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How to Choose the Right Staff Diameter

Momo Bonobo

fire performer with fire dragon staff

Staffs come in all shapes and sizes. Although there isn’t always an option to choose your staff diameter, we’re gonna delve a bit deeper into how diameter affects the flow of a prop and also talk about the most common diameter for the most common stick props. I’ll also give you a bunch of personal opinions so hang on tight!

So let’s talk about some basic physics (I think that’s what it’s called?). Larger staff diameters roll quicker on your body than smaller staff diameters. Smaller staff diameters travel shorter distances for every revolution, and therefore roll slower. Let’s talk about stick props from the largest outside diameter (OD) to the smallest OD:

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Dragon Staff

Dragon Staffs have spokes on them, which slow down the effects of gravity and larger circumferences we spoke about earlier. For this reason, dragons are most commonly found in 7/8″ (22mm) diameters. Some manufacturers out there might still use 1″ diameters (25mm) but this is becoming much less common. For most dragon staff users, I don’t even recommend using any other diameter except 22mm. Most hubs on the market (Threeworlds, Gora) and most standard manufacturers all use 22mm tubing for their dragons and using anything else will complicate things if you ever wanted to switch between hubs or anything like that.

It would also be good to note that some people use 19mm staffs for their dragons. If you are using the Fusion V3 hubs, you can purchase spacers to be able to adapt these hubs to 19mm staffs. Although it’s possible, I still don’t personally like the way it flows (such a slow roll speed). But there are some experienced flow artists that I’m aware of that like this setup, so it is possible and is being used.

Contact Staff

Contact staffs come in a large range of diameters. The style of flow really determines what you might gravitate towards. It’s difficult to say what the most popular staff diameters are because it varies by continent, style, and preference. The top 3 staff diameters would have to be 7/8″, 3/4″, and 5/8″ (22mm, 19mm, and 16mm).

Short of trying all of them and seeing what you like, I’d say 7/8″ (22mm) is most common for collapsible props, martial flow styles, and hybrid contact/spin styles. Although larger diameters do have slightly more weight, they also are thicker and easier to grab onto. Bo staffs are generally 1″ (25mm) in diameter so it’s an easier transition for martial artists. This seems to be a very common thickness in Europe/Australia as well.

5/8″ (16mm) staffs are most useful if you are going down a technical contact staff journey. I see it used most when people are trying to do traps or double/triple contact staff. The thinner diameter makes the rolling speed much slower, which can give you more control during contact moves. That being said (at least in my opinion), it can make some moves difficult as well if you’re used to other diameters (for me that would be angel rolls and steve’s). These staffs do tend to be lighter though! At this diameter a contact staff is gonna most likely be carbon fiber so it isn’t bouncy.

3/4″ (19mm) staffs are a great middle ground. They have more to hold onto than their smaller cousins, and roll a bit slower than their larger cousins. This is generally a pretty safe bet if you’re just starting out, or also if you have a hybrid contact/spin style and want to incorporate both into your flow.

A quick note here on what I’ve noticed in the community: you’ll get used to whatever staff diameter you start out with. This is not me saying not to think about this topic at all, but if you read the above descriptions and are pulled one way or the other, don’t overthink it.

Double Staffs

Now in this context, double staffs refer to tech doubles or batons and not to using double contact staffs. There generally isn’t the option to choose double staff diameters outside of custom ordering for specific manufacturer’s. The most common double staff diameter is 1/2″ (13mm). That being said, I’ve seen them be thicker or thinner than that as well.

In comparison to dragon staffs and contact staffs that involve a lot more contact moves and rolling, double staffs are generally held in your hands the whole time (other than maybe when doing fish tails or tosses). So the biggest difference with diameters is just how thick you want the stick for grabbing onto. Some recent designs I’ve seen have gotten thinner to allow for more finger spinning technical moves. In contrast, baton spinning involves a lot of tosses so that style might benefit from thicker diameters to make catching easier.

Other Props

Most other props I can think of aren’t as heavily affected by diameter as the ones we’ve spoken of so far. Props that fall into the weapons category like mace, sword, and spear don’t generally involve contact in the same way other props do. Levi-wands, swinging torches, juggling clubs, and others I’m probably forgetting, don’t generally come in different tube diameters from manufacturers either. If there’s any I’m missing that would be important to talk about be sure to reach out and I can include it here!

Conclusion

To wrap this up, in my opinion staff diameter is most important for props that involve rolling on your body. Outside of that, it mostly affects how thick the tubing is which allows more to grab onto. As there generally isn’t an option to choose diameters for dragon staffs and double staffs from most manufacturer’s, it mainly becomes a question for contact staffs. My quick and dirty recap of the most common diameters to use would be as follows:

  • Larger diameters roll faster than slower diameters
  • For non-contact props, biggest difference is how thick handle is to hold onto
  • Dragon staffs are generally 7/8″ (22mm) OD
  • Contact staffs are most likely 7/8″, 3/4″, or 5/8″ (22mm, 19mm, or 16mm)
  • Double staffs are most likely to be 1/2″ (13mm)
  • Other stick props will vary by manufacturer
  • Contact staffs can attach staff flowers to slow down the rolling speed