UPDATE: I've been super busy taking part in Dallas Red Bull Flugtag. I am part of Team Dworks.
So you have decided to take the final step to embracing the force. Does your path follow the Light or the Dark side? (I hear the dark side has cookies).
What ever side you are on, what follows is how to make a Duel-Worthy Lightsabre. That means, you should be able to wield this sword and bash it against things and other lightsabers with little fear of actually breaking the lightsaber. You may end up breaking other things, but the lightsaber will remain intact.*
Total cost of this project is $60 to $1,000 USD. The wide range in cost all depends of how crazy you get with your design. The cost of lightsaber I built for this instructable is about $160.
NOTE 1: This Instructable is very TEXT intensive.
NOTE 2: Most of the parts used in this tutorial came from The Custom Saber Shop (TCSS). I am not affiliated or employed with them. I am just a customer.
* The author of this instructable is not responsible for property damage, personal injury, amputation of limbs, decapitation, and/or death resulting from the building and use of the lightsaber prop. All legal responsibility or resulting civil action due to said property damage, personal injury, amputation of limbs, decapitation, and or death belongs solely to the builder. The author is also not responsible for anyone falling into the Dark Side. The author will also not be held responsible if an agent of the Dark side decides to fry you with lightning coming out of his/her fingertips*
Step 1: Gallery - My Past Creations
I used to own a 7x12 metal lathe.
I sold the lathe
Step 2: Parts and tools
Go to your local hardware store and buy parts (some parts will not be available at your local hardware store and must be special ordered). If you have a local Surplus Electronics Recycling store near you (Weirdstuff, Electronics Goldmine), go there and rummage around at the old electronics. Gather anything that looks "cool", geeky, futuristic, funky, hi-tech, or would seem useful later on.
Go to The Custom Saber Shop to buy specialty parts:
Also go to
If the parts do not make sense now, don't worry, I will explain each section of the lightsaber in detail in the steps to follow.
1 x 30-36 inch long Polycarbonate (pc) tube, thick wall 1 inch outside diameter (OD). Wall thickness should be 1/8 inch. This is the blade.
1 x end cap for the pc tube (blade tip)
1 x blade film ("corbin" film is great)
1 x reflective material with a diameter smaller than the inner diameter of the PC tube.
1 x blade/LED holder (aka the emitter)
1 x 1.5 inch chrome sink tube. 12 inch long
1 or 2 x sink tube adapter. 1 to attach the blade holder to sink tube and 2 if you have opted for a machined pommel.
1 x switch or button
1 x pomel or end cap
What ever else parts you want to attach to the hilt body - grooved section, plates, gold trim, jewels, tapered section, leather. BE IMAGINATIVE. MAKE IT DISTINCTIVELY YOUR OWN.
The Electronic Guts:
1 x High power LED (luxeon III, K2, V, Rebel; seoul P4, or any LED with a lumen output above 60). Decide if you want to buy an LED emitting a certain color or a white LED and use color filters. The lightsaber I built for this instructable in theory should be pumping out over 300 lumen... In theory. You will see later how I accomplished this.
1 x compatible optical lense to focus the LED to 10 degrees or less.
1 x method to control the current going into the LED - for the example a BuckPuck was used. A Resistor can be used but that method is less efficient.
Sound: Optional, but without it you just have a stick that lights up. At the very least consider pulling the board out of a Hasbro toy.
Batteries, battery holder, speakers, sound board, lots of screws, vibration motor, crystal chamber, and wires.
Solder iron 45 watt or higher and some good quality solder.
Rotary tool (Dremel) with sanding drum, cut-off wheels, grinding and shaping tools.
Drill and drill bits
a screw tap set
Glue for metal or epoxy
Sand paper, course and fine assortment
Step 3: Make Plans
To help you out use this useful tool called the Modular Hilt System (MHS) Builder: http://www.thecustomsabershop.com/mhsbuilder/
Not only is it great in helping you visualize your concept, it also will provide you with a parts list. Below is an example of a hilt created in MHS Builder.
