Dec 7

DIY Lightsaber

Category: lightsaber

It’s been a while, and I’ve found myself doing things lately that I wanted to capture somewhere, so why not here?

Somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago, my dad bought a few random boxes for scrap at an auction and in it were an assortment of camera flashes. A couple of them happened to be various Graflex flash handles, which, for those of you who don’t know, are the main body of several of the original lightsaber props for the original Star Wars Trilogy. As a lifelong Star Wars fanatic, I was stoked! My dad however, was more stoked to make money off of nerds wanting lightsabers and had me convinced that he’d sold all of them. That Christmas, when I opened an original 3 cell Graflex from my dad, wow was I excited and surprised! That flash has moved all over the place with me, and I even purchased the cosmetic parts (bubble strip, Mylar tape, D-ring, and T track grips) which I never got around to adding.

But that is no longer true! Since Episode VII is just around the corner, I decided to order another cosmetic kit, since I think my original one is in a box somewhere in Ohio, and got all of those bits added a few weeks back. It felt awesome. I bought a cheap wall hanger for art that fits onto a belt pretty well, and promptly wore my hilt to work to show my fellow nerds. Without fail, every person who picks it up, asks me what it does, to which I was responding “it’s just the hilt” but that got me thinking that I really should make it a lightsaber. So, my obsessive nature has taken over, I’ve ordered parts, I’ve soldered things, I’ve programmed Arduinos, and now I have a plan! This is the point at which I really felt the need to document my process.

First up, parts list!

  • Original Graflex 3 cell (with a bottom that my dad machined so I wouldn’t be drilling through an original end cap)
  • grips, bubble strip, d-ring :
  • 1/2″ silver Mylar tape: ebay (although I’m not using it, because I like the Graflex branding)

At that point, I had a screen accurate replica of Luke’s lightsaber from A New Hope, which, I’m not going to lie, feels really bad-ass, but I wanted more.


Graflex 3 cell, Luke's Episode IV lightsaber hilt

Graflex 3 cell, Luke’s Episode IV lightsaber hilt

For the innards:

I also picked up an accellerometer to test out, but at this point I’m leaning more towards just using the swing and flash on clash sensors, since they are much simpler. I hope to have a wiring schematic made in the next few days.

As for the code to drive it, I’ve found some great examples floating around that I’m playing with. Once my code is a bit more usable and the wiring is more solidified, I’ll be posting everything to github for more people to use.

I chose to go the diy Arduino route because I like the idea of knowing exactly how the innards work and having control over them. It’s also made the project be a lot more involved than “buy a few bits and solder them together”, and I’m very into that. I’ve not had a major project in a long long time, so it feels really nice to have something to obsess over that’s not Magic cards.

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