When do we get that 1st FIE fencing weapon?
For younger fencers, the main consideration is to get a fencing blade that allows for good point control. Most Chinese and Eastern European made blades fulfill this requirement at very reasonable cost.
FIE fencing blades last longer, in general, as they are hand forged and made of maraging steel instead of regular carbon steel. So theoretically, you may save money even though you are spending much more for the fencing weapon.
Teenage fencers, especially, put a lot of stress on their weapons from training 4 to 5 times a week, and competing 2 to 3 times a month. Their fencing styles and how they treat their weapons also make a difference. My son blew threw 10 Uhlmann and Allstar BF FIE fencing blades in less than 12 months between his 1st and 2nd year of Y14, but the rate of breakage has slowed down substantially as his fencing and attitude have improved.
In the last 6 months, he has broken only one blade. The intensity of training at a 2 week pre-Summer Nationals camp will probably cause, at least, one to two breakages. We've never finished a Summer Nationals without one broken blade, at a minimum.
So, I'm looking at an average of $600 to $1500 expense annually for FIE fencing weapons.
Because FIE weapons are hand forged, there is always variance in weight and stiffness. My son uses Uhlmann and Allstar Blaise Frere (BF) "D" foil blades. He checks each blade out individually for weight and stiffness. My son has now become quite expert at picking out blades that he likes, and his blades are easily interchangeable because he selects them carefully for similar weight and stiffness. He doesn't have a "favorite" blade, which some fencers do.
A side note on "favorite" blades - you don't want to encourage this because if the blade breaks in competition, the psychological effect of not having that "favorite" blade could be very problematic.
The feedback I get from my son is that the Uhlmann and Allster BF fencing blades don't degrade as much over time. They keep more or less the same stiffness level. He has used other branded BF blades (which cost less than Uhlmann and Allstar blades), but they have become noticeably whippier over time,. These blades get retired and used as deep back-up because he loses some degree of point control when the blade gets whippier.
My recommendation is to wait till your fencer is in the Y14 age group before picking up that 1st FIE weapon. By then, their ability to discern blade stiffness and weight, and how it fits with their fencing style will be much better developed. Your money will be well spent when they get the blades that fit their fencing style best.
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