With The Last Jedi landing in cinemas in less than a week, Star Wars fever is once again in full swing. From the seasoned fans who saw the first movie in cinemas in 1977, to today’s young children experiencing it for the first time, the Star Wars franchise has captured the imagination like no other. Generations of us have fantasized about piloting an x-wing, or being able to use the force. But the one thing we all wanted most was to wield a lightsaber.
First introduced in 1977’s Star Wars, lightsabers are the brainchild of George Lucas, brought to life on screen by prop master John Stears. What started as a simple idea and a special effects experiment has become the most iconic weapon in cinema history. With their bright colors showing whether the wielder is good or evil, the unmistakable sound and the ability to cut through anything besides another lightsaber blade, it’s easy to see why.
“An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”
The original lightsaber was created when John Stears, looking for inspiration, stumbled across a Graflex flash gun battery in a photography store. With the addition of some hand grips, a belt clip and a few other details, the lightsaber as we know it today was born.
Thankfully nowadays owning your own lightsaber is a lot easier than tracking down vintage camera parts and building it yourself. There are myriad of options available. From simple, affordable toys, to screen accurate replicas, to models capable of full contact sparring. There’s a lightsaber out there for everyone, and here at PoweredOn we’re going to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Almost every household has one of these at some point. A simple hilt with a telescopic plastic blade that deploys with a sharp flick of the wrist. Countless versions have been sold over the years, though the best ones available now are the Bladebuilders series from Hasbro. The unique feature of this series is that they are modular. You can combine various parts into dozens of configurations to personalize your lightsaber. Some even include lights and simple sounds.
We have several in my household, but my personal favorite is the Kylo Ren version. The smaller side blades extend at the same time as the main blade giving it an authentic feel.
The prices for Bladebuilders start at $10 and up.
Force FX “The Black Series”
If you want to look for something of higher quality the next step up is The Black Series, also from Hasbro. They have detailed hilts made from metal, a fixed blade illuminated by a string of LED’s, and a sound board that detects swinging and impact and plays sounds straight from the movies. One of my favorite features is that the blade lights up from the base first upon activation. Likewise, they turn off from the tip first giving the illusion of the blades extending and retracting as they do on screen.
Although they are all modeled after the props from the movies, some are more screen accurate than others, with the Darth Vader design being the best and Luke’s green bladed one from Return of the Jedi is…. lacking, to put it kindly.
They are each powered by three AA batteries and come with a nice dual-purpose display stand that balances the saber under its own weight. Although you COULD duel with them, the numerous LED’s that run the length of the blade can be prone to breaking under impact. So unless you want to eventually have dead spots in the lightsaber’s blade I would suggest keeping blows to a minimum.
I currently have the Darth Vader model in my household, and if you’re a hardcore fan I can’t recommend them enough.
The Black Series lightsabers currently start at $129.99 and are excellent value for money.
Ultrasabers – your entry into the world of combat lightsabers
The next step on from The Black Series is one of the custom lightsaber manufacturers, Ultrasabers. They are one of many boutique companies who make lightsabers designed to be collector pieces, as well being capable of full contact dueling.
Ultrasabers produce both replicas of lightsaber hilts from the movies and video games, as well as a number of original designs. They are often considered the entry level for people looking to get into lightsaber combat as a serious hobby. Ultrasabers generally have a lower price point than their competitors and a shorter turnaround time.
Each of their lightsabers are made by hand and have a dizzying number of customization options. You can select from over a dozen blade colors and multiple visual options. If you want to add sound you can opt for either a standard sound board with set parameters, or a premium one. The premium allows you to fully customize the sounds, sensitivity of the swings and impacts and even replace the default sounds with new ones to truly make it your own.
The blades are an industry standard polycarbonate tube with a 1/8″ thick wall. (Yes, you read that right. There are enough manufacturers out there that there are industry standard parts). The blades have a diffusing film inside them that spreads the light evenly up the full length of the blade. Designed for full contact fighting, these things are TOUGH.
Ultrasabers aren’t perfect though. The hilts are considerably larger in size than you’d expect, and their replicas are not particularly detailed or screen accurate. If you’re looking for something that looks more like the real deal then you should consider one of the other manufacturers we’ll talk about next.
However, if you’re looking for a lightsaber you can duel with then you can’t go wrong with an Ultrasaber.
Ultrasabers start at $159.99 for a hilt with sound, though expect to pay upwards of $200 once you start adding options.
Saberforge – A step up in quality and options
If you’re looking for something that feels more like a real weapon, or something more screen accurate then the next place to look is Saberforge.
Saberforge also offers a large number of hilts. The designs are based on lightsabers from the movies, video games and tv shows, as well as numerous original concepts. Their hilts are made of multiple detailed parts and can be customized with options such as blade colors, grip types, and finishes on the hilt to change its appearance to look aged or “weathered”.
The sound and blade options are where these models really stand out. Each sound-equipped saber comes loaded with 3 of a choice of 9 different sound “fonts”, allowing you to change the feel of the saber at will. The blades have different options too. You can have the blade flicker and pulse in 4 different ways to simulate their appearance on screen. Hitting it against something to trigger the impact sound will also cause the blade to flash brightly, simulating the blade-on-blade impacts from the movies. The hilts can be connected to a PC via USB to adjust all of these options and more. You can even download entirely new sound fonts from their website and replace the ones it first came with. Decided you’re going to fall to the Dark side? Now your lightsabers sounds can follow you there.
These features don’t come cheap. Entry level “apprentice” lightsabers with sound start at $325. Choosing a premium hilt with a few options can easily run you upwards of $400. I have 3 different models from Saberforge though, and personally think they are well worth the money.
Vader’s Vault, The Customs Saber Shop and beyond
Beyond this there are many more options. Vader’s Vault are generally considered the top of the line as far as combat lightsabers go. I’ve not personally owned one, but with prices starting at $400, the ability to request almost any customization and a wait time on orders often reaching 6 months, the demand speaks for itself.
There many other manufacturers out there to check out including;
If you want to go down the path of a true Jedi and build your own lightsaber from scratch then The Custom Saber Shop is the place to go. They have everything from hilt parts to electronics and speakers. With guides available on the site even true novices can give it a go.
“…your skills are complete.”
In short, there has never been a better time to be a budding Jedi or Sith. There are options for any desire and budget. Whether you want to own the original Graflex or a create something entirely original, now you can. So go on, get out there and wield that lightsaber you’ve always dreamed of, and may the force be with you!