Step 4: The Blade
the polycarbonate(pc) tube
an end cap (blade tip)
a small reflective disk
a light diffusion film.
You can build the blade yourself
Or you can order the blade pre-made from TCSS:
Or you can order a premade blade from Ultrasabers:
Details on each part:
The PC tube should be 1" OD with a wall thickness of 1/8" and CLEAR. It should be 30-36 inches long. Longer than that and the blade is harder to use and does not light up evenly.
The end cap and the reflective disk go on the end of the PC tube. I use an adhesive backed foil for the reflective disk with a small hole cut out the center. I then stick that to the bottom of the end cap and glue the end cap to the PC tube. You can also buy a small bag of assorted round mirrors at your local hobby shop. The only issue with using a glass mirror is that you are using a GLASS mirror inside your dueling blade. The end cap with reflective material does two things; give you a rounded end for your blade and reflect some of the light back down the blade to make it brighter.
The diffusing film I use is "Corbin" film. This is named after Corbin Das, the username of the person who perfected the use of diffusion film. Without this film the clear pc tube will just let the light inside pass through and will not look bright. The film reflects and spreads the light for a bright even blade. Role the film into a tube that is the same length as the PC tube and slide the film inside the PC tube. The film will then unfurl a little and press against the inside wall of the PC tube. Static cling will hold the film in place inside the PC tube.
Corbin Film is purchased from TCSS. Item description:
"The special refractive qualities of this blade film are such that they produce the optical illusion of a central beam of light within the blade when illuminated. This "core" is surrounded by a more colorful "aura" that appears to taper towards the tip." -TCSS
On purchasing corbin film, you specify your blade diameter and wall thinkness. Then you specify if you want one layer, two layers, or four layers of Corbin film. I used 2 layers on the green lightsaber in the video. TCSS sent me enough film to cover a blade 40 inches long. I trimmed the length to fit my 34" blade.
NOTE: when rolling the film, make the area as lint and dust FREE as possible.
Ultrasaber also sells a white polycarbonate blade. No blade film needed!
Step 5: The Blade Holder
1. It holds the blade securely.
2. It holds and aligns the LED and the Optics under the blade to light it up.
3. It is the heatsink that prevents our LED from burning out.
Choose from the different styles on this page:
Mine is LED Blade holder style #3 with a stack of rubber o-rings and part of the sink tube overlaid on it.
A small hole needs to be drilled in a spot somewhere in the middle. That hole then needs to be tapped to accept a machine screw. A screw then needs to be put into that hole so the end just barely juts out the inside wall of the blade holder. This screw is the blade retention screw. Now when making a blade retention screw you want it small and inconspicuous. OR you want it to blend in with the rest of your hilt design. Thumb screws work well in blending in with the design. a small 6-32 screw works well for being inconspicuous. On my example, the blade retention screw was incorporated into the brass accents decorating the hilt.
(Blade Holder images used with permission from TCSS)
Step 6: The Hilt Body
The main body can be a single aluminum tube chosen from here (mhs main body):
These are 7 inches long and just under 1.5" in diameter. They are machined and have female threads on the ends to allow the attachment of other MHS parts like the blade holder, pommel, and extensions. They also fit perfectly inside a chrome sink pipe. There is a predrilled hole for a switch. This provides the second most roomy internal space for electronics.
Or combination of the above and parts from here (mhs extensions):
Extensions could be plain, milled, slotted, ribbed or taper to a narrower outer diameter (choke). They add length and design elements to your hilt. It could provide you with the extra space for more batteries or give your hilt a completely different look and feel. If you really wanted to, you can build the entire hilt body out of several extensions. Internal space however is very limited on these parts. Some extensions barely have enough space inside to pass wires through. Something to keep in mind. Like the Main body, these are perfectly sized to slip inside a chrome sink pipe.
