Lightsabers & Blasters Jedi-Loreen's EL Lightsaber Blade Tutorial

Discussion in 'Costuming and Props' started by Jedi-Loreen, May 6, 2004.

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  1. Kaladin Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 4, 2005
    I assembled my blade the other night, and it turned out awesome. Thanks again Jedi-Loreen!!

    It was really bothering me that the diffuser tube was bent though, because it was bending the whole blade assembly. So before final assembly I hung the tube from the ceiling and heated it up evenly with a heat gun (a real hot hair dryer may work) and it relaxed the tubing making it very maleable. With the heat and just a little bending it while it was hot, I got the diffuser tube straight as an arrow. So now the blade does not have a bend in it at all. It turned out sweet.
  2. Rade_Konne Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Awesome tutorial. I'm about to start constructing my own hilt and EL blade. I may be asking too much but is there any chance of adding pictures to enhance this tutorial and make sure I'm doing the right thing?
  3. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Uh, well, I don't have digital camera, and I haven't made any more blades lately. I have been asked about it before, though. I should try to do that, when I start making more blades for my friends.

    Someone in the 501st was working on a photo tutorial last year, using my instructions, but I don't know what happened with it, if he ever finished and posted it. He had me look it over for my approval, which I gave him.
  4. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    I should start construction of my blade within a few days, and if I can get a digital camera from a friend, I will be more than glad to send them to you, Jedi Loreen. It may not help anyone going to C#, but for future reference...

    Also a questions, how long do you think that the total assembly of the blades takes?
  5. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Thank you for the offer. If you want to do that, then go for it, I'd like to see the pics you take.

    I would say it should take about an hour to assemble one, depending on how much trouble you have with the EL wire, and the fact that the fine wires have a tendency to break when you are stripping or soldering.

    Just remember, if you have the means, like is essential for me, keep testing the wire every step of the way to make sure it lights up. That way you will know right away of you have broken one of the wires inside. You don't want to find out after you have the whole thing put together that it's not working.
    :oops: :mad:
  6. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    Well, half my materials came last night.

    I was impressed, I ordered everything Sunday night, and mid-morning Tuesday, all the tubing was at my front door. That is cooL!! McMaster rocks!!

    I have a question for you, Jedi Loreen. Your diffuser tubing, is it clear colored (transparent/see-thru), or is it white? I expected it to be clear, but is white, and now I'm affraid that 1) I ordered the wrong thing, and 2) It won't be a bright blade at all. :(

    Thanks!
  7. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    No, the diffuser tubing is supposed to be white. If it was clear, then it would have to be really "frosted" in order to provide the proper diffusion and hide the EL wire. When you have the wire inside it, it will create a nice, even glow thoughout the whole piece of tubing.

    I tried about 6 different types of tubing before I found the one that had the diffusion properties I wanted. So don't worry, it sounds like you got the right tubing!
  8. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    Thanks Jedi Loreen I understand now!

    Phew!! FOr a while there I thought I had messed up! :)
  9. Jedi_Ranger_007 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2004
    star 4
    Well, I have spent a lot of money and done much experimenting, and come to some conclusions. This comment is regarding possible diffusers.

    After planning several different possibilities, I eventually decided on the white tubing, polyethelyne. I decided on this mostly to help fill in the empty space inside the polycarbonate tube (and THAT took a long time to find a decent dealer/location).

    I personally prefer the 1/2" OD polyE, as apposed to the smaller (and seemingly more popular) 3/8" OD. The 1/2" fills the 3/4" polyC a little more, and gives a fuller look, when lit.

    The high-brightness blades I have built look great, but from about 1 meter and closer, the individual strands can be seen. I am now thinking about adding a sheet of thin white tissue paper between the polyC "shell" and the polyE diffuser.

    Another diffuser thought that I had toyed with, was using frosted sticker sheet, like that used to give an expensive frosted-look to clear windows. Sometime, I may still try this, just out of curiosity.
  10. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    I don't know of anyone using 3/8" OD diffuser tubing, I don't know where you came up with that. That would leave too little room inside it for the EL wire.

    Sometimes, with the brighter EL wires, I have lightly sanded the outside of the diffuser tubing, that seems to help diffuse it a little more.

    But I do like your idea of the frosted stickers. If you try that, let me know how it works out.
  11. Jedi_Ranger_007 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2004
    star 4
    Sorry, my bad. I didn't mean more popular here; I've just been reading TONS of different forums and posts and stuff, and mixed with my own experiments, got a little confused.

    Hehe, maybe I should have waited till I had gotten some sleep, before making that post.

    Anyway, now that I have gotten some sleep, I have gone back and reread your posts Jedi-Loreen, and it looks like we build our blades mostly the same.

    Except for "bushings"; I prefer using 5/8" polyC. I find that using a second layer of polyE at the end seems to dim it a bit more.

