Ever since the first time we saw Luke Skywalker ignite a lightsaber on screen in 1977, nerds and geeks worldwide have wanted to have a lightsaber of their own. After all, who doesn’t want a laser sword that can cut through (almost) anything?
After the mesmerizing ways lightsaber duels would play out, it became impossible to walk out of the cinema without wishing that some scientist, somewhere, would start working on making this fictional weapon a reality.
After all, while harnessing cosmic energy to manipulate objects in your surroundings is a bit on the impossible side, the same could not possibly hold for creating a fictional laser sword.
Despite all our advances in the fields of science, engineering, and robotics, a practical example of the lightsaber evaded us for nearly 30 years after its first time on screen. Then until extremely recently, the first-ever proto-saber was created.
But before we get into how to make a real-life lightsaber, and how you can try to do it at home, we shall first talk about the legalities of it. And more importantly, whether you should do it at home or not.
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Is a Real-life Lightsaber Legal or Not?
While being classified as weapons in the Star Wars universe, Lightsabers fall into a generalized grey area in human laws.
But on the one hand, Lightsabers are weapons with extremely dangerous potential. On the other hand, a sword with an infinite number of edges that could burn and cut through every single material present on the planet is not exactly a comforting thought when it isn’t in your hand.
But then, on the other end of the spectrum, a lightsaber is just a science project that you will end up assembling and using at home. So then, technically, it does not count as a weapon. Sure, you might burn down the house while making it, but what does that matter?
The truth is until the time lightsabers become widely available or as easy to make at home as a bowl of cereal, there aren’t any specific laws surrounding them. Therefore a lightsaber’s legality, or lack thereof, is dependent entirely on you.
Wait, that is not entirely true either. So, what do we suggest? Either keep your lightsaber a secret (the same way Palpatine kept his hidden in his sleeve) or ask your local authorities about the technicalities if you plan on using it to decapitate your childhood enemies.
But now that we have discussed the legalities of possessing and building a lightsaber, our next move is to discuss the moralities.
Do you want to build a lightsaber? Is it safe?
The short answer to that question is no. Building a blade that burns as hot as the sun and can cut through almost anything is never going to be safe or easy.
But for the die-hard Star Wars fans out there, we must realize that building and owning a lightsaber becomes less of a want and more of a need. After all, no Star Wars collection would be complete without the most iconic weapon in the Galaxy.
For safety reasons, we recommend that you do not attempt to build a lightsaber at home. Despite that, if you still want to, we advise doing so with the help of a trained professional and someone from the fire department on speed dial if possible.
But now that we have the technicalities out of the way, let us see how to build a lightsaber yourself.
How to Build a lightsaber?
To even think about making a lightsaber for yourself, you first need to understand how a lightsaber works from a scientific perspective.
In simple words, lightsabers are just frozen laser beams. They are adjustable amounts of very hot plasma, contained inside an extremely powerful electromagnetic field, in more complex terms.
But the blade isn’t the only part of the lightsaber that will prove extremely dangerous to build. The hilt, along with the battery required to power something that reportedly consumes enough energy to power, is something humans have not even come close to achieving.
A lightsaber will never be easy to create for two major reasons. The first being that the blade must be retractable and simultaneously needs to be solid enough to clash with another blade. And while we have not achieved them together, we can have one or the other.
So then, how have we come close to building a lightsaber? And is it possible to replicate the process at home? To answer these questions, we will be looking at two kinds of lightsabers and then at the ideal lightsaber.
1. Non-retractable Lightsabers
The first kind of lightsaber that we will look at is a variation of the weapon that is relatively easier to build. (The keyword here is ‘relatively’). This version will not be able to retract back into the hilt in the iconic lightsaber fashion.
The lightsaber has two main components, the lightsaber itself (consisting of the blade and the hilt), and the battery backpack.
The hilt can be designed in any 3D design software and then cut or crafted using a CNC machine. The blade, which must be made of a metal that has an extremely high melting point, will fit into the hilt, and be connected to it via electric nodes to allow current to pass through.
The blade and hilt will then be connected via wires to the powerpack that the wielder will be wearing on his back.
This version of a real-life lightsaber will function as more of a very hot sword rather than a true lightsaber. Once connected to the power source, the blade will conduct current through itself, allowing for the material to heat up.
But this causes other things to heat up too. Such as the powerpack itself and the hilt of the lightsaber too. The higher power consumption and clunky design mean that this version of the lightsaber, although easy to build, is more hassle than it is worth.
So, this iteration of the lightsaber is less than ideal unless you want a sword that glows red and can cut through almost anything while exposing you to the risk of blowing yourself up. Or, in simple words, we don’t recommend it.
2. True Lightsabers
While we have labeled this attempt at creating a lightsaber as a ‘true’ lightsaber, that is only because it is the closest that we have gotten to replicating what the Star Wars movies showed us. So, let’s see what this version is all about.
The second version of the lightsaber was created by a YouTube creator known as The HackSmith. The lightsaber features the return of the backpack fuel source without the excessive heat it produced initially.
The lightsaber features a retractable ‘blade’. And while the blade is anything but a solid blade, it does all the things a lightsaber should, except clash with another one. The blade, due to not being a solid piece of metal, can now be retracted into a ‘hilt’.
The lightsaber functions using Liquid Propane Gas and a physics concept that is known as Laminar Flow. The hilt is designed to contain tubes that will let LPG and Oxygen flow through the top and ignite it as it emerges.
The ‘blade’ of the lightsaber, is created by a beam of liquid fire burning at over 4000 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows it to cut through almost anything by melting through it. Laminar flow allows the beam to be controlled in any way that the user desires.
An exact proportion of LPG to oxygen is used to achieve complete combustion and make sure that none of the fuel is wasted allowing the Lightsaber to last longer than the first iteration. The LPG and oxygen are stored in tanks that are worn on the wielder’s back.
While this version is much less dangerous than the non-retractable lightsaber, it is infinitely more complex to build and use. The laminar flow must be established perfectly every time to create the blade. Also, laminar flow cannot be achieved without custom-designed nozzles that are extremely hard to find and even more expensive to buy.
3. The Ideal Lightsaber
For now, the ideal real-life lightsaber is impossible to create.
While humans have discovered plasma to be the fourth state of matter and have started experimenting on it, we have not understood it enough to utilize it fully. As a result, plasma and its properties are still largely unknown to us.
Along with the lack of knowledge and experience surrounding plasma, humans have not produced an electromagnetic field strong enough to contain a gas or liquid by itself. This leads to the assumption that we will not contain and hold plasma in the shape of a blade either.
And even if such a field can be created, generating it from an object as small as the hilt of a lightsaber, and powering it from that same object is nigh impossible for the foreseeable future.
So, if you do want to build a lightsaber, your best bet is either the first or second iteration. Or, you are just buying a toy replica so you don’t risk setting your house on fire.