Which monk spade I should buy by weight?

Discussion in 'General Weapons Discussion' started by drummerene, Apr 28, 2020.

  1. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    Should I buy a (monks spade) that weighs 3 lbs or closer to 5.5 lbs? Both are 74" long. Will the small weight difference restrict my movements that much more? I'm 6ft 190 lbs. And do you think it would be possible to lightly spar against other weapons without damaging the weapons or each other? They sell one that is like 12 to 13 lbs but I don't know if that's practical for a beginner or at all?

    Heres a link to one of the them: Crescent Moon Spade

     
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    That particular item looks like it is cheaply made and probably of poor quality. I very much doubt you could spar with it with any contact, and expect to not damage it.

    However there is a more important question: are you getting quality instruction in the monk spade, and if so, what is your instructor advising you? And regarding the sparring, what is far more critical is injury to yourself or your partner. If you have no training and are just figuring this out, sparring is going to be dangerous and I highly discourage it. If you are getting quality training and guidance, and if you get a spade that is well-built and done with some safety issues like blunt blades perhaps made of wood and covered in padding, and you are wearing some safety gear like gloves and a face mask of some kind, then with high quality guidance you might eventually be able to proceed with some kind of controlled interactive drills and maybe approach something like sparring. I HIGHLY DISCOURAGE you from trying to figure this out on your own, if that is what you are doing. That would be a bad idea and could be very dangerous.
     
  3. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    What makes you think it's cheap? Where else could I buy it from? What if you practice your moves slow and avoid the ones you think might be to cause injury at least at first like spinning moves and the like? Obviously if the blades are dull it helps to some extent but not blunt impact. I'm learning from videos. They don't make wood monks spade or poly ones AFAIK. Thanks for the help.
     
  4. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    I love this idea of being scared of hurting yourself. I was handed a set of nun chucks when I was 8.

    Now that is hurting yourself.
     
  5. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    The price. :D
     
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  6. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    The price, and if you look at the closeup photos of the blade it isn’t a real blade. It is a hollow-form of some kind probably made of aluminum or some other sheet metal. If that thick blade was solid steel it would weigh twenty or thirty pounds. These are made to be light and fast for performance Modern Wushu type stuff, which is not traditional fighting kung fu. But it is not a real weapon, it is a stage prop. It would break if you gave it any contact training and did anything other that open-air forms training.

    I saw the other one you mentioned, the heavy one. If you look at the photos you will see that has a blade that isn’t hollow-form. I can’t speak to the quality of the manufacture nor the quality of the steel in the blades and I am always cautious with those where the staff can be unscrewed and taken apart as I feel those joints will always be a weak point that may fail someday. Maybe that is just me being over cautious, but that’s how I feel about them. This is the kind of thing that I am always reluctant to recommend a purchase over the internet, without an opportunity to handle and inspect the piece first. A lot of these things can be presented on the website to look good, but when you get them in your hand you discover they are junk, poorly assembled and made of inferior materials. And if you get this heavy one and start sparring, you will have a high risk of injury if you hit someone with it. That weight and the momentum with an actual (possibly) blade, you just can’t make contact with it without someone getting a bad cut or smashed, even if the blade is dull.

    As to learning this by video, I really cannot encourage you to do that. I think you are on the road to injury, especially if you and a friend decide to start sparring. At the very least I think you will be frustrated and disappointed that you don’t make anything like the progress you assumed you would make. This stuff really needs to be learned from a good teacher and not by video. I think you would just be playing in the back yard, not developing any genuine skill nor understanding of the weapon. And a weapon like the Monk Spade is not very common and is less intuitive and I think less likely than others, like a staff for example, to be able to progress even a little bit without that instruction.
     
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  7. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Expensive doesn't mean well made. Flying Crane specified "cheaply made." There aee lots of weapons out there for sale... and quiteca few are not made suitably for hard training. They look cool on a wall, but are made of inferior metals, poorly assembled, use woods that are too soft or too brittle, and so on...

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
     
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  8. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Not always but you do get what you pay for with most articles you buy. If it were well made it would certainly cost more.
     
  9. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    Well all I can say is the vendor told me that specific spade I linked to, they said is made of carbon steel (but I'm not sure if that's just them making that up or what really? I don't know much about steels other than hearing stainless is bad for longer weapons because of those longer lengths causing breakage on contact. Is there a rough guide on how long and wide a weapon should be before it shouldn't be stainless anymore? Could you enlighten me on the matter? Since you seem to know quite a lot, by what measure can one say "x" weapon is suitable enough for combat when it comes to facing any other weapon if there is a such a thing? Do you know any reputable makers who would build me (or offer) a real combat monks spade and training version like the wood one or maybe polypropelene and how much should I expect to pay? If not would if be feasible to just try and make a wooden training one?

