Do we know who built Obi-Wan's saber?

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SethS

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I don't think it was Roger Christian... was it Norman Reynolds?

The more time passes, the more I really wish we had some sort of verbal history, or story about how Obi-Wan's saber came together.

Even with his spotty memory when it comes to detail, we've heard Roger's various versions of finding the Graflex after Lucas had rejected various other proto-saber designs. I don't think it's a jump to say that once they had the Graflex they looked to other camera flashes as well... and if you were looking for an evil version of the Graflex, how could you see the MPP, all black and chrome, and not instantly think it was perfect for Vader?

But did Obi-Wan's come before or after these two? How were the completely disparate parts chosen?

I assume we've all seen (I put it in the guide) the image of the various proto-sabers that Lucas rejected. Clearly all of them evolved from MacQuarrie's concept art... or rather, one or two of them did, and the rest evolved from there.

One of those concepts includes the Hales grenade, so we know that part was in the running early on. That makes me wonder if maybe the Obi-Wan saber was rejected as a the Luke/Anakin saber. The emitter has a similar look to the concept art.

But that said, it also has a Graflex clamp, which would have been a part chosen after the Graflex was approved. Was it added to a concept saber? Did they just slap stuff together randomly with a similar exterior diameter? I know this is the most likely scenario, but I would still love to know.

AnubisGuard and I were theorizing the other night and he brought up another interesting question... All the concept art shows a pretty universal lightsaber design. When did Lucas decided that each lightsaber should be unique? Did he look to how each character with a blaster got a unique gun (outside of troops) and apply the same logic?

These things keep me up at night.
 

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AnubisGuard

Sr Member
@AnubisGuard and I were theorizing the other night and he brought up another interesting question... All the concept art shows a pretty universal lightsaber design. When did Lucas decided that each lightsaber should be unique? Did he look to how each character with a blaster got a unique gun (outside of troops) and apply the same logic?

There's really only two points during development that seem plausible to me: either during the scriptwriting phase when it was decided that Luke should inherit his father's saber, at which point you'd want to give him an identifiable, unique design, or during the propbuilding phase, when they found the Graflex and realized how unique it looked.

I'm partial to the second idea; my suspicion is that the prop guys had a lot of influence over who had what and how many designs there were. That's kind of how Lucas worked as far as design went; for example, he (to the best of my knowledge) pretty much let McQuarrie, Cantwell, etc, do whatever they wanted in the art and prototype building. I feel like if there was an explicit decision to give each character a "signature" prop, that it came from the prop guys.

Similarly, I think Obi's saber either came first with modifications after they found the Graflex, or it came after both the Graflex and the MPP were decided on. It being a mix of random parts suggests either that they made it after they ran out of suitable flashguns, or it's a holdover from when they were playing around with random parts to find something "lightsaberish." As you reminded me, there's a photo of the Hales mixed in with all the flashlights and junk they were looking at before the Graflex was settled on. There's also the fact that Obi-Wan's looks the most like the McQuarrie design, which suggests roots in those early tinkerings. But, then again, that the mix of parts includes a Graflex clamp says that the final design came after the flash-based sabers, so here's a hypothetical timeline of how I think it may have happened:

1.) They figure out Graflex for Luke. This unlocks the "look" for the sabers.
2.) MPP is "evil" Graflex, so Vader gets that.
3.) They're out of flashes and Obi Wan needs one, so they roll back to the prototypes and look for stuff to reuse, combined with flash parts.
4.) They have piles of Graflexes, but the upper shell is too distinct and the lower shell too generic to reuse, so that leaves the clamp.
5.) Already the Hales is there, and it has the right OD, so into the clamp it goes.
6.) Next the booster because it resembles the t-track grip on the other two sabers, so it goes below the clamp.
7.) At this point, they've got booster|clamp|Hales lined up. If it were me, at that point I'd be looking around just trying random stuff to cap it off at one or both ends. So at this point they settle on the balance pipe and the handwheel.