Or combination of a Chrome Sink Tube and this piece (mhs sink tube adapter):
The sink tube can serve two purposes. It can server as the main body tube Or it can serve as a sleeve/overlay that slips over your MHS parts. Using a sink pipe as the main body tube provides the greatest amount of space inside since the pipe diameter is 1.5" and the walls are much thinner than the machined aluminum MHS main body or MHS extensions. Using this method, you will have a main body tube that is smooth chrome that you can add design elements to like screws, jewels, leather strips, grips, cut holes and slots into. Just use your imagination.
OR The sink pipe can serve as an overlay - a sleeve - over the aluminum body tube and extensions purchased from TCSS. You can build your hilt using the MHS main body and extensions above and then cut and shape your chrome sink tube to slip over hilt to add additional depth and design. The contrast between aluminum and polished chrome is also quite amazing.
An endless combination of cuts, slots, extensions and main body combinations are available to you when all three components above are used. All you need is a dremel, some files, a drill and some screws.
OR you can shape your sink tube to serve as BOTH a main body and an overlay. To do this, take your 12" sink tube and select a portion that will be cut and shaped into a design and leave the rest intact. This is the method used for the example lightsaber in the video. For the hilt I used for this instructable, I used a combination of 1 extension, 2 sink tube adapters and 1 sink tube I cut into a design I wanted. The sink pipe acts partially as a body tube and partly as an overlay.
So the next step is to show you how to cut the sink tube into your own personal design.
Step 7: Cutting the chrome sink tube
Now remove the paper and draw your cut out design.
when you are happy with your design wrap the paper back onto the tube and check for fit and aesthetics. Looks good?
Take the paper off again and put a thin layer of elmers glue all over the sink tube. Stick your graph paper back on. Wait for the glue to dry.
Once the glue is dry get out the Dremel and cut-off wheel.
CAREFULLY cut away the unwanted metal from the sink tube. DO NOT cut directly on the drawing lines you made on the paper. Cut maybe 1/8" of an inch from it. A vise or a pipe clamp really helps during this process.
Once the design has been roughly cut out, switch to your sanding drum and grinding bits. SLOWLY and CAREFULLY grind away closer and closer to the drawing lines. Remember, you can always take a little more off, BUT if you cut or grind too much you can not put it back on.
For intricate areas of your design use the metal files to carefully take off metal. Sand the edges with course sand paper to remove burs (metal splinters hurt a lot).
Sand the edges with fine sand paper to round out the edges so you don't cut yourself. When you are satisfied with your work, remove the paper and wash the tube with warm soap water.
Step 8: Intergrating the MHS with the sink tube
Take your Sink Tube Adapter(s) and slide it inside the sink tube with the threaded section facing towards the edge of the sink tube. With your sharpie pen, mark the sink tube with dots in the locations where the screw holes are going to be.
Remove the sink tube adapter. Drill holes a little larger than the screw being used in the sink tube.
The sink tube adapter comes predilled and tapped for 10-32 machine screws. All we need is two holes on the sink tube to secure the adapter to the sink tube.
Put the adapter back in the sink tube and secure with the screws.
Test fit the hilt parts.
Video of the hilt put together but no electronics yet (except for Crystal Chamber LEDs):
Collect random parts. Keep them in a bin. Go get some thumb screws, LED bezels, leather studs/spikes, machines screws, etc. What ever you can think of to dress up your hilt body.
Step 9: The Electronic Guts
Lets break it down in the next few steps:
* Basic with NO sound
* Basic with advanced LED control
* Basic with Sound
* Mid Level (with sound)
* High Level (with sound)
* Premium (with customizable sound and MP3 Player!)
For my example I went with THREE (3!!!!) Rebels mounted on one Star as close as possible. All are green. This was purchased from Xwingband who has made an investment to be able to produce these custom mounted Rebel LEDs. Powered by one buck puck and three Li-Ion batteries. Each Rebel I think puts out 130 lumen at 700 mAmp. I have three so i think I am over 300 Lumen. More lumen equals brighter blade. i have been told my blade hurts the eyes when you look at it too long.
A fourth Li-Ion battery is used to power the sound board and accent lights. The sound is from a 616 board. There is a crystal chamber, and a feedback motor.
