Systm: Build your own lightsaber: Tech Culture
Tech Culture: Systm: Build your own lightsaber26:08 /
Luke, Darth, and Obi-Wan's lightsabers were pieced out of junk piles. David shows you how to build exact replicas and an original design from the Custom Saber Shop. Then he picks a fight with Patrick.
[ Music ] ^M00:00:42 >> This episode of Systm is made possible by Sega's Empire Total War, Square Space and GoDaddy.com. Welcome to Systm, I'm Patrick Norton. >> And I'm Dave Calkins. >> Patrick: Light saber day? >> Dave: It's light saber day. >> Patrick: We're making toys. >> Dave: Everybody, especially if you're in your thirties or forties, remembers Star Wars and everybody wanted a light saber. I mean, don't you? >> Patrick: Actually, I was more of a Han Solo fan. >> Dave: Well yeah, it's good to have your guns but today we're focus on light sabers. >> Patrick: Blasters. >> Dave: Blasters. Blast it. So what most people who watched Star Wars don't realize is that it was a super B movie. >> Patrick: Right. >> Dave: B for budget. >> Patrick: That means cheap. >> Both: Really cheap. >> Dave: So what happened was, was George basically comes up with concepts for, originally laser swords and it was actually Alec Guinness who changed it to light saber because he thought that sounded a little bit more >> Both: Elegant. >> Dave: And so when Lucas shot the, you know, the film, it was so cheap that they didn't have CNC machines or things like that, that they could afford to use. So ILM just went out and basically went through piles o junk to find out what, you know. >> Patrick: Was it ILM guys that actually put it together? >> Dave: Yeah Lucas started ILM so this was the first ILM movie in fact, was Lucas. Smart businessman, took the budget for special effects, used that budget to start his own company and then they made the effects up. Most light sabers, in fact, were what are called flash guns. So for those of you familiar with old movies, this is a flash gun. [ Makes blasting noise ] Right and so you can see where this would be your little flash bulb up here, and yeah, right here would actually be where you would push to actually fire the camera and the flash at the same time. But, by simply taking off our reflector, you can really see that this is Luke Skywalker's light saber from episode four. >> Patrick: Let's stop right here. >> Dave: Okay. >> Patrick: We're going to talk about building three different kinds of light sabers, one that's super cheap, which is carried by Obi Wan, a more expensive but not as expensive as the expensive ones, middle of the line model with totally customizable parts. >> Dave: And that's the nice thing is, is that it's all machine pretty much to spec, so it will fit well in your hand, the middle of the road. >> Patrick: And what you're holding in your hand right now, which is a full on replica of the original thing used in the original movie. >> Dave: Exactly like was used in the original movie. >> Patrick: So they popped the parabola off the top. >> Dave: That little reflector, yeah. >> Patrick: What's the next step in building this? >> Dave: So this is one of these things where I'm sure we'll get a lots of hate mail like it can't possibly be that easy, why aren't you telling me all the details. >> Patrick: No, no it can. >> Dave: It really was this easy. So if you can find, if you can find a Graflex 3 cell, there's a couple different models, so you have to be careful which model you're selecting. The Luke Skywalker 3 cell, you can find it on eBay usually for about a thousand bucks. So this is the down side is if you can find one, it's about a thousand bucks. I got this one on eBay, over ten years ago, my guess is 12 years ago, for 350 which was the going rate back in the 90's. Nowadays, they're much more rare and all of the photo guys who scour, you know, garage sales and things like this, know what these are and they know that the Star Wars guys want them. Photo guys would pay like ten bucks for these, they just don't care. Star Wars guys will pay a thousand bucks for these. If you can find one, this is just how easy it is. So under this little silver strip here, it says Graflex, which is the manufacturer of the camera. Graflex was a very popular, frequently used, medium format and large format Camera Company. >> Patrick: They probably milled out a fancy piece of stainless steel to cover up that logo, right? >> Dave: No they used a piece of tape. This is actually exactly the same kind of tape that they used in the movie. It's a little piece of silver tape, you can buy it at Pearl or any other shop. Now here is where the flash gun would actually attach to the