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Lightswords: Creating a Light Saber

Posted: Mon, 18th Jul 2005, 11:04pm

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Arktic

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Rating: +10

Ok, I was requested to write a tutorial for a basic lightsaber - so here it is!

There are a few things to note - these sabers were designed to be used in low, low budget movies, so don’t look as good as some of the others you might see on the net. They are, however, a much more practical design in terms of fighting than with certain other designs- with easy access to add or takeaway the blades, or switch them quickly, yet sturdy enough to hold them in place so that they would withstand proper fighting. Also, it’s been written with UK filmmakers in mind - and it’s for this reason that the chrome pipe that many American tutorials require has been left out, as I can’t seem to find it here in the UK. All the stuff needed to build one of these badboys is available in most B&Q or Focus stores.

Also, apologies about the rubbish quality pictures, I don’t have my digicam with me, so I’ve just hooked up my PS2s EyeToy and used that to take some pictures (hence the red and blue glow in the photos, as well as the poor quality!). Image hosting from ImageShack.

Ok, here’s the Anatomy of an “ArkticSaber” -



A: Main body, made from PVC waste pipe (around 3.5cm / 1 1/4in diameter)
B: Emitter Shroud, made from a sink plughole
C & D: Pommel / Battery compartment, made from a universal PVC waste pipe connector and an end cap
E: The main saber controls and the blade holder, made from a nut and bolt (this photo is of a saber with unfinished controls, however - see later for more details)


Right, and here’s a full shopping list of the stuff you’ll need:
    PVC waste pipe (3.5 cm)
    PVC waste pipe “Push Fit” straight coupling (roughly 35mm, to fit the pipe you buy)
    Click for a picture
    Waste pipe stop cap
    Click for a picture
    Plastic sink plughole (referred to as a ‘waste’ by plumbers)
    Click for a picture
    Note, this is a picture of a brass one, you’ll want to find one where the main body of the threading is plastic
    A nut and bolt, longer than 3.5 cm in length
    Two other nuts, larger than the above
    Chrome self-adhesive vinyl (sticky backed plastic)
    Chrome effect enamel model paint
    Black/Red model paint
    ‘No More Nails’ / Epoxy Resin adhesives
    Wooden Broom Handles

Ok!

STEP 1 -

Take the pipe, and decide how long you want your saber to be. For example, mine is just a little over 25cm. To get this length, measure and cut a piece of PVC pipe that’s about 17.5cm - as the straight coupling/pommel will add around 6cm, and then you’ll gain another few centimetres from the emitter shroud section.



STEP 2 -

The next job is to drill a hole through the pipe, around 10.5cm from one end of the pipe. You need to drill so that the hole goes directly from one side of the pipe and right through the other. The hole needs to be large enough that you can thread the nut and bolt through it, securely, but without too much difficulty. Because the drill will heat up the plastic and melt it, I suggest using an old drill bit and as slow a speed as possible while you’re doing this. Clamping the pipe in a vice is a good way of making sure the two holes line up properly.


The pipe in this picture is already chromed, but don’t worry about that….

STEP 3 -

Now you need to get crafty. Take a tape measure, and measure around the pipe, to get it’s circumference. Mine was about 11cm. You then need to add a few mm onto this measurement to ensure that you have enough to cover the whole thing. Take the adhesive chrome vinyl, and measure out a rectangle to fit your pipe - in my case it was 17.5 cm x 11 cm (with a few mm added on). When you cut it, use a scalpel or a craft knife - you need PERFECTLY straight and PERFECTLY clean edges, otherwise they will look horrible!

Just a note on the chrome vinyl, I didn’t manage to find any at B&Q, though they said they’d be able to order it in for me. However, my local arts and crafts store had a plentiful supply, and it was only 75p for enough to make about two or three sabers.

