Project Zer0: The Mag-Tec Zer0 grip. Balanced yet lighter.

Here at Leon Paul, we have always been obsessed with removing weight from our equipment. Science tells us that the lighter the object the less force required to move it. A lighter object can be accelerated and moved faster, and stopped and controlled with less force. However, balance is also key in a sport where point control is essential. To remove weight from an object like a sword that is made from a series of parts is relatively easy, you take it to bits and study every piece, removing grams wherever possible. But to maintain the original balance and control or feeling of the object is much harder.

At Leon Paul we split a weapon into three categories in a similar way as racket sports and golf does. We have ‘Point Heavy’, ‘Guard Heavy’ and ‘Evenly Balanced’. I won’t talk about blade stiffness in this post as that is a whole other subject, but this also greatly affects the point control.

‘Point Heavy’ is where the balance of the blade is higher up the weapon. This balance would be more suited to people that like to flick in Foil or Epee.

Guard Heavy’ is where the weight of the blade is further back and the balance point is as close the hand as possible. This balance would give better stability in parries and a tip that is easier to control.

‘Evenly Balanced’ is when the weapon is balanced on a single point, the distance of this point is about 10 cm or 4″ from the hand.

Now we think about each component in a sword:

FOIL

EPEE

SABRE

Each component effects the overall weight of the blade and the balance point

If you add a very light tip made of titanium, the balance of the weapon will move closer to the hand, if you use a heavy tip made of tungsten the balance moves forward to the tip.

By producing a range of parts in a range of weights you can then create different weapons that can be tailored to an individual’s preference and style of fencing.

By reducing the weight of each part, it allows you to make an ‘even balanced’ weapon that has a much lower weight, allowing you greater speed and control. This is what we wanted to achieve with Project Zer0. A series of products needed to be redesigned and created to achieve our goals.

Foil and Epee

Tip: A Titanium Tip based on a German design and tested with the top international foil fencers. 40% lighter. We have taken the best and made it better.

Handle: The Mag Tec handle made an exponential leap in our ability to reduce weight in a pistol grip. Now we have taken that idea to the next level. Working on the design with Alex Massialas and Enzo Lefort to make something so lightweight, whilst maintaining structural integrity and being incredibly comfortable in the hand.

The Mag Tec Zer0 Pistol Grip is the lightest medium sized pistol grip ever mass produced, whilst still conforming to all FIE rules. At 46g it is 50% lighter than a traditional aluminium grip. Each hole is milled out at 6mm wide to ensure that tips cannot be trapped in the weapon.

Nuts: If you read our blog about nuts here: ALEX BLOG then you would know we are absolutely nuts about nuts. When watching some Formula 1 Racing recently, I heard them talking about how the nuts used to hold the tires on had been specially made to reduce the weight, but maintain the same strength. After some research we now produce our Hex Zer0 Nut. Made from Anodised Aluminium the new nuts weigh a crazily low 1.5 grams! A staggering 80% lighter than the traditional nut used.

Sabre

For Sabre we have completed the first and the hardest change – redesigning our Sabre guard, whilst two more products are under way and will be completed in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Redesigning our lightweight sabre guard was a far harder task than envisaged and has taken around 1 year in development. The shape of a traditional sabre guard was quite front heavy and the weight was not distributed evenly or cleanly. Our new sabre guard was designed and created by James Honeybone, Team GB Olympian & Sabre fencer who works here at Leon Paul in our Marketing and Product Development Teams.

A prototype Sabre is now under testing and is shown below. This will be released along with a new Maraging Sabre blade which should be in time for the FIE rule update for Sabre blades after Tokyo 2020.

The results:

Mag-Tec Zer0 Foil
Mag-Tec Zer0 Epee

Cooking with swords

At Leon Paul we have a club that has one rule; you don’t talk about it. The reason we don’t talk about it is not because it is dangerous and has Brad Pitt in it, but because it is really quite boring. This makes this blog post hard. The club is Lunch club. For £10.00 a week you can join and then you go onto a rota where 1 person a day goes out buys lunch, and cooks it for the rest of the group. This saves money and means we get a variety of lunches.

One of the main ways we can reduce our carbon footprint is to eat less meat. After some discussion we decided that Lunch Club should go vegetarian. After a few weeks’ things had been go very well, my falafel kebabs are definitely a winner. As my next turn to cook approached I decided to try a BBQ. The only benefit of the current climate change is that it seems that now in London we get more sunny days and less rain, so even now we can still BBQ outside.

