Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
Here's my second lightsaber build! I actually started working on this simultaneously with my Luke Lightsaber ROTJ replica. I must say I always loved this design more than Luke's ROTJ, probably because it was built from real parts. I can't really put my finger on it, but I just think that this saber looks more like something that could actually work. Anyway, the parts are much more difficult to manufacture.
I'm the kind of person who not only wants to own a prop/replica, but who also loves to make it himself. I have to admit, for a long time, I didn't believe I would be able to finish this one. I also love looking at work-in-progress pictures of prop building, so, if you're like me, here's how I made my replica of this saber.
As always, I started this project with a little bit of sketching to figure out how I'd go about making it. This lightsaber is very complicated, so it took some time to actually figure out how to make it all work. There are so many parts... Anyway, I knew from the beginning that since I was going to use a Graflex clamp, I wanted to make a functional 'graflex mechanism' that will allow me to take the lightsaber apart just like Luke's Graflex saber. After the sketching, I made a CAD 3D model to see if I didn't miss anything.
Today I made four parts on a lathe. The first piece I made will be a part of the pommel - I divided the pommel into three parts, for easier manufacturing. Just like Luke's saber, this one will be held together using a threaded rod. Well, two pieces of threaded rod, because, as I said, I want to be able to take the lightsaber apart. That means I have to divide it into two main parts. I also made a second part of the pommel. This one doesn't have a thread running through it, just a hole. That means that I've got 2/3 of the pommel finished. I can't make the last part of the pommel at the moment, because I'm waiting for a shaped face mill to arrive. Anyway, I continued to work on another part, the one that will be locked inside the Graflex clamp. It's also not fully finished, yet. I still have to cut out the locking mechanism for the clamp, but that's for another day. The last part I made is the 'grenade' section of the saber. I finished just the operations I could do on a lathe, but again, I'm waiting for a special mill to arrive, so I can create the V grooves of the grenade.
There wasn't much going on today. I just marked the Graflex clamp 'slot' with a golden marker and cut it out with my dremmel tool. It fits perfectly into the clamp. By the way, the clamp I'm using at the moment is from my Luke's Graflex lightsaber replica (which I bought), it won't be a part of this saber.
Today I manufactured a part of the emitter (the 'head' of the lightsaber). Again, the emitter is divided into two parts, it's not one piece. I can't create the other part at the moment, because I don't have aluminium rod of the diameter I need.
I finally got the aluminium rod of the required diameter. This is the second part of the emitter. I've been waiting for this, it's practically the first part of the lightsaber that is fully finished. It's kinda scary, turning a piece like this. The thickness of the 'tube' is just 1mm, so you really need to be precise, no excuses here. Anyway, I'm very happy with this part, it looks better than I expected... I might be using this phrase a lot, from now on, because I honestly didn't think I'd be able to make some of the parts.
Today was exciting! I love doing all this stuff by myself, because I get to try a lot of new things. I've decided not to spray-paint the black parts of the lightsaber, but to 'paint' them black using fire. It worked well. The part I didn't put into the fire for too long created a very nice texture on the surface. This is exactly the type of look I've been looking for, it will look nice on the emitter. But I'm still not done, I need my black parts as well. All the parts that I 'painted' this way were just some random spare parts that I either screwed up, or had lying around because I had no use for them. I wouldn't take a risk like this with the final parts. Anyway, I left some parts in the fire for much longer than the first one, and they got a nice black layer.
I'm still waiting for a brass rod to continue with the grenade part of the saber. I was surprised to find out that there was some brass lying around in the workshop. And I was even more surprised when I found a piece of brass that was perfect for one of the lightsaber parts. I finally received the milling tools I ordered, so I also finished one of the most difficult parts of the saber. As you can see, this piece is quite tricky to do by hand. The milling took me about 5 hours, because I had to manually adjust the angle of the part (without a rotational chuck). It was quite boring, actually. The milling was never meant to create the final shape. I had to take a metal file and finish the shape that I needed manually. This part of the process took me about two hours. I wouldn't want to go through this a second time. Anyway, that's another piece that turned out looking quite good.
