Introduction: Make a "Metal" Lightsaber From Plastic and Tape!
A while ago I made my son a Luke Skywalker costume for Halloween, and at the last minute, I decided I wanted to do a quick photo shoot with him for the cover of one of my YouTube videos. The one thing that was missing from his costume was the lightsaber. In about 4 hours I was able to make a pretty good looking lightsaber using only things I already had around the house. The secret, magical component was the aluminium tape I used. It is incredibly hard to make any paint job look like shiny metal, so adding the tape gave a layer of actual metal over the whole thing. Perfect!
Here are the tools and materials I used:
Golf club tube: I found these at a local big box hardware/sporting goods store. They cost a couple of dollars each. The smoother the better.
Aluminum tape: This is generally used on ducting. Make sure that the tape you are getting is actually aluminum and not plastic.
Copper Tape: Not totally necessary - I used some leftover from making stained glass.
5mm thick EVA foam: For the flanges on the handle and the circle to close up the back.
1/2” PEX pipe: 10 cm long
3/4” PEX pipe: 10 cm long
Metal coat hanger or other wire
Stack of washers
Plastic tray or other plastic you can cut up: 1-2mm thick. It should be flexible and not crack when cut.
Small piece of foam board
Small piece of 2mm craft foam
Sharp Knife: I like to use a surgical scalpel
Metal shears: I used for cutting the golf club tube. Probably not necessary, but makes it really easy.
Abrasive Scrubbing Pad: I used a green Scotchbrite pad.
Hot Glue Gun: I used a hot glue gun. It works in a pinch for a quick build, but I would probably recommend some other glue like super glue or two-part epoxy for long term.
Metallic Paint: I used DecoArt Americana Decor Metallics “Silver.”
Please note, the above links are affiliate links, and I do get a small commission if you buy through these links. It doesn't cost you any more and it helps me out!
Step 1: Safety First!
Sharp knives, hot glue, and candles can all cause injury and property damage. Don't leave a flame unattended, don't burn yourself, and don't cut your fingers off!
Step 2: Print and Cut Out the Pattern
The pattern I used is made to be printed on a standard home printer, therefore it is necessary to tape the two pages together to create the full lightsaber pattern. If you hold the pages up to a window, you can see the alignment crosses through the paper and get them taped together perfectly.
Also, be aware that you will probably need to make sure that your printer prints the pattern at 100% scale or "actual size." I make my patterns so that they can be printed on A4 or U.S. letter sized paper which means your printer might try to fit everything in and therefore scale down your page.
Cut out the pattern with a pair of scissors.
Step 3: Transfer the Pattern to the Golf Club Tube
Wrap the pattern tightly around the golf club tube, making sure the bottom edge of the paper ends up creating a nice straight line around the tube. Not all golf tubes have the same diameter, so if the paper overlaps as you wrap it around the tube, that's o.k.
Tape the paper pattern together around the tube.
I used a paint pen to trace the line at the bottom of the pattern as well as the curved line at the top.
Once you have the lightsaber shape traced, you can slide the pattern off the golf tube.
Step 4: Cut Out Your Lightsaber
Using the metal shears, cut along the lines you drew on the golf tube. If you have really strong scissors you could probably use them as well, but I just found that it worked really well with the metal shears.
Step 5: Cut Out the Band That Goes Around the Lightsaber
Using the template as a guide, mark the length of the band onto the unused section of the golf tube.
You can slide the paper template tube onto the golf tube and trace the end of it to make nice straight lines for each end of the band.
Cut up the centre of the band until you have cut a couple of centimetres past the line marking the end of the band. This will give you room to turn your cutters and cut the band off the tube along that line.
You can now cut the tape holding your paper template in its tube shape, allowing it to be flat again.
Step 6: Let's Talk About Tape
There is a wide variety of aluminum tape out there, and some seem to work better than others. If the tape is too thick, it will be harder to flatten down when folded over the ends of the tube, so more expensive tape is not necessarily better.
It is best to cut the tape to the length you need before peeling it off its paper backing.
If your piece of tape sticks to anything before you get it where it needs to go, you might as well discard that piece and get a new one. As soon as you have to pull the tape away from something it is stuck to, you will get wrinkles in the tape and won't be able to get a nice smooth finish.
