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Cornish Wrestling Association

 

Cudgels

 

What we use and how to make them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 We know this through historical references and although Ash was probably by far the most favoured or possibly simply the most common and hard wearing there are many references of Crab Stick cudgels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 ground level..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 their use.

 

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 opponent.

 

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 leather workers.

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 they look.