Recently I was frustrated about the state of the machines at our fencing club and considered buying a set of those mini recorders for epee. All such a ‘mini recorder’ does, is give of a beep signal, if the tip of your epee is pressed (it does not differentiate between a bell guard hit and a touch). One epee mini recorder costs about $40.

Although I consider the functionality to be helpful for training, I don’t think the price is justified (it’s just three banana plugs, a battery and beeper, essentially). So I decided to search for an alternative.

Thinking out of the box, a (wireless) doorbell comes closest to the functionality needed (press a button and ‘beep’), plus it’s cheap. I found the Trine wireless door bell with two different chimes for $10 at Sears. It comes with a rectangular wireless button, that fits exactly in the bell guard of my epee. A second button costs $10 and lets the chime go of to a different sound than the other button - Perfect to differentiate your own touch from your opponents. And at short range (a few yards) the signal is instantly and error free transmitted. If you have another doorbell around, you can change the jumpers in the chime/buttons to change the trigger signal coding.

All I needed to do, is to connect each button with an epee:

- I got two standard banana plugs for each button at radio shack and some bell wire,

- Opened the button case, unscrewed the circuit board and ripped out the button mechanic (white plastic parts ) and taped the remaining hole in the case,

- Screwed the circuit board back in,

- Soldered two wires to two of the pins of the push button on the circuit board (check out beforehand which two pins are actually closing the circuit, ie. ring the bell),

- Fixed the wires to the button case so that the can’t rip out and the case can still be closed,

- Connected the wires to the banana plugs and plugged them in the two sockets that are closer together.

- Repeat the steps above for the second button/epee.

All in all the set of two buttons and the chime with small parts and batteries costs ca. $25 – compared to $80 for two ‘mini recorders’. Of course the system is not foolproof and far from perfect, but it is much better than no electric device, especially if there is no director during training sessions around.

I would be interested in your feedback and most of all, if somebody could come up with a solution to prevent a sound signal in case of a bell guard hit.