Luke's ANH replica lightsaber build advice needed

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pfillery

Active Member
Hi from Australia.

In a recent impulse buy I snapped up a genuine Graflex 3 cell flash. The price was right and it is complete and in great condition. So I decided I would have a go at making an ANH Skywalker lightsaber.

According to the write ups I have looked at, the original props may have used metal (not plastic) t track from an old cupboard. I managed to get hold of 2 lengths of original pressed metal t-track from a cupboard that was going to be dumped, to use for this. Just have to work out the best way to attach it and colour it. I'm wanting to go for accuracy but not too full on, it won't be worn or played with, just making it for the fun of it. I have a replica set of calculator bubbles on the way (can't really justify buying genuine at this point, maybe one day if it comes up) and will make my own d-ring since a good likeness is hard to find.

Interestingly my graflex has a slightly different style of button on it, the knurled section is only a ring around the middle, not all the way down the button, yet it is an original button, I guess there would have been variations but has anyone come across this before?

I'm also thinking about doing the internals, no electronics, just for show and to add weight. I would like to get away from the electronic look some have used in the reveal type sabers - after all, this is an ancient weapon for a more civilised age, and was from a long time ago and far far away, so I'm thinking lots of copper, brass, alloy, exposed wiring, the type of thing you'd expect to see inside an old TV (lets face it, nobody really knows what they look like inside as it was never shown in the movie). I don't want to simply copy another design, I will use elements of other ideas but there aren't really any definitive pictures of what it would have looked like. So no chips, no circuits, I want simple, elegant, old world look.

Be gentle, this is my first foray into this kind of thing, I have scratchbuilt lots of stuff before though. I will post pics of the progress as I go. I plan to have a go at some other stuff too if this works ok.

Any advice from the experts out there would be appreciated, plus feel free to throw in any ideas too, every bit of inspiration helps.
 

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Darth Lars

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Do post pictures of your T-track! The real track has never been found. The consensus here is that the T-track was plack plastic (or resin casts), but people have been dead-sure about parts' origins before and been totally wrong ...
The Graflex button you describe is a common variation.

For the inside, a genuine qwartz crystal is not expensive at all. When you forage for parts, keep in mind that it has to fit inside the saber.

There is one reference that is considered to be more "canon" (if there could be a range of "canon-ness") than others. It is the cutaway in Star Wars - The Visual Dictionary. This has served as inspiration for other official renditions of Star Wars lightsabers and for many fan-made sabers.
It was constructed by Don Bies (curator of the Lucasfilm Archive at the time, I believe). He has told me that the tube was vacuum-formed plastic (not a genuine Graflex), the black parts he made from laser-cut acrylic and the bigger metal parts using a lathe.
 

pfillery

Active Member
I will put up some pics as soon as I can. I have read a lot of opinions about the grips. My thoughts were that they would have used what was easily available and cheap at the time. I cant see them using plastic but who knows. The t track I found is the right dimensions and has small nail holes along each flat about every 8 inches which fits with the screws used on the esb version. As I don't have a spare red button I will go with the anh version. It is after all the first time we ever see a lightsaber on screen (must be good batteries if it still worked after 20 years). The track I got came from a 1970s cupboard (was a fluke finding it and it was going to be left behind when work relocated so it still stayed just minus the t track) and is folded pressed steel. Sadly unless I filled the holes and painted it, there is only enough for one saber. If I silver soldered the small nail holes I might get 2 sets out of it, possibly it might be usable to trade on here if others want the authentic look. The hard part is attaching it to the Graflex. I either need to paint the track and use really good double sided tape or do the old heat blackening trick and then could use epoxy glue. I want them to stay put but also don't want to waste track if at all possible.

I liked the visual dictionary version but I feel too that it is only right to add my own flair to it as well and not just do exactly the same. It won't be attached to the Graflex so it can still be an authentic prop.

Are there any sources for replica red buttons out there? I know you can get thumbscrew ones but I want one that can go straight in.
 

