Sunday, June 29, 2014

Implements of Destruction: Assorted Weaponry

     Beyond swords and guns, we have a varied range of weapons hanging around the house and yard. There's always sticks. We're firm believers in the importance of a good stick. There are several floating around the barn and garage that are special to certain Clan members, including myself. We have more than our fair share of personal wizard's staffs.
David's staff. Are you suitably impressed? 
He'll be monitoring the comments, so look out.
     Also, lightsabers are a must. We have many plastic ones from Target that we've gotten for birthdays and Christmas. We've also made some of our own from foam noodles and a bit of duct tape. Great for fun whacking sessions. They probably make great gifts and all that sort of stuff, too. All I know is they're easy to make and work well.
See? Happy children. All that matters, right?
     As for armor and stuff like that, we're generally not into it. But while I'm on the topic, I should point out that foam sleds make great shields. And a brown paper sack makes a better breastplate than you might think.

     Bows are good, though. Mom bought some training bows at a garage sale several years ago and every now and then we take them out to the backyard and shoot arrows into straw bales. That lasts until we start losing arrows, and then that game gets shut down for a while. Sometimes we use more interesting targets than straw bales. One year our zucchini plants were totally out of control, and we had more huge zucchini than we could eat. Those made very good targets.
     Another fun thing for a while were the mortar and the machine gun David made. He welded two electric fence posts together to form the supports for them, and then he found pieces of scrap metal out in the windbreak to use as the barrels of the 'guns'. Nothing to it.
Machine gun
     We had a lot of fun with the potato cannons Skinny and Dad made from PVC. They found instructions for them in this really cool book: Backyard Ballistics by William Gurstelle. It's got instructions for all kinds of things that shoot, explode, etc. I don't remember how long it took Dad and Skinny to get the potato cannons put together - a few afternoons, I think, once they got all the materials. The instructions were good, though, and the cannons are very impressive. They shoot well over 100 yards, and very high up in the air. 
     We've experimented with different projectiles to shoot out of the cannons, since there are all sorts of interesting ways to carve up a potato. Ordinary potato projectiles definitely fly the farthest, but it's pretty cool to shoot other stuff out of the cannon just to see what it does. Smashed up raw potato wasn't too exciting, but cubed potato looks like birdshot and probably feels like it until it goes 25 yards or so, and then it looses its momentum. My favorite was the halves of a potato tied on opposite ends of a string, with a toothpick tied below them to keep them from sliding together. They spun end over end, and also flew pretty far, which is an added bonus. We've also loaded the cannons with water and fired that, which is pretty impressive. They would make unbeatable squirt-guns, except I don't think Mom would let us shoot high-pressure water at each other. Not even for fun.

     Because shooting stuff at each other is what we do for fun, right? 

     This is the last post I've planned for the Implements of Destruction. I should point out, I changed the name of the series of posts from 'Instruments' to 'Implements' because Dad told me I'd gotten the lyrics from this song wrong. It comes at about 2:04.

     Anyway, that's us. Shovels. Rakes. Implements of Destruction. All the way. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

This Just In ~ More Weapons!

     First off, my first apology. No post in a long time. Sorry about that. Today I do have a short one for you guys, though, and I expect to get one last 'Implements of Destruction' post up soon as well. 

     As I said in my first weapons post, Skinny buys black swords. A lot of black swords, it turns out. He ordered a bunch a while ago, and the box came today. I was too late to get video of Skinny digging into the box - and besides I think I did enough when I videotaped his mustache - so I just took lots of pictures.

More black swords!!
M with a broadsword. That's just plain dangerous.
This picture shouldn't freak you out, because Skinny is
wearing his Security shirt. Everything is under control.
M with a scimitar. That's just plain dangerous. And if
you don't agree with me, you don't live around here. 
"Look what I got, Mom!"
Attaching the hilt to another broadsword. We're really good at it now.
I know these look kinda like guns, but they're not.
They're just really cool knives.
Crossed, because that's what you do with ninja swords, right?