camera. So what they did is they took a Mister Wizard calculator and if you remember back in the old days, calculators had little tiny displays. And so what they do is they actually use little bubbles to blow up the display. >> Patrick: They cracked open a cheap pocket calculator? >> Dave: This is a Mister Wizard bubble from the actual display, slid over that and then you have your grips and your grips are again. >> Patrick: Pretty fancy. >> Dave: I'm not making this up, real fancy, custom, windshield wipers. >> Patrick: Excuse me? >> Dave: Windshield wipers. Yes, so if you look at it from this angle, this is where you would slide the windshield wiper in to the lock. >> Patrick: What kind of windshield wiper is that? It's like the dullest windshield wiper blade ever made. >> Dave: Yeah, so nowadays you can actually buy better than the original windshield wipers from someplace like the Custom Saber Shop, because the problem is if you're using the real windshield wipers, they're flat. So you're going to a curved surface with a flat surface, so it's a tangent, so. And so places like the Custom Saber Shop actually offer curved ones so it's a little bit easier to stick on and then they've got some better glue so, technically I'm cheating that this is not an actual windshield wiper, it's the curved stuff. >> Patrick: That you sort of sanded down into reusable ends or something. >> Dave: Right. And then you just drill in a D ring, they're the kind of things that you would find on any tool and you now have your authentic Luke Skywalker episode four light saber. In episode five, Empire Strikes Back, the grips kept falling off because they were at that tangent. >> Patrick: Right. >> Dave: So they actually riveted them in so you'll see that difference. And then if you want an Empire Strikes Back version rather than the Star Wars version, then this was, the bubble was replaced with a little strip broken off from a computer card, the little slot where all the little copper lines are. So that's the only difference. So for. >> Patrick: So a piece of Ram or something. >> Dave: For about ten bucks in low end parts and then whatever you can find for a flash gun, three hundred and fifty to a thousand bucks, you can make your own screen authentic light saber. >> Patrick: Let's take a moment to thank one of the sponsors of today's episode of Systm, GoDaddy.com. You want to make an impact online? GoDaddy.com has what you need. Starting at less than five dollars a month, web hosting from GoDaddy.com includes 99 point 9 percent up time, 27-7 support and free access to the GoDaddy hosting connection. That is the place to quickly install over 50 free apps like WordPress, Joomia, Drupal, osCommerce, and more. Your website's going to be sick. GoDaddy.com makes it easy to customize your own virtual dedicated server. Choose one of three popular plans or select your own Linux to Windows server with all the plan options you need. Now you want to score a discount? Times is tough. Entering code SYS1, that's SYS1 when you check out, you're going to score an additional 10% off your entire order. Some restrictions apply, see the site for details and you'll be supporting us by supporting them. >> Dave: Darth Vader's saber was just a different brand of gun. This is actually called, from a company called MPP. Also a Heiland looks very close to that. Even less modification. All that they had was just, you put on the grips here and that was it, it actually clipped in from above onto his belt clip. So that's all you need for a Vader saber. Again, though you're going to have to find a Heiland or an MPP flash gun on eBay or wherever else. And again, you're looking at a couple hundred bucks. But. >> Patrick: A couple hundred? >> Dave: A couple hundred. >> Patrick: So basically it's less expensive to go to the dark side. >> Dave: It's less expensive because people want the Luke rather than the, yeah. The dark side's the cheap side. But if you go to a place called the Custom Saber Shop, not only can you make your own custom saber but they have replica parts so they aren't the authentic flash guns. >> Patrick: Right. >> Dave: But you can buy the same kinds of pieces from them so it looks pretty much identical. Or for our medium version light saber, you can make your very own custom saber. Now let's look at the software. Now what's really cool about the customsabershop.com is you can buy replica parts, so you can make your own Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker saber. They're not exactly authentic, but they look pretty gosh darn close. >> Patrick: You're also not spending your college tuition. >> Dave: You're