It's certainly possible that the balance pipe, Hales, and handwheel were all connected at some earlier stage as a quasi-McQuarrie design, but there's no way to know. What we really need are more pics of the prototype phase.
 

ALLEY

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hmmmm....

I think we need to ask Brian Williams.

BE5645DF-842E-4131-92A5-E9AC911C3185.jpeg
 

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scarf man

Sr Member
I believe Sym-Cha posted about the Obi saber guy a few years ago..
Rodger Christian has been inconsistent at best about his role in Star Wars production, I’m sure he had a hand in making or designing a bunch of the stuff we obsess over. I’m just not sure that faking a production used graflex will leave him a trustworthy legacy.
 
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ALLEY

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I believe Sym-Cha posted about the Obi saber guy a few years ago..
Rodger Christian has been inconsistent at best about his role in Star Wars production, I’m sure he had a hand in making or designing a bunch of the stuff we obsess over. I’m just not sure that faking a production used graflex will leave him a trustworthy legacy.

I guess I never understood why a “Set Decorator” (Roger’s official role on the film) would have been responsible for hand props?

I realize that Star Wars was a “low budget” film, and may have had limited production crew, but even TV shows delineate between the roles of “set decorator”, “production designer”, “prop master”, etc.
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Roger Christian said that his friend Roger Shaw was hired to set up a new department and he created the Obi-Wan sabers ... I quote from his book Cinema Alchemist :

'I had needed someone on STAR WARS with an artistic and engineering capability to head a prop-making department, sorting out the scrap and identifying which pieces could be used where and making up speciality pieces. Having convinced Frank Bruton to start Roger Shaw on STAR WARS with me as a special propmaker, he had excelled at this and so Roger had really developed a new key position on STAR WARS as a propmaker who understood how to create action props and dressing requirements from found objects plundered from the scrap.'

Here's a picture of the prototype parts, though I'm not certain these were actually used on the real lightsaber prop :

10609585_10204222345017384_1524811655332934866_n.jpg


Perhaps teecrooz can tell us if that's the RR Derwent Balance Pipe configuration before it's been taken apart?

Chaïm
 
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Mouse Vader

Sr Member
Thanks Seth, I'll check that out.

Sym-Cha I don't suppose there's a date to go with that picture ? I presume you'd have said if there was.
I'm thinking that pic is a likely indication of how the balance pipe was chosen, based on o/d of that assembled pipe package.
 

James Kenobi 1138

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
That photo was from pre-production as it was taken alongside prototype lightsabers that looked like flashlights.

IIRC that is the correct balance pipe set-up, 2 male and 2 female face-to-face, and the entire set-up goes between each flame tube to balance the pressure.
 

scarf man

Sr Member
I guess I never understood why a “Set Decorator” (Roger’s official role on the film) would have been responsible for hand props?

I realize that Star Wars was a “low budget” film, and may have had limited production crew, but even TV shows delineate between the roles of “set decorator”, “production designer”, “prop master”, etc.
The apocryphal nature of Roger’s graflex story is palpable. To say the guy tells tall tales would be putting it mildly.
Roger was defiantly in the mix, but I doubt a lot of what he says.
 

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Mouse Vader

Sr Member
SethS Got them. My guide copy was out of date. 2020 vers last set of pic's pg 102. I'm pretty sure in the 2 pics on the left you can see the same balance pipe assembly as in Sym's pic above. Show's how long it was kicking about in the saber time line.

[edit : "That photo was from pre-production as it was taken alongside prototype lightsabers that looked like flashlights." & "According to the information presented in this blog : Star Wars “Original Prototype Lightsabers from 1976 Meeting” those reference pictures date from January 14 - 25 1976." Thanks guys.]
 
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chazzychaz

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Is it true that the Tunisia prop had the male balance pipe and the grenade flipped? the photos I've seen sure seem to point in that direction.
 

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