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Building a Custom Lightsaber Inspired by The Darksaber



For the longest time I've wanted to build a lightsaber, but I was always stuck on what design I wanted to do. Did I want to be like most people and build one of the sabers we've seen in the movies and TV shows? Or did I want to attempt the more difficult task of creating my own design? Well, after watching the Clone Wars series and The Mandalorian, I saw the lightsaber that ultimately informed that decision.


The Darksaber has to be up there as one of the most unique lightsabers ever designed. Not only is it such a unique design, but the backstory and legend behind it is truly incredible. I knew that I wanted to build something in the same vein as that saber, but didn't want to make a carbon copy as I've seen plenty of people already make it and I wanted more of a challenge.


Design

Using the Darksaber as a designing start point, I set forth on the creative path. Some other design elements I knew I wanted to add were a wooden grip, multiple colors, and have it set up to hold a thin, katana-style blade. With all of this, plus a fun backstory, in mind, I worked on creating the design.



After a few iterations, this was the final design. You can clearly see where I pulled from the Darksaber, but it still retains the design features that I wanted.


Electronics

If you're like me and haven't had a lot of experience working with programmable electronics, then listen up. YOU CAN DO THIS! It'll take some time to understand, but making a lightsaber is a great way to get started in programming. I began by doing some basic tests of animating a lightstrip up and down to simulate the blade animation functions.


From there I began researching how to program individually addressable LEDs, and it was at this time that I came across the code that Bob from I Like To Make Stuff wrote for his lightsaber project. Now since I use different equipment, I couldn't just directly apply his code, but it did give me a guide for setting up the animations and sounds. That ended up cutting down a lot of time spent trying to understand how to code.


(Interior wiring pic)


Physically wiring up the components is probably the easiest part of this step. Basically, it's just making sure all the components are connected to the power supply and that the data lines for the lights, sounds and button are wired into the correct nodes on the Teensy.


Oh, and make sure you have enough wire to stretch where you need it to go. Not fun to have to take everything apart because of a short wire.


Building the Hilt

With the design and electronics done, now came the long task of printing out all the parts. Since I'm working with a fairly small desktop 3D printer, I needed to slice down the hilt into manageable parts. Only downside to this is it will take longer for the hilt to print because there are more parts and orientations to deal with, but you do whatcha gotta do.


After getting all the parts printed, I began sanding, priming and painting. Since I wanted the hilt to not look like it was 3D printed, I took more time on priming and sanding to get rid of the layer lines. Once I got it smooth enough, I hit everything with 2 coats of a gunmetal metallic paint.


All of the detailed areas I painted by hand, such as the panel lines and gold bands. Finally, to protect everything, I sprayed each piece with 2 coats of clear spray paint. All that was left was to assemble all of the plastic parts and attach the wooden grips.


On one side, I drilled out pockets in both the plastic hilt and the wooden grip so I could attach magnets. This allows me to access the electronics should I ever need to modify something, and of course, to charge the batteries.


Blade Forging

Alright, I didn't actually forge the blade, but doesn't it sound so much better than "Making the Blade" ? I think it does. Anyways, for the blade, I used what many other people have done and laminated multiple pieces of black and clear acrylic together. Then, with a little bit of shaping on the bandsaw and belt sander, you get a really cool, edge-lit blade! Seriously such an awesome design. Now if anyone knows how to make the black parts look like they're shimmering, shoot me a message.


Completing my Jedi Training

Now, all that's left is to put the electronics in the hilt, and button everything up! I'm still in awe over how cool this lightsaber looks. I had an idea in my head during the entire build, but the final product ended up blowing those ideas out of the water for sure.



A few things to note:


1. I talk about in the video that I doubled the clear acrylic layer and shouldn't have in the end. The reason I originally did that was to allow for the LEDs to fit inside the blade with the lights themselves facing outwards. However, the problem with this was that it made the blade really heavy, and I didn't really model in a strong area for the blade to connect to the hilt. So I think I'll end up rebuilding the blade with a single piece of clear and see how that works.


2. I forgot to explain why I have an audio amplifier board in the video (even though I said I would explain it later... come on Ryan), but the reason for that has to do with how the Teensy 4.0 processes audio. It uses a digital wave (I2S) to send the audio signals to an amplifier, while the Prop Shield is built to receive analog waves (DAC) for the built in amplifier. After many nights digging through the Teensy online forum, and some trial and error, I was able to figure out a work around to this dilemma using the amplifier board and some creative coding. The work around also affects how the lights are run though, and so there was more work arounds for that.

TL;DR: I had to get creative with the sound and light features because the Teensy 4.0 and Prop Shield are more like acquaintances than best friends.

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