    BTW I never understood this whole mentality about having to learn one weapon before graduating to another when it comes to weapon training. Can you elaborate about that a bit? Couldn't "x" movement taken from one weapon possibly be adapted to only the weapon you want to learn, like the monks spade and not staff for example? Also I would like to find a good trainer, but seem to find a lot of suspect schools in my area in terms of how they train and lack of safety precautions I've trained at. How could a beginner decipher a good trainer and on top of that a lot of chinese martial arts schools I've seen in videos seem to train with those flimsy wushu weapons. Shouldn't they be sparring with real combat weapons if they are at that level of training or if not the wooden training ones you mention? It's kind of the reason I want to consider videos instead and find a training partner but am not closed to the idea of an actual good school. Again I'm a beginner at all this, but I ask questions and cross reference too on things that might seem dubious and without purpose like anyone else should.
     
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  10. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    All steel has carbon. You would want to know what steel that is.

    The likelihood that any of those weapons could take impact is pretty slim.

    Jump on a medieval site. Read about the weapons used by guys who actually do contact and try to match them up would be my best guess.
     
  11. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Busy at the moment but will get back with some thoughts when I’ve got some time. This might take a little thought on my part to give you an answer that can resonate, so hopefully within a couple days.
     
  12. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    Thanks to both of you. I will ask what kind of steel it is but I'm not so sure they would know considering they didn't even know the type of hardwood they said it was.
     
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  13. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    OK, you are asking a number of questions which both stand alone and are connected to your ultimate goal. I'll try to answer them individually and see if I can make it all tie together in the end. In full disclosure, I have not trained with the Monk Spade.

    I've never made a blade but I have rebuilt a number of hilts and scabbards for swords. I understand some fundamentals of the steel work, but I do not have those skills nor the workshop to actually make a blade from steel. I have always made a point to practice with real weaponry, so quality and appropriate dimensions and balance and materials, etc. has always been important to me.

    There are a number of different "stainless" steels, each with its own alloy that resists corrosion. I believe chromium and/or nickel can be an additive in the alloy (not a surface plating), but there is some variety in different stainless steels. They are not all the same and their level of resistance to corrosion varies from one alloy to another. The additives that give the alloy its corrosion resistance also tends to break up the grain pattern of the steel. This results in potential weak points within the alloy. For a small to medium sized knife, this is often not a problem as the knife is not meant to withstand very high torque and tension and shearing forces. If you use the knife as a crowbar then you might break it, but it isn't meant to be used as a crowbar. General cutting and whittling and use as a general purpose tool is just fine. It is also critical for surgical scalpels because the introduction of rust is very dangerous to the sanitary environment of surgery. However, for longer blades like swords, this can become a problem. The very length of a sword blade means that it is likely to undergo higher stresses on toque and tension and shearing and whatnot, and the alloy can break under those conditions. This is why stainless steel is often discouraged in the making of sword blades. However, as I said not all stainless steels are the same, and some can be used to make a quality sword blade. A skilled maker who is experienced with the steel can do it, but it is often not recommended for a novice.

    So I can't give you a definitive answer to what is the maximum size of blade that can be done with stainless steel. It just depends on what the tool is meant to be used for and under what conditions, etc.

    Generally high carbon steels are recommended for good quality sword blades and axe blades, which the monk spade would be similar to (the axe blade). There are a lot of different alloys with different properties, that all can make for a very good quality large blade. I am no expert on that so I won't go into the details. However, these do rust when wet or if you get sweat on them, so when you are done practicing, you wipe them down and then wipe on a thin coat of oil, something like wd-40 in the US, to inhibit the rust.

