Are you ready to join the dark side? Or maybe you fight the darkness. Perhaps you just don't like dark rooms. While you choose between the first two, come along as we remedy the third using nothing but the Force (and some readily available tools and materials).
Step 1: The Back Story
This project was inspired by JokerDAS's Giant Lightsaber Floor Lamp. It was a great jumping-off point to build a unique floor lamp for my sons. I had very little working knowledge of LEDs or soldering before building, so I hope that those words won't scare off any fellow novices. It's an easy, quick build that can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
Below are a list of the materials and tools I used to complete this project. Keep in mind that some are specific to my particular design, and your needs or available parts may differ. Each of the following steps will have directions for my specific build and ideas for "one-offs" you may want to consider.
36" of 3" PVC pipe
(2) 3" PVC couplers
3"x3"x1.5" PVC Reducer Tee
3"x2" PVC Reducer Bushing
1.5" PVC cap
2" piece of 2" PVC Pipe
12" of 3" suction hose
48" of 2" O.D. clear acrylic tubing
14 ga. wire
Saws (jigsaw, chop saw, and table saw)
Rasp or file
Hot glue gun
Optional, but helpful
Step 3: Design/Prototype
Feel that rumbling in your chest? That's the force. It is inside you, Padawan. Feel it. Harness it. Channel it into crafting your personal lightsaber.
I found it very helpful to do a Google Image search for lightsaber hilts to get ideas. There are thousands of possibilities, but yours should be personal to you. I chose a design that would be industrial, yet retain a carbon-based feel. Maybe you fancy yourself a young Luke Skywalker, wielding a hand-me-down family heirloom. Perhaps you've got the backing of the Empire to provide you with a state-of-the-art model. Maybe you want to try piecing together parts you got from Watto or something a Tusken Raider left behind. It's up to you, Padawan.
Imagine it, then make a quick mock-up to to see how it looks. My recommendations on proportions is to have roughly a 2:1 ratio of hilt material to blade material.
Step 4: The Hilt
For my build and proportions, I began by cutting the 3" PVC into two 12" sections and an 8" piece, as I planned to join the pieces with the PVC couplers and Tee. Next, sketch out any cutouts or shaping you would like to do, like the scoop on the top of the lightsaber or the reveal in its top section. Clamp the pipe to a workbench or table and drill a few holes in the waste pieces. Then cut along your sketch lines. This brings it to rough shape, and you can use rasps, files, and sandpaper to further shape the segments.
Because I had some extra suction hose lying around, I chose to cut off a 12" piece to slide inside the top section of my lightsaber. The hose was 3" diameter as well, so I ran it across the table saw lengthwise to remove a 3/4" section from the pipe. When that was still insufficient, I cut out another 3/4". These strips will be used later in the hilt.
The 3"x2" bushing with the 2" piece of 2" PVC pipe is for mounting the blade in the center of the lightsaber. I cut the reducer down to remove the hex head it came with, and again to end up with a reducer only 1.5" tall, so that I could fully seat it in the coupler and still leave room to add the top scoop. Assemble the reducer and 2" PVC before painting them. These will be the only pieces assembled prior to painting. Additionally, I chose to cut down the 1.5" cap so that it would fully seat in the PVC tee and drilled a hole in the cap to match the diameter of the power button.
Step 5: Paint
I wasn't sure what quality of paint job I would be able to achieve, as I have no airbrush tools or skill. If you do, great! This step really makes the project come to life quickly.
For those of you who are more like me, Commando Designs has a great video series on YouTube on how to get some really cool paint effects using off-the-rack spray paint. This guy has got all kinds of great painting tips and tricks for beginners.
I started by wiping down all the PVC parts with acetone to remove the lettering, then sanding them down and using a Brillo pad. Adhesion promoter is highly recommended before you spray a base coat. After the adhesion promoter had dried, I laid down a base coat of metallic silver on all the pieces. I chose two different paint effects to break up the look of the lightsaber, spraying the black top coat through shelf-liner for the PVC pieces and gutter screen for the couplers and tee. Once those coats had fully cured, I sprayed numerous coats of clear spray lacquer for protection.
I'll say it again, I highly recommend you check out Commando Designs' videos.
