The Mag-Tec Zer0 Grip | Alex Massialas

When Leon Paul launched the Mag-Tec grip I was a little skeptical about trying something new. No one had ever done something like this before and after fencing for 14 years with a standard pistol grip (albeit with a little bit of tape on the grip), I obviously wanted to make sure I really liked it if I was going to use it in practice and competition. In late 2017 and early 2018, Leon Paul sent me the first prototypes and I was instantly drawn by the reduced weight.

Last year I finished a degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford and one of my final projects was on the history and evolution of the pistol grip so I thought this would be a perfect product for me to help develop with them.

One of the reasons that I have always liked Leon Paul is because they are so eager to innovate and improve their products based off feedback from their athletes. With my degree in mechanical engineering, I feel like I can offer even more insight on products because I understand the manufacturing involved and the ideas of design thinking/rapid prototyping. When they initially approached me with the idea of making an even lighter handle, I was more than willing to help brainstorm and work on the product with them.

Initially we explored 3D printing, of which there are several types. This made a nice light handle but each type had its problems. Resin based printing (SLA) ended up with handles that were either flexible and tough, or hard and fragile. Printers which use hot plastic (FDM) ended up splitting along the lines between the layers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to feasibly 3D print using metal so it seemed like we would have to give up using 3D printing to manufacture the grips.

We went back to the drawing board and thought about how else we could reduce the weight of the handle without changing the material. That’s when we started looking at drilling out parts of the existing handle to reduce the weight.

When I first received the first “skeleton” grip from Leon Paul, I didn’t know what to expect. Would the various holes leave blisters on my hand? With holes drilled into the handle, would the change in how stress is distributed cause the grips to break more often? The Leon Paul grips are already the lightest out there, would the difference in weight really be that noticeable? With weight being taken away from the grip, would that throw off the balance of the blade? These were just a few of the questions I was asking myself before I had even tried it in practice.

My biggest worry from the very beginning was that the holes that were milled into the grip would leave blisters and cut up my glove. Going into my first fencing practice with the skeleton grip all I did was add some tape to where the pinky finger grasps the grip (which is how I tape all my grips) because I wanted to see if I would have this problem without adding any tape or padding.

I went through my first lesson with the new handle and I could immediately feel a difference. The grip made my foil feel lighter and I felt as though I could move my hand just a little bit faster. Even just letting the other fencers at the club hold it, they all described the experience of holding the foil with the new grip the same way: “air-y”. Not only was there a noticeable difference but, with just the lesson, I didn’t feel like the grip was causing any new blisters or chafing my hand uncomfortably. This was only a lesson though, now I needed to try it in bouts during a real fencing practice.

With the higher intensity and increased speed of bouting, I definitely felt right away that the grip was slightly uncomfortable. Though most of my hand felt fine, the only place where I could feel chafing was the last digit of the third finger because there was hole right there. After my first bout I quickly taped up the hole and continued fencing and for the rest of practice, I didn’t have any problems! It didn’t feel like I was chafing my finger anymore and it was a pleasure to use the grip from there on out.

I took this feedback to Leon Paul and together we decided that the middle two holes where your middle finger and ring finger sit should only go part way through the handle. This way you still have a lot of weight taken off the grip, but you don’t have to worry about the ergonomics of the grip since it feels the same.

I also suggested adding some more holes through the front of the handle vertically. This not only reduces weight but also helps adds more grip for your thumb and index finger.

I have since then incorporated the grip into my fencing practices and have even used it in competition at the World Cups. I actually received the final prototype in Budapest before I competed in the World Championships and used it when I was competing! I love how light the grip is and I believe every high level fencer would be able to tell the difference if they were to try it. The grip feels comfortable, the difference in weight is noticeable, and I haven’t had to change the way I set my blades.

This was the first time I worked on developing a product with Leon Paul and I have to say, it was very rewarding. Not only is it obvious that they care about improving their products so that their fencers have the highest chance to succeed, but the thought and user feedback that goes into developing their products in superb. It has been great to be involved in developing this product in conjunction with Leon Paul and I hope I can help out with more in the future!

Check out the new Mag-Tec Zer0 grip here:
https://www.leonpaul.com/mag-tec-zero-pistol-grip.html

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”

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”

When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (1/3): the idea behind Leon Paul’s uniforms for the FIE fencing fashion show

With December now upon us, the festive season is definitely here. But, at least for the international fencing crowd, December 2018 is about more than just Christmas celebrations.  During their annual Congress on the second weekend of December, this year the F.I.E. will celebrate their 105 year anniversary in Paris and as part of the festivities, they are hosting a massive gala event at the Grand Palais, right next to the world-famous Champs-Elysées. What would a gala event in Paris, the city of Haute Couture and designers be, without a fashion show? In this particular case involving fencing fashion, of course!  So that’s what the fencing world is going to see in Paris:  All the major manufactures of fencing equipment produce two uniforms and get an opportunity to show it on stage at the event. Talk about a great chance to showcase new and exciting ideas to the whole fencing community! 5 years ago, for the 100th anniversary of the F.I.E., we did a project that explored lighting fencing gear and a lighting system showing the fencers face (a project by the way which is about to come in for a new wireless fencing system we have worked on… more on that next year, stay tuned!), but this year, our company director Ben Paul had something different in mind. Read all about his inspiration after the jump (and look forward to more, as this is only the first instalment of a three-part series!)

Continue reading “When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (1/3): the idea behind Leon Paul’s uniforms for the FIE fencing fashion show”