Drilling an AS handwheel and adding a D-ring

ATL Kenobi

Sr Member
The following tutorial describes how I drilled a hole in a 2-piece Armitage-Shanks Starlite handwheel and added a 5/8" (edit: actually it's a 3/4") D-ring.

The original ANH Obi Wan lightsaber prop used what I'll term the "4-piece" handwheel as the pommel. (See below right - picture provided by Howard with his permission.) This version has long since been discontinued, and is very difficult (and expensive :) ) to come by. These handwheels are easily identified by the "c" or "h" on the cap. A newer/replacement "2-piece" (below left) version has been factory available up until recently, so they are easier to come by. These have a stylized "AS" on the cap.

Since the sides of the cubes are angled relative to the direction of drilling, it's important to create a small indentation in the side of the cube to reduce the chances of the drill bit wandering across the chrome plating (see the sketch below left). Also, it's been my experience that small drill bits have a tendency to "bend" as they go through some materials (so they may not come out the other side where I'd expect). With this in mind, I chose to drill the initial pilot hole only part way through a cube, then turn the handwheel over and drill through.

Choose one cube and mark it on both sides using a pointed X-Acto blade. The marks should be in the middle of the cube relative to the flat area and just a little less than 1/16 inch above the flat area. Carefully twirl the knife to create the indentation. Note – the two indentations need to be accurately aligned.

Remove the end cap, and using wood blocks, clamp the handwheel in a vise. Note - the handwheel should rest on the corners of two adjacent cubes (see sketch). Using a drill press, drill a 1/16 inch diameter pilot hole about three quarters of the way through the cube. Turn the handwheel over, and using the other indentation, drill all the way through.

Drill through the pilot hole using a 1/8 inch drill bit.

Use a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel, and remove about 1/16 inch off both ends of the D-ring. The 1/8th inch gap will allow for the D-ring to spring back, making it easier to compress when crimping it to the handwheel.

Using the Dremel with a small grinding wheel, chamfer both cut ends, and angle the bottom of the cuts as shown. The angled ends will reduce the chance of splitting the handwheel. Clamp the D-ring in a vise and using a screwdriver, open the gap to a little less than the width of the handwheel cube.

Note - the smaller the gap the less likely the D-ring will distort. Using a pair of pliers, or channel-locks, wrap the D-ring with a rag, and then carefully compress the D-ring until it looks right.

I suspect that drilling a 4-piece handwheel would be very similar to drilling a 2-piece, but I can't say for sure.….yet! (edit: It's exactly the same!) :D

Thanks to Howard for the 4-piece pic, to wackychimp for hosting, and Avalon-X for a little inspiration.

ATL Kenobi
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Sr Member
<div class='quotetop'>(Serafino @ Jul 19 2006, 05:37 PM) [snapback]1283837[/snapback]</div>
ATL strikes again. Nice work on a nerve-wracking issue. ;)
This job always scares me and I put it off to the last.
When drilling the hole I tend to use a pin vice holding the drill. It takes a while, but reduces the chance of the tip slipping and marking the handwheel if, like me, you don't have a press.

Another way to open the D-ring is to place a pair of needle nosed pliers into the D and open them slowly. This provides a clean 'D.'
In the past I've filed a little material off the ends of the D-ring to create a step. This step then aids the fitting to the cube holes.

Great tutorial, clear pics and easy to understand.
Time you started a book ATL. :)


Romans Empire

Master Member
Excellent tutorial. Clear and practical. :)

For those who may not a have a dremel, you can also use lock cutters to create the gap in the D-ring. However, it won't be as clean a cut, but since it's inside the d-ring it won't matter much.

Darth Lars

Master Member
Good tutorial, ATL.

I use a few layers of electrical tape on the pliers as a cushion, instead of a rag.
I believe using a blow torch to heat the D-ring while bending can reduce distortion, but I would not use it near plastic. ;)


Master Member
very nice brotha.

this is a good example of not all new members being noobs. :D

this saber is a bit down the line for me but its deffinately on the list, i will remember this for when the time comes.

ATL Kenobi

Sr Member
Thanks everyone for the kind words :D and the additional suggestions.

Howard - I used the old reversed needle nose plier trick to open links on lamp chain - same principle. You're method would more evenly spread the two sides of the D-ring lessening the chance of deforming the ring.

Roman - I know you've installed a D-ring or 2 ;) . Lock cutters (side-cutter or bolt-cutters) would be a lot faster. (And the ring gets mighty hot when you grind on it :lol )

Darth Lars - Tape works too. Personally though, I'd be leary of using a blow torch. One would have to heat the ring very evenly or the hotter areas may bend more than the cooler ones. There's also the chance of bluing "ruining" the chrome plating. But if the torch works for you, why not.