I wanted to do vegetable skewers and vegetarian sausages. I needed some skewers. Time for a bit of reusing/upcycling. I have been saving 100s of broken blades for the last few years as I have a plan to try and reforge them… (more on that another day). So I found myself a broken foil, epee and sabre blade. After a quick polish and adding a handle I have made 3 special fencing skewers.

Then for a trip to the supermarket, I tried to buy all the ingredients minimising the use of single use plastics and packaging. This wasn’t as easy as I hoped and took far longer than it should have done, the best I could manage was this:

We have a very long way to go in the UK to become more sustainable and this experiment was a real eye opener for me.

We have a very long way to go in the UK to become more sustainable and this experiment was a real eye opener for me. Here were all the ingredients

prepped and ready to go:

Cooking in progress:

What I learned was:

  • Sabre blades make the best skewers as the triangular profile means the ingredients do not rotate.
  • Epee blades are too thick and break your food, they also store too much heat which ends up burning the centre of the onions onto your ‘skewer’.
  • Sharpened swords look so dangerous, duelling in the old days must have been terrifying!
  • Vegetarian sausages are very, very tasty.
  • Plastic packaging is everywhere.

Ben Paul – Director

Tokyo Legacy

Leon Paul and the Japanese Fencing Association have partnered up for a second time. This is an exciting time for us to be involved with Japanese fencing. The first time we worked together was around the 2012 Olympics, I had been inspired by a speech by Yuki Ota that he gave in London about what he had need to succeed in sport.

Yuki and Peter with our forge machine.
First hit wins

Yuki had talked about how 10,000 hours of practice was not enough, and it was only when he had the full package of support, training, coaching and a little luck that he was able to succeed on the very highest stage, the Olympics. Here are my brief notes I made during the speech all those years ago:

After that, I was determined to work with Japan and the team that Yuki had talked about. The first time we sponsored the team we provided kit for some of the top fencers and designed some special, secret equipment to try and improve athlete’s performance.

Fast forward 7 years and we are on the cusp of the next Olympic games, which will be held in Tokyo, and I cannot wait. After I visited Tokyo in 2018, to visit clubs, coaches and meet with Yuki and the Japanese Fencing Federation, we decided that we should change focus for the next partnership. We have moved our focus from the high level athletes and decided that we should look to create a lasting legacy from the Games. We are still supplying some kit for the team and looking at ways to give Japanese fencers the best chance of success. For example, when I visited the Japanese fencing training centre I noticed that some of the scoring kit they were using look quite old, when I tested them I found that the timings for some of the weapons was out of specification. That meant the athletes were training the wrong speeds and distance on a daily basis. We quickly helped lend the Federation new scoring systems that had the correct timings, that will be used at the Tokyo Olympics. I believe that Leon Paul are the only fencing company that have designed and made a machine that can test all the timings in fencing scoring systems. We can tell if you are fencing to the latest rules.

The new focus for this sponsorship is;

  • To create new fencers and coaches after the 2018 games has finished. We want to create more competitions for youth fencing, also making their events cheaper to run and easier to set up. This is based on the very successful Leon Paul Junior Series we run in the UK but modified for the cultural and environmental differences of Japan. For example, the we will incorporate our ‘Fencing Passport’ that kids use to track their competition results:
  • To provide a simple to use, but fantastic looking finals set up so that the federation can visit schools and public display areas to showcase the very best of the sport.
  • To cultivate a wireless revolution, by helping clubs and coaches get competition level wireless fencing sets so that they can fence anywhere, quickly and easily.
  • To translate the fantastic children’s fencing book; About Fencing
About Fencing

I am hugely excited to see the fencing in Tokyo 2020, but I am equally excited to see a fencing legacy can be left so that even more people can learn and enjoy the sport, and perhaps make the next generation of legends like Yuki Ota’s for Japan.

Ben Paul and Yuki Ota

Environmental strategy what’s our plan? Ben Paul – Part 2

BYO!! (bring your own…. water, not alcohol) 

If you have been reading our previous blog posts, then you will know we are continually looking at how we can reduce our environmental impact on the planet. Part of the project is to reduce our plastic use and plastic footprint. Leon Paul runs and services many fencing events worldwide, and one of the things that you notice is that after the events the hall is littered with plastic bottles. Even though these can be recycled, I would say nine times out of ten, they end up in landfill.

This year with British Fencing, Dr Clare Halsted and Marcus Mepstead, we are looking to make our fencing events single-use plastic bottle free.

The best place to start is where we can have the quickest impact. Here at the Leon Paul Fencing Centre we have a vending machine, as we cannot prepare food on site without a licence. We have stocked water and energy drinks for years, but no more! We have replaced the water fountain for a new refrigerated water dispenser designed to be used with reusable water bottles.