Here is what the functioning electronics look like outside the hilt:
Try to get as much technical specs on the LED you want to use. A good example to start is here: http://www.philipslumileds.com/products/luxeonk2
Read the Datasheet. Important things to know about the LEDS are:
1. Minimum, normal, maximum Forward voltage.
2. Minimum, normal, and max Amperage
3. Light output in lumens at min, normal and max amperage
4. thermal management requirements
5. Size and mounting methods.
Note that white, blue, and green take a higher forward voltage than red, yellow and amber.
Also note that LEDs respond more to current than to voltage. Feeding your LED with current (milliamps) as close to what the datasheet states will provide the most optimal performance.
Picture 1 shows my 3 REBELS mounted on one STAR. Besides the challenge of how to power these beast up was having a solution for the optics. Xwingband provided the solution by mounting the LED emitters as close as possible to each other and providing a collimator with a large enough opening underneath to ALMOST encompass all 3 Rebels.
Picture 2 and 3 shows how the lense (collimator) would normally fit on top of a star with 1 LED emitter. Not shown is the Optics Holder which keeps the lense centered.
Step 10: Electronics - Basic Lightsaber, NO sound
For the High Power LED we have: Luxeon Star in III, K2, V, and Rebel; Cree; Seoul.
There are others but I leave it to you to do the research. Which ever LED you choose, you have to make sure that there is OPTICS available for it that it will fit in the very small space we have inside the blade holder.
For the basic lightsaber with NO sound we will need the high power LED(s), Optics, batteries, a resistor or a buck puck, battery holder and a switch.
That's it. Easy. And this method leaves lots of space inside the hilt. Space that can be used for a larger battery capacity or more voltage. If you want to have an INSANELY bright bright lightsaber, this would be the best way to achieve it. "Class III laser warning" bright = higher voltage and amperage reqirements. Plus there is heat management to take care of, i.e. larger heatsink. Not having sound and a speaker means more room for batteries and a larger heatsink.
You also have to find the right kind of Switch. For the basic no sound lightsaber you will need a switch that must be pressed/flipped/moved to turn it on and pressed/flipped/moved again to turn it off. This can be a slider, toggle, push on/push off, or latching switch. You must consider the size, mounting hole requirements, voltage and amp rating and look of the switch.
About Battery Choices:
A standard 9 volt battery is not going to cut it. You need something with decent capacity (measured in mAh - milliamp hours) and voltage. The best choice would be rechargeables.
-- Three AA NiMH is a good choice for powering a single LED. The mAh of most rechargeable AA battery is above 2000.
-- The next choice is a battery pack for RC remotes and airsoft guns. These also tends to be NiMH technology and can be purchased in different mAh/voltage/size configurations. Using a battery pack means you can install a recharge port on your lightsaber and just plug your saber to a charger to be recharged.
-- The newest technology is Lithium Ion (Li-Ion). Li-Ion batteries pack a lot energy density in a small space, that means that 1 AA size Li-Ion battery puts out the same voltage as 3 NiHM AA connected in series (3.6v). So you can get away with buying ONE battery to power 1 LED. This makes wiring much simpler and saves on space. The thing to note about Li-Ion battery is that they are VERY sensitive to overcharging and discharging. Overcharge a Li-Ion and they tend to EXPLODE into a fireball. Overdischarge a Li-Ion battery and it will not ever charge again. There are special chargers and protections circuits used to prevent both cases. Often times the circuit is built into the battery. Li-Ion battery sizes are designated by their diameter and lenght in millimeters. So a size 16340 means the battery is 16mm in diameter and 34mm long (remove one trailing zero - thanks for catching that Dr. dB). A 14500 is equal in size to a AA battery (14mm x 50mm).
To control the current going into the LED we have two methods. 1) Have a resistor between the LED and the battery. 2) Use a Buck Puck.
If you go the RESISTOR current limiting method, you must calculate the correct resistance needed to limit the current going into the LED. Get this wrong and you either get weak light or a fried LED.
