FAQ

Q. “Why do you have a four week minimum? Our show only runs for one weekend. Can’t we just rent them for one week?”

A. The “four week minimum” is in place for two main reasons:

  1. Safety. We want to encourage productions to reserve ample time to work with weapons in rehearsals whether these weapons are three foot broadswords, switchblades or blank firing handguns. Shows with a short run of only a weekend or two (and this is usually the case with high schools and universities)  might be tempted to cut the rental period as close as possible to save a few bucks giving the actors only a week of scattered rehearsal time to learn choreography with the actual props. Actors need as much time as possible to work with these [potentially dangerous] props to gain the most basic level of “comfort” with them (remember that most people these days do not have a lot of experience wielding swords and axes in combat and this will be a very foreign thing for most actors.).

    We often hear, “but we are rehearsing with wooden dowels of the same length and don’t need the actual swords until right before we open.” While it is certainly “better than nothing” to practice with wooden dowels or “foam swords” it is NOT AT ALL the same thing; swinging a three pound steel sword with different grip, balance point, flexibility, and so forth is completely different. This would be like learning to drive a 4 cylinder, front wheel drive automatic car and then have to suddenly translate this skill to driving a ten ton, fourteen wheel diesel truck with a stick shift; similar, yes, but with some serious differences.

  2. Economics. One week or even two week rentals do not make good fiscal sense for a rental company. These short term rentals would barely pay our staff to clean, inspect, package, ship, check in and maintain the equipment. Besides the cost of manpower hours it is surprising how much we spend each year on things like sanding sponges, sanding belts, wire wheels, replacement hardware, leather cleaner, and oil not to mention shipping materials and the various “freebies” that we send along with our props like cleaning supplies, rifle cases and simple frogs.

    Take, for example, a recent request for two broadswords with scabbards and baldrics that the customer only wanted to rent for a week because their show was just one weekend. This customer didn’t understand why they could not just pay $25 for renting them for one week ($12.50 each per week). The retail purchase cost of these swords was $350 each, the scabbards each cost $90 and the baldrics were $60 each for a total of $1,000 worth of equipment. We would have to do more than 40 of these “week-long” rentals just to break even on the cost of the equipment! (For some perspective, NONE of our weapons have been out that many times so, if we did one week rentals we would have basically spent the last 11 years in business while turning no profit whatsoever.) And it very often does take years to make back out initial investment on many of our weapons.

    Not to “over-answer” the question but there is also the issue of the time for “reserving the item” that is often forgotten. This customer above had contacted us on May 1st and had requested that the items be available on May 26th – June 1st. They also needed the swords to be shipped to Ohio (2 days of transit time). So these two swords with full leather gear would have effectively been “taken off the market” from the time we were contacted (May 1st) until the time they were returned at the earliest on June 4th or just about five weeks.

    When you factor in the time the item gets reserved and transit time most items are "off the market" for at least four weeks in any case. For items like our single handed broadswords, with a starting retail price of $350+ each, that is a lot of rental to make any profit at all; it usually takes a couple years to make back the initial investment. For some items it takes even longer. A good percentage of our clients are schools, universities and smaller theatre (all non-profit types) so we try to offer the best product at the best price and we don't charge tax for anyone so hopefully that helps a bit. If you do place an order for ten or more weapons and/or a long rental period we also discount the final price. Hope that isn't too much information!

 

Q. Do you sell your weapons?

A. We are primarily a rental company but we also do retail sales (primarily broadswords, cutlasses and the like) for Baltimore Knife and Sword. If you order through us you will pay the same price as if you purchased directly from the maker but we waive shipping charges. Additionally, because we have a long history with the fine folks at BKS we can often get items made more rapidly...kind of like going to the head of the line.

We are often asked if we sell our “used” equipment and the answer is no for a couple of reasons; First, you should really purchase important props, like weapons, new so that you know firsthand the item’s history including how it was used and maintained. You will also want any warranty on the equipment to be in full effect for you. Secondly, any weapon that we no longer wish to keep in our inventory is most likely being removed because it has failed to meet our standards for quality and/or safety. These weapons are “retired” and should not be used by anyone. If you want to check out our “retired” weapons come over and see what holds up our tomato plants in the summer!