     Skinny's pretty stoked about his new knives and swords. It should be exciting to see them in action. I'm actually anxious to have a go with his new knives - some of those are pretty cool! And who knows, I could turn out to be lethal with a ninja sword.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Implements of Destruction: Guns

     The Clan is the same way about guns as we are about swords. In other words, we love them and have lots of them around the house. The process of finding the best set of guns for us was pretty much the same process as we went through for swords.

     I think we started with those plastic cap pistols, the ones that look like John Wayne cowboy pistols. We had zillions of those - though we rarely bought caps to go with them. Unfortunately, anything plastic can expect a hard life around the Clan. We destroyed most of those pistols either by breaking off the handle, or wrecking the firing mechanism. I would have to say our Wild West games got really, really wild. We also did Nerf guns for a little bit, but those were easy to break, and we constantly lost the little foam darts.

     Mom and Dad decided to get us some wooden guns sometime around 2008. They did some looking around, but didn't really find anything they liked until they found this website: Chickory Wood. This guy's products are awesome! He has lots of different guns and pistols on his website to choose from, and they're all made to last. We have at least ten of his pistols, a few lugers, revolvers, and more shotguns and rifles than I can keep track of. Skinny and David even bought the Thompson and the submachine gun, and those are great, too. The scopes do actually stay on really well - yes, we've broken a few, but in most cases Dad could fix them with a bit of wood glue and a few screws. 

     These are the guns we bring along when we go places - at least when Mom and Dad let us bring them along. And when we have people over to visit, these guns and our other assorted weapons are generally broken out pretty quickly.

Just bristling with weapons. That looks pretty dangerous
to leave in the boys' room, but what can I say?
     Look at that. Those buckets are referred to around here as the sword buckets, but I think you can tell there's far more than just swords in there. I see some shields, quite a few rifles, and some foam lightsabers as well. Those buckets account for roughly 65% of our swords and guns. I would say we are some of the best armed kids I know. 

     We don't go into gun accessories a whole lot, though. When we had cap guns, we hardly ever got caps to shoot with them, and we really didn't use the Nerf guns for very long. But we do use our gun holsters a lot. We got a lot of them with our cap pistols, and they're still floating around the house. We also figured out how to make nice holsters out of duct tape, and several of us have special duct tape holsters for our personal guns. But that's basically all we need. From there we take the guns and use them in a wide variety of outdoor games that we all like to play: Wild West, Star Wars, and also Star Trek. 

     Yeah. What can I say? They make dandy phasers!

     But that's us and guns. Every now and then we may look into buying some other variety, but generally that's for specific types of guns - like the time Skinny bought a nifty semi-automatic. For the most part, however, Chickory Wood is our one-stop gun shop. We don't buy many anymore, though, we've got just about as many as one house can hold!

     And I don't know - was it unclear to anyone that these guns aren't real? Sometimes I don't know.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Implements of Destruction: Swords

     My family has a unusual fascination with weapons. Ever since I can remember - which is pretty much forever - we've had play swords or sticks to whack on each other with, and there's always a half dozen plastic pistols laying around in case you need one. I think it's a crucial part of surviving in a big family. Sometimes you've just got to hit on someone with a wooden sword. 

     I think it's pretty safe to say we are weapon experts. We've figured out what kinds of guns and swords and sticks work best for us. (That means, which ones last longest and hit hardest.) Obviously, in the many years there have been children in the Clan, we've tried a lot of things, so this post will be devoted only to the various swords we've run across in our search for perfection.

     We started out just like cavemen, with generic sticks lying around in the yard, and some of those cheap, floppy foam swords that you used to be able to buy at Target. Those are mostly worthless and don't whack good enough. Seriously, they're like noodles. (Although I'll admit it does sting if you get slapped with one of those!) But they do make nice gifts for kids who just want to slap around with a sword until they can lift the bigger weapons. 

     From there we went to broom handles and wooden swords. Mom would buy as many wooden swords as she found at garage sales and generally these would last a few months before they split or cracked. 

     The first really good wooden swords I remember having were a bunch of pine swords handmade by the son of one of Mom's friends. Those were really great, and I still have mine. Unfortunately, we are very serious about sword fighting, and most of the pine swords ended up broken just like the rest of our wooden swords. We repaired them with duct tape for a while, but even that only works for so long. (It's true, folks. Duct tape is the solution to most problems, but unfortunately that doesn't extend to wooden swords.)