A lot of milling today... Since I got all the milling tools I needed, I've decided to finally finish some of the long unfinished parts. As you might remember, I started with the pommel parts on a lathe, so it's only fitting that I finally finish the whole pommel. I started with cutting a hole inside of the rod for a perfect fit with the pommel parts that I already have. The milling was (after the previous part the other day) fairly fast and easy, so no problems there either. It turned out looking (again) much better than I expected. Once the pommel was finished, I've decided to finish the grenade part as well. All that was missing were the v-grooves around the 'ribbed' area, and now I finally have the tools I need. I was affraid that the tool would break, but everything went smoothly. I must say, I love how this part turned out. It's almost a shame to paint it black later.
Yes! I finally received the long awaited materials! Copper for Luke's saber and brass for this one. So I jumped right into machining the missing grenade part. As usual, I ordered two times more material than I actually needed (just to make sure that I don't have to wait for another order in case I screw something up). So, I had to cut the piece of brass I needed first. Then I drilled a hole in it, so the threaded rod could go right through. The part fits perfectly into the grenade section I already have. The lightsaber finally starts to look like something, but there's still a long road ahead. And I still need to finish one of the most complicated parts of the saber, but more on that later.
It's time to work on the most complex part of the saber... but before that, I used my dremmel tool to cut the slot for the Graflex clamp. I'm still using the clamp from my Luke ESB replica. Anyway, everything works, so it's time to finish the grenade part made from brass. My first plan was to cut the shape out of a solid piece of brass with my dremmel tool. After careful consideration, I've decided to mill out the basic shape first, and then use dremmel just for the final touches. It took forever, but once I was finished, I pressed this part into the brass ring that I've created some time ago. I didn't test this first, but it worked perfectly. The ring can be screwed onto the main brass part I created earlier. Finally! The most complex part is finished. It's mainly this part I was most afraid of, and I didn't think I'd be able to make it.
Almost all the parts are finished, it's time to paint this thing. I tried the technique I described earlier - turning the parts black using fire. The result is not exactly what I expected it to be. The pieces have a lot of crevices, where the color didn't stuck very well, but it's good enough. I didn't try to paint brass this way before, so it was a little bit of risk. But not to worry, the polished brass didn't change at all in the fire, haha. Anyway, I'll have to use a different method to weather and age the prop.
Today was dedicated to the small things I've been putting aside for later. Now that I've finished all the parts, there's no later anymore, so here I am. I've decided to spray-paint the parts first, so I can let them dry while I'm working on something different. The fire gave the parts a good base and texture. I then started cleaning the paint off, using a sandpaper and a lathe. I had to repeat this process a few times until I was happy with the result. Anyway, while I was waiting for the paint to dry, I drilled a hole inside the lower part of the saber. I then cut a thread in it, so I can put a screw there, and secure the 'booster' part from rotating. Since I added the Graflex clamp mechanism, I needed those parts to really stick together.
After that, I had to make the two transistors that are attached to the clamp. I always knew that I want these to be screwed into place, so I can easily take the lightsaber apart. I noticed that there are versions of the lightsaber, where the two transistors have sort of a socket... but I've also seen a version where there's just one socket, or even none. I've chosen to create just one socket, because I like the way it looks (and, as a benefit, it's easier to make just one part, instead of two).
Once I had the transistors finished, I had to attach them to the clamp. Well, technically, they're not attached to the clamp, but to the upper and lower part of the lightsaber instead. To do this, I had to drill a hole inside each of the parts, and cut a thread for the transistor. The very last thing I did on this was drilling holes for the D-ring and installing it. All done!
One last note - I initially planned to create all the parts myself - including the Graflex clamp. The more parts I finished, the better it looked and I thought that creating the clamp was not going to be easy, and the result would probably degrade the quality of the lightsaber. That's why I ordered a replica Graflex clamp online, including the bubble strip (which I also wanted to create myself). And here's the final assembly:
I love the way it turned out... aaaand that's the final thought.