Staff Affection – Materials and Maintenance

This one goes out to my stick-swingers. Staff spinners aren’t as prevalent as their poi counterparts, but they are definitely cooler. Rigid props do, however, come with a few quirks and unique bits of maintenance that can help increase the life of your staff dramatically. Let’s go over some of the essentials.

Barrel – The most common staff wick, a barrel knot consists of kevlar tape, usually 3-5 inches in width, rolled around the staff and held together with screws, rivets, or kevlar thread. Barrels are inexpensive and extremely easy to make and modestly durable, with a modest flame size and duration.
Knots – There are several variants on the market using kevlar tape, kevlar rope, and a few different knot styles, but most often you will see a crown sinnet used. This style of wick is significantly more expensive and harder to maintain, but produces a larger, brighter flame, and looks simply gorgeous in use

 – Tennis Grip – Most contact staves on the market rely on tennis racket grip to  create the tacky sensation we all have come to love. Tennis grip is moderately  tacky (and better brands are more durable/longer lasting tack) with my  preferred brand being Gamma
EPDM – EPDM is a thick, cushioned, rubber-ish surface most commonly used  for weather stripping. When used on a staff it provides a tacky, highly padded  grip often favored for dragon staves, due to it’s thickness
Silicone – Very little padding, but insanely tacky and easy to maintain, silicone  grips will pull the hair right out of your arms and are as simple to clean as  running a wet towel over them. They are, however, quite difficult to apply  properly.

Protective Measures
So you’ve got your first staff and your ready to start spinning? First of all let’s go over some ways you can keep it alive a little longer!
Wick Covers – Whether it’s a dish towel and some rubber bands, a beer coozie, or a cover specifically made for staves (ETSY and Dark Monk offer my favorites) make sure your protecting your wicks during practice! Repeated meetings with the pavement will fray your kevlar fast
Colored Grips – I’m a big fan of brightly colored grips, both for aesthetic appeal and because they allow you to see the accumulation of dirt, hand oil, and soot on your grip, this gives you a visual indicator of when to wash the grip
Location, location, location – Practice over grass. This may seem pretty obvious, but the first time your staff lands “perfectly” on the curb, turning it into scrap, you’ll remember what Jeremy had to say. Wicks shred, grip gets holes, and silicone tape can’t take a beating.
Silicone Tape – No matter how good you get, sooner or later you’ll catch the staff too close to a wick. Silicone tape covering the exposed metal below the wick will save you weeks of healing time on that burn

Standard Maintenance
Every prop takes its share of upkeep to provide the best show possible, and staff is no exception – Here are a few tips and tricks you can use on a regular basis to keep your spinning fun and safe!clean
Clean the Grips – Your grips will, over time, accumulate soot, dirt, and other nasties that take away from its tackiness (and visual appeal). A couple minutes with dish soap and the rough side of a sponge will take an old, slick grip and rejuvenate it like you wouldn’t believe – Let it dry before you get back to spinning
Trim the wicks – When you start to see offshoots of kevlar from your wick, grab a pair of sharp craft scissors and take those loose strands off. If you snip them, no damage is done, but when they catch on something they’ll pull your wick apart!

 – Replace Your Silicone – Over time  silicone tape will IMAG0609 accumulate large amounts of soot –IMAG0613 This isn’t hazardous  on its  own, but can hide splits and holes in the silicone,  creating surprise burn risks.  Make sure to regularly  inspect your silicone tape! If you find a small hole, you  can simply clean off the soot around it, and apply a  square of tape over the hole  – It is self fusing and will  bond to clean tape, hiding the hole. For larger tears,  use a full wrap to prevent running.
Wicks – As your wicks go through use and abuse, you  will see them begin to  degrade – The most common  problem is, once a barrel wick reaches it’s breaking  point, the end of the wrap will fray and come loose from  its rivets. In this  situation either PVA (Elmer’s) glue, or Kevlar thread will be a life saver. PVA  glue is easier, but can reduce flame size if you are overzealous (simply squirt a  couple dots where the separation is beginning, and hold everything together until dry – The flames will continue to harden the glue).  Kevlar thread requires some effort, and some knowledge of proper stitching, but provides a repair that won’t reduce flame size, and will be a long-lasting, durable fix.

Hopefully this will help your staff continue serving you through many burns to come, and prepare you to care for your staff as thanks. Good luck, and happy spinning!

(featured image credit is to Waldemar Horwat)

Comments 1

  1. and remember when you are out at all those flow festivals, and you aren’t directly playing with your staff, make sure you prop it up against a wall or a tree, and make sure that tree is out of the way. the #1 killer of contact staffs is people walking on them when they get left in the grass, or sat on in a pile of props and backpacks.

    just wanted to share, i have lost too many staffs this way… far too many….

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