    If you really want to spar with a Monk Spade, i suggest you build one out of a good pole and cut the blades out of a light plywood, perhaps 1/4 inch thick, and thoroughly round out the corners so there is nothing sharp on them. Make sure you have figured out a strong way to attach the blades to the pole, and then cover them solidly with some kind of foam padding and heavy duct tape. Make sure to inspect them regularly to make sure a corner isn't poking through the foam and can become hazardous. And then invest in some body protection equipment, like protective gloves and head/face protection. And still, without a good instructor guiding you, I don't recommend this. I think there are still a lot of opportunities to get really hurt doing this.

    regarding a "real" weapon, there is a range of what that might mean, and it might mean something different to different people. Quality construction is important so the whole thing does not come apart. For a bladed weapon, the blade ought to be made of a quality steel, but that does not need to mean a super high-end expensive steel. But it needs to be properly shaped and heat-treated and balanced, etc. to make for a good durable, useable weapon. There are quality steels available for a lower budget. The blade needs to be an appropriate size to be realistic for the weapon, and also appropriate for you, the person using it. What might be right for one person can be far too heavy or too light for another. So there is a personal element in what is right and not right.

    Again, look at the link for the inexpensive Monk Spade that you posted, the 47 Euro item. Look at the closeup of the blade. It is thick, but the whole item only weighs a kilo or two. As I said, if that was a real blade it would be solid steel, and at that size and thickness, it would be outrageously heavy. and then there is the crescent blade at the other end, adding additional weight. The blade on that item is made from some kind of sheet metal welded or soldered together into a hollow shape. It is light. If you tried to sharpen it, you would open up the seam between sheets of metal and see the hollow space inside. If you struck something with it, you would dent it and perhaps crack the seams and break it off the staff.

    Now look at the more expensive item, priced around 159 Euro. Look at the closeup of the blade. It is a flat solid steel blade. It isn't built up into a thick piece. This is a real blade, although I cannot speak to the type of steel nor the quality of it. But at least it is a real steel blade, and the item weighs a lot more than the other one. That is because steel is heavy, and a real blade like that can weigh a lot. And I don't know how well it is attached to the staff. I always worry about heavy blades like that coming loose or flying off during use. Someone gets hurt.

    Could someone make you a real blade from quality steel? Perhaps. I bought a couple knives from a fellow in Nepal, he had a shop on Etsy.com which is closed now, but he has a website where he and some other people sell a bunch of kukhri knives of various sizes and designs. He uses a good kind of steel for big blades, 5160 spring steel, which is a tough steel used in leaf springs for truck suspensions. I have a few swords made of this steel, it is good stuff and not terribly expensive. Anyway, I know that on Etsy he was taking custom orders for knife designs, so perhaps he might be willing to make something for you if you give him a design and have a good idea of how to attach it to a good pole when it arrives. You would need to put it all together, if he/his group is willing and able to make the blades for you. Check out their stuff at everestblade.com. and their prices are pretty reasonable for big knives, I think it is the Nepal economy compared to the US economy. Of course in the current Covid-19 pandemic I have no idea if he is currently working.

    Regarding your desire to spar, you just cannot do this with a real weapon. Assume the 159 Euro item is a "real" (enough) item and weighs in at around 15 pounds. That's a pretty heavy item to be thrusting and spinning around. The weight of it, and the momentum you would build, would make it very hazardous and difficult to control it. I don't think you could hit your partner lightly enough to not injure him, even with some protective clothing. If the blade is sharp, that's just hazardous, and even if it is blunt, if you hit someone you could smash fingers and crack skulls.

    But if you learn the method from a good instructor, you can practice with the real one for your technique and forms, and then spar with a safe, light, padded one. But understand that the light item will handle very differently from the real one, so this kind of training is only an approximation, which is the best we can do. what you can do in sparring with a light item, you simply cannot do with a real item that weighs 8 or 10 times as much. People get used to using a light weapon and they think they could actually fight with that same speed and control and whatnot. Then they pick up a real weapon and they are in for a big surprise, they simply cannot move as well with a real weapon because they are not used to it and have not developed the proper strength to use it skillfully.

    strictly speaking, I don't think you need to. You could simply be taught the one weapon you want. And it isn't about graduating from one to another so much as recognizing that some weapons are more difficult to work with so starting with something simpler is a better progression. So usually a good instructor is going to lay down the foundation first and make sure you have a basis upon which to build the later skills, i.e. the Monk Spade.

    Where do you live, and do you have some websites of schools in your area? Maybe someone here can offer a suggestion of they know any of the schools around you, or at least we can look at the website and give our impressions.

    The fact that you recognize those flimsy wushu weapons for what they are, is promising. They are not real weapons, they would not stand up to contact training, they are simply stage props. The 47 Euro Monk Spade that you linked to is also a flimsy wushu stage prop. The first time you picked it up, you would realize what you had in your hand and that you wasted your money.

