Sunday, July 18, 2010

DIY Foam Swords, Part 2: Playtest and Improvements

The 12 foam swords used for the playtest, mostly intact!
Hahaha! So four of us went to the park the other day just to try out the foam swords. Of course we brought some extra swords along (to duel wield and whatnot) and some nerf guns. But then the kids in the park kept coming up to us wanting to play too! Eventually, we had outfitted pretty much all the kids in the park with foam swords and we starting running "missions" like capture the flag (waterbottle) from the fort and escort the VIP from one end of the park to the other. Oh man, it was a blast! At one point we had at least 16+ kids out there whopping and hollaring and dueling it out on the grass (we need to get a picture of this!). We even got a group of highschoolers who were watching/chilling on the side to join in. All-in-all an excellent playtest with a wide test population, which lead to improvements in the foam sword design. Read on to see how to make the swords better!

First lessons learned, when you're dealing with kids, you want to make sure it's really safe! We only let then play with the long swords because they have the most flex. None of the kids got hurt the entire time so that was good sign as well. However, after examining the swords afterward, there were a few that were "damaged" from the a couple of problems:
4 of 12 foam swords had ripped tips.

The solution to all of lifes problems: more duct tape!

1. The tip was ripping off exposing the hard PVC pipe core! this is a major safety problem! After doing some failure analysis (thinking about it) it's because the core doesn't extend all the way to the tip, so a strong enough side-ways force may rip the foam tip off! The elegant solution, is to just add another strip of duct tape (in yellow) to overlap with the core inside. This makes the tip cap a single piece supported by the core.

8 out of 12 rubber tips fell off on the field , 5 were recovered.
2. The rubber tips on the other end (pommel-handle) kept falling off. I tried both hot glue and gorilla grip glue and neither really likes to stick to smooth PVC or rubber. Perhaps the rubber tip is powdered on the inside. The easiest solution i came up with is to mechanically strap it down on the outside instead of relying on adhesives on the inside of the rubber tip. A strip of white electrical tape across and a ring of around the side sufficiently locks the rubber tip in place, just like how the safety plug is locked in with duct tape at the sword tip.
Solution: strap across with a locking ring around with white masking tape!  Also, check out the diamond-checkered grip pattern!  Some of them i just used bands of tape to keep the foam sheets from peeling up.

Another minor improvement was the handle grips. Some of the foam sheet grips were peeling up and hot glue didn't seem to keep it down well enough, i resorted to a diamond-checkered pattern with ribbon wrap to keep the grips tight. It's actually pretty easy (two ribbon strips cut to same length and hot-glued as you wrap) and i got a lot of compliments on the look. In general, it's better to use the white electrical tape because the sticky residue that you get at the edge would be white as well (versus the sticky black residue from black electrical tape).

Some ideas for the future: better defined "missions" and make real flags to capture would be pretty sweet. Also, right now i only have about 6 long swords of each color (x3), increasing that to 10 of each color would make it easier to do teams games. What about customized foam weaponry for each person? We could say all everyone make you own to keep in your trunk or even go beyond foam swords to say foam spears, nunchucks, tonfas etc! Possibilities are endless!

1 comment:

Laura said...

Just a reminder that waivers are great!

...and that I've added you to my blogroll. :P