RAPPER SWORD MAINTENANCE

By FRANK LEE, SWORDMAKER

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The spring steel used in making these swords is not stainless, and will rust if left with fingermarks on it.

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To keep the swords looking new you will need someone prepared to make a religion of using the oiling tool (supplied) after each days use, and preferably within six hours of their last use; less than a minute's use of the tool will save hours of work with paraffin and steel wool, which in any case will not restore the metal to it's original condition if it has rusted.

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Light oil, e.g sewing machine oil, or a water displacer such as WD40 should be used. (WD40 may be best, since some oils contain sulphur, which stains the metal.) Keep the tool with the rappers.

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Don't forget to wipe off the oil before dancing!

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Also, it goes without saying that as the life of the blades is finite, the less they are idly (or nervously!) flexed while waiting to dance, the longer they will last.

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Handling also substantially affects the life of blades. It is not generally appreciated that much of most rapper dances can be performed whilst holding the handles between finger tips and thumb. This allows the handles to lean in line with the blades and puts much less stress on the steel. Beginners tend to grip the handles 'for grim death', in white knuckled fists, and can easily find themselves holding the handles at right angles to the direction of pull - this is certain to shorten blade life appreciably. Try the 'finger tip' technique in figures like 'Mary Ann' and 'Curly', - you may be surprised.

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All spring steel has an elastic limit, and will kink if bent beyond it. However, if kinks do occur, they can easily be straightened, and blade life will not be shortened unless the kinks are very severe, or unless they frequently affect the same swords in the same place. (The swords are numbered on the ferrules)

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Unless varnish has been stipulated, the handles will have been stained black to disguise the grubby appearance they otherwise take on, and then waxed. Varnish becomes slippery, with possible dire consequences if your dance includes any 'basket' figures. Also with regard to 'baskets', the swivels are made thinner at the waist, and fatter at the bulb than the old 'file handle' shape.

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The fixed handles are secured with 5mm hexagon socket screws and specially made nuts, after rivets were found to stretch, resulting in a troublesome gap between the blades and the handles. Should the screws work loose through time, they may be tightened using the 3mm hexagon key supplied.

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Regularly inspect the handles, especially the fixed ones, for nicks and splinters and glasspaper them out.

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The swords may be re-bladed when necessary, and fixed handles can be replaced if they become unacceptably worn.