The question of how to make or where to buy an acro staff has been popping up more and more regularly both on the contact staff Facebook group (join it if you haven’t already!) and when I meet people in person.
As Facebook groups are pretty rubbish at archiving threads it makes sense to record all this information, most of which has been on the FB group more than once, in a more permanent place. This article includes information from Kevin Arleri and MCP among others.
Boring disclaimer: you build an acrostaff and try acrostaff tricks at your own risk – it’s not my fault if you hurt yourself or the staff you make using these instructions breaks! Acrostaff is inherently more risky than other forms of staff manipulation and I have no official strength tests for any of the materials below, only my own experience.
Some safety tips include:
• Don’t train by yourself, or if you do make sure someone knows where you are and when you expect to be home.
• Train over soft ground.
• Don’t train in the wet.
• Start gentle and increase the impact slowly to gain confidence in your staff and yourself.
• Use a spotter if necessary.
• Don’t throw tricks you’re not confident with or don’t have an understanding of.
How to Make an Acro Staff
The most important element of an acrostaff is the core (obviously). There are a number of options but all have their down sides, particularly if you also want to spin contact staff with your acrostaff.
One safety consideration rings true for almost every option: Considering we lack official strength tests for any of these materials start off gentle and gradually test your staff. Only increase the impact of your tricks as you gain confidence in the material. None of the options below will look pretty if they snap while you’re on it.
Wood – this is the cheapest option, is quite a good weight and is what the standard No Sweat acrostaffs were made from. Most wooden acro staffs I’ve seen use a strong, hardwood martial arts bo or jo staff. This is fine up to a point, though not all bo staffs are as strong as each other so you’re taking a gamble if ordering online. However, I haven’t yet found a wooden staff that is strong enough to handle repeated, hardcore acrostaff tricks.
Aluminium with Wood Core – Alain uses this type of acrostaff and it seems to hold up quite well. The key to this type of staff is the right aluminium alloy and the right wall thickness. I haven’t researched this option much but I’d recommend talking to someone who knows their metals before investing. Even so, heavier people, and possibly lighter people doing high impact tricks, are going to end up bending their staffs which ruins any plans to spin contact staff with them.
7075 Aluminum with No Wood Core – While much stronger than standard 6061 aluminium that many contact staffs are made with I have found 7075 aluminium will still bend permanently with only moderate acrostaff use. I would not recommend this material as the core for an acrostaff.
Carbon Fibre – lightweight, strong (but not unbreakable) but expensive. Carbon fibre tubes tend to come in either 2mm or 3mm wall thickness. I have cracked 2mm carbon fibre tubes with quite extreme acrostaff moves so I wouldn’t recommend this tubing for heavier people or those wanting to jump on their staff with their full weight. The 3mm tubing is stronger but heavier and may still crack or break after prolonged, extreme use. The is little to no flex with carbon fibre.
Carbon Fibre and Kevlar Composite – Kevin from No Sweat has a staff made from this. *EDIT* Kev got in touch and kindly gave me the link to the exact tube he uses in his staff. He also said the diameter is important and to choose the 34mm and the 100% kevlar reinforcement. This diameter is going to give you a thick staff, which, personally, I dislike as the staff rolls more quickly, but that’s about the only downside of this material apart from the price. There is no flex with this material.
Fibreglass – this is currently my preferred option . It’s quite cheap, the strongest material I have tested and easy to get hold of. The big downside is the weight; it’s heavy. I currently use a 22mm core. It’s heavy but not ridiculously so, but I quite like heavy contact staffs so it will be more of a shock to those who like featherweight contact staffs. It has quite a bit of flex on high impact moves but will never develop a permanent bend. I’m confident it can handle everything I can do to it.
Bear in mind, I weigh roughly 11 stone (160lbs, 73kg). I have been using these staffs for over two years with no cracks or breakages and I regularly use extreme techniques. I am confident it is suitable for people heavier than me. You can also use acro staffs with a 25mm core. This, however, is very heavy and significantly hampers contact moves even for someone like me who likes heavy staffs. However, it could easily support the highest impact trick from someone a lot heavier than me.
So you’ve got your core, whatever it may be. Now you need a few other bits and bobs to make an acrostaff. This is my particular recipe so if you want to change anything, go for it. I don’t claim this is the best or only way to make an acrostaff, it’s merely the way I made mine. If you got any suggestions or improvements then please leave a comment.
2x Heavy duty 28mm ferrules (I use these ones – the wide diameter, relative to the core, helps the staff roll well and I don’t need to replace them for many months. Other ferrules I’ve destroyed in 90 minutes!)
