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Q & A: Lightsaber Construction

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
I have seen several sites on building a lightsaber replica. However, all of these sites require a flashgun (used for special effects in the mid-1900s), Heiland or Graflex are the most common, but these are quite expensive, and hard to get a hold of. I was wondering if anyone knew of a cheaper or easier way to build a lightsaber replica. It would be quite cool to have one of these for demonstration.
- Luke Skywalker
Vast Empire, Greenwood, IN, US
A:

The reason that all of the sites that you’ve been to require the use of a flashgun tube is because this is what was used in the construction of several of the original movie props. Not all of the originals were made this way, though, and you may have better luck replicating some of the others (i.e. Obi Wan’s lightsaber).

You don’t have to build one exactly like the movie props, though. If you use your creativity, you can come up with something along the same lines as those (good enough to fool all but the most enthusiastic Star Wars fans). Remember, all the original movie artists did was take random pieces of metal and plastic and glue them together so they looked cool. You can do the same thing with anything you find laying around - for example, a metal pipe or even a cardboard tube wrapped in tinfoil would make a decent starting point. You can ’decorate’ it with metal washers, bolts, bits of rubber, etc. Take a look at the site to get some ideas to get you started.

Note: It’s worth pointing out that these things won’t actually work. The ’replicas’ that you can build at home are just the lightsaber handles - there is no light and no blade. If you want to build something that looks more like a blade, you could probably rig a flashlight into the center of your handle and attach a translucent color tube to the end (i.e. a long plastic tube wrapped with colored plastic wrap). When the flashlight is on, it will light up the tube to look like a lightsaber blade.

Some flashlights were sold like this (you probably can get them around halloween in supermarkets, along with cheap Darth Vader costumes) but they are made out of molded plastic and won’t look anywhere near as cool as one you can make with suitable shiny metal and black rubber parts. The glowing plasma effect seen in the Star Wars films was added in post-production. The actual movie props had dull-looking painted aluminum tubes for blades.

-Tamara (and Tom)


(published on 10/22/2007)

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