Review: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

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Review: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Hindmost » 22 Oct 2012 12:52

As many of you probably know, there are two remarkably similar 3-fingered gloves available for HEMA at the moment, ones from Sparring Gloves in Poland, and the others from Absolute Force in the US.

We mentioned in this YouTube video that we would do a comparative review about them and post it online, so here it is.

Oskar has the 'HEMA Fighter Gloves' from Absolute Force.
I have the original 'Fechtschule Gdańsk' (aka Ensifer) from Sparring Gloves.

I’ve just combined the feedback from Oskar and myself and taken some pictures.

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On the left, the Fechtschule Gdansk, on the right, the Absolute Force

Impact resistance:

Oskar/Absolute Force glove owner [O/AF]: The Absolute Force gloves (FG) perform very well in this respect. After a few good, clear hits on the hands, I can say that these gloves keep fingers and knuckles well protected. The material used for these gloves is slightly less dense than the rubber that makes up the Fechtschule Gdansk (FG) gloves. This is compensated by the hard shells that protect the most vulnerable parts of the hands.

Marcos/Fechtschule Gdansk glove owner [M/FG]: The 3 fingered Fechtschule Gdansk (FG) gloves are based on their mitten standard model, well known and tested successfully by some pretty hard-hitting individuals within the HEMA community for years. The main difference in theory is that the finger split could potentially mitigate the advantage of the hollow shell construction which redirects the impact along the edge to the handle. I suspect that the finger tips might therefore be a weaker spot than the usual mitten FG model, though I am not able to test and compare this – next week we have a tournament with other Dutch and Belgian groups and expect to get the chance to compare this aspect there. If this is the case the FG producers could perhaps simply add a small hard plastic ridge to the ‘hoof’ fingertip, similar to what the already do for the thumb? Having said that, I've been hit several times on the fingers by the cloggies since I got them and so far so good.

Durability:

M/FG: The stitching is tighter (the holes are closer to each other) on the FG than the AF, and in some places that stitching is double and sometime tripled. This seems very deliberate, so there must be a good reason for it I presume. No such thing on the AF, so if the stitching is going to give up at some point, it will probably be there. Maybe this is not difficult to resolve for the user I guess. Neither of us have used them long enough to comment further really.

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O/AF: Currently, it is difficult to say anything about durability. I am slightly worried about the quality of stitching. This seems to be a common problem with sparring gloves. In a few weeks, we will both compete in a tournament, allowing us to compare the wear and tear after some serious fighting.

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Aesthetics:

M/FG: The FG gloves, being custom-made, are more form fitting, so appear less bulky than the AF. The leather visible on the FG is the back side so appears matt, as opposed to the shiny smooth leather side on the AF. I can see the need for the plastic additions on the tips of the ‘finger hooves’ and thumbs of the AF, but on the cuff I don’t particularly like the look of the plastic strips.

O/AF: The AF gloves aren't particularly good looking. The splints on the cuff look cool. This is negated, however, by the fact that the finishing is not as good as the FG gloves. These gloves are obviously machine made. Whereas good craftsmanship has given the FG gloves a nice and sleek appearance, no attempts whatsoever seem to have been made to achieve similar aesthetics on the AF gloves.

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On the left, the Absolute Force, on the right, the Fechtschule Gdansk

Price:

O/AF: The AF gloves are a lot more affordable than the FG. A lot of the downsides of these gloves are balanced out by this simple fact. European readers beware though; customs can be a bit arbitrary when it comes to import fees from the US.

M/FG: As of writing this review, the FG gloves are about 100 EUR more than the AF ones for a European buyer, add shipping to that for buyer from other continents. I personally think it is well worth the price difference. If I had to buy a dozen for my club I might think differently.

Flexibility and Ease of Use:

O/AF: The Absolute Force gloves handle rather stiff, when using them for the first few times. After getting used to wearing them however, the handling is just fine. The thumbs are somewhat restricted by these gloves. Using the thumb-grip is no problem, however. The biggest issue is, as already said, the width of the gloves. This might cause trouble when handling weapons with a short grip. In this respect, the merits of having custom made FG gloves are of course quite obvious.

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AF wrist

Flexibility of the AF gloves is good overall. The gloves are made in two sizes. This might complicate flexibility a bit, since size L is made for people with gargantuously wide hands. Nimble fingered fighters might experience problems with this width. Otherwise, the gloves allow for fluid motions. After getting used to the gloves, one can perform most actions the same as when wearing lacrosse gloves.

