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So You Want To Build A Lightsaber....

So you want to build a lightsaber? Fortunately for you, it's not that hard, or expensive! Two stops and you'll have all the parts you need! Well, three, if you count sitting your butt infront of the computer and getting some reference photos off the net. But if you want to do that with a little less effort, click here for some links to sites with good reference pictures. That's the first step. Then I'd suggest reading through everything else I've put up on building a lightsaber so you get an idea of what's possible and what materials you're going to be using.

After you've done that, you're ready to start designing your lightsaber! This is a hard part: Get out a pencil (with an eraser) and some paper. Graph paper is recomended for those of us who can't draw straight lines. It would also help make a good scale drawing if you're more of a perfectionist than I am. I just make a rough sketch. Next, since you should have read the rest of this, you should have a decent idea of what you're going to be able to use for pieces for what you just drew and what tools you'll need.

So off to our first stop! Da da da! Lowes (or any other large home improvement type place. Lowes just happens to be closest to me)! Let's start with the most important pieces first. You need something to hold. So off to the Plumbing department! What you're looking for is a chrome-plated brass sink pipe. Depending on how big of a handle you like, and what else you're going to be doing, you'll want to either get one that's 1' 1/4th inch or 1' 1/2 inch. Exactly which will be explained in a bit. You're also going to have to have something to cover the end that the blade doesn't come out of. One possible way that seems to be popular is using a painted sink handle. This works well but you have to be careful to get one that's the right size for the end of your saber and that doesn't have any markings on it that are indented and will show through the paint. They also usually come in sets of two and can be up to $25. I don't really like spending that much. So option #2: Chrome hole plugs. These are flat bottoms for sabers. I find them in the same isle as the screws and bolts in large drawers. They can be purchased in many different sizes and there should be one that fits your saber bottome well. You may have to bend the prongs out or in to get a tight fit but it shouldn't be a problem. So with what you've got now, you've got a hilt with a closed bottom and nothing fancy on it. Very simple. Very shiny. Still under $10 most likely.

Now for the bits and bobs. You're most likely going to want a nice grip of some sort for your saber so let's talk about options for that. Many sabers have a black piece covering the chrome part. One example of this is my friend Tim's saber. This was made out of PVC also picked out of the plumbing department. We selected this because it was extremely thin (unlike the PVC you buy in large 10 ft poles) and fit pretty snugly over the chrome part. To see exactly what I'm talking about click here.Then it was spray painted black. Very simple, very cheap, very effective. That's one option. The next is to place something under the chrome meaning you'd have to cut a section from the hilt. A good example of this is Obi-Wan's saber from Episode I. It has the black grip under the chrome part. One way to have something under there is to get the 1 1/4 inch tube and buy one of those long 10 ft poles of 1 inch PVC and cut a section that will fit where you need. This is what I did for my first lightsaberAnother widely used option is to find 1 inch corrugated drainage pipe. This is usually sold in long coils in the Plumbing Department as well. I used this on my second saber. An option I've been wanting to use but haven't had the time to yet is getting foam pipe insulation in the right size to cover your hilt. This is to foamy for some people and has a slit in most kinds you find so you can get it on the pipe. My solution: Electrical tape. Wrap the foam in electrical tape. This will compress it slightly making it less mushy and makes a very nice looking grip. Plus since it's rubbery, it doesn't slip out of your hand easily. Another suggestion I've heard is cutting slits going up the hilt and sliding pieces of windshield wipers into the slits. This would create a grip like the one found on Vader's and Luke's Sabers. I like the way it looks but I don't think I'd like the way it felt. But then again, I use my sabers for fighting with. If it's just going to be a display piece, go for looks. The last way I've seen is using "O-Rings". These are similar to washers but round instead of flat. If I remember correctly, there' found near the chrome hole plugs. Fitting several of these close together would make a bumpy grip but very nice looking.

After all that, you should now have a good hilt with something to grip. So what's next? Knobbs. There's lots of options for this. The first ones I found were in the lighting department and were the little bass ones used for Obi-Wan's saber in Episode I. These do not have a way to attach them to the saber so I super glue a screw into the underside. This is often the screw I also use to hold in the blade because it's easy to use your hand to undo the screw once the knob is well glued on. The second type I use is a brass something or other that I found near the chrome hole plugs. The best thing about these is they're also a way to clip your saber to your belt. If you get one that's 3/4 inch, it will be able to fit into a clip for a cell phone which we'll pick up later. These knobs have holes through the center so pick up a small set of screws that will fit into it and leave the head of the screw under the surface of the knob, otherwise it will catch in the belt clip. If you can't find one you can always grind the head down but then you lose the place to put the screwdriver and remove the screw later. Now you'll be wanting to have a way to turn your lightsaber on. In the older style sabers this was done with a switch similar to that on a flashlight. If you want one like that, go find an old flashlight. If you're wanting to go with the Episode I & II style lightsaber you'll be using a button. If you just want a button that's there, doesn't necissarily push in or do anything you can go ahead and get it here. The best you'll find at a hardware store is a doorbell button. Get a cheap one and dissasemble it. If you're good you might be able to use the spring and make a button that pushes but it's hard. I usually just drill a hole just barely big enough and wedge the button in there so it's just for show. If you want a different option wait until our next stop. If you're not going with the cell phone belt clip method, then you're going to want to find a D-Ring. As of yet I have been unable to find one at Lowes. I've looked many times and have even asked the people working there but they look at me like I'm crazy. In short I've never used one so I'm not going to be able to tell you how to attach one.