The vending machine will now sell empty sports water bottles so you can fill your own with cold water. From now on, if you visit, remember to bring your own water.

At events that we travel to, we have no control over what they sell in vending machines or the facilities that they have. Therefore, we are limited to trying to promote our ideas before events and in the venues.

About one year ago, Marcus Mepstead, one of our sponsored British Foilists, was asking me what more he could do for Leon Paul. I jokingly said. “Save the World or win an Olympic medal”, to be fair, he is on course for giving the latter a good go! Marcus has also engaged with a company that recycles plastic and turn it into very strong fibres, and he is working on a campaign “fighting for the ocean”. Look out for more on this in a future blog post.

Here he is promoting bringing your own to fencing events.

Finally, we decided we need some eye-catching images that we could place around competitions and fencing centres to remind athletes of our goals. People have produced some stunning photos that can relay an idea far better than any words. I asked my friend, fencer and talented designer Jason Scrimshaw to come up with some images and I love the final version.

And here is the artwork in action on the new ‘Say no to rubbish’ banner for the fencing centre.

Are you already trying to avoid plastic in training and competitions? Let us know in the comments and share your strategies with the fencing world!

Environmental strategy! What’s our plan? Ben Paul – Part 1

Dear Fencers,

I am Ben Paul one of the owners of Leon Paul. I have become increasingly aware of the environmental issues we face in today’s world. As I have read more about these issues, I have become more concerned about our future on this planet. The next generation will have a colossal job fixing the problems of the past. I often feel helpless and that everything seems so daunting that it is easier to get on with the next email and to try to forget about it.

Over the years I have taken steps to improve my ecological footprint. Examples include: consuming less dairy, eating less meat, taking fewer flights and using more renewable energy. As a company we have done the obvious things, for example: recycling more, using products or chemicals that do not harm the environment, not wasting food, turning off lights when not in use etc.

Finally, I decided that it was time for not only me, but also the company to tackle this head on.

This year the FIE is also promoting the concept of protecting our planet. So I chatted to current World Championship silver medallist Marcus Mepstead about this subject when he was in London. You can watch some of the conversation here:

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

 ― Theodore Roosevelt

If you have read some of my previous posts you will already know that we love the idea of ‘moonshot’ thinking. This is a process that reinvents and revolutionises problem solving. How might this work for my problem?

The first task was to talk to my teams and get their thoughts, feedback and ideas as to how we might tackle this. Some of the best ideas come from where you least expect them!

The next was to set a time scale. We felt that one year is long enough to make a significant change and short enough to make real visible progress. The next step is to identify critical areas of the business that can be improved.

Packaging

Transport

  • Reduce transport of bought-in materials
  • Reduce space, volume and weight of shipped goods
  • Help reduce staff travel
  • Offer incentives for green transport (free electricity for staff and customer electric transport)

Energy

  • Use less energy (insulation, heating, cooling and manufacturing)
  • Only use renewable energy firms

Manufacture

  • Repair, maintain personal fencing gear
  • Use eco-friendly chemicals in the production
  • Use locally sourced materials where possible

Waste

  • Become a no paper office. Do we really need a printer?
  • Reduce food waste
  • Eliminate single use plastic bottles at events (vending machine)
  • Reduce cardboard and plastic from external suppliers

As we evaluated and critiqued this problem, we began to realise the size of this project. As discussions continued it became clear that this needed a figurehead to manage, drive and deliver on this important project.

Introducing Brenda Sorel. Brenda worked for us as an intern whilst at university in France. After her studies, she came back and started working for us as our Product Control & Commercial Support Supervisor. She is responsible for continuous improvement within our product range and commercial processes. As we continued down this path it became clear that this is an important issue to Brenda, and with the skills and qualities she possesses, was the ideal person to take on this vital role.

Finally, we need a target

  • 95% reduction in plastic packaging (our current packaging is biodegradable or made from recycled materials) 
  • 50% increase in chemical recycling (we pay a company to remove the chemical waste)
  • 25% reduction in all waste 
  • 15 % reduction in volumetric shipping based on the same weight (basically, to ship less air!)
  • 10% reduction in staff commuting 
  • All energy from renewable energy sources

Over the coming months we can update you further on our progress. Hopefully, some of it will tie into the 2019 FIE World Fencing Day *, which is focusing on this area.

We have made a great start! We have already introduced new compostable packaging for our clothing and from the beginning of September our masks will also be packaged in compostable material. But we still have a long way to go…

—-
* #FencingDay: World Fencing Day is an initiative of the FIE to promote our sport and its values and takes place annually in September, on the first Saturday.

