It’s really small, and it’s not perfect, but it was fun! I had this idea a while back that I could probably make a miniature lightsaber with spare parts left over from my builds. I started keeping them after seeing other builders use their spare parts to create unique builds or modifications to builds, and so I had a ton of them to work with. But the best part of this design was when I realized that I should get a “blade” from a Lego Star Wars minifigure and use that. So I ordered a generic part from China (cheaper than buying on BrickLink, unfortunately), and waited.
Sadly, it didn’t arrive until after Rise of Skywalker hit theaters, otherwise I would have tried to build and post this in honor of the release of the film. I guess it can still be somewhat related to that, even if it’s way too late. Such is life, right?
(And now I’ve delayed this post even more, just for the last 2 pictures in the gallery above. You see, I was surprised by a friend who just gave me his old 3D printer. Yeah, you read that right, he just up and gave it to me. Totally floored here. I’ve enjoyed toying around with 3D designing and printing at a local makerspace, but now I have my own! Anyways, it seemed a perfect opportunity to print a small stand for this lightsaber as my first test print. Well, it worked (mostly) and after a revised design, and some paint, I have a proper display stand.)
Anyways… once the blade part arrived, I quickly finished the build I was working on at the time and then poured out all my spare parts. I spread it out and started putting aside parts I thought would work well in a lightsaber. Anything that was for forming a cylinder. Cylinder parts with attached circle-caps. Small strips or doodad shapes. Tiny rectangles (for switches). Those gear-like parts where the flaps fold over to make a capped cylinder type thing. segmented cones. All sorts of stuff.
Then I started looking at example lightsaber designs. Real ones from the movies, others that people had made custom, etc. I wanted some inspirations, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to create a replica of Luke’s lightsaber, or anything like that. Turns out that my best resource ended up being a chart of pixel-art representations of (mostly) official lightsabers that someone had created. It distilled them down to distinct features and represented them in a simple manner. And they were all at the same scale and orientation. And so I was ready. Well, almost. I also needed to know the size of the Lego part I was going to design for. Thanks to some calipers, it was determined to be roughly 3.1mm in diameter.
And this is where I might disappoint you. I didn’t record the process. But for a good reason. I was doing this over a few days, and over almost a dozen “sittings.” Why? Because of glue. That’s right, I used glue. Of course I used glue. And I did use 5-second fix, so I theoretically could have done it all in one sitting… but sometimes I wasn’t very confident in how much of the actual glue I was able to shine the UV light on. Also, the recording would have had a whole lot of my hands just sitting there while I was thinking. However, one thing I didn’t do that I should have is take some photographs during the process. Sorry. I’ve tried to pull out a few example spare parts and take photos of that for reference, so I hope that helps?
Back to the build process (sorry about my rabbit-track brain), I decided on a few features I wanted to replicate. I noticed that most lightsabers had some banding around the middle for grip sections, so I wanted to include that. I also liked how some had the banding only on one side, or in unique cutouts. I wanted to have a faceted end-cap or something interesting at the not-blade end. Also, most designs included a thicker section near the not-blade end with some raised stripes running the length, almost like a pommel. I wasn’t entirely certain how I wanted to form the blade-end, but I new that I wanted a socket for the Lego part to fit in, and for it to be deep enough to hide the neodymium magnet I was going to glue to the end of the Lego part so it could be attached and removed without messing up the model.
Next step was finding the right parts to pull all this off. And I found several parts that were about the right size and shape, but one thing I had to do often was clip off tabs. Because they were never in the right place. Another thing I chose to do was to use the etched lines in the cylinder parts as texture and added depth. And a lot of 5-second fix to hold it all together.
So, for the grip, I used a cylinder part, rolled with the etched lines on the outside, but not lengthwise to the cylinder. Instead I rolled it so the lines formed circles around the side of the cylinder. I then took a weirdly shaped part that was black on the outside, had curvature etching on the inside, and had arcs cut out of it on both the top and bottom of a roughly rectangular shape (barely trapezoidal). I clipped the bottom of this shape as flat as I could (removing the remains of the arc cutout), and curved that section over the grip cylinder.
I found two gear-shaped circle-cap parts that were painted black on the outside, and used them to cap either end of the grip. On the larger end, I broke off one of the flaps, to make room for a tiny rectangular box that I would place centered above the upper end of the grip-covering black part. As a bonus, the large-end cap also had a couple of slots in the middle of the circle, so I formed up one of my super-tiny cylinder pieces and attached it, with tabs, to that. I then overfolded the flaps on those end caps so they kinda sloped in towards the grip section, as they were both larger than the cylinder I used for the grip. Several attempts at 5-second fix adhesion over all the build sessions eventually got all this to stick together, and that’s what made up the central “grip” of the lightsaber.
