Most people think that traditionally cudgels are made from Ash, the Iron of woods
as it is know. This is not in fact the case as many indigenous woods were used in
England. We know this through historical references and although Ash was probably
by far the most favoured or possibly simply the most common and hard wearing there
are many references of Crab Stick cudgels (Crab Apple or apple wood in general) along
with other common woods such as Hazel, Black Thorn, White Thorn and Oak.
Our ancestors would have had far greater access to coppiced woods. For example Willow
which would have been used in abundance for basket weaving etc and used to make wicker
pots for the country sport of Backswording.
An example of a wicker pot along with a 1890 Buffalo Hide pot
Coppicing is an English term for a traditional method of woodland management which
takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots
if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near
Coppiced Hazel ready for making cudgels.
NOTE - If you wish to coppice wood you will need the land owners permission and it
is advisable to stay clear of Ash these days due to the Ash die back. Ash dieback
is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea.
In the past we have experimented with many substitute materials for cudgels. We have
used Rattan, Kiln dried Ash and Oak along with Synthetic cudgels. None have proven
to be an adequate replacement for traditional coppiced wooden cudgels.
Rattan is far to stiff and inflexible which in full contact fighting can cause serious
injuries. It also has the unfortunate look that the general public associate with
Eastern Martial Arts. As Rattan is not traditional in English Cudgel play we do not
use it and it is banned from use in AOBC ECB tournaments.
Kiln Dried wood fractures too easily and the result is very sharp dangerous tips
as well as broken cudgels tend to send one part flying through the air which is a
serious danger to any bystanders.
Synthetic Cudgels much like their Synthetic sword counterparts simply do not feel
like a true cudgel and suffer from over flexibility. This results in a large amount
of kinetic energy being delivered at the tip when striking and we found out very
quickly under controlled test conditions that you can knock someone out with them.
Therefore these are also banned from AOBC ECB tournaments and we do not recommend
The finished competition maximum length for a cudgel is 41 inches this means that
after you have inserted the 'Spile' (traditional name for the peg which stops the
Pot from slipping off the Cudgel) about 1 inch up from the butt of the Cudgel and
you have your Pot in place it leaves a blade length equal to an average size Backsword.
Ideal therefore as a training waster for your Backsword play. Do not be mistaken
by making your cudgels to the shorter 36 inch length suggested in later references
to the country sport of Backswording/single stick play as by this time in history
the art of swordplay skill used in the days of yore had been mostly forgotten and
the game of Backswording had become a reduced to a sport of bludgeoning your opponent
with little to no regard for defence other than that to the head.
The modern revival in ECB strives to retain the Art of swordplay used with the Steel
Backsword from which ECB takes its name.
Making your new Cudgel
Coppice your cudgel from your chosen wood in excess on 41 inches so that you can
cut it to the perfect length when you return to your workshop. As you get proficient
at coppicing you will get an eye for it however I advise you to take an old cudgel
with you once you have made some. Then you can hold it up to your chosen length of
wood and check its long enough and of the right thickness before coppicing.
As to thickness it is often said a cudgel should be the thickness of a countryman's
middle finger. Well this is open to interpretation somewhat. I have met my fellow
county men that have huge fingers and others with very thin fingers. In general I
would recommend the thickness of your thumb in the centre of the cudgel. They naturally
taper so it will give you a thicker and better grip at the butt end and a less front
heavy tip end. You should avoid a cudgel that is too thick and is more akin to a
club than a cudgel as much as avoiding ones that are too thin and whippy which will
break far too soon. Yes break, that's what eventually cudgels do. You should avoid
the mentality that a cudgel is for life. Part of the beauty of the way a cudgel works
is that if you hit too hard it will fracture but the end wont fly off in to any viewing
crowd. This also teaches you not to bludgeon with your steel backsword. A vital lesson
in swordsmanship of speed, control and applying the right amount of force when needed.
You now have you fresh coppiced cudgel, cut it to the correct length and strip the
bark off while its fresh. A sharp knife is more than ample for this job. Once done
drill a hole about a pencils thickness about an inch up from the butt for you to
tap your Spile through. You can make you Spile out of the same wood you cut for your
cudgel however I prefer using a hard wood such as beach to make my Spiles from. Taper
one end of the Spile and tap it home through the hole. It should protrude a good
half an inch if not a bit more either side of the cudgel to stop the Pot from sliding
off the butt end. The Spile should be made wider than the hole so it lock firmly
in to place when hammered home. To finish off your cudgel round off the edges on
the tip and butt ends as this helps to prevent cuts and abrasions when striking your
You now have a Cudgel now for the Pot
Pots are easy to make, well hang on some are more intricate but a simple functional
folded pot will take you half an hour if that. I have seen people use Tupper Ware
containers covered in Duck Tape and Plastic fisherman's net buoys. Yes these are
functional but you cant beat a traditional leather one. I have put a a plan below
on how to make a stitched leather Pot. The plan has kindly been supplied by and the
Copy Right of Jed Pascoe. The folded pot pattern is one of mine and the best I have
found to do the job. TIP - Don't make the pot too big nor too small for your hand.
Too ig it will be cumbersome and too small will result in you getting bruised of
broken fingers! You have been warned. The leather should be about 3mm thick. Not
too thin its floppy nor to thick its unmanageable.
All the terms in the above plan are as close to the Old English terms for the parts
of the pot as we can ascertain from our research. Many from discussions with traditional
As the saying goes "A wise man never forgets his Nedgings"
The above plan shows a folded pot. Easy to make and very durable.
Once you have made your leather Pot you will need to wax harden it. This can be done
in several ways but the easiest way I have found to do this is as follows. Melt wax
in a pan. This can be from any white candles so easy to obtain and cheap. This is
best done using a gas hob outside of your home for safety sake. Again you have been
warned. Place you pot on an old broken cudgel so the Spile hold it in place. Then
with an old paint brush, an inch wide one will do the job best, coat the pot inside
and out with the hot wax. This will solidify and look awful so the next step is to
get a paint stripping gun or a blow torch I find the paint stripping gun safer to
control as you do not want to burn the stitching on a stitched pot, go over the pot
inside and out re-melting the wax but getting the wax to soak in to the leather.
continue to apply and soak in until the pot wont take any more. Two good applications
of wax will usually do it. Excess wax will run off so do it over some old news paper
that can be thrown away after or over a surface that will not be effected by the
wax so you can collect it up and use again.
Hopefully by now you should have a Pot. This should slide freely down the cudgel
and stop at the Spile. The pot should freely move up and down the cudgel and not
fit firmly in place. This is a safety feature the Old Gamsters of the past built
in to it. This is so if you thrust and hit home in your Backsword training or free
play a slight relaxing of the grip will allow the Pot to slide along the cudgel lessening
the impact force and not inflict a severe injury to your opponent.
I hope this has helped you on your way to making a traditional cudgel and Pot. Below
are a few photos of both folded and stitched pots to give you some ideas as to how