This project started as an idle musing at work. "Wonder if I could make a lightsaber?" As it turns out, yes! And so can you! Assuming you have wood working tools, a soldering iron, and a weekend to spend doing sometimes-tedious work.
This is currently just a fancy LED flashlight, but you can make it a full-fledged lightsaber by adding a "blade" of a clear/translucent 1" plastic tube, something I'll end up doing eventually.
This was actually a fairly inexpensive project as I had most of what I needed left over from other projects. Buying everything will probably run $20-$30. (Or more, depending on what kind of wood you go with.)
Step 1: Stuff You'll Need!
- Some kind of hardwood, at least 2x2x12"
I used Rengas Tiger
- Tools to carve the outside
I used a lathe and a dremel, but you could do it all with a dremel, or hand-carve it. Whatever works for you.
- Tools to hollow it out
A drill press is key here; you could do it with a standard drill, but it'd be a huge pain
- Drill & variety of bits
- Soldering iron and solder
- A mini-switch
A push-button switch would be preferable, but one works with what one can find at RadioShack sometimes
- Some wiring
- 1 10mm ultra-bright LED in the preferred color
- A selection of washers and locking washers to create the "emitter" (LED holder)
- A resistor
The exact value of the resistor depends on the battery used; I needed a 330 ohm/.25 watt
- A battery
A watch battery would be plenty strong to power the LED, but I didn't want to have to change it often, so I went 9v
- Finish of some sort
This is oil and wax
- Whatever ornamentation you want for it
I went pretty basic on this, just some leather and extraneous screws to make it look studded
Step 2: Exterior Carving
The wood I had was a smidge over 12" long, and I wanted my final piece to be 10". I also wanted to be able to have it be modular, to make installing the electronic guts easier, but with the grain matching up as closely as possible, to give it a more-or-less 1-piece look.
To accomplish this, I carved all 3 sections at the same time on the lathe, with a thinner section at the in-facing side of the tip and butt pieces. The outer diameter is:
- At the grip and butt, 1.5"
- At the tip, 1.5 to 1.25"
- At the inserts, 1.25"
Once you get the thickness set, add your fiddly details.
Safety note: google your wood to make sure it's not poisonous. The rengas tiger has the same irritant in it as poison ivy, and breathing in the copious amounts of sawdust I made messed me up for the better part of a day.
Step 3: Separate the Pieces
This part can be done by hand, but it's much easier with a miter saw. Line it up very, very carefully, and separate the 3 component pieces. Then, very, very carefully clean up any extra bits left on either edge of each with a sander. Or, again, by hand.
I also went ahead and cut the angle on the tip. This was a mistake, it made hollowing out the tip a nightmare. If you're going to do this, learn from my mistake and do the hollowing first.
Step 4: Cut Out Dem Guts
Hollow out that bad boy. Forstner bits and a dremel with the sanding drum helped accomplish this. If I had a better drill press doing it entirely with forstner bits would've been ideal.
Go slow. You want to leave about 1/8" wall, and it's easy to blow out a piece, especially on the curved tip, if you're doing a design similar to mine. (Superglue saved the day.)
Once that's done, test fitting time! I had to shave down the insert sections a hair to get it to fit just right. Do not force it--you don't want to have put all this time and energy into it just for the wood to crack on you.
Step 5: Hole Drilling Time
Drill the pilot holes for the joining screws. I also used a small forstner bit to drill an indent so the screws would sit a little more flush.
I wanted to have "studded" leather accents, which I accomplished by putting screws through the leather after supergluing it on. You can make this easier (again, learn from my mistakes) by drilling the pilot holes now.
I embossed the leather with a flower stamp from a craft store. Easy enough. Put it on, hit a couple times with a mallet.
Drill the hole for the switch, too. I took a rounded file to it to make a kind of oval divot for it to sit down in. Another spot where you want to be very careful. There's not much wood to work with here, and taking too much will result in cracking when you screw the switch in later.
Step 6: Finishing
I sanded each piece to 500 grit, finished the wood with tung oil, went over it again with 0000 steel wool, then applied 3 coats of wax.
Then I superglued the leather on, and added my "studs." Then put the whole thing together.
I wanted to make it look like it had been used. (The best Star Wars stuff is the stuff that's been around a while.) I took a razor blade to the wood to create some gouges and scratches, some sandpaper in places to rough it up a bit. Did the same to the leather. Then I took a heat gun to blacken the wood in places, especially around the opening for the "blade." The heat had the side effect of shrinking the leather in places, which I'm not sure I like, but it's superglue on, so not much I can do about it now.
Step 7: Build the "Emitter"
This is just a stack of washers, an internal-teeth locking washer, and an external-teeth locking washer, all superglued together. Then I glued it to the bottom of the tip piece. The 10mm LED fits into the innermost washer pretty snugly, and an application of hot glue makes sure it stays in place.
Step 8: Wiring
Solder the battery connector to some longer wire.
Solder the positive lead to the outer pole on your switch
Solder the resistor to the middle pole of the switch
Solder the other end of the resistor to the LED's positive pole
Solder the negative lead to the LED's negative pole
Throw the switch and make sure your connections are good
Glue the LED into the "emitter"
Step 9: Final Assembly
Get all the guts into the tube and screw 'er shut. Flip the switch to make sure it all still works.
Now go out and start laser swording!