Introduction: Graflex Lightsaber


For more details on the software and video demos, check the main page here:


This install will feature the following:

Step 1: Preparing the Kit

The hole for the clamp handle must be widened to allow the handle to turn without removing the clamp.

Drill a hole through the blade adapter in the location shown. Wires for the clamp card switches will pass through here.

Grind down the “beer tab” screw by about 1/8 inch, so it does not interfere with the blade.

You may need to sand the inner ring of the auxiliary switch plate in order to be able to press in the auxiliary switch. Test fit this for now, do not press it in tight all the way. The auxiliary switch is fragile, so it is recommended that you modify the plate.

Optionally bore out the glass eye screw hole if you are interested in doing a real glass eye mod.

You may want to refer to another tutorial series, such as this one to familiarize yourself with assembling and disassembling the kit.

Step 2: Blade Assembly

Most 1 meter strips will be 2 half meters soldered together. The length of this joint may vary between vendors/manufacturers. For best results, select LED strips with minimal length for this solder joint.

Start by unsoldering the pre-soldered wires. Be quick doing this, you do not want to damage the adjacent LED. Solder the lead wires as shown. Use 22 gauge solid for ground and positive, and 30 gauge for signal.

By soldering the positive wire to the opposite end of the LED strip, current will be distributed evenly. This will remove any “brown out” effect, where the first LEDs in the chain are brighter than the last LEDs. I find it best to heat the pad from the front and poke through from the back of the pad.

Once all lead wire are in place, you can peel back the adhesive strip and run the positive wire down the adhesive back. Try to place the wire slightly to the left of the center. After repeating this for the other strip, match them up back to back, and stick them together.

Work out any kinks, make sure everything matches up nicely, and wrap the assembly with heat shrink tubing.

Tap and slide the 3D printed mater onto the LED strip prior to soldering the wires to the GX16 connector. I find it best to solder the ground and positive wires first to hold the connector in place, then solder the signal wire.

  • Pin 1 -> Ground
  • Pin 2 -> Signal
  • Pin 3 -> NC
  • Pin 4 -> Positive
  • Pin 5 -> NC

Slide the foam diffuser tube into place. Do not cut this foam to length yet. It may compress and shift as you insert it into the hard diffuser tube.

If you do not have access to a drill press, the 3D printed straight drill guide can be used to drill perfectly aligned holes on the polycarbonate tube. You’ll want to drill through the polycarbonate tube first. Then, drill through the inner diffuser tube from both sides. This will avoid tearing the inner diffuser tube.

Finally, it’s time to pack the foam wrapped assembly into the inner diffuser tube. You’ll find the foam is easy to slide in at first. Once there is more resistance, you may need to tap the tube on the ground to slide the foam assembly in farther.

Once this is done, you may want to cut the tube to length before attaching the blade tip, and the blade is complete!

Step 3: Electronics

DO NOT FORGET to cut the Teensy VUSB/VIN pad.

Solder lead wires to VIN on the Teensy of the Teensy and to the prop shield as shown. 26 gauge stranded wire works well here. Use the JST connector for the speaker connection.

Start by soldering the pin headers onto the prop shield to easily count the number of pin headers used. Then stack the boards together. Make sure the lead wire are routed properly. Press down on the Teensy as you solder the first few pins, so that there is no additional space between the boards beyond the spacer on the pin header. Check the photo for an example assembly.

Check this tutorial if you are not familiar with soldering pins.

You can test the electronics at this point. If the Teensy orange LED blinks (assuming you have not modified the software yet), the Teensy is working properly. Plugging in the USB cable should also show the LEDs on the prop board blinking.

Step 4: Hilt Install

We will complete as much as possible of the inner chassis, before installing it into the Graflex hilt. For the most part, the inner assembly can be thought of as a complete module, however once the switches are connected, the inner assembly will not be removable.

Start by test fitting your inner chassis. Include the GX16 connector when test fitting. This may change the fit. Some edges may need to be sanded. Ensure that the lower half of the inner chassis can spin freely in the lower half of the Graflex hilt.

Tap the holes on the 2 pieces of upper chassis, using 2-56 thread.

Solder the GX16 connector with pins matching the blade side. 22 AWG wire is rated a current carrying capacity of 5-7 amps. For this reason, it is recommend that 2 wires be used for the power and ground lines. 18-20 AWG wire could be used here as well.

