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Kit mod: fencing mask padding

Look, no padding
Recently I've got into thinking I should do something to my mask to beef it up against those forthright downright blows to the head that Silver is so fond of. It seems to be something that my fencing mask is entirely not built to protect me against, which makes sense, as it's constructed to deflect thin poking things from the front of my face not heavy iron bars from the tops and sides of my head.

If I look at my mask all the interior padding is around the front along the chin and forehead. What this means is that if I get smacked directly in the face then the mask is both held away from my face but also I'm somewhat padded. There is also padding around the sides up to my ear level but then above this and to the top has nothing. This means if I get hit here the mask isn't really protecting me as essentially the blow just mashes the mesh into my head and it's like it isn't there.

This is presumably the problem that all these mask overlays look to address.

I seem to remember that most designs are based off the old sport fencing sabre cover, designed to give coaches a little extra protection from sports sabres.

Something that's bothered me for a little while and the reason why I've never bought one of these (big caveat here: I've no personal experience of a wrap around protector) it how it is a good idea to have the padding external to your armour, i.e. your mesh.

You don't often, historically speaking, get the situation whereby you put your padding over your armour because it's kinda stupid. The blow passes through the soft padding, hits your armour which then gets mashed into your head. What tends to happen is you put your padding below your armour which then supports the armour to dissipate the blow.

Now, A lot of people use these in HEMA so they must feel like they are working but I can't help but thinking that these have a number of really bad downsides such as:

  • Because they have to cover everywhere without gaps they must totally insulate the head thereby making it much hotter 
  • They must effect your vision as they would cover the area at the corners of your eyes
  • The ones with the integrated neck pieces must effect your head movement
So not only do I wonder if it might not be more protecting to simply put the padding inside the mask (thereby supporting the mesh to do it's job) but because the mesh forms a continuous barrier you could probably punch holes in your padding to let air through and it also wouldn't sit within your field of vision.

To this end I cheaply, quickly and without finesse constructed a foam add on to the existing foam padding to cover the top and sides of my mask.

This is simply some roll mat foam of approximately the thickness of the existing fencing mask foam. I've constructed it with one long piece going from ear to ear and with a second piece directly over the centre of the head to provide extra padding for a direct downwards blow (should also help wedge it in place).

This is then lightly stitched onto the existing foam insert so that the whole can be velcroed back into place.

The result is that it fits into place rather nicely, tucking in above the existing padding on the sides.

When I pop it onto my head I notice a slight reduction in capacity to open and close my jaw but it's only very minor (clearly there's meant to be a little space at the top of the mask).

To test I popped my mask on and hit myself on the head with an axe handle for a while, both with and without the extra foam, and the difference was a significant improvement with the extra foam.

Now I'm going to try this in action and I'm also thinking about the best way to punch air holes into the foam to aid cooling but otherwise this is a very cool little mod.


  1. There is some evidence to suggest that soft external passing is an effective means of reducing impact, contrary to the concerns you raise about external padding. See this article:

    This being said, I think that this hack is likely to be effective as well.. ANd have you thought about fitting a rugby cap underneath?

  2. That's very interesting, thank you.

    I've often thought about rugby caps, I know one person who does this and I've given it a try. The result, for me, was just a little too much padding and I found it too was very hot as well.


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