But now you've got yout hilt, your grip and some little knobby things to make it look pretty. So now you need to decide if you want a blade or not. I'm personally a fighter so I want a blade. To make a blade the best way is to use a piece of 1/2 inch PVC. The reason I do this is because it will fit into your handle without much work and if you're wanting to do some rotoscoping, then it's just the right size for the "core" of the blade. Also if you're not a trained fighter and want to have some fun, you can buy coloured pool noodles with the holes in the center and slide them over the PVC and have a nice padded toy. This works great for kids. If you're not wanting a blade and just want your saber for show you can skip that part. The PVC comes in 10 ft poles so you'll have to cut it down to whatever length you'd like.

Now that you have all that, it's time to make our next stop (optional): Radio Shack. If you didn't get a button or some other kind of switch, now's the time to get one! Also, if you're using the cell phone clip method, here's where you get that too. If you're not wanting a blade and really want to get showy, you can also get LEDs here, along with all the wires and switches you need to set that up. As I stated before, I'm a fighter so I don't go for the lights. If I ever do I'm going to wait until I've really gotten good at making sabers.

Now you've gotten all the pieces you require. So let's go home and start assembling! I'd like to take a quick moment to remind you that this is going to be the most difficult and time consuming part. Take your time and get things right. Have patience. Remember, you're becoming a Jedi and patience is a virtue. Now back to the explaining. I've already explained about the back end of the lightsaber but will now say that it will require some kind of glue or other method of attachment to keep it on (duh!). But make sure everything else will still be able to slip on before you affix it perminately. If you need to cut through the chrome-plated pipe used for the handle, your best option is using a Dremmel tool. If you don't have one of these.... I'm sorry... They will allow you to make much better curves than using a hack saw or some other kind of blade. If you're someone who really wants a good model, I'd suggest making sure all your cuts are drawn on there ahead of time and using a paper cut out to make sure your sides are symmetrical. But if you're like me, you just look at it and make your best guess. If you need to draw on the chrome a Sharpie works great and will rub off with a wet paper towel with a little soap and some good pressure. If you have acitone (nail polish remover) or mineral spirits those work even better. If you're sliding a piece over your handle and it doesn't fit tightly enough put a little duct tape around the handle and then slide it on. Duct tape provides better friction and adds a little more to the diameter. Aside from that when you apply the glue, it will adhere better to duct tape than smooth chrome. Other than that, you're free to assemble your lightsaber however you'd like.

I'm going to talk about putting a blade in now. For my blades, I use 1/2 in PVC wrapped with packaging (strapping) tape. I use the clear kind with the threads running down it. The threads are made of fiberglass and are extrememly strong. This makes sure that if a blade does break during combat, no pieces go flying off and hurt someone. Since 1/2 inch PVC does not fit snugly into the handle of my saber, I take duct tape and wrap it around the part that fits into the handle until I get a snug fit. Then I usually keep it in place with a screw. The screw can be hidden by having it be one of the screws under a knob.

Another way I found of keeping the blade in is to buy the 1/2 PVC that has threads on the ends. I found this in the plumbing section and is called a PVC Riser. This usually comes in about 4 ft poles, is a dark grey and costs a great deal more. I cut off one end to be the right length and then get a connector piece that I glue into to bottom of the saber. If you're using 1 1/2 inch chrome plated pipe for your handle you'll have a lot of space leftover so you'll want to insert a piece of 1 inch PVC into the handle first. You'll save tape that way and it also makes the handle heavier which keeps the center of gravity of the saber closer to your hand.

Many other people have also mentioned using other materials. While I have not used them personally, I'll at least discuss my thoughts on each one. Another favourite is wooden dowel rods, usually 3/4 or 1 inch thick. These are said to hold up well, but I've stayed away from them because they're slightly more expensive, and if they should break, there's a serious splintering concern. And splinters in the eye would not be good. However, they do have the advantage over PVC that they do not flex upon contact. This can also be a disadvantage though. When PVC bends like that, some of the kinetic energy the blade has is lost making the blade bend, which would mean less energy getting transferred into you if you accidentally got hit. So dowels don't bend which makes them slightly more dangerous in the hands on untrained people. I'd also like to mention that even though I have 4 years of real swordfighting experience behind me, I still make mistakes.

Yet another material that's used occasionally, is aluminum piping. This was what was used in the short film "Ryan vs. Dorkman". This material is still pretty cheap but obviously has the added danger of being able to seriously hurt someone. Use this one with caution.

If you're still needing further instructions, feel free to Email me or check out some of these other sites that also have tutorials on constructing lightsabers. But now that you've finished your saber, it's on to the next fun part! Also check out my tutorial on how to Choreograph a Lightsaber fight.