When you pull the paper off the tape, the tape will want to roll up on itself. Be ready and don't let it!
Step 7: The Inside of the Lightsaber Turns to Steel
Now comes the fun (and also tricky/frustrating) part. We need to cover the plastic golf tube with aluminum tape so that it looks as smooth as possible.
Start with the inside of the lightsaber at the top. Cut a piece of aluminum tape 10 cm long.
Bend the tape into a "U" shape.
Carefully feed the tape into the hole at the end of the lightsaber until there is only about 1 cm sticking out past the longest part of the lightsaber. The tricky thing is that you can't let the tape touch any of the inside of the tube until it is in place.
Once in place, press the centre of the tape against the inside of the tube with your finger and then work out from the middle to both sides pressing as you go. This should cover about half of the inside of the tube.
Using a sharp knife (I like a scalpel), trim any aluminum tape that extends past the end of the tubing. This works best if you cut from the tape side towards the tube side (inside to outside in this case) so that the tape is being pushed against the tubing as you cut, rather than being pulled away.
Step 8: Repeat for the Other Half of the Inside
Take a second piece of tape 5 cm long and do the same thing on the other half of the inside of the tube.
Now take a little bit of sandpaper and smooth off the top edge of the lightsaber.
Step 9: Exterior Tape Application.
Next, we are going to apply aluminum tape to the outside of the lightsaber.
Cut a piece of tape a bit longer than the lightsaber tube.
Once the backing is peeled off the tape, lay it on the table, sticky side up, and then use some clear tape on each end to stick it down to the table. When you do this, make sure the aluminum tape is stretched tight so that there are as few creases as possible.
Viewing from directly above, lower the lightsaber tube down onto the tape making sure that lightsaber is centred on the strip of tape.
Once you set the lightsaber on the tape, you are committed! If you try to remove it to reposition, the aluminum tape will become distorted and will never smooth down properly. If that does happen, just pull off the tape and try again with a new piece.
You can now pull the clear tape off the table and turn over the lightsaber and tape.
Start rubbing the tape down from the centre out, parallel to the length of the tube. I am using my scalpel handle (with the blade removed) but a fingernail or a marker works great as well.
Rub until the entire piece of tape is smooth.
Step 10: Fold Over the Ends of the Tape
It is much easier to deal with the overhanging tape now than after you add the next piece.
Trim the extra aluminum tape so that it extends about 3mm past the edge of the golf tube.
Push the extra tape around the end of the tube and rub it down fairly aggressively, trying to get it as smooth as possible.
Step 11: More Tape Positioned Just So
Add another piece of tape beside the first one.
This time instead of starting at the centre of the tape piece, start by lining up one edge as perfectly as possible with the tape that's already there, and then rub it down, working away from that edge.
Depending on the width of your tape and the diameter of the tube, this strip may or may not make it all the way around to cover the whole tube. If not, cut a thin strip of tape and add it beside the last one.
Step 12: Aluminum Tape on the Band
Apply aluminum tape to the short band, using the same methods you just used on the larger lightsaber piece.
Step 13: Make It Look Like Brushed Steel!
Put on some rubber gloves so that you don't get aluminum dust on your skin.
Hold the abrasive scrub pad around the tube and rotate the tube with your other hand, slowly moving the scrub pad up the tube until the whole lightsaber has a nice brushed texture.
Step 14: Attach the Band
Use the abrasive pad to texture the band.
Find the correct placement for the band and glue it into place.
Step 15: Make a Little Box
Cut out piece 3 from the pattern.
Trace piece 3 twice on a sheet of foamboard.
Glue the two pieces of foamboard together.
Lightly sand the edges to make them uniform.
You could use a small piece of wood or any other rectangular object instead of the foamboard.
Step 16: Wrap a Little Present
Lay the foamboard onto a strip of aluminum tape and wrap it up like a little silver present.
Step 17: Deliver the Present
Texture the surface of the block with the scrubbing pad.
Glue the block over the gap in the band around the lightsaber.
Step 18: Toggle Time
Grab a spring toggle bolt (they are generally used for mounting into drywall).
