What you need to know to build a prop-style (non-lighted) Lightsabre.
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It all starts with something as mundane as a bathroom sink drain pipe. Yes, when you are building a lightsabre you can spend large bucks on a Graflex Grafliteflash tube, just like the propmakers for the original Star Wars movie had to work with. However, it will set you back anywhere between $50 and a Benjamin on eBay. It's been 30 years since Star Wars (Episode IV for all you folks who started with the Prequels) was shooting, and these puppies have gotten rare. However, bathroom sink drain pipes are common as dirt and can be found for $3.50 to $4 US.
There are many tutorials that will tell you how to cut, screw, braze and solder your way to a lightsabre. This is not one of them. I have figured out a way to do this with modern adhesives, a screwdriver, a pair of scissors and a quilting measure. No drilling, no hot stuff, no band saws, no drill presses, none of that. As such, this is a great project for parents and kids or teachers and kids or camp counselors and kids to do together. Obi-Shawn Crosby, the guy who taught me and about 20 other Otakus how to do this at Anime Los Angeles 2006, initially designed this method expressly to allow kids to build their own lightsabre. The workshop at A-LA was the first he had ever taught to adults...he had taught the same thing at kids-only "Padawan workshops" at local Sci-Fi cons for the past 5 years. Here is the handout given to workshop-goers. (Right-click or Command-click to save to disk.)
Anyway, it starts with a drainpipe, but that's just the beginning. Here's the procedure step by step.
You are going to want to make sure the adhesive will stick, so definitely get some Simple Green or hand dishwashing detergent and wash the metal parts you will be using. Dry them thoroughly too. Some of those parts are lubricated with oil and other gooey things. If the slippery stuff stays on the parts, you will wind up with your lightsabre falling apart.
We are going to use a "compression connector" as our control box. It's available in the electrical department of your friendly helpful local hardware store. I strongly suggest if there is a local non-chain hardware store in your neighborhood, patronize them instead of a chain like OSH or Lowe's or Home Depot. Or (Gods forbid!) Wal-Mart.
That's not your imagination getting the better of you...that really is an "any key" that I got from a computer mailorder company. It attaches with a piece of double-sided adhesive foam. If you are not specifically trying to replicate the specific sabre of a specific Jedi or Sith or whatever character from the Star Wars saga, you should really consider adding a bit of yourself into your sabre. Are you fond of tinkering with cars? Add parts that are automotive in nature. Like to fish? Use lures and sinkers and so on as some of the nurnies you put on your sabre. Golf? Find a way of working a golf tee or a golf ball into your sabre. Use your imagination, it's what it's there for.
The control box is where you will probably want to attach the little knob thing that will allow you to clip your sabre to your belt, unless you are a real old-school SW fan and want to use the D-ring/hook system that they used in the original trilogy. However, the mobile phone clip system is actually the nicer way to do it, and allows for fancy "quick draw" moves that were impossible with the old way of doing it. Here's what I got for mine:
A good thing to use for a pommel/end cap is a faucet handle. That's where the pommel on the original Obi-Wan Kenobi sabre came from. I used a very common and very cheap one found in a million apartments throughout the Western states, made by Price Pfister. Here it is...
Note that there is a big ugly indent on the end. In the middle of that big ugly indent there is a big, ugly hole. This will not do! Let's rectify this, shall we?
You can use many things to seal up this hole. An old coin? A contrasting circular piece of metal? A quartz crystal point tip? Wire up an LED? A bicycle reflector?
What I did was add a little bling. I found a huge sew-on plastic sequin at Michaels. It was in a package with a whole slew of other smaller sew-on sequins, so I now have more for later. Isn't that pretty and shiny and cute? I thought so when I found it. Notice it fits perfectly, as if it was specifically cut, faceted and polished for this particular indentation. I used an adhesive "3D Dot" to stick the sequin in place.
I suppose if I was going to make this a sabre with a blade, I would have to use a blue blade now. There are Extended Universe lightsabre designs that have an amplifying crystal of the same type as the emitter crystal. The Dark Woman had one.
If this had been a lightup project, I would have wanted a purple gem to go with the purple blade I would have used. (Mace Windu fangirl over here...) Oh well, so much for that...
Fun Foam is your friend. It's available at craft stores for about a buck a sheet. It's perhaps some of the best stuff for making grips on your lightsabre that exists. It doesn't add weight like heavy rubber pieces. It's not expensive like leather. And with a healthy application of Contact Cement, which is basically rubber cement on steroids, it sticks happily to even metal.
There is adhesive Fun Foam, but I didn't like the colors they had in it at Michael's, so I stuck with the combo of plain brown and black Fun Foam, Contact Cement, and 3D Dots/3D Strips.