also not spending your college tuition, or you know, your mother's college tuition or your kid's college tuition. You've already blown your kid's college tuition, haven't you? >> Patrick: Let's not talk about that. >> Dave: Alright. So the Custom Saber Shop, if we bring up the website, you can see that there's all sorts of different applications. >> Patrick: It's modular. >> Dave: It's modular. >> Patrick: Mix and match. >> Dave: So you can have the modular stuff or you can have the old stuff. So in the modular stuff what I really like is, is if we go to the flash application, the flash application allows you to pick from all of the different possibilities and so in doing so we can, what basically you do is you pick your base first. The first portion of your light saber and then, and it's a really cool flash app because now we can pick extenders to the base and you can see there's a whole bunch of different extensions here on the base that we can pick from. Once you picked your extension and dragged it up, now we pick our emitter, our end cap, you know, and we bring that up in something we like, and we put that on there. We finish it off with a bottom knob and any other little doo dads and trinkets and whoosy bops, you know buttons and on switches, and things like that. >> Patrick: What about a blade? >> Dave: Then you know, you've got a price for your custom machine shop saber, right? So this is your custom hilt, so now we have our custom hilt and we can see that you know, once we wait and we get back, now we actually have all of these parts and it's a really good well designed modular system that you can put together. You're , [ Making light saber noises ] Dave: You're so obnoxious I'm going to have to, you know, some of these days, one of these days, one of these light sabers is going to get you in trouble. >> Patrick: Whatever. >> Dave: Once you've got your hilt, now we need to decide on a blade. And so the Custom Saber Shop also offers you blade options. You can either do electroluminescence, like we did in our previous episode. I mean, it's really taking EL to you know, the nth degree. >> Patrick: So basically it's one long strip of EL that goes down the tube and you get nice even lighting across the length of the tube. >> Dave: Exactly. But it's not as bright as the super bright LED option. So what I did is I ordered the super bright LED option. So I went into the workshop to build this and it's a very quick build. You are going to need to, you know, get the soldering iron out, but basically what you go through is, is you're just connecting the super bright LED to a grounding module, an internal circuit, you know you have to solder that together, and then the on and off switch and of course the battery pack. Now it's a very good system, it's pretty good, it's not as bright as I would've liked it to be for the super bright LED's, and there's no instructions really anywhere on the website. So this is sort of the downside. >> Patrick: Instructions for? >> Dave: Building any of the electronics, there's no good click here on how to build the thing that you just bought. So play around with it a little bit. There's a very comprehensive web forum on the Custom Saber Shop dot com which you can find stuff. But you're still going to have to play with it and so be careful before you actually start soldering because it will, you might have to cut some wires and redo things as far as that goes. >> Patrick: As the resident Star Wars prop geek, one, this is built, this is so much that the construction of this is fantastic. Not to take anything away from the originals. But there seems to be sort of a division between building a hilt and building a hilt with a stick that lights up. >> Dave: Yeah so, I mean some people just want the hilt for parties and you know, wall display and things like that. Which is actually, for years I've just had these and I've never modified them to actually have you know, some sort of glowing rod coming out of them. Whereas, making this modular system is a really good opportunity to see the differences in the blades. And remember, when you're watching the movie, all of those blade effects are coming in after the actual, you know. >> Patrick: They're waiting around white sticks. >> Dave: They're waving around white sticks and so you're never going to get the quality of glow that you could get with those white sticks. Now one of the things you can do though for this >> Patrick: It's not the white sticks it's the thousands of hours. >> Dave: Thousands of hours of some guy [inaudible]. >> Patrick: Sort of software. >> Dave: In the modern movies it's software. In the old