Side-by-side comparison of the upgraded lightsaber (left) and the original (right).

Awards: Make Media & Nvidia’s May the 4th Maker Contest: Cosplay and Prop Winner: Winning Submission

  • For: Resistance Rey from Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Estimated build duration: 1 full week, plus 1 day for writeup

The pandemic showed us the large gaps of technology and internet access across social-economic groups, from people working out of a car because of their unreliable home internet, to students frantically buying a new laptops that they learned that day, that they needed for class.

As an educator, I am aware that students indeed have limited access to 3D printers, laser cutters among others. I wanted to make this prop using methods that are inexpensive to access. I also save a lightsaber toy from the trash, giving it more awesome power than before and being sustainably conscious.

This is the prop summary of this build, and if you’d like to make one yourselve, here’s the winning tutorial on this site, and on Make: Projects.

Media/Materials used

Hardware

I have used most of the electronics parts from Adafruit’s Lightsaber build, with a few exceptions:

  • No need for a speaker; it comes with it. The speaker in their guide is rather nice though, so I do encourage you to give it a try.
  • No extra buttons, though feel free to order a few if you’d like to upgrade! We’ll reuse the one provided in the toy.
  • The switch is encouraged but not required. the power bank I suggest already has a power button. Though, I do encourage you to have a switch yourself! (and I’ll probably add one in!)
  • This power bank. This build is a battle between finding the biggest capacity battery that fits into the small spaces of a hilt. This one seems to both fit and power the lightsaber!
  • This JST kit. I had this one around, and it seems to work fine! The one they suggest is a-ok too!
  • Twisty ties. Nothing fancy, just something helpful for cable management!
  • I used this COB 332 leds/meter LED strip for my build, but for novices, I actually recommend this inexpensive one to start. The one I used is super dense, and I have specific prop goals for that. But, mine is expensive, and you may not need all of those LEDs! Try some cheap ones so you can play with it.
  • A MicroUSB to USB cable. This is the one I used, but if you have a few that are lying around without use, it’s worth repurposing!
Tools
  • Dremel or rotary tool, with a sanding drum, a ceramic wheel, and other smaller bits.
  • Vices, grips
  • Solder heat shrink on joints and soldering iron
  • Wire stripper
  • Respirator, safety goggles. Safety is the upmost concern.
  • A silver marker

Notable Construction Notes

The core benefit and drawback of the non-3d-printing approach all are about physically shaping you want (and how time-consuming that can get). It requires iteration, patience, and plenty of rounds on the rotary tool to carve out space or your electronic components. But this simple approach is calming and precise. I get snug fits for my components and I get to enjoy carving in this project.

The lighting portion of this project was rather satisfying! The LED strip I chose makes you feel like you’re holding light itself;

Results

The resulting lightsaber is incredibly bright, loud, and interactive with hits. I am excited to take this to the convention and really test out how bright this can be. I almost wonder if my lightsaber is almost too loud, even considering the loud environment of a convention.

Another significant result is being a winner to Make’s Math the 4th Challenge, and I have been receiving nothing but positive feedback on it. I hope more people repurpose and customize these toys to their liking.

As highlighted in the tutorial, there are several opportunities to improve and upgrade lightsabers like these. I’d be happy to explore vinyl wraps as a way to add a metallic finish to the lightsaber. I’m also planning to sense where the blade is touched, and have that area be super bright. That challenge is easier and cheaper said than done, but I have some promising ideas and materials to play with!

Image gallery

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