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The Next Generation
[08/24/2012] [Randall]

This article reviews Warlord Sports' AetherTube, a $12 pre-cored tube of sword foam available here.

'Member this? It's an article from 2010 talking about the safety hazard posed by the cheap noodle that dominates Amtgard sword construction. In that article, I talked about how noodle is shrinking below our 2 1/2" safety requirement, how the hole in the middle is getting bigger, and how the foam itself is increasingly cheap and fragile—all in all, producing swords that barely last a few hours before becoming dangerous. And when they become dangerous, it's generally sudden, going from safe to ow! in just one shot. Noodle's clearly a problem.

For a lazy person like me, the time it took to rebuild swords every week was time I'd rather spend doing nothing, so I was happy to try out the more durable aetherfoam tubes once the weight got down to noodle levels. Here is my story—a four-month journey that began at SKBC 2012 and ended this week.

Let's start from the end, because that's more interesting than the beginning, and is really what this whole article is about. My aetherfoam sword finally started to die this week at fighter practice, so I decided to tear it down and rebuild it. This gave me an opportunity to document how the foam has held up since I made the sword at the beginning of May. Please note that the sword did not blow out, but rather started to feel like it had deteriorated and damaged in a few places due to coming off the core a little. This moved the blade past the core by an inch, which led to most of the damage.

After taking the foam off, it was pretty obvious that the foam bent a bit due to slipping from the core.

It's a fuzzy picture, but you can see where the tape has started to split and crinkle here. Also, you can see where part of the noodle tip has turned to dust. Most of the tape has dried out and peeled away from the core.

Peeling back the tape, there's a spot where the foam split along the same line as the tape. This is the only place on the exterior of the foam where I could find damage.

Removed the tube and the finger. Here's the inside. The horizontal lines aren't damage -- that's just where the foam is glued together. You can see the split in the foam, where it's damaged but not blown through.

The foam is still largely usable, and I could have just flipped it for another four months of life, but instead chose to cut it open for science. This picture shows the splitting more clearly, especially in the half on the left. The split is more pronounced than it was when it was taped to the core, because the foam was compacted to the core by tape and itself, but there's certainly damage here. I couldn't feel core through it when it was on the sword, but could tell that I had a soft spot going on. And there it is.

I believe I took this sword out two weeks after SKBC, so May 12th. That's 15 weeks of usage, during which I attended almost every fighter practice and Amtgard day, fighting for an average of 2 hours on Thursday and 3 on Saturday. That means 75 hours of fighting got the sword to this point. A casual fighter who maybe racks up 30 to 60 minutes of actual fighting time on the weekend could easily get two years out of an aethertube.

A rough cost analysis: a $1 noodle could last me one to three days, sometimes four. Depending on when I'd notice the swords were blown, I recall rebuilding swords every other week, which costs about $10 over 15 weeks. Tape and other sword sundries would be replaced each time. The tube cost me $12. Counting tape and stuff, the aethertube is at least as cheap as noodle over the long term, and is probably more cost-effective. It's a time-saver, too -- I didn't have to rebuild swords, and this sword lasted so long that the pommel fell off twice before the blade started to give.

Given that I tore this sword down before it was dead, and given the time saved in not having to rebuild swords every week or so, and given that the aetherfoam is approximately as light as noodle, I am happy with aetherfoam as a noodle replacement.

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