How to Maintain Your Fencing Gear: The Body Cord

You’re getting ready for a fencing bout: You hold the body cord as you put on the jacket, put on the lamé, you hook up to the reel box, and you’re ready to fence. But as you lift your arm to test your opponent’s gear, the box shows an off target touch. Or maybe your opponent’s light registered off target when they tested your lamé — or there was no light at all, if you’re a sabre fencer — but you know that it doesn’t have any dead spots.

You test every other weapon in your bag, but the same problem keeps arising. Then you use a different body cord, and everything starts working. You correctly conclude that something’s wrong with the first body cord, but what’s the problem and how do you fix it?

Welcome to the second installment of our fencing gear maintenance series, where we discuss how to fix some common technical difficulties that fencers encounter with their gear. Today, we’re focusing on the piece of equipment that most often gives fencers grief: body cords. We’ll look at some of their most common problems, why they occur, and show you how to fix them.

If you haven’t read part one yet, go do that. It has crucial background information. If you’ve already read it, let’s get started!

Compressed Pins

Compressed pins are the most common body cord issues. This means the leaves on the weapon-end pins are compressed to the point where they fail to consistently connect with the receivers in the weapon’s socket.

This causes the scoring box light to go off intermittently: A white light goes off before anyone scores a touch. That stops the fencing action in foil and confuses the referee in sabre. A similar issue can develop in epee, where the light doesn’t fire on an otherwise good hit.

Wire Breaks

Another common issue with body cords are broken wires. Usually, wires break when they come out of the plastic housing on the main part of the cord or because a crimp has developed near the alligator clip due to repeated bending.

Broken wires are common at the weapon end of the cord for foil and sabre, but they can also break at the three pin end. In epee, it can happen at both ends, since either end can connect with the weapon.

Regardless of where a wire breaks, it often shows as an off target light when the weapon arm is extended but no contact with another object is made. That’s because the wire gets stretched during the extension, and a break in the wires separates and breaks circuit.

Alligator Clip Breaks

Another issue that can crop up in foil and sabre is a break at the alligator clip (the A line).

These breaks happen due to repeated bending at the crimp of the clip, which causes a fatigue break. That results in a white light on an otherwise valid hit in foil and no light in sabre. This can happen to mask cords, too.

Fixing These Problems

As you can see, you can figure out what your problem is based on what happens with the scoring box. You can also bring it to an armorer to be certain, but let’s say you know what’s wrong. How do you go about fixing these issues?

Each problem has a distinct solution and you’re better off seeing how it’s done. Check out these videos for instructions.

Fixing Compressed Pins and Wire Breaks

*Note: It does matter which wire goes where. If the C line (ground) is not marked with a stripe, mark that line before you take anything apart.

Fixing Alligator Clip Breaks

What’s Next?

Now that we’ve covered the most common body cord problems, we can turn to weapon problems. Foil fencers should stay tuned, since we’ll be covering foil problems next time.

Does your gear have a problem and you can’t seem to diagnose or fix it? Get in touch with Sam Signorelli at H.O.M. Fencing Supply, headquartered in the Swordplay LA fencing club.

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