    I would say that most Chinese martial arts schools, even good ones, do not spar with weapons. There are just too many safety issues to be able to do that and investment in protective gear can become expensive. However, they ought to do some kind of contact training drills with partners, using reasonably safe weapons.

    Again, as a beginner, you really do need to get a good teacher. The Monk Spade is not terribly common I'm afraid, so even if you found a good school there is no guarantee that they teach the Spade. I think that also makes it even more difficult to do on your own. But you need a teacher to guide you and give you the appropriate foundation first, before you even start with the Spade. If you had a number of years in as a kung fu guy and you had some solid skills built up already I might say experimenting with the Monk Spade could be an interesting activity. As a beginner, I suspect you just don't have the frame of reference to understand what I mean by that, but it's true, it's genuine honest advice. I think trying to figure out the Monk Spade, and then start sparring with it with your friends, is a bad idea and could be quite dangerous. Really, no kidding.
     
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  14. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    How much monk would a monk spade spade if a monk spade could spade monk?
     
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  15. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    Thanks for taking the time to write all this out! I really appreciate all this info! I'll have to ask around to see how I might be able to attach the blade to the poles. You wouldn't happen to know would you? Also do you know what the balance point of the monks spade is supposed to be? Is it more centered due to the counter blade or more near the spade head like an axe or what? Can you explain why videos can't teach you and then try to apply what you learn with a sparring partner instead of an instructor? I live in San Antonio, Texas as far as schools are concerned. Here are some of them I could find if anyone has any recommendations.

    Schu's Kung Fu (no website)
    Home
    Martial Arts San Antonio
    Kung Fu Pei Pai She Chuan School
    San Antonio, TX | Kung Jung Mu Sul of TX (says they teach tai chi)
    Martial Arts Wellness Group
    Martial Arts San Antonio
    IWTA, San Antonio, TX - Leung Ting WingTsun® Kung Fu | San Antonio WingTsun™ Academy
     
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  16. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I do not know what the balance point is supposed to be on a Monk Spade. Eyeballing it, I would say that the square blade typically looks bigger and therefor heavier than the crescent blade which would put the balance in that direction. I could be wrong about that though, sometimes different shapes can be deceiving so it's possible that the two blades are typically equal-ish in weight and would put the balance in the middle of the shaft.

    As a research exercise, go to a hardware store and pick up and heft a variety of axes and mauls. They come in various weights, 3, 4, 6, 8 pound heads. Heft that a bit and get a feel for what that kind of weight feels like on the end of a shaft. Thrust it about and see how much work that kind of thing would be, and then imagine a similar weight on the opposite end of the shaft as well. So a 12 pound Spade might have a shaft that weighs 2-3 pounds, a square blade that weighs 5-6 pounds and a crescent blade that weighs 3-4 pounds. keep those kinds of numbers in mind when you heft them around. Now imagine those as sharp blades instead of blunt heads. You see the hazard inherent in the weapon.

    regarding the video instruction vs. a face-to-face instruction. You need the teacher to be able to see the details of how you move, and make corrections, often physically moving you into the correct positions and helping you understand the proper movements. These are often little details that make a huge difference, that you will not be able to recognize for yourself when they are in error until you have a lot more experience. That is very difficult to identify and verbally correct over video or live streaming. It puts the onus on you, the student, to be able to recognize and correct your own errors, and that is simply unreasonable without a lot of experience. To an untrained eye, things can look correct but have a lot of little errors that seriously reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of what you are doing.

    Chinese martial arts often operate on the principle of full-body connection when you execute your techniques. The idea is that you learn how to engage the whole body, beginning with the feet and the legs, up through the torso and shoulders and down the arms, to harness that complete strength to maximize power. There are often specific exercises designed to help you learn to do this, so that you aren't simply relying on the raw physical strength of your arms and shoulders. this is how techniques become efficient and much more effective than they might otherwise be.

    This is especially important when using a heavy weapon. If you rely on arm and shoulder strength, you will become exhausted quickly and not be able to do much, and you will lack control over the movement of the weapon. When you understand how to use full-body engagement, you use less arm strength, you get tired more slowly, and you can move the weapon more quickly and with greater control and precision. You need someone to work directly with you to understand how to do this, and it takes time and repeated corrections. That doesn't happen for a beginner trying to work with videos, or trying to get corrections over live-streaming or Skype. That is the foundation that needs to be built before you are ready for a more difficult and heavy weapon like a Monk Spade.

    If you try to just figure it out with a video and then with sparring, you won't even understand all that you are doing poorly, with low efficiency, getting exhausted and whacking each other and hurting each other unnecessarily because you lack control because of the exhaustion and lack of precision.

