Penetration-resistant material, masks and blade flexibility must be tested by an authorised marshal at least every two years, separate to inspections at training and events.
Penetration-resistant material is tested using a drop tester that meets SCA standards. The specifications for creating a drop-tester are available in Appendix 3 of the Society Fencing Marshals Handbook. The drop tester enables marshals to consistently test material by dropping a known weight a known distance, creating a known impact. To conduct the test you need all pieces shown in the figure below, including:
- a guide tube
- a drop probe
- a 75 mm threaded PVC flange
- two hose clamps
- a screw driver or nut clamp to tighten the hose clamps.
- Use a hard surface. Carpet or grass absorb impact and make the test unreliable.
- Set the flange thread side up and lay the test fabric over it.
- Fit the first hose clamp over the fabric and flange, and pull the fabric tight as you push the clamp down. Tighten the clamp.
- Fit the second clamp below the flange so that it is touching the first. Make sure the fabric is tightly secured.
- Place the guide tube vertically in the centre of the fabric.
- Insert the probe into the guide tube, lined up to the mark to drop it from.
- Drop the probe.
- Examine the fabric.
- If the test fabric has 4 layers, and the probe has penetrated anything below the top layer of fabric, the material fails.
- If the test fabric has fewer than 4 layers, and the probe penetrates through any layer, the material passes.
- If the probe does not punch through, check that the clamps are still secure and that the fabric did not slip.
- If the marshal is satisfied, the material passes.
The following materials are known to pass these tests when new:
- ballistic nylon rated to at least 550 Newtons
- commercial fencing clothing rated to at least 550 Newtons
- mail made of welded or riveted steel rings that will not admit a 5/32 inches (4 mm) diameter probe. Rings no greater than 0.155 inches (4 mm) in internal diameter made of wire no less than 0.020 inches (0.5 mm) thick meet this requirement
These materials only need to be tested at the marshal's discretion.
To test the flexibility of a blade, follow this procedure.
- Clamp or hold the blade, where the ricasso meets the tang, on a rigid surface, such as a table, to ensure it doesn't move at the table end. The rest of blade must extend off the rigid surface so that it is unsupported.
- Hang a 170 gram (6oz) weight 25 mm from the tip.
- If the blade of a dagger flexes at least 12/5mm (1/2 inch), it meets the standard.
- For a sword used in Fencing Combat, the blade must flex at least 25mm (1 inch).
- For a sword used in Cut and Thrust Combat, the blade must flex at least 12.5mm (1/2 inch).