Jerome

Active Member
Welcome from Brisbane! Where are you located? I'm relatively new myself but have mostly been doing lots of reading/lurking to gather my information. I see there are a few other Aussies on this forum too but they appear to be into a wide variety of props whereas for me I'm mostly into lightsaber props.

Reading these forums have led me to believe the t-tracks are plastic, and GINO has produced some fine replicas of them.

I myself am in the midst of two Graflex builds (ESB and ANH) although I've been pretty slack and am taking my time. There are quite a few here who have built them and I use them as reference (those who come to mind are clutch, thegreatgalling, symcha to name a few).

In the junkyard several pages down there is someone selling the red buttons; some genuine and one or two replicas. These may suit your need for an extra red button. I think he's steveday72.

Cheers
 

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pfillery

Active Member
The tracking has a thin groove in the back where the folded metal meets. I'll post pics when I get home or over the weekend. I'm thinking it will work better if it is slightly hollowed out on the bottom so it will fit up to the graflex tube a little neater, but I'll cut a small test piece off one end and have a play.

Jerome, I'm in Brisbane too. Glad to see there are some other Starwars fans around here. I've read in a few places that they originally thought the grips were windscreen wipers from old British cars, this was then revised to plastic furniture t-track, some references are made to metal track which, given the quality of this stuff, I can see a prop maker using. This stuff fits in with the ESB version as the small holes in the side of the track look like the second fixing point on the ESB saber.

I want the finished piece to have a bit of weight to it, not feel like its made of nothing, lets face it, if these were "real" they would have some weight to them, think 3 cell mag lite torch, that is probably the weight I would expect the real thing to have. I'm not ever planning to fit a blade to it or wear it as part of a costume, so it's going to be just very basic true to the film on the outside, then add my spin on the inside while doing something similar to the visual dictionary version. Obviously in the Star Wars universe there would have been standard lightsaber designs, until of course you build your own when your skills are complete.

I have a lot of old computer parts and brass/copper offcuts lying round so plan to use a lot of this stuff but nothing electronic bar the wiring - I imagine these things to be somewhat "powered" by the force via the crystals, so it is quite conceivable that there would not be anything much electronic in there.

It is fun to experiment. This will be a good start, maybe a blaster or thermal detonator next, something a little more complex. One thing at a time.
 

GINO

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I can confirm first hand that the t-track used on the props in SW was black plastic. :thumbsup



.
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
When Mark Hamill wielded the lightsaber for the first time it is believed that George Lucas mentioned to him it weight about 25 kg thus he could not swish and swoosh it rather fast but had to act some weight/power into it . . . unlike what the jedi's did in the Prequels though :lol

Eventhough Gino is right uptil now I have never seen those old cupboards with T-track inside albeit plastic or metal . . . so do post some pictures please, however I guess you didn't take pictures of the T-track inside the vintage cupboards now or did you?

-Chaim
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Hey Thibault,

Got any pics to illustrate what you mean?

T-track is a kind of rail where the doors of a vintage cupboard or cabinet slides over to open so you can take out your Royal Doulton with the blue handpainted periwinkles. :lol

-Chaim
 

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Thibault

Sr Member
Hey Thibault,

Got any pics to illustrate what you mean?

T-track is a kind of rail where the doors of a vintage cupboard or cabinet slides over to open so you can take out your Royal Doulton with the blue handpainted periwinkles. :lol

-Chaim
:lol

Something like this, so that you get the idea :

 

Thibault

Sr Member
Or maybe more like this :



If you look at the previous picture I posted, there is the cavity ....

:unsure

(fun wrecker !!) :lol
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Hi Thibault,

As you can see here on the Vader ROTJ Graflex :



The shape of the T-track is like this design :



No ruler or windshieldwiperblade comes close to that shape. Gino's T-track is the best
replicated and available at the moment. Even the real modern plastic T-track sold by
Sskunky and Marv doesn't come close to the original T-track used on the OT sabers!