movies actually, it was just clear cells and it was literally a guy painting over cell by cell, frame by frame. >> Patrick: I mean the build quality is amazing, it's fantastic. >> Dave: If you want, it's awesome. And because they have so many different options, you can, like, what I really like is the ergonomics of being able to grab this and this is actually way more ergonomic than say Darth Maul's light saber which is not at all good to grab, or Luke's light saber and Luke actually would always fight like this. >> Patrick: Right. >> Dave: Rather than like this. >> Patrick: You're touching the. >> Dave: Yeah, I get to touch it. You know, but what's nice about this is, this is really actually really ergonomic if you wanted to actually use it as a saber. If you want sound effects, there's a really great cheat for the sound effects. And the cheat is this, is you get one of the really bad Kenner toy things like this, okay. And these are much bigger so here's actually the Kenner version of Darth Vader's saber, so you can actually see you know, they're fairly close but it is still significantly bigger and it's obvious that it's bigger. But what's inside of this is a really good little circuit board and if you take that circuit board out, what that will do is, is that will give you sound effects and there's actually, I just cut this out of this particular one and there's a little speaker in here that you can mount inside your saber. And the trick is, and this is great, is there's a little spring around a little metal stick. And so basically every time you whack it, that spring hits and makes the connection from the metal stick, and that's what makes the sound. So it's a really dumb little cheat. So if you can find one of the old Kenner toy light sabers, you can add sound effects to your light saber with just one of these dumb little things. >> Patrick: Let's take a pause here for a moment. What's something like this going to cost from the Custom Saber Shop with just the hilt versus with the blade? >> Dave: With just the hilt for the model that we have here, it's about a hundred and forty bucks. With the hilt and the blade and the electronics for the LED behind it, it's about two hundred and forty bucks. >> Patrick: Still fairly cheap compared to the authentic. >> Dave: Still fairly cheap compared to this. Now there is a company that you can buy called masterpiece replicas which will allow you to buy you know screen spec stuff which is a little bit more expensive. But you don't have that joy of do it yourself, of actually building it yourself like you would with something like this. But speaking of do it yourself, let's get on to the super dirt cheap you haven't had a job in like a year and so you're scrounging for money and things like that. >> Patrick: And you don't want to do the Kenner sword thing. >> Dave: And you don't want to do the Kenner sword thing so we have what's called. Stop, you know, you're going to get it. >> Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. >> Dave: So we're going to have the kitchen sink saber. Now you might laugh at the kitchen sink saber except for one thing. >> Patrick: Obi Wan carried it. >> Dave: Obi Wan Kenobi's light saber from episode four, the one that he used to fight Darth Vader with, was manufactured from kitchen sink parts and a hand grenade. And that's all it was, it was kitchen sink parts, a hand grenade and actually an extra clamp from a Graflex. So this is as close as I could find to what they used. This is called a shank, it's the knob that you would turn, it's by a British company called Armitage shanks and so this is actually the bottom knob from Obi Wan's light saber. So we're going to show you how to make a really quick and dirty light saber that actually looks pretty good and isn't too far off from something that Obi Wan might have used. Now I bought this particular kitchen sink drain at Home Depot, big bucks retailer. You can buy silver ones for like twenty bucks. You can actually see, so this is the popup part of the sink so if you want to like clog the drain while you're shaving or something like that, this is what pops up. What's interesting is it actually looks like a sort of saber emitter so when it's closed you can sort of see that like that would, you can see, you can envision anyways the light coming from out of that. But if we take that out, this is really how it comes, right? Fresh out of the box. So all I've done is I've wrapped some electrical tape around here, basically to give it a little more breadth, and I'm adding a second tube for a little bit more grip and it fits in like that. And now with the simple addition