Personification of a Sword – the Next Level of Fencing Equipment Customisation?

Flag designs on fencing masks (did you know we invented the flag mask?), team-inspired coloured uniforms for the FIE fashion show… here at Leon Paul we definitely have a sweet spot for personalised fencing equipment. And who knows: maybe in the future there will be customised fencing weapons? The first tests by our director Ben Paul do look promising… read on to learn more!

Continue reading “Personification of a Sword – the Next Level of Fencing Equipment Customisation?”

Don’t put me in recycling! Our new packaging has something to tell you

#LeonPaulgoesgreen? Yes, that’s our aspiration for the years to come. We’re currently implementing a series of measures in order to improve our company as a whole and make it (even) more ecologically and socially responsible. The first step of many? The packacking of our products. As a matter of fact, if you buy regularly from Leon Paul, in the next weeks and months you may start noticing a change in our plastic packaging. This sounds simple, but it gets complex fast… read on for some guidance by none other than our director Ben Paul.

 

Continue reading “Don’t put me in recycling! Our new packaging has something to tell you”

New FIE rules and the sponsorship game

At their annual congress held in Paris in December 2018 (right before the gala hosted to celebrate their 105th birthday, which we’ve blogged about extensively), updated their sponsorship rules, allowing for more advertising. These new rules are a fantastic opportunity for fencers to help finance their athletic dreams. You have 10 spaces for representing brands and if you are a top fencer or even an aspiring young fencer, new funding possibilities might now open up for you.

Our director Ben Paul gives you an overview over the new rules and shares his tips for athletes.

 

 

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When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (3/3): 3D printing a fencing mask

Fencers! The mask worn by world class sabre fencer James Honeybone on the runway at the FIE 105th anniversary gala has caught the attention of lots of you! In the last part of our series about how we came up with the ideas for the fencing fashion of the future seen on stage at the Grand Palais in Paris, our director Ben Paul explains (and shows!) how we made this one-of-a-kind mask and what was the ispiration behind it.  Read the full story after the jump!

 

3D printing a fencing mask

by Ben Paul

 

The last task for the fashion show was the mask to be used on the Overwatch uniform. We wanted to do something a little different and really push the boundaries of mask-making further.

After lots of research on masks, I had a few ideas of what we could try to replicate and adapt but I also wanted to use this project to test some new machines and technologies we have invested in. Technologies of the future, no less – think 3D-printing.

Yes indeed, we have a new 3D printing machine! This allows us to rapid prototype products. We can then take these 3D files and use a CNC mill to make metal versions of a product to test…. We can then inverse the 3D drawing to make a mould tool, take this to our injection moulding machine and mass produce the new component part. This process used to take months but now can be done in days.

So, we decided to 3D print the mask for the FIE gala fashion show and use the mill to make some of the metal fittings for the mask. I believe in 10 years time all or most fencing mask will be 3D printed from metal in a honeycomb structure so it is lighter and more breathable and be fully adjustable to a customers head. This project presented a is a nice way to start testing these theories and offer an outlook towards the future of fencing, which the FIE gala was all about.

As time was limited we decided to take a mask that had lots of images and work around it done by fans, and this mask (as many of you have recognised!) was the iconic mask from the film Iron Man.

By printing the masks in a transparent plastic we could then add LED lighting, so it could become part of the scoring systems used in fencing.

Lastly, we wanted the mask to open and close automatically, imagine how cool this would be if you could just press a button inside the mask to open it and discuss with the referee your issue with their last bad decision!

We used some carbon fiber to strengthen the mask and we could have used some neck protection that we use in HEMA (Historical European Martial arts), but we decided this took away from the aesthetics and this was after all a fashion project trying to show how the future of fencing might look.

Here’s the mask in action at the fashion show:

 

From this work I really think in the future masks can be produced from 3D printing in Titanium and designs could be made that were lighter, stronger and more practical. The technology will become cheaper over time and I cannot wait to see the first mask produced using this technique.

When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (2/3): Fencing uniforms based on teams for the e-sports league

It’s fencing fashion show time again, fencers! Two days ago, our director Ben Paul explained the leading principles behind the design for the FIE Fashion show held in Paris on December 9th, and today he will tell you more about the design and the actual products being made…make sure to check our social networks this weekend for more insight, some behind the scene glimpses (and then pictures of the actual uniforms, of course!)
Continue reading “When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (2/3): Fencing uniforms based on teams for the e-sports league”