A. The “four week minimum” is in place for two main reasons:
Safety. We want to encourage productions to reserve ample time to work with weapons in rehearsals whether these weapons are three foot broadswords, switchblades, or blank firing handguns. Shows with a short run of only a weekend or two (and this is usually the case with high schools and universities) might be tempted to cut the rental period as close as possible to save a few bucks, giving the actors only a week of scattered rehearsal time to learn choreography with the actual props. Actors need as much time as possible to work with these (potentially dangerous) props to gain the most basic level of “comfort” with them. (Remember that most people these days do not have a lot of experience wielding swords and axes in combat and this will be a very foreign thing for most actors.)
We often hear, “but we are rehearsing with wooden dowels of the same length and don’t need the actual swords until right before we open.” While it is certainly “better than nothing” to practice with wooden dowels or “foam swords” it is NOT AT ALL the same thing; swinging a three pound steel sword with different grip, balance point, flexibility, and so forth is completely different. This would be like learning to drive a 4 cylinder, front wheel drive automatic car and then have to suddenly translate this skill to driving a ten ton, fourteen wheel diesel truck with a stick shift; similar, yes, but with some serious differences.
Economics. One week or even two week rentals do not make good fiscal sense for a rental company. These short term rentals would barely pay our staff to clean, inspect, package, ship, check in, and maintain the equipment. Besides the cost of manpower hours it is surprising how much we spend each year on things like sanding sponges, sanding belts, wire wheels, replacement hardware, leather cleaner, and oil, not to mention shipping materials and the various “freebies” that we send along with our props like cleaning supplies, rifle cases, and simple frogs.
Take, for example, a recent request for two broadswords with scabbards and baldrics that the customer only wanted to rent for a week because their show was just one weekend. This customer didn’t understand why they could not just pay $25 for renting them for one week ($12.50 each per week). The retail purchase cost of these swords was $350 each, the scabbards each cost $90, and the baldrics were $60 each, for a total of $1,000 worth of equipment. We would have to do more than 40 of these “week-long” rentals just to break even on the cost of the equipment! (For some perspective, NONE of our weapons have been out that many times so, if we did one week rentals we would have basically spent the last 11 years in business while turning no profit whatsoever.) And it very often does take years to make back our initial investment on many of our weapons.
Not to “over-answer” the question but there is also the issue of the time for “reserving the item” that is often forgotten. This customer above had contacted us on May 1st and had requested that the items be available on May 26th – June 1st. They also needed the swords to be shipped to Ohio (2 days of transit time). So these two swords with full leather gear would have effectively been “taken off the market” from the time we were contacted (May 1st) until the time they were returned… at the earliest on June 4th or just about five weeks.
When you factor in the time the item gets reserved and transit time most items are “off the market” for at least four weeks in any case. For items like our single handed broadswords, with a starting retail price of $350+ each, that is a lot of rental to make any profit at all; it usually takes a couple years to make back the initial investment. For some items it takes even longer. A good percentage of our clients are schools, universities, and smaller theatre (all non-profit types) so we try to offer the best product at the best price and we don’t charge tax for anyone so hopefully that helps a bit. If you do place an order for ten or more weapons and/or a long rental period we also discount the final price. Hope that isn’t too much information!