of, and let's say that we could put inside here, the electronics for one of these blades. Here's your on switch which conveniently fits right inside the outlet frame. >> Patrick: [inaudible] down to hold it in place. >> Dave: And now you've got a kitchen sink saber which is actually pretty close to the Obi Wan Kenobi saber. >> Patrick: That's amazing. >> Dave: This, this particular light saber, which looks good and if people don't know it's made form a kitchen sink, nobody's going to ask you about that unless you happen to be at a party with a plumber, this particular kitchen sink saber cost me about twenty five bucks in terms of all parts. If you want to add the blades and things like that, and the electronics behind them, yes you're going to have to spend another hundred bucks, but you can make a kitchen sink light saber for under forty bucks. Absolutely. They come in many different styles and qualities so like this one is just brushed aluminum, they have brass ones, so you can go up in price and things like that, but basically you can just have the knob slide in there. You'd need a base spec there. >> Patrick: right. >> Dave: So you know, to do something where you're putting in the saber would take more effort, but in the end, it's you know, it's a pretty quick and dirty kind of modification. >> Patrick: We want to thank Sega's Empire Total War for helping us bring you the show this week, it's a real time tactics and turn race strategy computer game, Empire Total War takes the total war franchise to the eighteenth century, a time of near perpetual war. That's good for gaming. This latest installment of the award winning Total War franchise introducing a host of evolutionary features including true three D naval combat. Very cool. You can take charge of any fifty available factions including the United States of America as you learn to use diplomacy, exploration, economics and military might to forge your personal empire. Player controls single ships or vast fleets with fully destructible sails as well as cannon and musket action, boarding raids and more. Empire Total War is based on a newly created Windows XP compatible DX 10 graphics engine. Your ears are going to experience real time seascapes dynamic weather and a new advance landscape and floor system. It is epic, people. So help support Systm by checking out Sega's Empire Total War. >> Dave: And it's not just limited to Star Wars light sabers in terms of how cheap the weapons are. Han Solo's blaster for instance was a very common German broom handled mouser. You can get replicas for under a hundred dollars from places like Aurora History Boutique dot com or replica weaponry dot com. And basically it's just a matter of cutting down the barrel, adding a flash suppressor, two different flash suppressors were used so this is Hans blaster for instance. In this case we would just cut down the barrel, I've added this, it's actually believe it or not, this is from a fire extinguisher. >> Patrick: Really? >> Dave: Yeah so it's just a fire extinguisher. You cut down a rifle scope. >> Patrick: Get cheap rifles, that's like a 12 dollar task. >> Dave: This is a Wissler Diault three times magnification scope thrown on, and then this forward part here is from a visible V8 engine, one to one scale engine. And so they slapped that on, they paint the thing black and then you have Han Solo's blaster. >> Patrick: I'll take toys of the 70's for a thousand. >> Dave: Really. >> Patrick: Visible V8 engine. >> Dave: What the B movie was, it was just all just you know, off the shelf stuff you know. People would see the movie and like if you used a broom handle mouser, you'd be like, hmmm that looks familiar. A storm trooper blaster for instance. >> Patrick: Would you quit waving the blaster at me. >> Dave: No. What are you going to do about it? Here, fine, put it in your pocket. >> Patrick: Thank you. >> Dave: We'll make it safe okay? >> Patrick: Thank you. >> Dave: A storm trooper blaster for instance, the primary component was a British sterling nine millimeter cirq submachine gun. You can buy replica props from the other, you know, the same place you can buy the broom handle mouser from, you can buy sterlings. >> Patrick: What's funny about stun guns is they're kind of the predecessor of the AK47, super easy to make, a lot of stamped parts and it's also really hard to buy one of these in California now. >> Dave: It is actually. Technically it's illegal, you have to have like a letter of authentication that you're just using it for prop or movie purposes, but again here's what's interesting is that normally with the sterling, what you would see