Go to this site to calculate the correct resistance:
If you go the BUCKPUCK method, then you just need to purchase the buckpuck that comes closest to the mA of your LED. Buckpucks come in 350mA, 700mA, and 1000 mA. The 350 is hardly ever used in our hobby. Again, look at the typical mA of your chosen LED and match it as close to one of the buckpucks above.
The higher level lightsabers build on the principals on this page of LED, current limitter, switch, and battery.
Step 11: Enhanced Basic - LED Control Board
This board was also an innovation of Corbin Das.
* the board ramps the light up for ON and ramps down for OFF.
* Shimmer effect * Flash on clash and flash on lock up.
* can handle input voltage up to 30v
* can be configured for Momentary or Latching switches
* can be integrated into a sound board (hasbro or MR).
What does all of the above mean? Well, it adds some flexibility in our design. We can use different high power LEDs, different types of switches, different voltages. We can even configure the look/feel of the light being emitted. There are also options to connect this to a sound board.
Step 12: Basic with Basic Sound
Here is an example of the Hasbro toy electronics powering an Red/Blue/Green (RGB) LED.
The purple blade lightsaber is using the hasbro toy sound board in this video:
How did I get purple? Well, I put 4.8 volts through the soundboard and split the positive wire going into the LEDs - one wire to the Blue LED and the other wire into a resistor then to the Red LED (remember, Red needs less voltage than Blue, hense the resistor). Both LEDs use a common Negative wire. Green was not used. Blue+Red = Purple.
See Picture 2 on how to wire a Hasbro toy circuit board.
Step 13: Mid Level - Force FX Based
The most popular sound board to use is the one in the now discontinued product called The Force FX Lightsaber Construction Set - AKA, the 616 or "Joe Jedi". This was sold exclusively at Radio Shack. Why this one? Well with a flick of a switch you can go from lightsaber sounds based on Jedi to Sith (yes, there is a difference). Heck, the set gives you the ability to switch the blade color from Red to Green to Blue. They only place I know to get them now is Ebay. I got two refurbished ones for $40 each.
The MR sound board can only handle 6 volts MAX. Any more and you fry it. The board requires a latching switch similar to the one used for the Basic lightsaber. Using this board to power the LED will limit your choices of high powered LED. Basically if your LED choice requires a forward voltage of more than 6 volts, this board can not do it alone (example would be the Luxeon V , or multiple LEDs like I did).
This is the board that I used. Huh?? I know... I just said that this board can not handle over 6 volts. And my 3 Rebels in series would need 9.45 volts. In fact, the voltage put out by my three Li-Ion batteries is at 10.8v. How did that work?
Well with some applied electronics you can regulate the power going into the board and have the board just provide sound. Then have the rest of the electricity go into a buckpuck. That way you can have the MR board getting less than 6 volts and the LED getting what ever it requires (7.2, 10.6, 12 volt what ever).
Another method is to use a double pole/double throw switch and have two battery packs. One battery pack with low voltage to the MR board and another battery pack with higher voltage going to the buckpuck/resistor/led. Press the button and two different voltages are sent to two circuits isolated from each other. This is the route I went with.
Step 14: High Level - Ultra Sound Board
Hardcore lightsaber makers are busy making other sound board solutions in the mid-to-high price range.
Ultra Sound Board 2.5 is currently available and more people are developing new boards. If the trend continues, soon there will be several to choose from.
The Ultra Sound Board is found here:
It is also sold by TCSS.
* the board supports most of the available high powered LED
* Has an overdrive function to send extra amps to the LED
* Supports multiple low power accent LED.
* Has multiple Sound Options
* Supports an auxilary button for clash lock and blaster block.
Wiring of this board is very customizable and feature rich. The maker of the board provides instructions on how to wire it all up. As mentioned earlier the Ultrasaber website also sells completed blades (or complete hilts if you don't want to build your own).
Step 15: Premium - Erv's Crystal Focus
Well, if you have the money and the luck, Then the Crystal Focus is the way to go.