We are more than happy to recommend makers for weapons and associated gear if you wish to purchase on your own. We personally know many of the makers out there and can offer good advice based on your needs and budget.

Q. Do we include shipping time in the rental period?

A. No. You don’t pay for transit time.

Q. Should we rent our weapons or buy?

A. It depends on several things, but the primary consideration is usually cost. The following table will compare the purchase vs. rental price of several commonly used items. The purchase prices reflect a low to median range and, although many of our weapons are high end, most fall in the median price range.


WEAPON

PURCHASE PRICE (low to median)

RENTAL PRICE (one month)

Elite Gladius $350 $40
Single Handed Broadsword $250 - $350 $40
Rapier, epee blade $160 - $250 $40
Dagger $100 - 125 $30 or $20 when rented with a rapier
Leather scabbard and hanger for rapier
-or-
Leather scabbard and frog for broadsword
$115 - $175 $10 with sword, $30 without

 

So let’s compare the cost of buying six average rapiers and leather gear versus the cost of renting them for one month:


WEAPON

PURCHASE PRICE (low to median)

RENTAL PRICE (one month)

Six Basic Rapiers with Scabbards and Hangers $1575 - $1820 $300
Rapiers alone $960 - $1320 $240

 

Generally speaking it is more cost effective to rent. However, if you are planning on using the weapons for future productions, classes or workshops and you have the money in your budget you should consider buying. If you are teaching at a university, check with your department and see if there are funds to start building an armory. There are often “use it or lose it” funds that might be available to you. We would be happy to recommend reputable makers to you.

If your budget is more than needed for the rental but not enough to do a full purchase you might consider buying a few pieces and renting the rest, building your armory a little at a time. Another thing to consider is what will happen to the weapons after the production closes. Weapons need to be checked and possibly repaired, periodically maintained and stored securely. Leather can dry and crack, metal can corrode and swords may “walk off” if left unattended for long period of time. Consider who will be responsible for the maintenance and security of these props. When you rent from us these issues are always taken care of.  The weapons will always be here when you need them and in perfect condition.

Q. How do I maintain the weapons?

A. See our Weapon Care page.

Q. What makes a weapon stage combat worthy?

A. Weapons that are Stage Combat Worthy are specifically made to be employed by performers and generally exhibit the following characteristics:

  • All parts of the weapon are safely blunted including points, edges, guards, and pommels.
  • They are well balanced and, when possible, special attention is paid to minimizing the weight to accommodate actors of all physical types.
  • Grips are made to be friendly to hands and should facilitate easy retention of the weapon (easy to hold on to).
  • Perhaps most importantly, these weapons are crafted to withstand repeated use, night after night and show after show. They are generally very durable.

Stage Combat Worthy weapons are made to be theatrically effective as well as safe for the actors, crew and audience. As mentioned above this does not mean they are indestructible nor are they toys to be played with. Always keep in mind the following things.

  • They can be broken or rendered unsafe if not well maintained (check out our weapon care page for details).
  • They can be broken if used improperly. Actors who are not well trained by an experienced and qualified Fight Director or stage combat instructor* can break just about anything. If performers are allowed to simply “swing away” at each other the weapons will eventually break no matter how well made they are. Nothing overcomes the laws of physics!
  • Careless use of these weapons can cause serious injury or death. A three foot piece of steel, blunted or not, is still a three foot piece of steel that can break bones. A blunted knife will still pierce flesh if enough force is applied.
  • We know it can sound a little scary but the best way to ensure a safe and memorable performance is to hire a qualified Fight Director. (Have we mentioned this before?)

*Looking for qualified Fight Directors/instructors?
Robb Hunter      SAFD.org     BASSC.org
 


Q. We found some great swords on the internet that look fantastic and seem really solid. Should we use them to fight with on stage?

