Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Star Wars Lightsaber Hilts


First things first.  According to my Blogger Dashboard, I now have two new followers!  Bringing my total up to a mind blowing three!

Still, I want to say thanks to my new followers and that I hope you enjoy this and future write ups.

Now on to what you came here for.


I try to make project plans and outlines.

I try to stick to them.

I fail miserably every time.

Oh, well.

Our friends, David and Lori, are going to Dragon*Con with us this year!  At last we’ll have friends there to hang out with and share in the fun and all things Dragon*Con (hopefully not the diseases, though).  Once they had their room booked and memberships bought, we started talking about cosplay ideas, and we decided that we had to do a group cosplay.  David mentioned Star Wars, and before Melinda and I even got home, I had ideas and plans in my head.  We’ve never done a Star Wars cosplay, which was very shocking and depressing.  So, now I get to check another item off the bucket list: Do a Star Wars cosplay.

I decided that step #1 should be creating lightsabers for everyone.  This was also a tricky decision.  If I make just a lightsaber hilt, then it will be easier and more convenient to carry around.  If I make lightsabers with blades, then we all have to walk around carrying a 32” long blade with us through the crowds of D*C.  I ended up going with just the hilts.  I am trying to figure out a way to make a removable blade that can be carried in our robes and then attached when needed.  I’m still working on that and if it works out, I’ll update accordingly.

Once I decided on just the hilts, it was time to design.  Melinda and I of course wanted to be Sith.  The bad guys just have so much more fun, and as David Prowse told us: “Everyone remembers the villain”.  Melinda decided to cosplay Asajj Ventress in her Nightwitch costume from the last season of Clone Wars.  I’ve created a character for myself to go as named Darth Equiness.  He is a more primitive Sith in a full face mask (that build is coming in a later blog).  David and Lori will be the Jedi to balance our team out.

Now, I have never built lightsabers before, but I know I should have started there.  I decided on the PVC pipe route.  Easy to find, easy to work with, and something I know all too well.  Melinda helped me decide that her and Lori’s hilts would be made from 1/2” PVC and mine and David’s would be from 3/4” PVC.  Why the different sizes?  Easier and more comfortable to hold, according to Melinda.  Now to fire up the Dremmel.

I started with Melinda and Lori’s sabers.  I decided that Lori’s should be a bent foil/fencing style, not as extreme as Ventress’s but similar.  Heat gun + PVC + time = bent into shape.


I took some blue PVC flexible conduit to make the grips.  Cutting it down the middle so it would slip over the PVC pipe.  A little heat gun blast made this a lot easier.


Here you can see where I got excited on the second Ventress saber and forgot that I had adjusted the size on the first one, cutting is slightly shorter.  Do over time.

The top and pummels are simply PVC fittings cut and sanded to shape with the Dremmel.


Here in the line up from left to right is Lori’s, Melinda’s dual sabers, and mine.  As you can see, I went back and fixed the length issue.

The grey bits is simply epoxy sculpt used to fill in the gap that the slide on grip left. 

Now you may be wondering, where’s David’s?  This was the most intimidating build I’ve ever done.  David is a designer and a creative person, too.  So, I’m trying to create something for a fellow artist.  It would be like an author you respect coming to you and asking you to write them a story.  What the heck do I do?  Well the first one that I tried simply ate itself.  So, I went back to the others and got them painted and ready.


They weren’t supposed to be that silver.


And that was supposed to be more bone like in color.


At least the hammered gold came out right.

Enough futzing around, time to build David’s.

I went with a classic saber design.  No reason not using what we know works.


For this one, I actually cut out a “window” in the PVC pipe, then cut a small section out of the conduit, heated the conduit, and slipped it up inside the PVC pipe.  The details at the bottom are simply sections of the piece that was removed to make the grip area, cut down and glued in place.  The transition bit at the top is simply a narrow cut of the conduit.

Now back to painting, painting and more painting, until we get :


The distressing and aging effect was done with multiple layers of paint and then removed with steal wool and then, in some cases, hand painted back in with a stiff dry brush.

Lastly my saber.  I created a character that I will be cosplaying.  A Sith Lord named Darth Equiness.  He is a rather primitive character and I needed a saber unlike any other.  This involved a lot of hand painting.  So much hand painting.

Initially the wood detail was going to be bone, but for some reason when I went to paint this, I picked up dark brown paint.  It started to look like wood and reminded me of a wand from Harry Potter.  PERFECT!  So I continued to create a wood like texture.  All the wood detail is made up of epoxy sculpt over PVC pipe.

The pummel was always to be a tooth/bone/claw detail.  Turns out, creating a bone color is really hard.  I like how it turned out so far.

The bend is just a 45 degree PVC elbow, a short bit of pipe and then a dowel sharpened to a point.  It has a physical texture that I created by covering it with a counter top caulking. 

There we have it.  5 Lightsaber hilts built in less than 2 weekends.  I’d say there is probably just over 12 hours in all 5.  I like quick props like these.