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AF thumb

M/FG: The first time I tried the FG gloves they felt a bit stiff. Half way through the first session that improved and by now they feel much better than my previous gear (cheap lacrosse gloves + escrima forearm guards). The design of the wrist is particularly ingenious and to me the cleverest segment of the glove. I should mention that even though I have smaller hands than Oskar, the thumb on the AF felt much more rigid, tight and uncomfortable than the FG thumb (which should be smaller because my hands are smaller than his). I hope the choice of three fingers improves dexterity on the sword handle and when grappling, but this is not something I can be very assertive about without further comparative testing. I can certainly point at items on a menu and greet Vulcans with them.

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FG wrist

Another important element is the grip on the sword, the choice of inner gloves is key, and I’m happy that neither FG nor AF decided to add their choice of an enclosed palm with these. I find that the “Light Sparring Gloves” (from Revival etc) work fine for me, just enough grip and a bit of extra padding for the 2nd and 3rd knuckles. Others might prefer sports gloves or work/garden gloves.

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FG thumb

Quality of materials used:

O/AF: Both types of gloves seem to be made of roughly the same materials. There are a few subtle differences. The rubber used for the AF gloves has a lower density than the FG gloves. To compensate, the rubber is thicker and some splints and reinforcements in hard plastic have been added. This might be a good thing. There is however a risk of these parts breaking. Only time will tell if that should be a serious concern. When comparing both gloves, the FG’s have better quality of stitching. It is rumoured, however, that the stitching of the FG gloves will become a weak spot over time as well. Personally I don't see the problem, as I would rather have the stitching giving way, than actual parts breaking. Others might actually find this annoying, so it is to be taken into consideration.

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AF thumb

M/FG: I’ve mentioned the stitching in the durability section and to be honest I don’t know anything about leather or polyurethane or whatever it is that either FG or AF use. The compound material used on the FG seems a bit more robust or dense maybe? The inner felt soft padding on the FG feels more natural and is arguably superior. The elastic bands on the cuff and thumb seem very much the same.

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FG thumb

Quality of service:

Both the people at AF and FG were professionals and perfectly nice to deal with and prompt to respond and follow up on any queries. The FG producers will take longer to deliver their product than the AF team, but that is probably down to the differences in manufacturing and therefore to be expected.

And finally: plagiarism claims (please read the comments on the YouTube video)

M/FG: I suppose the two ends of the moral spectrum range between “I would never buy the AF gloves or even recommend any other product from AF because they stole the concept from the hard working people that developed this glove design in the first place” and “hey it’s a global market, AF are meeting the demands of a segment of the HEMA community that FG failed to market to when they had the chance, this kind of thing is inevitable so tough titties”. Up to potential buyers to place themselves on that moral scale I guess, and decide how much it weighs compared to the other criteria mentioned so far.

O/AF: It is claimed that the AF gloves have been reverse engineered from FG gloves. Although I do not know the truth of this matter, I have had the chance to compare both gloves. The cut of the two different gloves is awkwardly similar, down to the small parts that cover the knuckles and the construction that protects the thumb. Reverse engineered or not, the FG gloves have been around far longer. The AF gloves are clearly a cheaper ripped off version. Keeping that and all of the above in mind, I hope we have supplied you with some useful insights in the similarities and differences between these fencing gloves.

In conclusion:

The AF gloves are cheaper, faster to deliver and come in two standard sizes (M and L) but might not be as durable (time will tell), the FG gloves are more expensive, do take longer to make but are customised to your hand and appear to be more durable.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby admin » 22 Oct 2012 14:53

Thanks for this!
Having never used either of these gloves myself I was quite amazed to see the similarity in the designs! :shock:
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Michael Chidester » 22 Oct 2012 14:54

Regarding the "plagiarism" subject, an Absolute Fencing representative made this statement:

Absolute Force HEMA wrote:We did not know FG makes the 3 finger style gloves when we making them. The idea of 3 finger style was suggested by HEMA fighters who are helping us to developing this model.

Regardless, we are taking all the feedbacks and suggestions from the community, and we will make another model of the gloves next season, a newer design, better material, still in the reasonable cost and fill the community needs.