By the way folks...something important. Do not inhale this stuff...it gives off really nasty fumes. I did my build outside because you really need to be careful about ventilation when dealing with these ultra-strong adhesives. And for goodness sake, this is what you really have to be vigilant about if this is a project with kids. These adhesives are toxic if digested and some might be able to glue little fingers together. So be careful, OK?
After you liberally coat the fun foam and the pipe with contact cement, wrap it around your pipe and squeeze it down to make it stick. There will be a seam. No worries, just put the rest of the nurnies on the sabre so that the interesting ones face away from the seam, and the seam is on the side of the sabre that is not visible when it's hanging off your belt.
OK, here's the absolute next step. Do not go any different direction than this, there lies madness. And anger. And ultimately, the Dark Side. ^_^
First, you unscrew the screws on the compression connector so it will slide somewhat freely up and down the sabre body. Then you get it into position on the body.
Then you get out your screwdriver and screw the screws it into the Fun Foam. It will from then on be on for life. Make sure you have the screws on the seam side of the body unless you really like the looks of them. I suppose they look like adjustment knobs. Perhaps a little dab of paint on the screw heads might help enhancing such a look.
I don't have a picture of this...darn. Anyway, take more of the Contact Cement and apply it liberally to the inside of the end cap. Then push it onto the end that does not have the flange on it, which will probably be covered with fun foam and make it easy to squish it on. Press down on it until there is a secure attachment.
Yes, greeble is a word, in fact one coined at Industrial Light and Magic. Greeble means to decorate with non-functional items that look cool. These non-functional items were called greeblies by the ILM dudes, and also nurnies. Nurnies is a term that has actually gone farther than greeblies. You hear people who are into needlecraft and sewing also use the term.
The extra-special nurnies I got in my workshop bag from Obi-Shawn were these neat aluminum nurnies. They were likely found at a place called Luky's Hardware in Burbank. Luky's is not just any old hardware store...they specialize in airplane and aerospace surplus hardware. Here, let me show one to you:
If you've ever seen the "How Stuff Works: The Lightsaber" site, there is a cutaway view of the imaginary guts of the imaginary weapon. Forward of the control box and the crystal chamber is a focusing mechanism that helps shape the blade. It doesn't take much imagination to see this assembly on the front of my sabres as part of the focusing mechanism.
These nurnies could conceivably be screwed onto a sabre. But since we aren't going to be using drills and/or a drill press, we'll use something else. Remember those wonderful 3D Dots? They work here too. Their adhesive is "curiously strong" as Altoids are known to be, but please don't eat them. They are not zingy tasty and they won't leave your breath minty-fresh.
To attach these nurnies, put a few of the 3D dots down the region your want to attach them. Pull off the paper covering the other side of the adhesive, then press the nurnie down onto the 3D Dots.
Do the next one 180 degrees apart from the other one if you want to end up with a circular array. Then visually picture drawing an "x" across the pole you created. That's how you come up with the asterisk-like arrangement of mine. If you want them more densely packed or more sparsely packed, you're welcome to play around with this.
The thing is, though, these nurnies are probably fairly unique. The Big Yellow Box has a sabre that uses little drawer pulls for a similar effect. I'm sure there are other items that would go well like that. You might not want to even go for anything like I'm doing. That's cool...the more unique yours is the better, I think. Again, unless you are specifically trying to replicate a specific character's lightsabre, you will probably be happiest if you add something of yourself to it.
What I did was put these ring-like arrangements abutting things like the nurnie array, the control box, and the pommel. O-rings might work well for this arrangement, as are things like the ribbed plastic tubing you sometimes see vacuum cleaner attachments made out of. Again, (I'm beginning to sound like a scratched CD here) use your imagination.
I also added reflectors I scavenged from two 99 Cent Only store flashlights. My first attempts at sabrecraft, made right after seeing Star Wars for the first time, involved flashlights. So this is a tip of the hat to my past.
If all goes well, you should have something like this:
Yes, I actually have two. One for the left hand, one for the right. It was handy to have the first one for reference while making the other one. I was an avid paper-and-pencil Fantasy Role Playing gamer back about (ahem) years ago, and I had one character who was a Grey Jedi who fought with two sabres long before you saw characters like Asajji Ventress and Anakin Skywalker fighting two-fisted. Rolling a natural 99 on a percentile dice allowed me to actually *keep* the character in our Traveller campaign. (this was before the West End Games official SW FRP came out)
Here are a few more pictures of the finished sabres:
These images were almost all screenshots from the digital video I shot of the build.
It's finally up at the Internet Archive and at YouTube!