STEP 4 -

This is quite possibly the hardest part of the whole thing. You’re going to wrap the vinyl around the pipe. I attempted to get some photos of this in action, but they didn’t come out right (it’s very hard to photograph yourself doing something that requires two hands!). So I’ll do my best to describe how I did mine - peel back about three centimetres of the backing, so that about three centimetres of the adhesive side is exposed. You’re going to want to lay this onto the pipe, so that it is EXACTLY square. If it’s off, even by a little, it’ll look wrong. Once you’ve got it on, smooth it down with one hand, while you pull off a little more of the backing with the other hand. It’s hard to describe, but with a little thought you should get what I mean. Essentially you’re trying to lay the vinyl onto the pipe a little at a time, so that you can make sure there are no air bubbles underneath it. Perhaps if you have a mate to help you with this bit, one of you can hold and rotate the pipe as the other person attaches the vinyl. When you reach the end, smooth down the vinyl onto itself as much as possible. There will still be a line, visible to the eye, where the vinyl ends - however, this does not show up on camera when the saber is moving - and for close-ups, just ensure that the other side of the hilt is toward the camera.

When you’re done, you should end up with something like this:



As you can see in the picture, I’ve also painted a black ‘band’ around the bottom end of the pipe. This is important for later. You’ll want to use a black enamel - but it’s not too important what finish type it is, as this section will not be touched at all. Just make sure that it’s paint that will work over the vinyl.

STEP 5 -

Now comes another tricky bit that I didn’t manage to get photos of! The sink plughole will probably look a lot like this -


Notice how it’s got a ’vent’ either side and a threaded section? These are important for the aesthetics of the prop. Also, ensure that the plughole you buy is mostly made from PLASTIC, not metal, and that it will fit over your PVC pipe.

Because you’re going to want this to be a working saber prop, you’ll need to remove the middle section of the plughole. This is difficult to describe, but what you’ll want to do is take out the blade from a hacksaw, and feed it through one of the holes in the plughole. Once it’s inside, move it back and forth to cut through one hole and into the next. You’ll go around each of the holes this way, untill eventually you’ll have cut away the inner section, leaving you with something more like this.



It’s not very pretty, but you’re not going to be able to see inside when you film, as there will be a blade in there! Also, in this picture, the top is yet to be painted properly, so it looks pretty awful.

STEP 6 -

Once the plughole is cut, paint the inside and the top with either silver or black model paint.

Now you’ll want to chrome the top part of the plughole, the section without the ’threading’. To do this, follow the same procedure as for the pipe, except you’ll now need to cut some space for the ‘vents’ at either side. The easiest way to do this is by making a paper template with no holes, laying it around the plughole and carefully marking where the holes are. Then transfer this template to the vinyl, and cut it precisely with a scalpel or craft knife - and you should end up with a piece of vinyl that is an exact match. Lay this on carefully, and smooth it down.



STEP 7 -

First paint the straight coupling and the stop cap silver, with model paint. Leave them to dry.


Then, take the straight coupling, and paint the two ‘rings’ with black model paint (I’ve found that two coats of a gloss finish enamel paint tend to stick a lot better than any other kind). Leave this to try again.

The next step is to again carefully measure and cut out vinyl to chrome the straight coupling’s middle section. Once you’ve laid it over, it should give you something that looks like this:



To complete this section, push in the stop cap, and you’ll have a pommel section:



STEP 8 -

Take the pommel, and push it over the end nearest the hole in the chromed PVC pipe. Because of the added thickness of the vinyl, there’s no need to glue this section - it will stay in place forever, even during hardcore fighting.



STEP 9 -

The shroud can now be glued into place onto the pipe. To do this, I used ‘No More Nails’, which is fairly cheap and tends to stick anything to anything else very rigidly. But you don’t want any of the glue to get onto the black ‘band’ that you’ve painted, as this area is going to show through the ‘vents’ cut into the side of the sink plughole. The easiest way to do this, that I’ve found, is to slide the shroud partially over the end of the pipe, covering the band. Now apply the glue liberally to the area of the pipe that I’ve labelled in the following picture, and push the shroud on firmly. You’ll probably want to wipe off any excess glue that gets squeezed out when you push it on.