Step 6: The Blade
Arguably the toughest part to source, the blade begins with a 36-48" piece of clear plastic tubing. I looked everywhere from AcmePlastics to ePlastics and balked at the price each time I found something that would work. Finally, I found a 48" piece from a seller on eBay that didn't cost an arm and a leg. Don't be discouraged, you can find one. The critical criteria for this project is that your tubing be 2" O.D. (outside diameter), to match closely with the PVC piece.
If you want to start with a frosted tube, you can. I liked the look as it helps hide the interior components. If you can't find one already frosted, I found that 100 grit sandpaper gives the best frosted appearance without roughing up the tube too much.
I took the long strip of LEDs and cut them at the marks closest to the length of the tubing. I used three strips to make sure the lamp put out plenty of light. I had originally planned to space them apart around the circumference of the tubing, but actually got better light distribution from running them together. Plus, you can put these to the back and you won't see them. The LEDs come with peel-off backing and are self-adhesive, but I recommend attaching each strip at the ends with hot glue. My strips didn't stick very long on their own.
Using the connectors (or soldering), connect the light strips in series. Because the tube has no cap on the top end, hot glue can be used to ensure that the wires stay out of sight.
Step 7: Assembly/Wiring
My LED strip has an IR remote control, so I began by drilling a 1/4" hole through my yellow and black suction hose. Then I secured the receiver "eye" with a dab of hot glue. The housing for the controller is also hot glued to the inside of the pipe.
Insert the blade tube into the coupler/reducer housing. If it is loose, secure it with some hot glue on both ends.
If you build a lightsaber without the power button, the power source for your LED strip will likely need no modification. Drill a hole in one of the PVC pieces to run the wires through, hook up your components, and you're in business. If you choose to add a power button or need additional wire you can either solder the connections or alternatively use connectors and wire nuts. Both options exist because of the large available space within the pipe. I chose to teach myself to solder on this project. The most difficult part for me was soldering to the tiny pins on the power button. My wiring job was ugly and extremely novice, but no one will ever see it and it stands as proof that anyone can do it.
Assemble the hilt one section at a time to get the wiring connections made. All of the PVC connections are simply pressed and driven together. Use a rubber mallet to avoid marring the paint. I wanted to be able to take the lamp apart if I needed to, so the only glue I used was hot glue in a few spots like where the blade enters the hilt. So long as no lightsaber battles break out, the connections will hold.
In connecting the LEDs to the controller and the controller to the power supply, I used hot glue to ensure the components stayed together.
I cut the bottom coupler in half, then ground out the inside of it so that it would slide up and down as a slip cover over the screws that attach the lamp to the base. This is an optional step, but it hides the screws. If you do the same, the following assembly steps will follow mounting it to the base:
Remember those 3/4" strips I cut from the suction hose? I glued them to the bottom section of the lightsaber as a decorative element with E6000 glue (my hot glue wouldn't hold it). Clamps were a must, as I didn't want to hold the flexible strips in place for the 24 hours it takes for the glue to cure.
With the all of the PVC parts assembled and in place, the only thing left to do is braid the leather strips and wrap the handle. This is a design choice, and if I can make a recommendation, DON'T. Braiding 20' of leather stripping is a time consumer. But, it makes for a cool effect. I took the spool of leather strip and cut three 20' sections, then braided them together and tied off the ends. As with most everything in this build, it's hot glued into place.
Step 8: The Base
This base is made of scraps I had around the shop. I took a 5 gallon bucket and placed it upside down on a piece of 3/4" plywood, traced the circle and cut it out with a jigsaw. Next, I took a leftover piece of the 3" PVC and traced the interior of it onto a piece of 2x4 I had lying around. I glued and screwed the two pieces together and rounded over the edges on the plywood. Quick coat of leftover spray paint and lacquer, and it's done. Three screws through the PVC into the 2x4 block, and the lamp is mounted to the base.
Step 9: Defend or Enslave the Galaxy
This is the end of your training, Padawan. Only you can decide to uphold the Jedi traditions or fall to the Dark Side. Luckily for you, with the RGB LED strip, your lightsaber can adjust to your mood!
Thank you for taking the time to read my first Instructable, and if it is something you found useful, please click the button at the top to vote for this how-to in the Lights Contest.
May the Force be with you!