Modding “Amazon Special” Gauntlets

Three Mods to Make Cheap Hourglass Gauntlets Usable

Need to score some passible rigid hand protection? Maybe you’ve been eyeing these ubiquitous mitts and wondering if they’d possibly do the trick for C&T. It could be their dashing good looks or their even more attractive price tag, but a lot of people have been on the fence about picking up a pair. Well, I’m here to shove you right off of that fence!

As seen on Amazon!

I first discovered what I’ve dubbed “Amazon Special” gauntlets a few years ago, after coming to the painful conclusion that even heavily padded gloves were insufficient for my open-hilted weapons. I’d heard of other people using cheap hourglass gauntlets like these, but they all complained about the maneuverability and articulation. Nonetheless, the price was right, so I decided to see if I could make them work. After a bit of tinkering, I figured it out, and eventually I helped other people mod theirs. Word’s gotten out, and lots of people have asked me about them, so I decided to write this guide.


Pros and Cons

A few caveats before we get started. First, no, I don’t actually recommend these. Don’t get me wrong, my Amazon Specials have served me well, especially for the sheer abuse I’ve put them though, but I’d highly recommend saving up for something better if that’s a realistic option. Granted, there are several different cheap hourglass gauntlets out there, but this short list of the pros and cons apply to nearly all of them.

Pros

  • They offer enough protection for SCA C&T fencing (even when calibration creeps up).
  • They’re cheap (around $90–$110 on Amazon and many other sources).
  • They look better than equivalently priced HEMA hand protection (e.g., Red Dragon gloves).

Cons

  • There’s no padding, so your bones may be safe, but you will get bruises.
  • The leather is absurdly cheap, so you can expect blowouts eventually.
  • When they rust, all of those little contours make them a pain to clean.
    If you don’t mind black mitts, then liquid gun blue is your friend.
  • If you want these to work, then you’ll have to modify them.
  • No matter how well you mod them, they’re still heavy, cluncky, and a bit uncomfortable.

Read Before You Mod

Okay, you’ve got your Amazon Specials and you’re ready to go, but before we dive in, here are few things to consider:

First, you don’t have to be the most experienced metalworker to get these mitts into shape. Basically, you need just a handful of tools to do the job, and while I’ve focused on my method in this guide, I’ve listed some alternative tools/methods in case you don’t have access to a shop or many power tools.

Second, you’re about to make permanent alterations to these things. Now is the time to turn back. Try them on and see if the fit is anything resembling okay. Pick up a sword and see if you can hold it reasonably well. We’re modding these gauntlets to extend their range of motion more than anything, so if the fit isn’t passible, you might as well just return them.

Third, as you make these modifications, take your time and be careful. Measure twice and remove a conservative amount of metal where you have to. You can always carve out more, but adding metal back is a bit of a pain (ask me how I know). Also, both the strap and the sewn-in glove are extremely vulnerable to damage. Replacing the glove is a particularly painful process, so before you cut and grind, you’ll want to tape off the most exposed leather and do your best to tuck it out of the way.

Finally, please, please be careful. There’s no sense in injuring yourself to make protective equipment. No one needs that kind of irony.


Overview

We’re going to make three modifications to these Amazon Specials that will culminate in a set of useable gauntlets. These modifications will provide you with a full cutting range, a natural grip, and the ability to fully extend your blade. Here’s what we’re going to do:

Carve out the excess material in the grip to increase cutting range.

Reposition the base of the thumb to facilitate natural sword manipulation.

Cut away part of the cuff to allow full blade extension.


Tools

  • Hammer
  • Permanent marker
  • Dremel with EZ Lock metal cutoff wheels
  • Grinder (bench or angle) or files
  • Deburring tools (wire brush, sandpaper/steel wool)
  • Rivets (1/8″ recommended) and riveting tools
    Yes, you can use pop rivets. No, you shouldn’t.
  • Drill with appropriate bit for your rivets
  • Short strip of leather or nylon
  • Tape

Mod 1: Increasing Cutting Range

The first time you hold a sword in your gauntleted hand, you may be tempted to take a swing or two. Go ahead, give it a try. Sucks, doesn’t it? That’s because your weapon can’t actually rotate back in your hand, forcing you to cut entirely from your elbow and shoulder, without the benefit of about half of the articulation of your wrist or fingers, which is exactly where your cuts are supposed to come from. This is due to all of that extra metal between your thumb and index finger. Let’s get rid of that.