Take it apart with a pair of pliers and remove one of the wings as well as the spring.
Bend one of the wings back into shape, including the centre piece with the threads on it (this gives a good spot for the glue to grip).
Glue the toggle to the side of the little box.
Step 19: Add Handle Grips
Cut 6 strips of black 5 mm thick EVA foam according to the dimensions on the pattern.
Glue the strips to the lightsaber, lining them up with the bottom edge of the lightsaber tube.
In order to get them evenly spaced, I found it worked best to glue two strips on opposite sides first, and then the two strips that would go between them.
Step 20: The Inside Tube Thingy
Cut a piece of 1/2 inch PEX pipe 10 cm long.
I like to use a tubing cutter to cut the PEX, but you can cut it with whatever you have.
Cover the PEX tube with aluminum tape the same way you covered the lightsaber tubing.
Step 21: Three Little Tubes Went Out to Play
Cut three pieces of 3/4 inch PEX pipe, about 2cm long each.
Cover each piece with aluminum tape.
These pieces need to be able to slide over your 1/2" PEX pipe, so you may need to trim any tape from around the inside of the pipe pieces.
Step 22: Make a Fancy Contraption
Texture the tape on the 1/2" PEX pipe.
Glue the three short 3/4" PEX pipes into place, spaced out on the 1/2" pipe.
On one of the ends, have the 3/4" PEX stick out past the end of the other pipe.
Texture the pipes you just added.
Step 23: Install the Contraption
Cut a couple of strips of 2mm thick EVA craft foam about 1cm wide.
Wrap the foam around two of the rings on the contraption (not on the one that extends past the end).
The goal is, once wrapped, the contraption will fit tightly inside the lightsaber tube. For my tube, one strip of foam was not enough, but two strips were too much. What I did was use two strips of foam, but before gluing them down, I stretched them so that they were slightly thinner. Perfect fit!
Step 24: Adorn It With Copper Tape
I had a big roll of copper tape that I inherited from my mom when she stopped doing stained glass work.
I used two strips of that on top of the block and used my abrasive pad to texture it.
Step 25: Make a Random (plastic) Metal Flange
Cut piece 4 from the pattern.
Trace it onto a piece of 1-2 mm thick plastic. I used an old plastic tray I had no use for.
Cut it out with your metal shears. If the plastic cracks at this point, it's probably not a great choice of plastic. You would be better off with something a little softer.
Sand the edges of the plastic piece smooth with some sandpaper.
I used a small candle to heat up the plastic in the centre and then bend it in a "U" shape.
Once bent, sand any parts that have melted out of shape.
Hot plastic can burn you.
Be careful when using open flames, if you get distracted you can end up with a fire.
Always heat plastic in a well-ventilated space and never allow it to catch on fire. Hot plastic can release toxic fumes that you don't want to breathe.
Step 26: Glue the Flange
Cover the flange with aluminum tape.
Using the template, mark the position of the flange and glue it down.
Step 27: Make a Button
For the lightsaber I made on the video, I found a really decent stainless steel fitting. However, I realize that this is not easily reproducible so I came up with an alternative - a stack of washers.
I used superglue to glue together a stack of 5 small washers, with one larger washer on top of that stack and then one of the smaller washers to top it off. I found it helped to sand the edges of the washers first to give them a cleaner look.
Glue this button into place according to the pattern.
Step 28: Plug the End
Press a piece of the golf club tube into some 5 mm thick EVA foam to make a mark.
Cut out the circle on the mark you just made.
Glue the circle into the end of the lightsaber.
Step 29: Hang It on a Belt
Cut piece 6 from your plastic sheet.
Bend a piece of coat hanger into a triangular shape.
Heat up the plastic piece and bend it in half around the triangle.
Glue the plastic piece together and then glue that piece to the back of the lightsaber.
Step 30: Just a Little Paint
I used a little bit of silver metallic paint to paint the bottom of the lightsaber. It would have been possible to cover the plastic piece with aluminum tape, but it wouldn't have worked on the foam, so I just painted it all.
Step 31: All Done. Now Go Save the Universe....
First Prize in the