Introduction: The PVC and Wooden Dowel Lightsaber
A friend of mine has a young son ... and after being introduced to Star Wars, he is of course, compelled be a Jedi. Yep ... seven years old, but knows that this is his destiny - he must become one with the force.
One would think this would mean summer camp at Dagobah, hand stands, levitating rocks, etc, but apparently these days, Padawan training just means navigating the local Target until you find the toy section. No kyber crystal, no fabrication, no torture from a pint-sized, green smarta$$. The end result is a cheap hunk of plastic, which is not only too big for the Jedi Knight's/Sith Lord's hand, but also comes into physical contact with everything in the house ... lamps, walls, animals, people.
I decided to make a version with smaller hilt to fit his hand, and no blade to extend the life span of the family dog. Hopefully imaginative play hasn't been lost to the empire.
Since I've already made a wooden version of Luke Skywalkers ROTJ lightsaber, I switched things up and based this one on Qui Gon Jinn's design.
Step 1: Wooden Dowel Center
The main body of the lightsaber consists of two parts, which I refer to as a grooved core (3/4" dowel) and a partial outer sleeve (3/4" PVC). I started with the core, which requires for circumferential grooves towards the top and 12 slots through the middle and bottom.
My groove cutting method employed my small parts crosscut sled on the table saw. I used a Kreg miter slot stop block to set a definitive stopping point for the sled and set my desired blade height. My sled doesn't have an integrated ruler, so I temporarily attached a seamstress tape measure using clear packing tape. Lastly, I set the sled stop block for my starting point.
Note: I cut these grooves in a long length of dowel and cut it to final length afterwards ... that's how I keep my hands at a safe distance. I would NOT do this with a short dowel.
Note 2: If you are uncomfortable with this method in ANY way .. DON'T do it. Just draw them on or something.
The dowel is placed on the sled with a firm grip, sled advanced into the blade until it hits to the stop, dowel rotated until the groove is fully cut, and then the sled is backed out. The stop block is then moved over 5/16" and the process is repeated. This results in 1/8" wide grooves (size of the blade kerf) with 3/16" separation.
The slots are also cut using the sled and 5/16" spacing, but the miter slot stop is removed and the blade height is raised. In order to keep the dowel in a static orientation, I temporarily hot glued it to a block of plywood [Fig. 3 & 4].
Once all the slots were cut, the dowel was cut to its finished length of 6".
Step 2: PVC Sleeve
Qui Gon's lightsaber has elongated slots on the backside of this outer sleeve part, but I just went with series of randomly spaced holes. You could use a dremel and cut off wheel to turn the holes into slots.
I applied a strip of masking tape to the PVC and drew a vertical line down the length. A small V block kept the tube from rolling out of alignment while I drilled five 5/16" holes with a brad point bit.
The front side of the prop has a large cut out section. To achieve this, I started by using the crosscut sled on the table saw to establish the two end points. A dremel and cut off wheel were then used to make the lengthwise connecting cuts.
The top end of the outer sleeve is cut at a 45 degree angle. I made this cut with the sled, table saw, and an angled block of wood. A safer option would be to use a disc sander or oscillating belt sander to slowly shape the part.
Step 3: Chamfers and Parts
Two sections at the top of the lightsaber include chamfers and I've developed a trick for chamfering dowel stock, so here it is:
I screw a peg into the dowel, which can be chucked up in my drill, then the dowel can be spun against a sanding machine of your choice. I used the oscillating belt sander, but it also work with a strip sander and/or disc sander. The peg is just a section of sprinkler tubing threaded onto the screw.
The 45 degree alignment is achieved by clamping a large speed square to the edge of the oscillating belt sander table and then using a board as a spacer to get the dowel in the field of the sanding belt.
Upon completion of the chamfer, the part is cut to desired length using the small parts sled on the table saw.
Two chamfered sections, as well as a straight section, were cut from a 1 1/4" dowel. Another straight section was cut from 3/4" dowel.
Step 4: Marking and Drilling Center
I marked the center of all the parts using my dowel center finder and then headed to the drill press. Some parts I chose to nest, while others use will be pegged. We'll just take them in order from bottom to top.
Bottom Cap [1 1/4" dowel - 5/8" length] - shallow 3/4" hole drilled into one face, using a Forstner bit.
Main Core [3/4" dowel - 6" length] - 1/8" hole drilled in the top face to receive a metal pin.
Mid Chamfer [1 1/4" dowel - 3/4" length with the chamfer spanning 5/16"] - 1/8" through hole for the metal pin.
Top Spacer [3/4" dowel - 1/2" length] - shallow 1/8" hole drilled in one face for the metal pin.
Top Chamfer [ 1 1/4" dowel - 5/16" length with the chamfer spanning 3/16"] - shallow 3/4" hole drilled into bottom face, using a Forstner bit.
Note: When drilling small parts with a Forstner bit, hold the part in a clamp, so that the torque of the drill press doesn't rip it out of your hand (it hurts).
Step 5: Painting
This lightsaber has a pretty simple color scheme - black and metallic silver.
Aside from the top chamfered part, all wooden components are black. Because of the grooves, I didn't want to use spray paint - too much risk of poor coverage, drip, and runs. I opted for black leather dye - applied with a small brush and rag. Leather dye soaks in while providing great coverage, adds no perceptive thickness and dries relatively fast.
The stray wooden part and PVC sleeve were finished with metallic silver spray paint. I scuffed up the PVC with 120 girt sand paper and applied a coat of plastic primer prior to the paint.
Step 6: Assembly
The main core was glued into the bottom cap using wood glue, but everything else was done with epoxy for convenience since I was working with disparate materials (wood, metal, and plastic).
There was too much play in the 3/4" PVC over 3/4" dowel assembly, but it was easily resolved with electrical tape. I cut a strip in half lengthwise, wrapped one strip around the base of the 3/4" dowel, and wrapped a second towards the top where it would be concealed under the PVC. Once i had a snug fit, assembly resumed from bottom to top.
1. A small amount of epoxy was added to the bottom tape ring and then the PVC sleeve slid into place.
2. The metal pin was glued into the top of the main core.
3. Epoxy added to the bottom face of the mid chamfer and slid onto the metal pin.
4. Epoxy added to the face of the top spacer and slid onto the metal pin.
5. Epoxy added to the recess in top chamfer and slid onto the 3/4" spacer.
For the button at the top of the PVC sleeve, I used a cut of bolt head. An appropriate sized hole was drilled for the remaining shaft, epoxy added, and the bolt head stuck in place.
For what I think is the power switch within the bottom third, I used a plastic sprinkler system "goof plug." An appropriate sized hole was drilled about 1/4" deep, epoxy added, and the plug inserted.
Step 7: Glamour Shots
The only left to do is fire up the imagination and remember not to sever your own fingers.
Aside from the groove cutting, it's relatively simple project, which can easily be made with scrap materials. It's fun, it's lightweight, and all of the fragile knick knacks will thank you.
I removable dowel/blade can be added if you drill a hole/socket into the top of the lightsaber. I did this with a 3/8" dowel in order to add special effects in post.
Step 8: The Build Video
Video special effects by Pat Lap
Participated in the