    I think the best way to haft the blades, if you are successful in getting someone to make one for you, is with a simple thick-walled socket. Take a look at the website with the weapons again. They get all fancy with the hafting a lot of times, I don't like that, it makes it difficult to tell how strong the hafting is. For this kind of thing, over-building is definitely the way to go. Have it made way stronger than you think it needs to be. You DO NOT want a blade to come flying off of it.

    So the maker of the blades would need to forge a socket onto the back end of the blade. For my heavy spears, with a 1 pound head, I put a 1 1/4 inch diameter pole, and the socket is about 3 or 4 inches deep. For the heavy blades of a spade, I would suggest the haft be somewhere between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and at least 8 or 10 inches deep. Ideally it ought to be forged as one single continuous piece with the blade, but if a good weld is done, that could be acceptable. It's gotta be strong though, with no room for doubt.

    you would need to decide just how thick the staff needs to be in order to be comfortable in your grip. But you want something beefy due to the weight of the blades. And use a good wood. Hickory is a good choice used for axes and maul handles, it is tough and durable. My heavy staff is about 1 5/8 inches in diameter. I'm about 5'10" tall and weigh about 165. Im not a big fellow, but Im not little either.

    I make my staffs out of hickory, I cut a square dowel from a plank, about 1 5/8+ on a side, and shape it down on a belt sander. It takes a while, but that's how I do it, I do not have a lathe.

    You then need to fit the ends of the shaft tightly to the sockets on the blades. The sockets should have probably 2 holes drilled into them on different positions on the socket, and 90 degrees from each other, so you can drive a couple screws into the shaft when you fit it on. That, and the entire end of the shaft that will be inside the socket should be covered with a heavy-duty, industrial grade two-part epoxy and hardener type glue. And epoxy the screws into the wood as well. If you ever need to replace the shaft, you will likely need to grind out the sockets to get rid of the wood and epoxy, but better to build it really strong so the blade never flies off.

    Honestly, I'm giving you guidance on how to build a weapon that I and you have never actually used before or trained in, so this is rather a breach of protocol. I'm not sure what to say about it all to be honest. You could end of spending some money and building something that doesn't work or is just wrong on some details that end up making it rather unusable. And it really could be quite dangerous. So I'm giving this advice reluctantly and I do hope you proceed with a great deal of caution if you pursue this. Please please do not do something dangerous, and don't do any sparring with this kind of thing. You need a teacher to help you learn to use it properly and safely.

    I'll take a look at the websites and see what I can tell, if any of the schools look like they might offer what you are looking for.

    and may I ask, how old are you?
     
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  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    these ones might offer the monk spade. You won't find it in a non-Chinese system school, nor in a strictly taiji school, nor in a wing chun school. Those typically would not include this weapon. I don't know what system your first one on the list teaches, as there is no website. But if they do a shaolin method or something, then maybe.

    I would give these ones a call and ask if they offer the Monk Spade in their curriculum. Talk to them and see what kind of instruction they can give you once this Covid-19 has reached a safer level where you can go to their classes.

    As I do not know any of these folks, I cannot speak to their quality, nor possible lack thereof.
     
  18. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Here's one you missed: Dragon Kung Fu, under Sifu Gilbert Leal:
    Dragon Martial Arts San Antonio

    I know this guy and would recommend him. I don't know if he's teaching publicly right now (is anybody?) and I don't know if he teaches something showy and exotic like "Monk's Spade" but he does know the Luk Dim Boon Kwun (the Wing Chun long pole) and he knows escrima staff. BTW Long Pole comes from spear and is a foundation for all pole arms. Same for some of the escrima staff work (sibat).

    As far as live sparring goes, both staff and long pole are pretty dangerous. Even a mere 6' staff ....if real (i.e. thick and heavy) can easily break fingers and wrists, and potentially crush your skull ....just by accident. So if you want to spar, better off to make something light and padded. Don't try to weight it like the real thing!
     
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  19. drummerene

    drummerene White Belt

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    Thanks again to both of you! All this info will definitely come in handy. Flying Crane, I'm 36 why do you ask? God Bless you guys!
     
  20. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    The reason I ask is because it suddenly occurred to me that I might be giving advice on how to make a hazardous weapon to a 14 year-old which might be bad form. You are an adult, I’m satisfied with that. You make your own decisions for yourself. Thanks for letting me know.123
     
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