-Chaim
 

thd9791

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
GINO,

Just to clarify, does first hand mean you've come across it in real props for research for efx? Pretty darn cool. <none of this is sarcasm in case it looks like it
 

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Thibault

Sr Member
Raaaaahh Chaim ....

It's just a theory...
That will be hard to confirm it, mostly because it's a vintage product and maybe the ruler had been shaped.
I might be wrong, but I just have the filling it's something like that.

 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Nice theory Thibault however feelings can get in the way of ... mere facts and being in the judgements business you'd know all about that, don't you? :lol

Fact is the propmakers had easy access to the T-track and could slab it onto a graflex or MPP in no time ... so to construct a T-track out of a metal/plastic ruler was way to much work and not within the budget that was available from the producers. Lucasfilm was just about to see the light of day!

-Chaim
 

pfillery

Active Member
Finally got round to doing some photos.

This is what I have started with, the inspiration behind it all. Yes the clamp holder is backwards at the moment.




The different style of graflex button on this flash:



The end cap:





And the controversial T-Track:



What it looks like from the end showing how it is made and folded:




The underside with the groove - remember this is made from a flat piece folded/formed to make the t shape:



Another shot of the end:



The holes in the tracking where it would have been nailed to the timber cupboard:



The dimensions of the track is 12.5mm across the width of the base (or 1/2"), the thickness of the sections is 2.5mm or 3/32", the height is 8mm or 5/16".

I worked out that if the holes were filled I would get 8 grips per length (I have 2 lengths), if I cut around the holes which will be less work but more wastage I would only get enough for one saber and a spare (8 grips).

This track was only on the base of the cupboard doors, the top track was timber, the doors have a slot in them which sits over the track. The top is slotted in and the bottom is fitted then nailed down. Unfortunately I did not get a photo on the cupboard, it was a bit of a rushed removal as were were leaving it behind and time was limited.

I calculate that it is pretty close in size to what was used originally, so as has been said, either it was what was used, was cast to be used or they used some of the plastic version of the same track. You will notice it has some yellow on it which was the varnish from the cupboard, also it is quite rough cut on the ends.

Looking at pictures of the ESB sabers, they seem to be attached at 2 points, one of which seems to tie in with the nail holes on this tracking. Just a thought.....

And Sym-Cha, do you mean 25kg or 2.5kg for the original prop? And yes I saw the one on the D-ring - found it through a google search a while back, I think I will be making my own using a D from a laptop bag which is stainless steel and the right size, I have some thin stainless which will be great for the mounting. Is there any official word whether the D-ring is screwed on, riveted or hex screwed?
 
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Sym-Cha

Master Member
Hi pfillery,

You only need 7 grips for any of the ANH lightsabers and just 6 for the ESB! The additional holes were added to the ESB grips they were only made on one side of the T-track. Might I suggest cutting through the holes and then file the remainder of the holes straight? That would also leave you with 8 grips right? If you have no need for the additional set of grips I'd love to trade/buy it from you :)

The D-ring is riveted onto the back as far as I know. Feel free to use my template and instructions to make the clip for your D-ring.

I did mean that Mark had to act as if the lightsaber was 25 kg not that it really was 25 kg :lol

-Chaim
 

pfillery

Active Member
Chaim, ideally the plan (as with anything else I do) is to not waste anything. I'd have to do the measurements but I'm pretty sure that at first check, the holes are too close to get 2 grips out of the "clean" section while avoiding the holes. I seem to recall that the grips should be 3 5/8" long each, or long enough to go between the end of the graflex and the clamp. So if the holes can be filled (probably with silver solder as it will be better than fillers) I'd have enough to get 2 sets of 8 grips out of the 2 lengths I have. Enough for 2 x ANH sabers.

As I'm more than likely not planning on doing another saber build based on a graflex, the spare may be up for grabs. I think I'll cut a small scrap off the end to experiment with, or clean up the section with the holes and see how it looks soldered. No idea what it would even be worth, open to ideas though. I'll check it tomorrow and run some measurements to see how it works out.
 

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