On The Bench 73: Lez Cook’s Lightsaber

From 1999:

Lez Cook is featured “On The Bench” this week with his scratch built lightsabers. Lez is actually machining all his parts by hand from metal!

Here are some photos of the graflex replicas I’m doing, they take a lot longer to do than the billet ones cause there’s lots of little fiddly bits on them, but it makes them more of a kit I suppose.

They are made from stainless steel dairy pipe and 18swg stainless sheet, the piece that holds the charging terminals is machined from a solid piece of black ultra high molecular weight poly ethylene, which we use to make plain and slide bearings for our packing lines, so it’s actually quicker for me to fabricate these than to finish a kit.

O.K. blow by blow:

My first job obviously, was to gather as much reference material as I could, this came from the Chronicles(although their best images are of Ben’s Sabre), The Lucasfilm Archives (STAR WARS to INDY) and loads of stuff from ebay online trading pictures of original GRAFLEX flashguns, also sites like Wan Obi’s, SABRE SANCTUARY, YODA’S HOUSE,STAR WARS LIGHTSABERS, the list goes on, anyway I got an Idea of the size and dimensions for the saber by reading up, and scaling from the photos, it seems as though everyone is in agreement that the body of the saber is 1.5 inches or as near as 38mm so all my other dimensions were based on this. I’ll go into more detail about the main body of the saber later, but first I’d like to cover some of the harder operations,


THE SWITCH CLAMP- This was fabricated from 18swg stainless sheet, after sketching it on paper to sort out the length of the piece I needed I cut one and tried to fold the 2mm return fold in our hand folder, unfortunately it soon became apparent that 2mm was less than the folder could cope with even on this thin a material as it just kept popping out, oh well over to the trusty vice.


I folded a couple of pieces to hang over the jaws of the vice to protect my workpieces from the serrations on the jaws, clamped my new piece on the line and proceeded to belt seven bells out of it using a piece of key steel to spread the force of the blows, once both ends were over to 90 degrees I squashed them onto another piece of 16swg using the vice as a press.

the next two folds were easier, again using the vice the piece was clamped and beaten over a piece of 6mm square key steel,

(it’s important that this dimension is accurate as 2 pieces of 6mm square stainless bar will sit in the recesses formed by these four folds, so if you have any doubts about your folder, assuming you have access to one ,don’t use it go for the vice)


Next I simply pulled the clamp assembly around the handle of our welding trolley, and then around a piece of scrap dairy pipe(using a clamp) to ge the correct size and a good radius.


This is the finished article (well almost, still some small cutouts to go in)

Next Up is the over center clamp, the dimensions for this came directly from measurements taken from the TECHNICAL JOURNAL

this is the pattern ready for forming, again it’s far to small for the folder so its over to the vice once again, with the jaws opened about 6mm and the protectors(not the soft jaws but the pieces of sheet mentioned earlier)in place I laid a piece of flat bar in the center of the pattern and gave it one good clout.

Then placed it over a piece of 25×3 flat bar and squashed the hell out of it in the vice,if you look carefully at the photo you can actually see the indentations in the flat bar.

You may have to mess around with this a little to square it up and get it looking good, I know I did.   Now just put a little tape on the edge of the bench and give the end of the clamp a belt over it to produce that nice little kickup.


Emitter Fins

The hardest part here is retaining the symmetry of the piece. Back to the vice again to cut out this lovely little piece, taking care to ensure the asymmetry required to allow one end to sit inside the other whilst still allowing the holes to line up, this will require complete accuracy throughout the marking out,cutting and folding of the piece, the pattern should look like this.


It’s easier to cut off the excess from the sides with a hand knife or tin snips AFTER folding the small lugs.


Folding is of course taken care of using the vice and an appropriately sized piece of steel, in this case key-steel again, plus of course something to make sure the energy goes where you want it to.


Then pulling round a couple of suitably sized pieces to get the correct diameter


The body is formed by cutting a piece of dairy pipe to shape with a dremmel, which was also used for the slots which form the emitter holders.


This is the tool I made for pulling the button shoulders into the tube, and is simply a piece of flat bar, beaten to the correct radius for the pipe, I then sharpened a 19mm drill bit with a flat cutting edge and counter-bored the piece to a depth of 2mm drilled through 10.5mm, mounted a flat base on it and machined the flats off a 10mm nut, this round nut goes on the inside of the pipe, the cotter-bored piece goes on the outside and then you just cram the nut up as tight as it’ll go without shearing(use plenty of oil on everything) and when you undo it hey presto.


Here’s how far I’ve got.  Later I’ll send some more details on the completion and finishing of the parts, I think the buttons and lenses may cause me some problems,well see.




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