foam on.

Step 13: Glue on Final Endcaps: ▼

I called the PVC glue optional because when I finally took the Staff apart again, the caps all over were hammered tightly on through use of the Three Section Staff. On top of that, there will be foam taped all around these ends in the final product, so it is not likely to come off.

Still, my ends are glued, and its probably not a bad idea to glue yours on too.

Step 14: Tape It Up: ▼

First, tape just below the endcaps.
Then, tape a few rounds at intervals down the length of the staff.

The purpose of this taping is multiple. It is to:
+secure the foam in place and keep it from shifting
+prevent the split in the pre-slit foam from ripping
+add strength to the foam
+prevent the foam in general from stress rips.

Next, you will be taping up the foam on the ends.
You want the ends covered in foam and the string to remain coming from the center of the of the sections.
Tape in a star pattern over the top while pushing the foam down to the ends.
Don't tape too tightly or there will be less protection at the ends.
Pull enough to stretch the tape and keep it from wrinkling.
Continuously attatch the tape as you move it around the tip.
Use slow arcs to change direction to avoid folding the tape.

Tape the tip up thouroughly. Otherwise, the string may degrade the foam as it swings around.

Step 15: You're Done!

If you've been following along and have made it, congratulations, you're done! Give it a good final inspection and enjoy!

For good policy, if a person is going to use it, make sure that person uses appropriate saftey gear based on his or her skill level. If you spar with it, post up some videos and link to them in the comments section!

It's designed to be as safe as can be and is probably much safer than the commercial foam covered ones. And cheaper too. I might even make you some if you make the right offer. ;)

Step 16: Disclaimer:

This instructable is for entertainment and information only. Should you decide to build the item in this instructable, you assume all risk and liability. Should you build this item, you and anyone you use this item with are obligated to educate themselves and to have full knowledge and understanding of the risks of using both the item and the information contained in this instructable.

Be responsible. Be safe.

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    12 years ago on Introduction

    If there is anything I can do to make this better, please let me know.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Ill be attempting to add some weight to the outer ends to help with a balance issue I'm experiencing with mine. I was thinking of a bolt or marble with super glue or hot glue as the application method.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Great idea! Depending on the size of your PVC, I've glued pennies in the end of LARP (live action role play) sword handles for counter balance. I've also filled them with sand (epoxy glue in both ends to keep the sand from ever leaking) and used washers. I'm going to make one of these soon so if you've made it, please let me know what you used and now much you used for added weight. Thanks!


    5 years ago

    So I totally made one of these bad boys.
    This is a great instructable, being in South Africa the trickiest part was in finding the foam tubes which btw are easy to get at a good plumbing depot or store.
    Regarding the construction the hardest part was making sure the nylon string lengths were correct.

    Ill post pics soon, probably of my 2nd attempt as my first attempt turned out well but has a slight balancing issue id like to try and sort out.

    Also I'd highly recommend that if you (whoever is reading this) want to use this particular apparatus that you first get yourself familiar with a Staff/Bo/Gun/pole (whatever you want to call it). No not Darth maul interpretations I'm talking about proper drills.
    This is not an amateurs weapon and like all weapons treat it with respect, develop the conditioning or even better find a martial arts school that has staff as part of their syllabus.

    Once again great Instructable, saved me a lot of time and money and has helped me get one step closer at getting familiar with a weapon that scares the living hell out of me. (Yes I practice staff drills everyday spinning, striking and having fun with the staff etc)

    Kudos to you MR 8Bit

    The only modifications I made were in using Electrical conduit tubing at 25mm in diameter. Because it was cheaper.
    And I suspect Ill be super gluing a marble or even a bolt inside the end caps of the outer ends to help with balance issues Im having with mine.


