Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cheap and Easy DIY Lightsabers

This year we are all dressing up as Star Wars characters (more posts to come!), and we had the chance to wear them this past Saturday at the annual Halloween 5k (post on that tomorrow). In the meantime, I thought I'd share how I made our lightsabers quickly and inexpensively.

I originally found the idea here when I was researching ideas for our costumes. I really wanted to do metal ones similar to this, but just didn't have the time or money to mess around with it. The PVC lightsabers are much quicker and cheaper. The tutorial included a PVC pipe "blade", but I skipped that since I knew we'd need them hanging from our belts during the race.

I started by going to Lowe's, where I stood in the plumbing aisle, fitting random PVC connectors together into lightsaber shapes. Sunshine's is shorter than Mr M's and mine, and made up of very common connectors. Mr M's and my lightsabers are longer and include a different piece that was too wide for Sunshine's hands, but just right for ours. I added an extra connector to his, so Mr M's is slightly longer than mine.

I ended up putting off finishing the lightsabers until the night before we needed them. This was not good planning on my part and meant that I didn't take good pictures. Luckily, it's a pretty easy process, so hopefully the lack of photos won't be a problem.

I started spray painting the lightsabers and realized I hadn't taken any pictures, so I grabbed my camera on took a couple rather crappy pictures. It was dark, so this is as good as it gets. You can see the details fairly well though. 

I actually sprayed the lightsabers with plastic spray paint first (it's clear), then did the coat of gray primer. If we'd had regular gray paint, I would have used that, but I didn't, so I used what we had.

Above is Sunshine's shorter lightsaber- I've drilled a hole in the end and attached a clip that I found at JoAnn's in the purse-making section. We weren't able to tighten the connector pieces together all the way, so I filled in the gaps with rope and string. The black lines on the left end are clothesline covered with electrical tape. I then wound some baker's twine around most of the rest of the length to make the grip. If you compare it to the half-painted picture, you can see I was able to cover three gaps with the string. 

Once I had the string how I wanted it, I carefully wrapped the grip with more electrical tape. I finished it off by painting the exposed gray plastic parts with a coat of silver metallic craft paint that I found in the craft paint section of JoAnn's. I should have painted before I added the rope and string, but I didn't have time to let the paint dry and then add the rope and string.

Looking into the "business end" of the lightsaber. The connectors are all hollow, which left space for the blade of the lightsaber to be inserted.

The handle end. I drilled two holes fairly close together and inserted the loop of the clip into the holes. Since I had to cut the loop, I put a piece of electrical tape over the cut to keep it from moving and/or falling out of a hole.

I did the same thing with Mr M's and my lightsabers, with only a few differences. I ended up attaching the clips with wire because the swivel parts objected to being cut and twisted to fit through the holes in the pipe. I should have purchased the more expensive clips I found in the sewing notions aisle. Lesson learned. 

hollow lightsaber handle

wire attaching the clip to the handle

my lightsaber is closest to Sunshine, Mr M's is the longer one

I also only used rope on our lightsabers. Since they're bigger, the larger scale of the rope worked better than the much smaller scale of the string.
closer view

If I'd had time, I planned on sanding/buffing out the writing molded into the PVC. I didn't have time, and I decided to do it after the race, but in the end I decided it didn't actually matter that much. Yay for conquering my OCD! Ok, I'm really just too tired to deal with it right now...

While the paint was drying, I dug through my supplies and found some sticky back foam (one sheet of green was all I had) and cut some circles out to use as power buttons. The foam wasn't very thick so I stacked three circles on top of each other. I then trimmed the circles into a hexagon shape to even out the edges. Then I stuck them on the end of the lightsabers. In retrospect, I think they should have been put on the end where the blade would come out rather than the end with the clip. It would be more convenient to use if it was closer to the blade.

Mr M's pants already had a loop on them and I made loops for Sunshine's and my belts so we could clip them on, ready for use at a moments notice.

Bonus: I was afraid the lightsaber would bounce against my leg during the race and be super annoying, but that wasn't the case. The only time I noticed it was when I was walking and my arms were hanging down and bumping into it.

Time commitment: A couple hours since I was doing three of them. Waiting for spray paint to dry in between coats and winding the string took the longest. Not much actual time working on it if you discount waiting for the paint to dry.

The finishing touch: We didn't do this for the race since it was held in the morning, but I found some straight thick glow wands at the dollar store to act as the blades of our lightsabers. The wands were narrower than the holes in the center of the pipes, but a little electrical tape fixed that. Perfect for some trick-or-treating in a couple days!
I just discarded the star thingy...

a couple layers of tape gave the glow stick a snug fit

the blade is shorter than a "real" lightsaber blade, but hey, it glows!

$12 for the pieces for all three lightsabers (though Sunshine's parts were cheaper than the parts for the other two because of the different pieces used)
$6 for 4 swivel clips (they come in packages of 2)
$3 for craft paint (lots left over for other projects)
$3 for 3 glow wands
we had the clothesline, string, electrical tape, and paints on hand already
total: $24 for three, or about $8 a piece

I did allow my OCD to take over on one thing. As I spent time editing pictures and working on blog posts, I realized the lightsabers just didn't look right. The thicker, bigger ends really needed to be the ends the blades came out of, not the clip ends. And it's much more intuitive to have the power buttons  at the top of the handle, rather than at the bottom.

So I pulled out my drill and drilled some new holes in the other ends and moved the clips. Since there were holes in the blade ends, I added a few more around the ends as "vents". So it looks like the holes are on purpose :) I think it looks a lot better now. OCD appeased.

And here they are in action:

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