How to Maintain Your Fencing Gear: The Lamé

Let’s talk about every competitive fencer’s nightmare.

You’ve gone through the trouble of preparing for today’s tournament. You’ve taken a few lessons this week, fenced nearly each day, and you got a good amount of sleep last night. You’ve packed plenty of water, fruit, energy bars, possibly a sandwich. You have extra weapons, you have the under armor, and you remembered to wear pants today! Everything’s looking good when you arrive at the venue.

And then you bring your lamé up to the officials.

They tell you it’s unusable. There are too many dead spots, it has resistance problems, maybe it’s suffered some physical damage. Even worse, there’s no vendor and no extra lamé lying around. Looks like you get to go home early today.

Naturally, you want to avoid this nightmare. To that end, it’s time to learn how to repair your lamé and keep these problems from happening with proper maintenance.

Resistance Issues

Like body cords, lamés are allowed a certain amount of electrical resistance: 5 ohm max. The scoring system will fire up to 250 ohms in the system — cumulative from the box through the entire weapons system and back — but the standards are the standards.

High resistance can come from gunk on the material blocking the signal, corrosion from sweat or rust from a blade, or just from being dirty. You can avoid these problems by washing your lamé regularly.

Lamés are washable, but don’t use a washing machine! The agitator will kill it. Hand washing is the way to go, and you can learn how to do that by reading the lamé washing instructions below or watching the video.

Washing Instructions

What you need:

  • 1 Bottle of Windex
  • 1 Bottle of Woolite

Lame washing steps:

  1. Take 1 capful of Woolite and 1 capful (equal parts) of Windex and mix with 1/3 sink full of lukewarm water. Place lamé in sink and allow to soak for five minutes.
  2. Gently massage lamé in solution of water, remove, then rinse, rinse, rinse fully in cold water until no suds are seen. Allow excess water to roll off and place lame on cloth towel.
  3. Roll lame into towel and press gently to remove more water. Hang on a plastic hanger to dry. Do not dry in direct sunlight or outside and do not use a hair dryer.

A stainless steel lamé can be washed as often as you like, but a copper lamé can only be washed once a week, max.

Physical Damage

Physical damage to your lamé can include anything from a rip in the material to losing the connection between the panels of the lamé or the mask cord tab.

A rip can simply be sewn shut and you don’t need conductive thread to do it (although you don‘t want to use so much thread that you create a dead spot out of it). “But I don’t know how to sew.” Well, that’s where this video comes in (granted it’s for sewing up gloves, but the same technique applies to lamés):

But if you’re concerned about a broken lamé or mask tab, then the following video is for you:

Dead Spots

You can “fix” dead spots by sewing a conductive patch over the area. But that’s assuming it’s small enough. If the dead spot is too large or you have numerous dead spots, you’re better off buying a new lamé. And if you do buy a new lamé, don’t get rid of the old one! If the back of the lamé doesn’t have any dead spots, you can cut that area up for spare materials.

But how do you create a conductive patch? Surprise surprise, we have a video for that!

Parting Thoughts

Sadly, that concludes our series on fencing gear maintenance. We’ve learned about:

We hope you learned a lot from these articles, but it never hurts to turn to a professional when you’re stumped.

Whenever you find your gear in a bind — bladework pun intended — get in touch with Sam Signorelli at H.O.M. Fencing Supply, headquartered in the Swordplay LA fencing club in Burbank, California.

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