One of the most important pieces of equipment and indeed protective equipment that a fencer needs to obtain is gloves. This is regardless of the type of fencing that the person is engaging in. This blog addresses the idea of new gloves primarily and how to make them more usable to the fencer, or how to prepare a pair of gloves so that they can be used.
The first thing that needs to be discussed is glove choice. In this there are many different pieces of advice that can be given and many different types of glove to choose from. There are fencing gloves of various kinds, gardening gloves of various kinds, and of course all manner of glove in between. So the fencer needs to make a choice as to what is best for them.
The first piece of advice that I will give is go for a leather pair, that is leather in some fashion. Leather has the advantage of being natural and also hardy in nature for the most part. These are two attributes which will serve you well in the long run. Natural has the advantage of being able to breathe and thus allow some of the sweat from your hands to dissipate. Hardy means that they will last a longer amount of time than if they were not. As such avoid artificial or constructed materials such as vinyl in your gloves.
The next piece of advice which is important is fit. Some styles of gloves only come in certain sizes and it is important that you choose a style of glove which suits your hand shape and size. Sure there is some leeway, but they have to start with a reasonable fit to start with if you are to have any hope of being comfortable. This is the second factor they need to be comfortable, not much good if you want to take them off the instant you put them on.
Some gloves start of quite supple due to their construction and material. Some gloves start of quite stiff and will need quite a bit of working to get them supple. The irony is that the stiffer gloves will take longer to prepare, but will also last longer. The ones which are more supple to begin with will be easy to use and prepare but are less likely to last as long. These are all considerations that should be made in your glove choice.
The primary focus for the preparation of the gloves in this blog will be toward welding gloves. This is because these are the type of glove which I favour myself and have been using for years. However the points which are raised here will pertain to other types of glove as well. However, consider how the preparation suggested may affect your particular type of glove before applying it.
New welding gloves are stiff and they are most often quite thick. What this means is that the fencer will have a hard time moving their hands freely and also being able to feel through them. Both of these things are bad for the fencer as it will lead to them holding their weapon too tight for starters.
The softening of gloves is best dong with no mechanical devices assisting in the stretching of the glove. If a mechanical device is used it may over-stretch the glove or force it into the wrong shape. The softening of the gloves is best done with your own hands, or more to the point the hands that will wear the gloves once they are prepared. This will result in the glove conforming better to the shape of the hand which is to wear the glove. It is one of those times when it really is better to do it yourself.
The gloves can be loosened through the use of water or similar natural substances or appropriate liquids or without them. In the case of welding gloves I advise the use of water as this aids in the breaking of the fibres and thus the loosening of the gloves.
In this, firstly run water to as hot a temperature as you can stand to put your hands into. Second put your hands into the gloves and then put them in the water. Once you can feel that your hands are wet and thus the gloves are soaked through, start making movements with your fingers while still in the water. Once they have loosened a little you can then include movements of the hands and wrists. Move the hands in movements similar to those expected to be done in normal use of the gloves. Once you have done this for a bit, take your gloves out of the water while your hands are still in them and continue to move them about until most of the water has run out of them. Keep moving until the gloves are only a little wet. Take the gloves off and roll them up to the wrist, then unroll them. Place your hands back in the gloves and move them again. Once they have gone back to the form of your hands hang them up to dry.
This is an initial shaping and is only the beginning of the process. The best way to improve your gloves is to use them as they will develop their own shape as they are used and will more and more conform to your hands. The irony of all of this is that your gloves will improve (for the most part) right up until they need to be replaced and will actually be at their peak just beforehand.
Gloves are often forgotten for comfort and importance in favour of the mask or helm, or even the weapon. The gloves should not be forgotten as they are an essential piece of equipment that no fencer can do without. Look after your gloves and use them well and they will serve you well. Remember all new gloves, regardless of their form or construction need some breaking in.