We have an established factory that can modify and making all the products that HEMA fighters need, that is why we make the roll bag that can fit long swords, we make the protectors for shin, for forearm. This is just the first year we are making these products for HEMA community, we will continue improve and produce more products that suitable for the HEMA fighters.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby admin » 22 Oct 2012 17:08

I thought they were American, but this message is clearly not written by an English speaker. Are they in China or Pakistan?
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Michael Chidester » 22 Oct 2012 17:15

They are indeed an American company, but perhaps they've outsourced their customer support and the like to Asia. I hear that's all the rage these days.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Hindmost » 22 Oct 2012 21:25

Based on what it says on the label, the AF gloves are made in China.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Axel » 22 Oct 2012 22:35

I think from a conversation with Jan Chodkiewicz that the stitching on the AF gloves is a design choice since it is easier to replace thread than torn rubber parts. Like Marcos I think this is a smart idea.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Joeli » 23 Oct 2012 07:52

Thanks for the detailed comparison. As we are expecting a shipment of four pairs of the Polish gloves this week, I cannot deny that there were some second thoughts whether we should've gone for the Chinese/American gloves instead. Based on the review, I am very glad of our choise.

That being said, I really hope that AF keeps their promise of developing their design further during the next few years. Merely providing something that seems like an inferior knock off does not do great favours to the community. But I suppose the AF gloves are at least better than epoxy and leather reinforced lacrosse gloves.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby admin » 23 Oct 2012 15:08

I actually found it quite amusing that the AF gloves 'seemed' to be a copy of the Polish gloves, because I still believe that they could make something much more simply that does the same job as well.

I hate the shiny plastic bits on the AF gloves. They look like something a stripper might wear circa 1995.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Monster Zero » 24 Oct 2012 20:39

There's actually a little bit more info that has come to light on the HEMA Alliance forum.

Apparently AF was working with Jake Norwood on the 3 finger design prior to Gdansk's release of the 3 finger design. It looks like he may have even influenced the FG design as well.

"Hi!

No doubt. I asked Jan to make one, too, last year at swordfish. I don't think that either side "stole" the three fingered design from the other. I know that I literally took AF's second prototype that they sent me, cut it down the middle with scissors, taped it together, and said, "we want something like that."

At the time, I also thought that it would help distinguish the AF glove from the FG gloves, since I was (and still am) very uncomfortable with the number of design cues that AF took from the original Ensifer glove.

That's why I said I thought the 3 fingered design was synchronicity, not either side copying the other (my reference to that was more of a first impression, but one which I quickly discarded).

All that said, when comparing the two products, they aren't the same. The FG glove is a custom made sports car, and the AF glove is a production model sedan. They have a lot of surface similarities, but you also get what you pay for. The AF glove is very important to our community, in that we need affordable, off the shelf equipment to grow. But I don't see sparringglove.com running out of customers anytime soon, either. Some folks are going to pay twice as much for something that's custom fit to their hand, hand made, and high performance. I'm one of those folks.

But most clubs, mine included, need about 15 pair of standard-sized protective gear for students. We're trying to get to a place in the US where we can do a lot of what you Europeans have come to take for granted...we haven't had access to the quality gear that you all have had, and certainly not at the prices you all have had it at.

So Jan has my total support in his beef with AF. And I'd rather get Jan talking to AF, since he could help them improve their design considerably, and they could turn around and pay him to do it. Or that's what I'd like to see, at least. We, as a community, NEED inexpensive, "munitions grade" equipment. AF is the only company filling that gap right now, even if some of that equipment has a ways to go yet. Let's get our HEMA mad scientists (guys like Jan and Miah Smith, etc.) talking to these bigger production companies -- especially the ones with factories in China. Because those factories are going to copy the stuff regardless, no matter what anyone says. But this way they could (a) actually reward our mad scientists and (b) end up making better stuff.

What I think we should avoid is the urge to get dramatic about it, tempting as that can be."

FYI: AFI is located a little over an hour from me here in NJ.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Mearcstapa » 20 Dec 2012 19:57

admin wrote:I hate the shiny plastic bits on the AF gloves. They look like something a stripper might wear circa 1995.


As a terribly aesthetically sensitive creature, I could not agree more.

Monster Zero wrote:But I don't see sparringglove.com running out of customers anytime soon, either...

...We, as a community, NEED inexpensive, "munitions grade" equipment. AF is the only company filling that gap right now, even if some of that equipment has a ways to go yet..


Absolutely.
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Re: 3 fingered gloves; comparative review

Postby Colin F. » 23 Dec 2012 22:43

What kind of foam do they use in the AF or FG gloves? I'm trying to find some similar foam here in the UK for a project for a sabre glove (don't get excited..., it's not quite like that), but don't know where to start. EVA foam maybe? 6mm or thicker?
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