    6 years ago

    Was kind of lazy today so I used one piece of cord, doubled it, and ran it thru the end caps and three sections, with figure eight knots at appropriate locations. Will try it out tomorrow after adding the pipe insulation.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    you should change the name to 'Cheap & Safe Three Section Nunchuks' becasue i thought this was a bo that folded into thre sections


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    um no he shouldn't because a 3 sectioned staff is the name of the weapon


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    ya but on this site most people dont know the real names of weapons

    black hole
    black hole

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Big deal. If you don't know the real name, that's your problem. What are we supposed to do, call nunchaku '2 section staff?' Or call tonfa 'Police nightstick thingy?' The author used the commonly accepted name.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    staff = bo = stick
    this thing is not a staff at all, therefore it should be titled appropriately:
    "cheap safe three section nunchuck type things"

    although, if you like nunchucks it would be a very good/useful Instructable


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    actually it is a bo that has been cut into 3 parts and chained back together thus is still a BO that is flexable


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    or a broken bo... that was chained back together thus destroying its effectiveness as a staff weapon


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    you, sir, don't merit the keys on your keyboard. how much do you even know about these types of chinese weapons? what he's created IS a what he says it is, although i don't agree with the materials. i'm fairly proficient with this weapon in practice as well as practical use, and personally, i'ld NEVER use string to connect the sections. 3 to 4 inches of chain links between the sections is preferable (much longer and you can't lock weapons or limbs effectively using the sections), but i guess you use what you can. Looking over the product again, however, it really is a great tool for practice and i might be being too critical (plus it looks really nice). keep practicing, sheepborg. i'll be sure to do the same. great post, 8bit.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    ahh, actually no, it is still a good long range weapon like a staff plus has the benefit of a short range weapon. I would not have found this instructable if it was not given it;s correct name. The three section staff is nothing like a nunchuck.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    sheepborg and z-man are right, about name.
    bradley.javis is right about use.
    The Three-Sectional Staff, Triple Staff, Three-part Staff, Sansetsukon in Japanese, or originally Sanjiegun (Chinese: 三截棍; Mandarin Pinyin: sān jié gùn; Jyutping: saam1 zit3 gwan3), is a Chinese flail weapon that consists of three wooden or metal staffs connected by metal rings or rope. Also known in Japanese as sansetsukon, the weapon is also known as a "coiling dragon staff," or in Chinese as a "pan long gun" (蟠龍棍).


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The real name of the weapon is Tiger Tail.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    If anybody has suggestions on how the design could be improved, let me know. I was at the store today and PVC electrical conduit is much cheaper than PVC plumbing, so that may be as good but for a better price.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I usually build boffers, which I know are different, but some of the principles can be applied here too. Here are some of my ideas to improve this.

    To make it safer: Avoid taping the foam on. Compressing it makes it less soft on impact. I would get some DAP weldwood contact cement (which is about the cheapest you can get, but works really well - avoid the gel or the non-flammable kinds because they don't work as well) from a hardware store or general store and use that. Just split open the pipe insulation and spread some thinly over the inside, and cover the pipe with it as well. When it's basically dry but tacky, put the pipe in through the split instead of sliding it on. You have to do it carefully because it sticks and doesn't really budge after that. The glue will hold the foam very well and keep it from opening, so tape is less necessary, though you still may want to tape the ends with the rope. For the other two ends, I would cap them with another piece of foam, glued on the same way.

    To make it more durable: Avoid drilling holes sideways through the pipe as that may weaken it. Instead just drill through the cap and attach the ropes using a really big knot inside. Attach the caps together with the rope first (tie a knot, put the rope through the inside, put into the end of another cap, tie knot inside), maybe glue the knots into the caps with hot melt glue or silicone sealant or something, then glue the caps onto the pipe after. I wouldn't use PVC epoxy, though, because it makes the pipe less flexible, so it tends to break if you hit hard. If you use the glue suggested above, it should work well for this purpose. Additionally, I'd recommend covering the foam with some cloth. You might get some women's tights and put a couple layers over it, then tape the end closed (use cloth athletic tape), or even better use socks if you can find any long enough. You'll have to pull them tightly to make them fit or they'll be too wide. This cover will prevent tears in the foam and make it hit softer. Also if you use a stronger cloth cover, you can simply use the cloth to connect the staff sections instead of rope.

    Sorry this is so long. D:

    tl;dr version: Check out some boffer tutorials like this one for a flail and ignore the measurements and stuff you don't need.