  • Pin 1 -> Ground
  • Pin 2 -> Signal
  • Pin 3 -> NC
  • Pin 4 -> Positive
  • Pin 5 -> NC

The components are ready to be placed inside of the inner chassis. Place the batteries with the terminals facing each other. Once all components are in place the socket head screws can be set to keep the inner chassis assembly together.

You can clip the wires are this point. Careful, the battery wires are live be sure not to short the 2 terminals of the batteries. I use a 2 fingers length rule to ensure there is enough length of wire to work with. (Note: the green wire could have been left longer, although there was just about enough length to work with, in the picture shown.)

Collect and separate all the wires accordingly. If you followed the color coding shown here, red and white should be positive, and black should be ground.

Again, the battery wires are live, carefully strip and solder the wires. Use some heat shrink tubing to prevent shorting the 2 groups. You will see the orange LED on the Teensy blinking as it is powered.

Do not shrink the heat shrink tubing yet, you will need to solder additional wires to the ground node later.

Solder the signal wire from the LEDs to PWM0. I find it easiest to fill the hole with a small amount of solder, and then heat the pad while poking the wire through it.

Now the inner chassis can be placed inside the blade adapter. Insert the 2 set screws if you haven’t already, and tighten them to lock the inner chassis down in place.

Make sure the 2 wire channels on the inner chassis are aligned with the blade holder. The same channel used for the blade connector will be used for the red button switch. The other smaller channel should be align with the auxiliary switch and the hole drilled for the clamp card switches.

Feed the wires for the switches. Keep the assembling the top section of the external Graflex chassis in mind as you feed the wires. Check the images for details.

You may choose to color code the switches here. I did not. As long as the red button switch, and auxiliary switch are distinct, the clamp card switches will not be too important.

  • Red Button Switch – Feed this down the same channel as the blade connector wires. Keep the switch side in the saber as you slide on the Graflex upper section.
  • Auxiliary switch – The Auxiliary switch should be solder on first. Tape these wires to the side, or mark them otherwise to distinguish them from the clamp card wires.
  • Clamp card switches – These will wrap around the narrowed in part of the blade adapter. Do not go through the screw hole the clamp will use.

Once the Graflex exterior is installed, I recommend using the single screw shown to hold it in place.

Solder the ground wires together. Now the heat shrink wrap can be set. Tuck the 2 clumps of wire away in the inner chassis.

Continue soldering the switch wires on the controller side. Again, I find it easiest to fill the hole with solder and poke the wire through it as it is heated.

  • Red Button Switch -> Pin 13
  • Auxiliary Switch -> Pin 18
  • Clamp Card Switch -> Pin 23 and 22 (I find that the order shouldn’t matter to much here, each button will have a function in switching through options in a menu)

I use a piece of foam tape sided tape to keep the board from contacting the Graflex exterior.

Now for the switch side.

Thread the wires through the threaded Red Switch retainer and screw it in place. Solder the push button switch as shown, keep the rim of the circuit board clear. A small piece of double sided foam tape can be used to adhere the Red Button cover to the inner push button switch.

The Auxiliary Switch Plate can be pressed in. We can now slide on the clamp. Solder the clamp card switches as shown. Place them in the mount.

We will now go ahead and program the controller before screwing on the bottom section of the Graflex.

We can also assemble the speaker at this time. The speaker should be seated flush in it’s mount. Solder the wires as shown. Use an addition layer of heat shrink tubing to add rigidity to the entire length of the wires. This will help when inserting the speaker into the chassis.

Step 5: Upload the Software

We will use the Teensy firmware flash utility. You can find complete instructions on downloading the Teensy development tools from PJRC, or just download the flash utility here. This is the only part we need for this step.

The latest saber software will be available under the software tab of this page.

Select the hex file provided. Then, click the button on the Teensy to enter the bootloader as the flash utility indicates. Press the program button on the flash utility to upload the program. Once that is done, click the reset button to reset the device.

Now to upload the sound files on the SD card.

The program will look for the folder structure in the image shown below, as well as the config.txt file. Check the Software tab on this page for more details on this file.

The provided set of files includes sample sounds files and the default config.txt file to get you started. From there you can and add/modify the sound files of your choosing.

Inserting the SDCard into the Teensy will also automatically create the named folders on the SD card.

Note: The Clamp Card Switches are associated with "BtnRt" and "BtnDwn" in this install. "BtnUp" and "BtnLeft" are not used for this particular Saber build.

Step 6: Finishing Up

Remember, you can pull up the clamp, as well as dismount the 3D printed switch holder, before screwing on the lower section, so that the wires are not pinched in the process.

Turn the lower Graflex section until the USB port is in between the notches from the grips.


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