Note: there are tons of light saber tutorials out there.
The purpose of this build is not to create a cheap light saber clone, nor a realistic looking one. The goal of this is to create the perfect combat light saber.
Goals: Create the lightest, fastest light saber which can stand up to full adult combat without breaking and without injuring anyone. Many of the light sabers I see use PVC which is heavy and can/will injury your opponent. This saber is as light as a tube of cardboard from wrapping paper. They can take a full force swing from a poly carbonate blade, and they are wicked quick.
The hilts, are designed to be comfortable, light weight and provide good grip while looking close to a "real" light saber.
On my last birthday my awesome wife threw me a little kids style star wars birthday party. One of the fun activities she planned was a light saber battle. She bought a bunch of toy light sabers and we all drank and dueled with toy light sabers (very geeky but super fun). After the party my brother and I would occasional duel with our toy light sabers. These toys quickly broke due to their cheap plastic design.
I looked into buying aluminum hilt, poly-carbonate replica blade light sabers on the internet. It occurred to me though, that these could break bones. The Math: (Weight of a poly-carbonate blade ~3 pounds OR 1.36078 kg [note: this is a rough estimate]) * (75 MPH tip speed OR 33.528 meters per second) = 45.6 newtons. To put that into perspective: A 45 caliber bullet weighing 12 grams or 0.012 kg would need to travel 3800 meters per second OR 8500 MPH to have the same force. I understand a bullet acts more as a needle than a blunt force object as a light saber would behave, but the point is clear, getting hit at 75 MPH (full swing for a skilled Jedi) could certainly break bone.
I started the process of building the best light saber for dueling. A saber that was light, fast, strong, repairable, that glowed.
Step 1: First Version
I started by building a cheap version. PVC pipe + pipe insulation foam + duct tape = a better dueling light saber. We played with these sabers for months. We even broke a few, and inflicted serious injuries upon each other. PVC is heavy. It brings the total force of a solid blow down to about 10 newtons which is far better but not good enough. They were far better than the cheapy toy sabers though. They were strong, repairable, and worked. After a good deal of time we began getting tired of always getting injured every time we dueled. I started to think about crafting the ultimate light saber for dueling. Something strong, light, fast, and comfortable to wield.
Step 2: Making the Mold
I had never made a mold when I started this project. I tried and failed 4 times before ending up with a usable mold and spent over $250 in the process of failing. I finally found success using plasti 73-10 silicone. I took the toy light saber, primed it, sanded off what I did not want and sprayed it with mold release. I used foam board to create a nice box, and poured the mold. After it was dried I cut one side of the silicone mold in a zig-zag pattern and pulled the saber out.
Step 3: The Rig
I spent $80 on silicone alone and found it was not enough after I poured it. I had to squeeze the box to get it to fill up. This made some areas of the saber have less than 1/2" of silicone around it. To strengthen the mold I built a makeshift rig which supported the silicone and kept it straight (I used a random box, filled with sheet rock joint compound). The rig also serves to hold the carbon fiber rods (blade) straight while the resin/epoxy dries.
I got the rod on ebay for about $30 with shipping each. 18MM ID. X 20MM OD. X 1000MM Length.
I painted them and rubbed on a wax/silver powder mix and sanded with steel wool and buffed it with a buffing pad on my grinder. I sprayed on some clear coat. I put smaller diameter, higher density foam pipe insulators on the carbon fiber rods. I wrapped the foam in colored duct tape. I brushed on glow in the dark paint.
I spent roughly 20 hours trying different mold making techniques, and failing miserably before I got it right. Now I can make a light saber in a bout an hour start to finish.
Biggest lessons learned:
1.) just let the silicone dry 100% through
2.) use noob silicone if youve never made molds before
3.) a vacuum chamber would be awesome if you can afford it (I couldnt and got lots of bubbles I had to sand/fill)
4.) pour the resin extremely slow (You should have ~10 mins before it starts hardening, so try to pour it over 9 minutes. The slower you do it the better the results).
The total cost for this project was over $500, but it can be much cheaper.
$30 carbon fiber rods from ebay
$90 in silicone (I recommend use PlatSil 71-10)
$10 mold release (optional, i didn't really need it)
$30 resin/epoxy for casting
$1 pipe insulator 1/2" (go for the harder foam ones)
$5 colored duct tape
$5 glow in the dark paint (use lots)
Check out other crazy projects on my blog: http://whats-matt-building-now.blogspot.com/