The Crystal Focus can be pruchased from here:
Follow the link to the "Electronic Modules". Just to warn you, these boards are pricey and they are very limited in quatity. Erv sells them in batches of about 80 boards and they sell out in about 5 minutes. He is currently on version 4.x.
To give you an idea what this board can do here is a link to the Crystal Fucus 3.0 Manual http://www.mediafire.com/file/hznmeummyyn/CrystalFocusSaberCoreV3.0-GB.pdf
(I put the file on a different website so as not to overload Erv's website).
A brief description:
* The CF can handle different types of high lumen LEDs. In addition it can provide power to multiple low power accent LED and make them blink in different ways.
* The main LED can be controled to gradually power up, gradually power down, shimmer, and flash on clash.
* Auxillary buttons can be used to add extra functions like blaster blocking, and lightsaber clash locks.
* The true power of the CF is the customizable sound "FONTS". Basically, you can create or download your own unique lightsaber sound. The master mixer of lightsaber sound fonts is NOVASTAR. Here is a link to his YouTube Channel to see the many things he can do with lightsaber sound fonts: http://www.youtube.com/user/greytale.
* The Crystal Focus CAN PLAY MUSIC. ANY music. Just copy it to the SD card.
The sound fonts are stored on an SD card. Thats right, the board has an SD card slot. I will not go into how to wire the Crystal Focus. The instruction manual Erv Plecter provides does a great job with that already. Download the PDF above if you really want to know how it all works.
Step 16: Final Assembly
Well, by now you should have a really fancy metal tube between 10" to 15" long. Perhaps 20" to 22" if you decided you wanted a Darth Maul type of lightsaber. The most common length tends to hover around 11.5".
You also have a plastic "blade".
And last but not least a pile of electronics parts - LED, circuit board, puck, battery, switch, speaker, low power LED.
Ohh, and wire. A spool of it. preferably two colors.
Well, lay them all out on your work table like the picture below and measure out your wires. Remember that space is a premium inside these hilts and a little extra wire here and there tends to eat up all that space.
Where it makes sense, go ahead and solder up parts and wires together.
When it does not make sense to have parts permanently soldered together, use corresponding male and female connectors. Use as small a connector as you can find. I used male and female Header Pins like these:
~~~~~~~~~TEST IT FIRST!!!~~~~~~~~~~~
While the electronics are OUT of the hilt, connect up all the parts and power it on. Does it light up? Is there sound coming out the speaker? Yes?
Ok, now comes the most frustrating part...
Disconnect the wires that are on connectors. Now cram all that stuff inside the hilt. Each lightsaber is different. The layout of wires, switches, and electronics is as unique as finger prints. So I can not really tell you how to do it. Just cram it all in there one way or another. Sometimes a compromise is needed, or a part needs to be abandoned. Or maybe your lucky and there is tons of room.
Reconnect the wires.
I have built several lightsabers and I can tell you that even though I learn a lot from each build, something I have NEVER had is plenty of room.
MHS parts screw into each other. Be mindful that you are not twisting up your wires and breaking solder points as you screw in the parts. Tightens the screws, bolts, nuts. Put in the blade. Tighten the blade retention screw. Hold your breath and move your finger to the ON switch...
POWER IT ON. :)
I accidentally fried one Li-Ion battery on the lightsaber last Monday (11/16/10). I took it a apart to make sure the rest of the electronics was OK. It is. (I should have taken pictures). Total time to take apart 5 minutes.
On putting it back together, it took me an hour! Keep in mind this is the lightsaber I assembled. I had hemostats holding wires in place while I used a needle nose pliers to manuever the connectors and plug parts together. I had so many wires going every which way that I forgot what goes to what! Thank goodness I thought ahead and color coded everything (all negative wires are black, clash sensor is orange wires, speaker wire is brown, switch wires are yellow, etc)
While working I looked at my wife and asked her "Why do you let me do nutty things like this?!" She just laughed...
It is tricky and it is confusing and it can get frustrating.Just step back, take a deep breath and try again when you have cooled off.