    I'm also still researching on a quick and easy way of mounting the hilt female receiver end of a mono/stereo jack. I think I'll go with coring a 1.5" OD wood dowling. I already use that to support my blades inside the hilt.

    They friction-fit super tight around the polyC blade, and I just use a screw to hold the whole assembly inside the hilt. For now, I have just used a black allen hex-head (for cool factor of having to use tools on my lightsaber), but I'd like to switch to a nicer-looking thumbscrew with a larger head.
  12. Jedi_Ranger_007 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2004
    star 4
    Jedi-Loreen:

    I have a few questions regarding the inverters. The one you recommend (coolight 12v #IFW-5681-2k) is rated to power 20-50 feet. The inverter I used (coolight 9v #CL-ISC-9v) is rated for 10-20 feet. Both are listed as producing 2khz output frequency.

    Will your recommendation make the same 10 foot length HB wire brighter, when both are powered by a single 9v battery?

    Will connecting a length shorter than the minimum spec damage the inverter by not creating enough "load"?

    I am placing another order later this week, for parts for several lightsabers I have been "contracted" to build, for friends, so advice on this would be "hot"!!!

    Thanks.
  13. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Wow, I don't even see that one inverter that I had recommended on the website anymore, they have changed a lot of the inverters since I last checked there. Haven't been there in a couple months.

    If it's still there, then they changed the specs on it. I wouldn't have used an inverter rated to start at 20 ft, if I was only using 10. I don't think I would recommend trying that one with only 10 ft. But now I'm sort of curious to see what would happen. :p

    I would say that the inverter you are using would be the optimum one to use, for a 9V inverter.

    Now I'm also curious about the performance of the CL-IPTC-9v-3-7FT inverter, if someone only wanted to use 2 strands of EL wire. It sure is cheap!

    I have several different inverters that I play with and often run only short lengths of EL wire on them, shorter than the rated amount, and while I have not run them continuously for a long time, I haven't noticed any detrimental effect on the inverters. (Though I did once burn out a 5V inverter by running it on 9V, just to see what would happen. I didn't care, because the guys at elwirecheap.com gave it to me to play with and see what would happen if I did run it at that voltage)

    I'm not that much of an electronics expert, so I don't really know if continuous operation of that other inverter, with a smaller load will make the wire brighter, or if it will damage the inverter. Or, it could even burn out the wire faster. (Yes, EL wire will eventually dim and burn out, after a couple thousand hours, the phosphorus coating the wires will only last so long)

    But I would stick with what I know and tell you to keep using the inverter that you have already used before.
  14. Jedi_Ranger_007 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2004
    star 4
    Holy cow!!! Holy cow!!! HOLY COW!!!!!!

    While I was out shopping for parts for a lightsaber I was "contracted" to build, I came across an AMAZING product.

    Jedi-Loreen, remember I mentioned above that I'd eventually like to try a window "frosting" sticker?

    Well, I found a spray-on product!!!!!!

    And the results are freaking AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

    The diffusing glow is perfect, when used with the polyE diffuser inside.

    Sorry, I don't have any pictures yet, as I just got home from a 2 hour drive, and an 8 hour lightsaber construction stint right before that, and a 2 hour drive before that (it's been a LONG day).

    Now, using this frosting spray MAY dim the look EL wire a bit, but it gives the blades a PERFECT glow to them. :D :D :D

    I HIGHLY recommend finding this stuff and trying it out. I got mine at Home Depot.

    Oh yeah, and it dries really fast.
  15. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    What's the name of the product?
  16. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    Sponger,
    You said that you used different sized PolyC and PolyE from what Jedi-Loreen suggested. Based on your messages, I bought the same sized materials that you used.

    However, I am having a big problem. I cannot put the PolyE (diffuser) inside the PolyC. I have tried to push it in as hard as I can, and I only got it in about a fourth of the way in; less really, since I only got about 10 inches in, and my blade is 42 inches long.

    I am assuming that you had a similar issue with yours, since we are both using the same sized tubes, so how did you deal with this? Any suggestions?

    Thanks!
  17. Spongerd82 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 30, 2005
    I am sorry for not posting this earlier but the polyE that I used was 3/16" Id, 5/16" Od. (Part # 50375K45 at mcmaster.com). The polyC was right. I ment to correct this but I have had a rather bad month or so. I am sorry BescinPrix that you bought the wrong size. I am just glad it is rather inexpensive. I have a problem now..I can not find a suffecient driver for my short length wire that does not have a 3 phase switch. By that I mean on-blinking-off. I can't find one with on-off or no switch at all. The only one I have is an old one and I burnt it out tring to see if I could use 12v instead of 9v. I am no electrition! Help Anyone?
  18. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Hmmm 4 feet is not an easy length of EL wire to find a driver for, is it?

    You might try looking at this page at coolneon.com:

    Cool Neon Drivers

    Or maybe this one from elwirecheap.com:


    1-15ft driver
  19. BescinPrix Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2004
    star 1
    Hmm... While it is relativelly inexpensive, I don't think I have enough time to get a replacement now...

