Photography: Charles Chua
The lightsaber may be the most famous of fictional weapons.
At the same time, this ultimate fighting accessory may also be the only Star Wars memorabilia that you’d becompelled to customise. After all, lightsabers are self-made by the Jedis and Sith Lords, each unique to the one who built it, and not bought like a wizarding wand from Diagon Alley.
We’re presented the six sleek sabre hilts Sabermach currently sells, one of which features a black angled blade shroud as a nod to Darth Vader’s lightsaber, another features a flat blade “emitter” taking its cue from Obi-Wan’s weapon, and a third is inspired by Mace Windu’s Jango Fett slayer.
Ergonomics are taken directly from the Japanese katana. We choose the Obi-Wan tribute as the base model to customise.
And after half an hour or so at the drawing board, we arrived at a manly mace-meets-lightsaber design that’s a nod to the energy swords used in the Old Republic era of the Star Wars expanded universe.
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Machining starts. The hilt’s body is cut from a single block of aluminium with a lathe (a metalworking machine with a rotating component).
Then it is polished and sent for anodising to give it a lasting sheen, before slots are cut and holes drilled for fixtures like the power button and ourmace’s fins.
The acrylic fins are cut by laser and then spray painted. The “blade” is cut from a hollow, practically indestructible polycarbonate rod (the beam’s colour is later determined by the LED that sits inside the hilt – staying true to the fictitious use of crystals to power a lightsaber), and screw threads are machined at the ends.
This makes it easier to remove and stowaway the beam at Comic-Con.
With two people working on it, the entire process requires at least six hours and years of engineering experience.
Assembly is done by hand. The fins are screwed in place, and the leather strips are glued on.
Then comes the tricky part: securing the electronics (a glue-stick-size rechargeable lithium battery, a thumb-size LED unit, the power button and wires) inside the hilt.
One of the makers says it takes him five minutes to do this. We took five tries and forever to get it right. But we did.
Then it was only a matter of choosing our blade’s colour and which side of the Force we’re on.
The result: a unique Star Wars weapon that will survive more battles and lightsaber envy than one gotten from Toys ‘R’ Us.
By: Kenneth Wee