During winter break of sophomore year in high school, Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. The excitement around the film really reignited my childhood love of Star Wars, which had been overshadowed by Harry Potter during elementary school. Don’t hate me for this, but as a kid, it was safe to say the prequels were my favorite, especially with all the lightsaber scenes. After a bit of browsing the web catching up on what happened to Star Wars in the past couple years, I came upon a community of people who built their own lightsabers. These lightsabers were a step above the plastic toys from Target. In my eyes, they were works of art.
Of course, I had to have one. Being a maker, I couldn’t just buy one from an online seller. In true Jedi fashion, I had to learn the ins and outs of building one myself. First, I picked a hilt design. I didn’t really have that many tools at home, so there weren’t many options. Eventually I settled on using a chrome sink tube from Home Depot to emulate the Graflex look. For the electronics, I took the sound board out of a cheap lightsaber toy and paired it with an Arduino.
Manufacturing the blade was easily the hardest part of the entire project. I wanted to replicate the extension and retraction effects from the movies and not use what felt like a cheap flashlight setup. Looking through other people’s designs, I eventually came across Makoto Tsai who was famous for his segmented LED blades. I found a couple of tutorials on how to make blades similar to his and got started. I started by drilling the LEDs to improve the beam angle and diffusion. Bending the leads and soldering them together was pretty straightforward. Since I broke a couple LEDs in the drilling process and didn’t want to buy more, the blade ended up being shorter and dimmer than expected. I then cut each segment, hooked it all up using solid core wire, and wrapped it in some foam. As a first try, the blade didn’t end up too bad.
Somehow I didn’t take any pictures of this lightsaber by itself before it hit the scrap bin. Here’s what I do have.