STEP 10 -

Now it’s time to deal with that nut and bolt. First of all, screw the bolt through the holes you drilled in the pipe, and attach the nut.



You’ll then want to mark off the excess that protrudes past the nut, so that you can unscrew the lot and cut off that excess. Then, when you thread the bolt through again, it’ll lay nice and flush.

Now, that nut is going to become the controls on one side of the saber. You can do this in a multitude of ways, but you basically just want to make it look a little less like a nut, and more like something that could possibly be a control system or set of buttons. My preferred way of doing this is to take the nut and using epoxy resin, glue two larger nuts on two opposing faces of it, ensuring that all three nuts are flush on at least one side.



Once you’ve done that, when you re-screw the nut back into place, you’ll have this arrangement on one side of the saber:



For the other side, I tend to paint the screw’s end red, and use that as the blade activator switch.

STEP 11 -

Once you’re done with the controls, you’re ready to fit the blade. Decide how long you want your blade to be, add an extra 25cm, and then cut that length off a wooden broom handle. Unscrew the nut and bolt / controls, and slide the broom handle into the saber. You can then drill through the handle, using the holes in the saber as a jig, to ensure that they line up correctly. You can then re-screw the nut and bolt assembly, which will secure the blade firmly in place.

Once you’ve done that, you’ve got yourself a fully finished prop saber! Obviously, this is just one possible design - you should go out and play with all the bits and bobs you find in the plumbing section of B&Q and see what you can come up with!

Cheers,
Arktic.
Posted: Mon, 18th Jul 2005, 11:10pm

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Rabbit Hole Pictures

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pretty sweetxdeal.
Posted: Mon, 18th Jul 2005, 11:50pm

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Vault FX

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Thanks for the tutorial mate smile I didn't think that you took that long, lol smile I will look at making my first lighsaber later this week, I will have a look at what money I have first, lol smile

Cheers again mate smile

dalder
Posted: Tue, 19th Jul 2005, 6:47am

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Redhawksrymmer

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Cool tutorial, Arctic.

+1
Posted: Wed, 20th Jul 2005, 7:44am

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Chris Grant

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Nice Tut. But can you fit in a PVC pipe in order to use it as a stunt saber to actually fight with? And if you can, is it stable? If the answer is yes I will start working on mine asap and post my results.
Thanks
Chris
Posted: Wed, 20th Jul 2005, 6:05pm

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Arktic

Force: 9977 | Joined: 10th Nov 2003 | Posts: 2785

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For fighting, I've found the best material is wooden dowel - or alternatively a wooden broomstick/broom handle - they're only about 99p, and because they're secured in with a nice big nut and bolt, they're very secure for fighting.

The saber pictured in the tutorial, by the way, is a re-vamped version of the original one used in my 99 Red Balloons video, from a few years back - as it stands, it's only ever been repaired the once (during which it was re-vamped and chromed, rather than the original paint effect, which didn't work), because the top section became unglued after being hit by another saber. However, that was soon fixed, and since then, I've had no trouble at all.

As I say, the hardest bit is getting the chrome vinyl over, and cutting it to shape. However, if you take your time, and make sure all the edges are precise, and tidy, then you should be able to make a very quick, cheap and reliable saber smile

Hope yours goes well!

Cheers,
Arktic.
Posted: Wed, 22nd Feb 2006, 6:44am

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bilbo97

Force: 190 | Joined: 28th Dec 2005 | Posts: 4

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I found this tutorial very, very helpful. I used you rmethod, along wiht the one given to the readers of theforce.net's tutorials to create pretty cool lightsaber. I do have to admit though, it was difficult to follow either one to the T because of the fact that both tutorials varied slightly and I really wanted a good looking hilt. Just to let you know, I built a hilt using strictly your method and it only cost me about $10. Menards and Home Depot rock!!!

thanks for the great advice,
bilbo97