    DO you guys think that if I coat the PolyE with a lubricant (I was thinking KYJelly, which is clear), it would work? Or will it leave the inside of the PolyC all stained?
  20. Antilles01 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 5, 2001
    star 3
    I just wanted to say that this is an exciting project to undertake, I have a self-built hardware saber at home that I would love to add an EL blade to.

    My hilt is chromed brass, about 1 3/8" ID and has 3 to 4 inches of free space at the top of the hilt (the bottom interior has 16 protruding screws for the grip so nothing can really fit in there that well). I was wondering if this is enough space for the inverter and female jack and all associated electronics. In other words, how much space do you need in the hilt using your process and method?

    Also any chance of diagrams or drawings or photos to accompany this wonderful tutorial?
  21. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Drawings or diagrams? I hadn't really thought about it. The blade construction is pretty straight forward, I'd always thought. But then, maybe that's just me. :p Though hopefully someone will take some photos sometime when they make their own blade. I may try to remember to take a few with my webcam, the next time I make one, since I didn't have a digital camera.

    As far as lightsaber construction, and mounting the electronics goes, every lightsaber is different, so I don't really see how it would be possible to make diagrams for that. There is no one "best way" to mount the electronics inside. It depends on what you have to work with, and what you you want to put into your design (like where you want to mount your switch, for example).

    I'm afraid 4 inches is not enough space for all the electronics you will need to put inside your saber.

    I suggest no less than a minimum of 3" just for the blade holder, to keep a 40" blade stable. Then you need about an inch for the female connector to stick out of the bottom of that, then about another inch or so for the inverter, depending on what you use, then some space for the back end of a switch to stick into the hilt, unless you build some kind of box for it on the outside.

    Lastly, you will also need a couple inches for the battery. So we are already up to about 8". And you don't want to cram everything together too tightly, or you are going to start breaking your solder connections. Crimp on type connectors will probably take up a bit more space.

    The smallest EL bladed saber I have so far managed to build (which I call my "light dagger" since it was made to hold 5/8" diameter, 20" long blade, it purposely won't hold "regular" blades) was from a 1 1/4" tube and is 9" long. I didn't see how I could have built it any shorter while not damaging my solder connections.

    It's my opinion that it is generally easier to design a hardware saber around an EL kit, than to try to outfit a previously made one, unless it's completely hollow.


    EDIT:
    I forgot I have a blurry picture of the parts that go into one of my EL blades here: EL Blade Ingredients
    (the other pics in that album are of my original blades, before they came out with the High Brightness wire. I have since redone all my personal blades)



  22. Spongerd82 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Antilles01, I suggest you take the screws out of the grips and replace them with small rivets if you could. That is what I use and I have plenty of room for the blade electronics. Just make sure the driver is not to big for the tube!
  23. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Yes, that is a good point, I actually meant to ask about something like that, if he could replace the long screws with some shorter ones, as least, but I forgot. That's what happens sometimes when I post late at night. :p

    Rivets are a good idea. I picked up an inexpensive pop rivet gun at Walmart for about $6, and found a couple of lengths of rivets at one of those close out stores at $1 for 100 1/8" rivets.

    I used rivets to hold on the grips of my own first EL saber I built way back in Dec. of '02. I have learned a lot since then, after helping some of my friends build their sabers.
  24. RedHeadKevin Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2004
    star 2
    This is just a question, which may be dumb. If I was to make a couple lightsabers with these EL blades, just how much light would they throw off? My thought on how I'd display the sabers would be to hang them on the walls, much like a display (metal) sword. Would the blades be bright enough to say, act as a night-light in the room? Do the blades glow fairly bright inside a darkened room?
  25. Jedi-Loreen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2002
    star 4
    Then newer High Brightness wire is faily bright, lime green and aqua are the 2 brightest colors of EL wire. They won't light up a dark room real brightly, but they will glow pretty well in a dark room.

    I have sometimes been known to take a saber or two into the bathroom with me at night and prop them up against the wall to provide me with light while I'm doing my business (probably Too Much Information :p I know, I'm strange. [face_laugh] ), they light up my bathroom pretty brightly. Of course the bigger the room, the more diffuse the light is going to be, though some should reflect off the wall you have it mounted on, if the paint or wall paper is light enough.

    I don't know why you would want to use one as a night light though. Depending on what inverter you use, a 9V battery will only last a few hours. I think they only last about 2 hrs, if that, in a Parks Saber, for example. One nine volt battery isn't going to last the night. I suppose you could hook up an A/C adapter to it and plug it into a wall outlet. I have never tried that, because my sabers are for wearing and dueling with.

    And also keep in mind that EL wire will eventually dim and burn out, after a few thousand hours. People don't necessarily know that. I have so many blades, that it would take more than my life time to burn out all my blades just using them at events and playing with them.

    Hope that answers your questions.
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