Why DIY?

Oh my gosh, it's been how long since my last post? Wow, sorry, I am swamped getting things ready for Dragon Con. But I thought I'd write a quick blog about something I've been thinking a bit about lately.

My most involved project for the con this year is building a set of lightsaber props (and if you haven't watched my series Let's Build Lightsabers yet, check it out so you can see what I've been doing in detail). But I had a thought the other day that I decided to expand upon a little here: why am I building these sabers myself?

There are certainly a variety of ways to get hold of a good looking lightsaber prop. Multiple companies exists that build really, really amazing sabers with beautiful color and screen perfect sound. A good example would be Ultrasabers, who I am partial to if for no other reason that they have a great booth at Dragon Con every year. Sabers like these are tremendous quality, with the hilt made of custom machined metal, and you can pick and choose parts to make the saber look special to you. They even have options to allow you to connect their sabers to your PC and adjust the color and sound settings yourself.

These types of sabers are great, but I think more than anything they are all about convenience. They are very expensive, or at least can be with all the bells and whistles, but you are paying a premium for a well made, customizable product that is delivered to your door and works right out of the box.

There are other options for those who want to be a little more involved in the design or construction of a lightsaber. For example, The Custom Saber Shop has a nice selection of modular pieces that all fit together, and using them you can piece together a nice looking hilt and blade. You have a bit more flexibility in how your lightsaber will look if you use an option like that.

I would never question someone who chose either option to own a lightsaber; I have several friends that own Ultrasabers, and they are definitely really nice. But in the end, that just wasn't an option for me for this project.

If we want to be practical, it is partially an issue of money. The group costume I am working on requires four lightsabers, including one that is double bladed. To buy these, even with the cheapest options available from an online saber company, would call for many hundreds of dollars, But far more important than the cost, it would involve some compromising in terms of blade color and hilt size and design. Those aspects are very important to the costume--it's a star wars/powerpuff girls mashup, and the characters are in part defined by their specific colors.

So DIY is the way to go here, in my opinion. Yes, it has been difficult. I am working with materials that are simply not designed to be turned into a lightsaber--PVC isn't nearly as solid as custom machined metal, I can promise you! And it has taken a lot of experimentation to get the placement of components right, to line up the optics with the blade, and find good solutions for powering the whole deal. But I do feel it is worth it, because it has given me complete control over the final product and how it will look, not just individually but when paired with handmade costumes. For example, I have been able to match the blade color exactly to the fabric color for each person, which would be possible with an Ultrasaber but a lot more expensive.

There have certainly been comprimises with doing it myself...the major one is that the brightness of the blades is a lot lower than you see with high end sabers, and even somewhat dimmer than the cheaper pre-built options. (Though that problem has actually turned out to be a positive in some aspects, as I found that a too-bright blade washed out the color of the costume)

But more than any of the above, building these sabers myself was the right choice for the reason that this website exists. I am building them with my own two hands. And in a few weeks, which the costumes are done the pictures are taken and people get to see all of it together, I will be all the more proud that I didn't just buy the prop online, but that they are a product of my own hard work. There is something deeply satisfying in that, I think.

If you are interested in seeing more about my lightsaber project, check out my videos HERE. And subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more videos about this and other projects as soon as they are released!