here, so like the fold up stock has been unfolded. >> Patrick: The receiver's out of that right? >> Dave: Yeah. I've taken out the receiver just because it makes it a lighter weight, but here again, are our windshield wipers to cover the venting holes for cooling and keeping it cool. They added a tank periscope sight to the top. I'm not kidding, you know >> Patrick: No, no. >> Dave: and they just use the shorter, shorter magazine. And that's all a storm trooper blaster was. >> Patrick: I'm old enough to remember when you could find stuff like this for like twenty five cents at the local army and navy store. You know it's just kind of hysterical to realize how far. >> Dave: You're old enough to remember you know, the Second World War. >> Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. >> Dave: Yeah, yeah. >> Patrick. Keep it up. Alright so we've given you, depending on the budget and how much you want to spend, three different light sabers. >> Dave: No, no, no, no, I've given them. You're always taking credit for my hard work on the show. >> Patrick: Sorry. >> Dave: And I'm really getting tired of it. >> Patrick: Okay, excuse me, David has given you three light sabers you can build at home depending on your budget and best of all, he's actually taught us how to build a replica of the finest weapon by the coolest character, period, end of discussion, in the entire Star Wars saga, Han Solo's blaster. >> Dave: No I'm sorry. The light saber is by far and away the coolest weapon in the trilogy and you know I'm really getting tired of your attitude about all of this, okay? So you know, we >> Patrick: It's not my fault you're like I want to be Luke when I grow up. Han Solo was cooler. ^M00:22:32 [ Light saber battle ] ^M00:23:16 >> Patrick: Let's take a moment to thank one of our sponsors Squarespace.com. Here to tell you more is our fabulous editor, Mauricio. >> Mauricio: Hey I'm Mauricio, the editor of Systm and I'm here to tell you about Squarespace, the smarter web publishing site that takes the WTF out of blogging. Squarespace is the fully hosted environment which means you don't have to worry about installing any code on any server. That combined with the great template designs got me to take advantage of their fourteen day free trial. I was up and running within an hour and that includes the complete importing of my previous blog with their import tools. And even better, use the code Systm, that's Systm to get ten percent off the life of your order. So head on over to Squarespace.com and you won't be disappointed. >> Patrick: Remind me to check six more often. Sorry dude, yeah whatever. Learn some magic, fool your friends and earn yourself a free drink at the same time by watching ScamSchool with the beloved spiky haired Brian Brushwood. He's got a ton of magic tricks that you need to learn this week, the spelling bee, you predict your friend's card using spelling and a bit of algebra, they buy you alcohol, or coffee or cookies, or whatever. It's just fun. You can catch new episodes of ScamSchool every Thursday at noon eastern. >> Dave: And as always if you have any ideas, comments or suggestions, please use the force or email us at Systm@revision3.com. Don't forget to visit the forums at revision3.com/ forum and visit our archives at revision3.com/systm. >> Patrick: Until next week, I'm Patrick Norton. >> Dave: And I'm Obi Wan Kenobi. >> Patrick: You are? >> Dave: We'll see you next week. >> Patrick: Weird. >> Dave: Ooh. ^M00:24:58 [ Music ] ^M00:25:06 >> Dave: So the really cool thing about the props are. Hey, hey am I going around and ripping your [bleep] hollow projectors out? Then why are you walking right through my [beep] scene? Like in the background, what the [beep] is it with you? [Inaudible] It's very easy but not necessarily cheap. >> Patrick: Why is that? >> Dave: Why is that? [ Whispering ] Because, stop putting your finger up there. >> Patrick: Stop putting my finger where? >> Dave: Up here. >> Patrick: Why? >> Dave: Because that's George Lucas signature. It keeps rubbing off. >> Patrick: Oh, well [beep] why didn't you tell me? >> Dave: I have like four times. >> Patrick: No actually you keep saying don't move, put your finger there. >> Dave: And you keep putting your finger there. >> Patrick: Well I don't know what I'm looking at because there's like [beep] squiggle there that I can't see. >> Dave: Okay. What the [beep] is it with you [beep]. >> Patrick: No. >> Dave: I am [beep] through with you [beep] professionally. I do not want to [beep] see you on this [beep] set ever [beep], what? >> Patrick: Chill. [ Click ] >> Oh my god. ^M00:26:05 [ Background noises ]