I was never a huge Star Wars fan. I had seen all six movies, but was more interested in the props and technology. I liked the look of the lightsaber, so I decided to build my own.

I looked at the various lightsabers from the six movies, and decided to build Luke’s lightsaber from the original Star Wars (which is now Episode 4, A New Hope for those of you playing along at home).

 

ls2Believe it or not, Luke Skywalker’s first two lightsabers began as a flash attachment to a camera.

It’s called a Graflex 3 Flashlite, 3 referring to the number of batteries required.

 

 

 

 

ls4Here is a picture of the Flashlite broken down into two pieces. You can see how it looks more like a lightsaber now.I did my research on the web and there was no shortage of sites explaining the steps to creating a lightsaber.

 

 

 

 

 

ls5My initial task was to find a Graflex 3 Flashlite. After a few weeks of searching eBay, one became available. I purchased it for about $100 (US).

Once I had the flash unit, the first thing I needed to do was to clean it up and polish it a bit. It made a huge difference.

Now that it was clean, it was time to start gathering the pieces I would need to convert the flashgun to a lightsaber.

 

ls9The first piece I needed to recreate was the handgrip.Sources around the web indicated the handgrips were made from windshield wiper blades, although the exact type and model is not known.I managed to find a website that sold two-foot lenghts of blade that they claimed was the correct type to use on a lightsaber, so I purchased it and cut it down into six 3 1/2″ strips.

When the original lightsaber sold recently, it was learned that there were actually seven strips of rubber, not six. In the next movie, The Empire Strikes Back, the lightsaber had six handgrips and a few other minor changes.

As it turns out, I never ended up using them. I ended up purchasing a kit that had all the final parts  I would need, although I did use a few of my own.

 

 

ls10The Graflex camera comes apart into three pieces: the front end, the back end, and the clamp in the middle that holds it all together. I used epoxy and glued the grips to the backend.

 

 

 

 

 

ls11With the backend on the workbench, I attached the belt clip. Again, no one is sure how many screws or rivets held the clip on, but most prop people agree that a D-ring clip was used.

 

 

ls12I drilled a few holes in the bottom of the hand piece, and attached the clip.

 

 

 

 

 

ls13I now had a complete bottom half to the lightsaber!

 

 

 

 

 

ls14The next step involved altering the middle clamp piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls16A piece of metallic tape would be needed to cover the word GRAFLEX in the center of the clamp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls17The next task was a bit more challenging. Inside the clamp, was a series of glass bubbles as seen here in one of the Master Replica lightsabers.

 

 

 

 

ls18The bubbles were not glass, but a piece from an old calculator, an Exactra 20 from Texas Instruments.

This was an old LED calculator from the 1970’s. The bubbles covered the numerical display and enlarged them for easier viewing. The display was seven digits, so seven bubbles.

 

 

 

 

 

ls19Even though the kit contained the glass bubbles, I found a calculator on eBay, and proceeded to tear it apart to remove the bubble piece.

 

 

 

ls20I then sanded it down and buffed it smooth so I could place it inside the clamp.

 

ls21I slid the bubbles into the clamp and placed a small piece of the metallic tape behind it to make it sparkle a bit more.

The center piece was now complete!

 

 

 

 

ls22The top piece of the lightsaber did not require any changes, so I now had the three pieces ready for assembly.

 

 

 

 

 

I reassembled the three parts, locked the clamp in place, and voila! – I now had a Luke Skywalker ANH lightsaber.

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Since I enjoyed building Luke’s lightsaber from A New Hope, I decided to try my hand at building his lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back, which was almost identical, but had a few small modifications.

  1. The handgrip now had a rivet on each strip.
  2. The bubbles had been replaced by a piece of circuit board.
  3. The shiny metallic tape had been replaced by a wider piece of tape that was textured.
  4. The D-ring clip was a bit different (It was based on a slide piece from another flash unit).
  5. The “glass eye” on the front of the flash unit was replaced by a second red button.

 

ls25I purchased another Graflex flash unit and this time I bought a kit, rather than find my own parts.

I then cut out a notch at the bottom of the strips where I would drill through the body and place a small rivet.

 

 

 

As for the circuit board, most of the websites I’ve visited agree that the circuit board came from an HP computer card. Based on the fact that the bubbles originated from a Texas Instruments calculator, I think the circuit board may have actually come for a Texas Instruments RS232 PHP1220 circuit board (this was an early serial interface card).

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ls32The new wider, textured tape went on easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls39I also added the circuit board to the clamp.

 

 

 

 

ls31As for the D-clip, the base of the clip was made from a slide on a 1950’s Kobold flash unit.

While I was scanning eBay for one of these flash units, I ran across a guy who had already purchased four flash units to make his own lightsabers, and he was selling one of the converted clips. It was kind of expensive, so I stayed with the kit version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls30I bolted it to the bottom portion of the Graflex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls33ls34The final item to change was the “glass eye” on the front of the flash. It needed to be removed and replaced by a duplicate red button.

 

 

 

ls35For this particular piece, it looked as though the only way I would get one would be to purchase another Graflex flash unit. I didn’t want to spend another $100 just for one button, so I checked through the various Star Wars newsgroups and websites and found someone selling replica buttons and picked one up for about $15.

 

 

 

ls40Here’s the front end with the “glass eye” removed and the second button installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls36I then connected the pieces, and I had my second lightsaber!

 

 

 

 

 

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One day I may try my hand at a Darth Vader lightsaber!

 

Written by stevemargolis

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