Choosing a Contact Staff
Learn about contact staffs below and all that goes into making them! Make an educated choice when buying/making your own staff!
Most of the staff's weight should be at the ends. Somewhere between 100g and 300g (4-10oz). Heavier tends to be easier for beginners, while lighter enables more freedom of movement. A soft material is recommended, as this is the part that usually smacks you in the face.
For Beginners, I recommend a soft/padded end weight about 250g (8.8oz).
Wick Type - Kevlar is the wick of choice worldwide. It can be reused hundreds of times before it needs replacing. There are some wicks (usually found in SE Asia) that are a white colour and contain toxic materials. Do not use these. Ceramic wicks are most often found in Eastern Europe and are also a white colour. These are fine to use, but often have specific instructions to "cure" the wicks before first use. They can become itchy as they deteriorate.
Wick amount is entirely a personal choice. Smaller wicks are recommended for new users and use less fuel. Larger wicks produce more flame, have a longer burn time and use more fuel.
Wicks can be attached to the staff by various methods, most common is a tube wrap, secured by screws. As long as the wick is secure and tightly wrapped, it should be fine. Different wick designs are for looks, changing how much fuel the wick holds, or reducing the amount of metal exposed(reduced chance of being burnt by hot metal).
There should be little exposed metal on the staff ends - ideally none. We recommend any exposed staff metal should be covered in heat-resistant silicone tape to prevent burns.
The ends of a staff tube should be capped to prevent fire from entering the tube. If not capped the tube can heat up very quickly.
The staff diameter is what determines how quick the staff will change rolling speed. For small diameters (e.g. 17mm or 0.67"), the staff will start and stop rolling very slowly. For larger diameters (e.g. 25mm or 1"), the staff will start and stop rolling very quickly. Of a staff with the same grip material, a small diameter will be less grippy than a large diameter staff due to the smaller surface area in contact with the skin. A smaller diameter will also make some moves easier, like wrist-based moves such as fishtails and pressure placements, but make the staff a little harsher to catch.
For beginners, we recommend a medium diameter with flowers.
Flowers, or tassels, are additions to a staff to change how fast it starts and stops rolling. The more tassels you add to a staff, the slower it will seem to roll. For smaller diameter staffs, tassels may not even be needed. For larger diameter staffs, tassels are recommended.
A good test for tassel size is to perform an angel roll from standstill from the wrist(with no initial rolling). The tassels should be as long/heavy enough as they can while still being able to perform the angel roll.
Flowers should be located as far from the centrepoint as possible. For day staffs, right next to the heads. For fire staffs, as close to the heads as possible without risking being burnt. Ideally, fireproof tassels butted up next to the fire heads.
The adhesive tape is often overlooked when deciding on or manufacturing a staff. The adhesive of most tapes will become gooey if they get too hot (electrical tape) and don't look pretty if they don't stretch (duct tape). An example of a good option is self adhesive heat shrink. There are many other good options, based on manufacturer.
Self-amalgamating silicone tape is another option, but can roll up and stick to itself if not applied properly. This has the added benefit of being fire resistant and if applied to the staff shaft from the fire heads to the grip, can prevent many burns.
The Grip should be very tacky to help stop the staff from sliding around your body. Some good grip types are below:
Silicone (an elastomer) - Comes as a tube and slides onto the staff.
Pros: Very tacky, stays tacky through its entire life, semi transparent-designs can be seen underneath.
Cons: Slippery when wet (sweat), tears on contact with sharp objects, heavier than other grips, sometimes can pull hair due to its tackiness, usually thin thickness so very heavy staffs can squish skin
EPMD - A type of rubber
Pros: Tacky, becomes more tacky as it gets older, differing thicknesses available, squishy-softer and more surface area on contact with skin.
Cons: A little slippery when wet, tears on contact with sharp objects, leaves black marks on skin (easily washable).
Racquet Grip (or similar sports grip) – Common grip type, but quality is inconsistent.
Pros: Easy to find, low-medium tackiness, usually durable, lots of choice
Cons: Tackiness usually declines quickly with age, needs to be replaced often.
Yoga Mat (often sold as branded grip tape by various companies)
Pros: Tacky, becomes slightly more tacky as it gets older, differing thicknesses available, thicker (2mm) grip is great for dragonstaff, some shops sell with adhesive already attached
Cons: Needs to be replaced fairly often, depending on thickness, some shops don't sell with adhesive backing.
There are many other grip types. Some manufacturers have found quality racquet grip(or similar) that doesn't deteriorate over time. Other manufacturers have their own grips that they don't disclose their source material, so I cannot list it here.
The centrepoint is very important on a contact staff. It should be easily visible and right on the centre of mass of the staff. Additional markers (usually spaced ~15cm/6" apart) can help with learning immensely. Any markers should be tacky (hoop tape is great). With silicone grip, the markers can be any material and viewed from underneath the grip. Some experienced staffers prefer to leave the centrepoint free of markers(as the centre is the most used portion of the grip) and just use additional markers around the centrepoint.
Staff Length and Tube Material
The standard contact staff length is from the ground to between the shoulder or nose. The longer the staff, the easier it will be to manipulate. Longer than eye level, some horizontal movements will become very difficult. Shorter than ~waist height will enable inside movements.
The perfect contact staff tube is super strong, fairly rigid, and weighs nothing. The tube itself can be made from differing materials.
Carbon Fibre is possibly the best material currently available, but also the most expensive. It requires protection from fire (be careful that you are purchasing from a quality manufacturer), and different wall thicknesses and compositions can be used for acrobatics. It has a small amount of give to reduce impact.
Aluminium(Al) is very common as it's light, strong and easily available. There are different grades of Al and this makes a large difference to the lifespan of the staff. Standard hardware store Al should be at least 1.6mm (o.o6") wall thickness or it will bend very easily. Prop manufacturers should sell higher grade Al and be able to tell you what grade it is, or you'll be back soon with a bent staff.
Fibreglass - sometimes used for collapsible staffs or acrostaffs. Not common.
Titanium - Similar to Al, but usually stronger and heavier.
Wood - Generally only used for cheap practice staffs. Needs to be protected from fire.
For Beginners, your contact staff length should be from the ground to between the shoulder or nose.
Colouring different ends of the staff can help keep track of its motions and assist learning.