     We then started making our own swords, since it became evident that commercial America didn't have what we needed. David went and bought a few dowels that were probably a yard long and about one and a half inch thick. He took two little pieces of lath and screwed them onto one of the dowels, making a hilt. And then he used duct tape to make it look good and to prevent splinters.Those worked really well. They were very sturdy, and if we broke one, it was pretty easy to make another.  I know we've still got several of those kicking around, but about two years ago, we stumbled across the ultimate sword.

     On this website called Visionforum - which isn't on the internet anymore - there were some super cool training swords. Skinny and Eli thought they were extremely cool (I agree, by the way) and they ordered a pair of broadswords. These swords meant business. They were almost four feet long and made of solid, no-nonsense black plastic. We knew that these swords were not going to crack in the heat of battle. And they looked dangerous, too, which is an added bonus. 

     I'd like to say we suffered no injuries from the black swords, but that's not quite true. They're so big and heavy, that even though they're blunt, if you get whacked hard enough, it might break the skin or leave a mongo bruise. Skinny scored a bleeding head injury fairly early on, but other than that, we've actually avoided breaking any bones or spraining anything. It makes Mom feel better, though, if she doesn't watch.

     Since we bought the first two broadswords, Skinny has done some research, and figured out more about the swords. They're made by a company called Cold Steel, and there are quite a few different varieties of swords and knives available. Skinny has bought quite a few of them off of Amazon, where he can buy them fairly cheaply despite their high quality. At this point in time he has two broadswords, two Roman gladius-type swords, two different knives, and he's in the market for more. The other kids have acquired Cold Steel weapons of their own as well. We've actually got four broadswords kicking around the house (a fairly healthy amount, I'd say), an axe, a few more knives, a scimitar, and a martial arts training sword besides what Skinny owns.

     Doesn't that make you want to come visit?

     I would say that the Cold Steel swords are the best we've found yet. They've passed all our tests with flying colors. We want our swords to be durable most of all, but we'd like them to look good, too, and the Cold Steel swords fit the bill. They're very tough – so far we've only broken one. The removable hilt on the scimitar took a direct hit from a broadsword and fell to pieces. And they're very realisitic looking and even feel like real weapon because they're so heavy. When you pick up one of those swords, you know it can do what it's supposed to do. That means a lot to this sword-loving family. We also really enjoy bringing those swords along when we go places. Partially it's because we love the looks we get when we walk in with a dozen big, black weapons. But we also love to test our mettle against anyone who's foolish enough to borrow one of our swords and fight. We can get very serious about whacking people.

     And it's amazing what pictures I can find when I start digging. Apparently my family has been into swords since the very beginning. That little boy is David!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Growing a Fu Manchu

     A few weeks ago, my Mom listened to this song.

     She decided it would be a really good idea if we all grew some Fu Manchu's, like the song says at 2:46. We've done some stranger things, so this wasn't a stretch at all. Ordinary people might find starting a new style daunting, but we've never pretended to be normal.

     The obvious challenge to having us all wearing mustaches is that most of us have got a few years before we can hope to grow a mustache, and some of us will never get there. The solution to that problem is to use a few Sharpie's. I think Mom must have used up two black Sharpie markers drawing long, thick Fu Manchu's on most of the little kids. Dad even shaved his beard and mustache to match. Tubby, Cob, Pete, Fuzz, Fro, Nah, and Beck-up all ended up with mustaches by the end of the day, although the rest of us older kids turned them down. Personally, I think David should have had one - he would have looked awesome! I mean, look at how the little kids turned out!

     The climax of the Fu Manchu episode came when Skinny, who was worn out from a long weekend, took a nap. Mom found out and sneaked downstairs with a marker and proceeded to gently draw on a wispy mustache. She was laughing so hard that it took her a few minutes, and Skinny kept moving around. I brought my camera in too late to take any photos of the application process, but I did get some fun photos and video during the aftermath of the event. Because Skinny had no idea what had been going on, even when I was sitting there shooting video of him. I think that says a lot for how tired he was that day.