3x Old tyre inner tubes (free from bike repair shops)
1x Roll of double sided adhesive tape (I’ve just started using this stuff which claims to be super strong, and so far it’s holding up well.)
1x Tennis racquet grips or your choice of contact staff grip (I use these as they’re cheap but do the job adequately)
1x Roll fabric tape (I use this stuff as it’s very durable and reasonably grippy)
1x Roll of steel wire (optional)
1x Roll of insulation tape
1x Scissors or knife
• Cut your core down to size. I use a 150cm (5ft) staff (aka a bitch stick) but it’s up to you. Shorter staffs will be stronger as there’s less leverage and longer staffs open up a few extra acro tricks but will be more prone to bend/break and more prohibitive for contact moves.
• (Optional) To add some extra weight to the ends of the staff (to help with contact moves) wrap steel wire around the very ends of the staff. I went round 20 times, I think. Make sure you use the same amount of wire on each end.
• Hold this in place using the fabric tape (see the picture on the left). Keep wrapping the fabric tape around the ends of the staff until the ferrules fit over it nicely without rotating easily once they’re on.
(You can apply the racquet grips or the inner tubes first, it doesn’t matter as one has to overlap the other. I’m trying it with the grip first to see if that makes where they join more durable)
• Apply your racquet grip to the staff without the adhesive first and measure the length of it when wrapped around the staff. Find the centre point by balancing the staff in your finger and mark where the racquet grip should start and finish (e.g. if the grip covers 34cm of your staff mark points that are 17cm either side of the centre point.
• Chances are you’ve acquired slightly different size inner tubes. Try to select ones of similar size to go on each end of the staff (we’ll be using one and a half on each end). Cut them near the valve so they’re no longer a circle and cut out the valve.
• Cut one of the inner tubes in half.
• Attach a small piece of insulating tape to the end of the inner tube halves and stick the tape overhang onto the staff’s core immediately below the ferrule.
• Wrap the inner tube around the end of the core, going no further than 10cm or 15cm down the core and overlapping the inner tube so it is as wide as the ferrule where the inner tube meets it. Try to taper the inner tube so the layers get less and less as it goes down the core until you have something like the picture on the left.
• Use another small piece of insulation tape to hold the end of this inner tube in place.
• Do the same to the other end of the staff.
(These initial inner tubes add weight to the ends of the staff aiding with contact tricks but also provide a kind of “step”. You will often be positioning your feet on this part of the staff and this step will help you stay on the staff.)
• Flatten another inner tube on the floor or work bench and apply double-sided tape down the inner tube’s entire length. (Alternatively, spiral the double-sided tape down the length of the core to the end of the racquet grip, then peel off the backing and apply the inner tube as described below.)
• Again, using some insulation tape to hold the inner tube in place, start to wrap this inner tube around the staff. Start it just below the layer of the first inner tube nearest to the ferrule. As you are wrapping remember to peel off the backing to the double-sided tape.
• Ideally one full layer of the second inner tube should make it flush with the width of the first inner tube layer nearest the ferrule and hide ugly bit of insulation tape holding the second inner tube on. As soon as the inner tube covers and hides the start of itself, wrap the rest of it down over the remainder of the first inner tube and on down toward the centre of the staff, remembering to peel off the backing to the double-sided tape as you go.
• I usually overlap the layers of inner tube so each successive layer covers a small part of the previous. This help add even more grip to the staff as it creates ridges.
• When the inner tube reaches the racquet grip, overlap the first part of the racquet grip so none of the core is visible.
• Hold the end of the inner tube in place with a small bit of tape.
• Add a second inner tube to the other end of the staff in exactly the same manner.
• You can also use the fabric tape at the ends of the staff but this is purely aesthetic.
• Mark a centre point if that’s your style.
Notes on Durability
Acrostaff tricks are pretty punishing on your staff. The central grip will get crumpled, wear away and need replacing more quickly than on a contact staff, though I do try to keep my feet and weight away from the centre of the staff as you’re more likely to snap it by applying lots of force here. This also prolongs the life of the grip.
The ferrules will wear away eventually but if you’re using the ones I linked to, or similar, then they should last ages, depending on what surface you’re on and what tricks you’re doing.
The tyre inner tube is super tough but may well get pushed together and start to crumple towards the end (hopefully the new super sticky double-sided tape I used this time will reduce this). This will require you to unravel and re-wrap the staff at some point.
Also be aware that the inner tubes will get slippery if they get wet or the soles of your shoes are damp.
Hopefully that helps some of you make and start practising acrostaff. If you have any other tips of experiences then please comment or post on the Facebook page.
Have fun and train safe.