Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chinese Sword Gripwraps

A friend gave me a nice pair of DaDao (broadswords) for Kung Fu training.  After a lot of practice, the fabric grip wraps wore off, and I scoured the web for information on how to add traditional wraps to my swords.  I came across some excellent examples here, created by Peter Dekker, an expert in Chinese Arms.    Now this guy does professional restorations on antiques, so clearly I'm not looking to spend more on the grip wrap than the original cost of the blades.  However, it was a source of inspiration for me.  It was interesting to learn that many grip wraps incorporated sting-ray leather under the lacing!  If you've never seen sting-ray leather, it is very durable, with a smooth, pebbly surface.  Also, I loved Dekker's attitude toward his craft.  On an old price list, he states:

"I am open for special requests, but I will not do anything without historical precedent, or at least historical plausibility.  This is because with the abundance of fantasy out there, I feel the need to place an emphasis on Qing regulations and aesthetics if it is Qing arms we are into.

Customer may be king, but Qianlong was emperor."

Wow, take that cosplayers!  Lots of web forums cite an old document he wrote as being a great intro to making your own gripwraps.  Now his current website has been under construction for awhile, and that document is nowhere to be found.  In the meantime, I need to practice my broadsword forms, so I used a nice online guide found here.  The pictures are a bit blurry, but the instructions were pretty clear.

Actually one of the most difficult parts of the process was finding the right cord.  I spent more time searching the internet for 4-6mm unwaxed cotton or silk cord in a non-white color (to prevent yellowing from sweat).  It seemed that nowhere on the internet had the right thing, from craft stores to martial arts shops.  Now I did see many grip wraps for Katana, but Japanese grip wraps are very different than Chinese.  They use a wide ribbon and the wrapping patterns are quite different.  Many people on the web suggest using paracord, but I didn't like the idea of using a slippery synthetic cord for a grip.  I could buy cotton cord wholesale from, but lord knows how much cord I'd end up with.

Then one day, I got an idea.  I could just buy white cord and dye it any color I want!  A local hardware store had just the right thing.  100% cotton cord in 3/8" thickness.  I ended up using under 25 feet per grip, so this clothesline will last me awhile.

I used Rit dye and a five gallon bucket to color the cord.  They have a wonderful color guide here.

Then, I just followed ineffibleone's guide, using Gorilla glue to adhere the ends.

Also note that if you have a cat, they will find the string irresistible, and may claw it up a bit.

Here is the final result!  It feels great when I'm training, though it's added a little thickness to the handle.

No comments:

Post a Comment