A Youth Combat Pell

Pells are poles used as a target for sword practice. They’ve been used for at least two thousand years, as documented in this article on the ARMA site.

Common pell forms used in SCA adult armored combat practice are generally based on a 4×4 post wrapped in rope, with the base sunk in a 5 gallon bucket of concrete encircled by an old tire, or set into a post bracket attached to a wooden base.

Unfortunately, these pells are hard to transport in a crowded car, and the rough edges of the wood tend to shred the padded weapons used in youth combat.

I constructed a cheap, portable break-down pell appropriate for youth combat using an H-frame base made of PVC pipe. There are a few H-frame pell designs online; this one at ARMA is pretty similar to the one I describe below.

The result is not strong enough for adult rattan practice, but it works well for youth and is very popular at public demos, where we can allow children to come in and take some swings at it.

Frame Supplies:

  • Two ten-foot pieces of 2″ PVC pipe.
  • One ten-foot piece of 1.5″ PVC pipe.
  • Three “T” junctions for 2″ PVC.
  • Four end caps for 2″ PVC.
  • A small container of PVC cement.

The PVC pipes are about $10 each at Lowes/Home Depot, the junctions are about $3 each, the end caps are a bit less, and the cement will be around $10 — so total cost here is around $60.

Frame Construction:

Cut a 6′ post from the 2″ pipe and then cut the remainder into 2′ lengths (you’ll have seven of these but you only need six).

Cut two 51″ lengths from the 1.5″ pipe.

Use the cement to join two pieces of 2″ pipe together with the three T-junctions as shown below. Make sure that the Ts are perpendicular to each other. This will be the central crossbar of your pell. Set this piece aside for a few minutes to cure.

Cement an end cap on to each of the four remaining pieces of 2″ pipe and set them aside for a few minutes to cure.

Slide one of these pipe-and-endcap assemblies over each end of the two pieces of 1.5″ pipe to test the fit. These will be the “legs” of your pell.

Now assemble the base by separating the leg pieces and sliding them through the open T-junctions on each end of your crossbar. Push each 2″ leg snugly into the corresponding T-junction.

Finally, insert the 6′ post into the center T junction and admire your completed frame.

Frame Variations:

If you want to make your pell more attractive, you can sand and stain the pipes before construction, or paint them afterwards.

If you didn’t need to transport the pell, you could omit the pieces of 1.5″ pipe and permanently cement the 2″ legs directly into the T-junctions, but if you’re going to leave the legs loose so you can disassemble them, the addition of the 1.5″ pipe inside the legs gives them a bit more strength, and means that if one of the legs works loose while kids are hitting it, the pell won’t fall over on anyone.

If you find that the legs of the pell have a tendency to slip out of the T-junctions, you can assemble the base and use a power drill to drill a 1/4″ hole all the way through each leg, including passing through the 1.5″ pipe hidden inside, and then use 2.5″ x 1/4″ bolts to fasten them, loosening the bolts when you need to disassemble the frame for transport.

If you wanted to construct a pell for use by adults you could make it out of 1″ or 1.25″ or 1.5″ steel pipe and use 3′ sections for the legs instead of 2′ sections. The cost for this will likely be in the $100-$200 range.

Padding Supplies:

  • A roll of old carpet, carpet padding, 1/2″ foam, or something similar.

I found a piece of carpet padding around 5’x20′ in the trash when our neighbors redid their floors; if you don’t have something like this on hand, you can use a couple of old foam camping mattresses, or tape six pool noodles to the post.

Padding Construction:

Remove the center post from your frame and lay it on the floor. Secure one edge of the padding to it, with the padding sticking out a few inches past one end of the pole.

I drilled a couple of small holes in the pipe and drove in small screws to hold the edge of the padding, but you might be able to achieve similar results with glue or tape.

Then roll the padding tightly around the center post and bind it into place. I tied the padding with two loops of manilla rope, but a bunch of duct tape would probably work as well.

Alternately, lay six pool noodles alongside the center post and fasten them to the post and each other with a bunch of duct tape.

If you’re using camp foam or pool noodles, you could protect your padding by sewing a fitted sleeve for it from canvas or another tough fabric.


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