  1. Put on your gauntlet and pick up a hammer. Grip the hammer gently, as you would grip a sword.
  2. Trace out the curve between your index finger and your thumb, with the apex of the curve just past the flesh where your thumb meets your hand. Ultimately, you’ll want to uncover about half and inch or so of this part of your hand. Don’t worry, it’s next to impossible to hit with a sword and your bones will still be covered.
  3. Use your Dremel to cut out the area you’ve marked off. I’m not sure if you could do this with a hacksaw—I wouldn’t. Be sure to cut well inside the line, especially close to the apex of the curve.
  4. Test the fit. I recommend using a hammer again, as it’ll be easier to swing in a shop than a sword. Also, swinging a hammer as though pounding in a nail tends to facilitate better cutting mechanics for many people than using an actual sword does.
  5. Using a grinder (bench or angle) or a file, remove additional material until you can perform a full cut without the gauntlet impeding your motion.
  6. Deburr any edges with a wire brush and/or sandpaper (duh).

Mod 2: Fixing the Grip

Now that we’ve freed up your cutting range, things should already feel a lot better, but there’s still something seriously off with your grip. Take a look at where a rivet anchors the thumb to the rest of the gauntlet. This particular configuration has led me to conclude that whoever designed these gauntlets has never actually seen a human hand. Fortunately, you have a perfectly good hand right in front of you to reference, so correcting this flaw shouldn’t be hard.

  1. Put on your gauntlet and pick up a hammer. Grip the hammer gently, as you would grip a sword.
  2. Mark the point about halfway between the joint where your thumb meets the rest of your hand and the joint of the thumb near the wrist (the saddle joint).
  3. Cut off the rivet attaching the thumb to the rest of the gauntlet and trim off the extra leather sticking out past the base plate of the thumb.
  4. Drill an appropriately sized hole for your rivets in the baseplate of the thumb and the dot your marked in step two.
  5. Take a short strip of leather or nylon and rivet it to the underside of the thumb’s baseplate.
  6. Overlap the strap with the hole in the gauntlet so that the baseplate thumb doesn’t stick out past the gauntlet itself and tape it into place.
  7. Put on the gauntlet, check the fit, and adjust as necessary. You want a bit of give in the thumb, but not too much (apx 1/”).
  8. Once properly aligned, mark the rivet hole. I recommend sticking a thumbtack in from behind.
  9. Punch the hole in the strap and loosely rivet it into place.
  10. Test the fit by swinging a hammer. You may need to grind away a bit more of the space between your thumb and index finger.
  11. (optional) Flange out the end of the gauntlet where the thumb used to attach. If you have large hands, then this will further free up your ability to move your thumb, which is useful if you shift your grip often.

Mod 3: Facilitating the Extension

It’s entirely possible that if you have extremely small hands or are using a weapon with a very short grip and no pommel (and you don’t intend to use any other kind of sword), then thrusting or extending at the end of a cut isn’t an issue for you. However, with most weapons, some combination of your grip and/or pommel will slam right into the cuff by your inner wrist, making it impossible to properly extend the blade. Fixing this is pretty easy.

  1. Put on your gauntlet, pick up a sword, and extend it into the best thrust you can.
  2. Trace the area around the pommel/handle where the cuff prevents you from properly extending the blade. Add about 1/4″ allowance at the apex of the arch and a bit more on the sides.
  3. Cut out the area you’ve marked. Be conservative! This shouldn’t even come close to exposing the points of the wrist.
  4. Check your fit and repeat until you can comfortably go between an extension and a guard.
  5. Deburr any edges with a wire brush and/or sandpaper (again, duh).

I hope this guide has been easy enough to follow and that your newly modded Amazon Specials bring you countless hours of fun, injury-free fencing. I’m always looking for ways to improve my guides, so if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via Facebook.

—PRvW

Written by Phil Selman

Known as Warder Philipp Reimer von Wolfenbüttel in the Society for Creative Anachronism, Phil is a lifelong historical fencer and martial arts instructor. He specializes in I.33 sword and buckler and avidly enjoys late-period Italian rapier (primarily Giganti).