And now for a quick interjection… I’m kinda describing the end-result design here, as if I had planned it all out. It might even sound like the first thing I did was form that complete “grip” section before moving on to the next sections I’m about to describe. I didn’t. This was very much an organic, brain-storm, trial and error process. I tried some stuff that worked, and some stuff that didn’t. I worked on bits and pieces here and there and then glued stuff together when it seemed right. Sometimes, in working on it, I would accidentally pop the not-fully-cured-glues parts off. It was messy, and unorganized. But I didn’t want to try to describe that process in a chronologically linear fashion, cause I think that would just get way to confusing. So… yeah, I totally was winging it, and did not have any idea what it was going to end up looking like until I was nearly done.
Back to the design, again. For the pommel section, I was lucky enough to find a part that was supposed to form some sort of hexagonal egg-like thing with a slightly more pointier end. I broke it down so it was just half of the egg, with six sections, and the little end-flap that closed up the point. Then I hit upon an amazing coincidence. I found a cylindrical strip that fit perfectly to two circular parts that had slots near the edge and hexagonal etched patterns on the outside! I joined the cylindrical strip and circle-caps with the tabs. Then one by one I twisted off the tab ends and secured it with teeny tiny drops of 5-second fix instead. This drum-like shape also turned out to be just a bit larger than the smaller of the end-caps on the grip section, so yay!
But the next feature for the pommel turned out to be the most difficult and cursed part of this build. I wanted some lengthwise strips on this section, cause that seemed to be a common design element. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually find a whole lot of appropriately sized strips in my spare parts. I did, however, find a ton of these little parts that looked kinda like tiny triangular hourglasses with tabs on either end. I thought if I clipped off the tabs, they would fit, and it would look close. Well, when I clipped the tabs off, they were still too long. So I broke them in half at the thin point in the middle (they were designed to be folded in half, so it was easy) and decided I could stagger them around it. But it would look awesome if they were black! So I sharpied them, carefully (they were smaller than the tip of the sharpie). And tried to glue them on with 5-second fix. It was meticulous, exacting, and full of mistakes. The glue mixed with the ink, I got black all over my fingers. My eyes got strained. And some of those little bits just kept falling off. And I kept gluing them back on. When I finally got them all to stay, I glued the hexagonal cap to one end, and then attached the pommel to the bottom of the grip.
For the blade emitting end, I also had a bit of trouble. I found a cylindrical part with attached circle that seemed about the right size. I formed it up, and folded the circle-cap over. And it was crooked. So I formed up another one that was roughly the same size. This one turned out better. But it ended up having too large a diameter for the Lego part, and not nearly enough depth to hide the magnet sufficiently. That second part turned out to be a benefit, I think, because it lead to a much better looking finished design. You see, I decided to add another cylindrical wrap around that, with the etched lines running in the same direction as the grip part – this time to represent the stacked discs design that several lightsabers feature near the blade.
And I found a part that looked like it would work. So I got to work shaping that part into a cylinder. But it had some cross-seams (etched lines on what was supposed to be the outside) that it kept folding at, rather than curving. Nevertheless, I kept at it… right up until it broke on those seams. Which was just as well, because it wasn’t actually long enough to wrap fully around the existing cylinder part there. So I took those three segments and glued them to the outside of that cylinder, leaving equally spaces small gaps. Which I then covered up with some more of those half-hourglass triangular bits (but with the tabs left on this time, just folded over a little to hook over the bottom of the cylinders). I really like how this turned out, what with the tips of these triangles extending just past the end.
And to finish it all, I found another cylindrical strip that I tried to glue in place inside the blade socket to make it easier to center the Lego blade… and that cylinder ended up sticking to the Lego blade, rather than the Lightsaber. Oh well, it still works, and it allows me to fiddle with the blade and get it as straight as possible when formed up. Oh, and I did my best to glue this section onto the tiny cylinder sticking out of the grip end. I did not get it perfectly centered, and it bugs me, but I can live with it.
So with that, I was ready, finally, to take some pictures! I got it set up for photographing, was positioning it, and… one of those cursed little triangle bits fell off. I did manage to get a picture of it before that happened, without the Lego blade part in place, though. Nevertheless, I was frustrated, and took a break. And while on that break, I noticed just how messy and ugly the pommel had ended up, with all the regluing attempts. The sharpie coloring was spotty, and bumpy, and it just looked bad.
So when I returned for my next build session, I used my hobby knife to pry off all of those triangular bits. Then scraped them all clean of glue and sharpie marks. Then scraped all the glue off the drum section. And proceeded to reglue all of the tiny triangles on, this time with a different approach to applying the 5-second fix. And this time it worked. And I did not sharpie the triangles (partly because I thought that maybe the ink was messing up the glue when it mixed). And that is how I ended up with the pommel not having any black contrast, and showing some wear and tear, and I’m totally fine with it.
As for the photo shoot, if you are wondering what’s holding up the lightsaber up like that… it is a force, just not the Force. I put a neodymium coin magnet underneath a piece of white paper, and balanced the lightsaber on it’s corner on top of the magnet. It’s a great effect, though, right? I liked it enough to include a place in the stand for embedding some magnets before I painted it.