A. Generally speaking...No. Although some may seem quite durable virtually every weapon, swords in particular, made for any other purpose than stage combat and used repeatedly will eventually fail in some way with potentially devastating consequences. A bargain sword found at “awesomeswords.com” for $49 will not seem to be such a bargain when it breaks and flies into the face of an audience member.

This is not to say that there are no quality suppliers on the internet. There are! They are not nearly as numerous as the countless replica dealers but they are out there. A knowledgeable Fight Director or stage combat instructor “worth her salt” can be invaluable in pointing you in the right direction and should be able to tell the “good from the bad.”


Want to see how durable swords sold on the internet can be?

Don’t buy your swords on QVC.
 

 

Q. I have seen the phrase “Battle Ready” used to describe replica swords. Should I use these for stage combat? What does this mean?

A.  No...Do NOT use these for stage combat unless your liability premiums are paid up and you have an EMT on standby for every show. Battle Ready is a term that has come into use in recent years to help sell replica swords to the public. While these weapons are usually made of steel and can take a sharp edge and even cut through milk jugs, tatami mats and haunches of venison they are not made for stage combat. For one thing blades thin enough to take a sharp edge will be easily damaged, even when blunted as there is generally not enough basic thickness to accept a truly blunt edge. They are often tapered from the middle of the blade to the edge very gradually which is good for cutting through yielding materials but not for durability when repeatedly struck against a similar weapon (the edge to edge combat that is the hallmark of most stage swordplay).

Probably the most important things to know about the sword will not even be apparent to the eye. For instance the sort of steel used to make the blade. Battle Ready swords are usually advertised as being made of “high carbon” steel. In fact many steel weapons bear this same claim. Without going into too much detail, saying that a steel sword blade is made with carbon is redundant...steel, by its definition is iron with a small percentage of carbon (organic materials) mixed in. Saying that it is “high carbon” implies that the advertised weapon is somehow better. Adding carbon will make the blade hard but too much can make it brittle. What does “high” really mean? It means somewhere in the neighborhood of .6 to almost 1 percent. Higher than this and the metal gets too brittle for weapons larger than knives. This conversation could go on and on, eventually taking up more server space than this website can access so let’s just say that advertising “high carbon” is no guarantee for quality. It is often used just as a catch phrase to induce the consumer to buy the product in much the same way that “fat free” leads us to believe that an advertised food is good for us.

The other thing that you can’t tell about a sword just by the advertising or by sight is how the blade was heat treated. Heat treating is the process of heating and subsequently cooling the blade at various rates to produce the desired balance between hardness/strength and flexibility. A sword made of “high carbon” steel (or any other type for that matter) that is not expertly heat treated can break on impact or it can bend and stay bent. Most of the time you simply cannot tell until it is too late so it is always a good idea to purchase stage combat weapons from a company that makes them exclusively for stage combat.

Let’s examine some commonly used statements from replica dealers:

  • These are real museum quality reproductions that are hand forged like the originals (1).
  • Made from high carbon steels and other authentic materials these blades handle and flex like the real things (2).
  • The fully tempered, full tang blades are battle ready for your next crusade or just display ready for your office or den (3).

1) This is a slightly disingenuous statement. They might possibly be forged by people using their hands to manipulate equipment or even to put some finishing touches on a piece but don’t picture a blacksmith beating a blade over an anvil for hours or days on end and shaping and filing the blade with nothing but muscle and hand tools. These blades are almost all mass produced with the majority of the work being done with machines powered by good old electricity. We have purchased many of these weapons over the years just to handle them in person and if they were truly “hand forged” then they were some pretty unskilled hands.

2) OK...here is all the information that you need. What you do not want on stage is a blade that handles “like the real thing.” What you want is a blade that handles better than the real thing; one made for stage combat, not battle.

3) So when it comes right down to it and they state what you should use their weapons for they suggest: (a) display or (b) taking along on crusade. This relieves them of a modicum of liability when they break and kill someone accidentally because they never specifically said you could use them on stage (or in any other real way for that matter).

In closing if you have a “battle ready” weapon please use it on crusade or as a decoration but please, unless it is used as a costume piece, keep it off the stage.

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