Saturday, August 11, 2012

DIY Steampunk Lightsaber!

Some of you might remember this vintage flashlight I bought almost exactly a year ago with the hazy idea of turning it into a lightsaber:

Well, with my Lady Vadore costume shaping up in a timely fashion, John and I were able to squeeze this in as an extra accessory. I won't make you wait for it this time, either; here's the finished product:

[heavenly chorus singing]

As you can see, it also makes a nifty night light.

This is a relatively simple mod that you can probably do with any vintage flashlight. The one essential piece you'll need is a plumbing extension pipe, which you'll want to cut down at an angle for the business end of the 'saber:

We took it a step further and drilled vent holes around the pipe so our LED could shine through, but that's not necessary. This plumbing pipe is solid brass, so both cutting and drilling it is no easy feat. Watch out for sparks and sudden starts and stops with both. (Or get John to do it for you. I'm sure he won't mind. :D)

To disguise some of the scuffs and scratches that came from drilling the pipe, John came up with the brilliant idea of sanding the metal to give it a brushed look. The inside of of the pipe is especially beautiful because it's a bright brass -  so it's kind of a shame no one will see it with the LED in place.

Here's the sanded/brushed pipe with the light inside:

The really cool part is that the pipe snaps onto the flashlight body snugly as-is, so we didn't need any glue or extra rings to connect the two. How's that for a happy accident?

Once you have those two pieces joined, it's really just a matter of jazzing up the body with doo-dads to make it look less like an old flashlight and more like a steampunk lightsaber. 

I started with the grip:

I wanted black vertical lines to resemble Vader's actual lightsaber, but the leather strips I tried first were too thick and looked all wrong. John found the solution in screen splicing, which is a hard rubber cord with one flat side and one rounded:

It glues on easily, and actually makes the grip extra comfortable.

Next I dug through my junk box and found a few leftover scraps of brass mesh from our radio makeover. We used E-600 to glue strips of it on the top and bottom, plus a small "control panel" section below the switch:

Here I'm testing out different sparklies on the control panel. I decided I wanted one to look like a little dial, though, so I went with this metal button instead:

I'm hoping that looks like a tiny dial and two indicator lights. (Humor me.)

I also discovered that the original switch was the perfect size for a rhinestone. It's glued directly to the original button, so the switch even still works!

The bottom end of the flashlight had a big Eveready logo on it, so to cover that I cut a circle out of my brass mesh, and then topped that with a silver gear and dome button:

The last thing we did was fill the threads on the pipe with epoxy putty:

...and then paint that band a flat black. Now from a distance the band just looks like a rubber ring:

And that's it! The only things I had to purchase (other than the original $4 flashlight) was the rubber splicing and plumbing pipe. Oh, and also the LEDs, but since we got a bag of 12 and only used 1, I don't think it's fair to count that cost (about $10) in entirely.

Speaking of which, these LEDs are AWESOME. Seriously. They're small, cheap, self-contained, last up to 100 hours each, and come in several different colors. WOOT! I think all of my crafts are going to light up from now on. :)

Here's the LED package, in case you want to hunt some down yourself. They're in the floral aisle next to the glass marbles and other vase fillers, which is probably why most of us have never seen them before:

(I almost wanted to keep these a secret and let you guys think we're wiring geniuses, but they're just too awesome not to share. Heheh.)(Oh, and bring a JoAnn's coupon for these; regular price is about $18 for the bag.)

To light the  'saber all we did was cut out a hole in the original flashlight end, drop a LED down (the hole is smaller than the body of the LED), and add a bit of stiff fabric inside to keep the light in place. Of course it'd be cooler if the flashlight switch controlled the light, but for as easy as this was to do, I think I'll live.

The LEDs are surprisingly bright, so we also stuffed a tiny bit of bubble wrap around the bulb to dim it just a tad:
Although since it will only be pointed at the floor (hanging from my belt) for my costume, the odds of my blinding anyone with it are pretty slim regardless.

Of course, once this was finished I made the mistake of googling "steampunk lightsaber," and now I have SERIOUS 'SABER ENVY.  Ugh. They're all so pretty! And better than mine! make...more...!

I hope you guys enjoyed! And to those of you clamoring for final Lady Vadore photos; paaaatience. I'm waiting for a few extra bits in the mail to jazz up my boots, and then we'll do a photo shoot for ya. 

Oh, and check it out: my Vadore mask is starting to make the rounds online! Over the past two days it's been on the Daily What, Fashionably Geek, & Steampunk Costume, to name a few. 

I'm always so excited to see Epbot stuff elsewhere on the web; with Cake Wrecks it's a non-stop barrage of scraper sites and content thieves, but with Epbot most everyone is wonderful about giving proper credit, so it's the complete opposite: like getting a friendly "attagirl!" from my fellow geeks. Which just goes to show: geeks are better people.  :)


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. Ok. This might be the coolest thing I've seen you guys make. and You've had some great ideas!

  2. That's just a lovely lightsaber! And I'm glad for the lead on LED lights - they'll be perfect for a project I'm working on - THANKS!

  3. I have absolutely no need or desire to make a lightsaber, steampunk or not. But I'm absolutely AMAZED at the creativity you and John show in these tutorials. To take such utilitarian, hardware-store stuff and make something totally cool and different with it is such a neat thing.

    Kudos to you both.

  4. I love the simplicity of your lightsaber! I think it would be easy to go overboard with the details on it, but I believe you got it just right. =)

    I know it will look great with your costume (I'm dying to see it all together)!

  5. and now the mask is on the mary sue! i squee a little each time i see it, and think, i "know" that girl!!!!

  6. Love it! I kep thinking it'd be a great sonic screwdriver for giant Doctor Who. Lol!

  7. So the green light is on constantly? You can never turn it off?

  8. Haha, I googled "steampunk lightsaber" after reading your post and your lightsaber was one of the images. It made me happy. :)

  9. @ Sara Jane - the LED's have an on/off switch, so not to worry; you can turn it off! I just have to unscrew the bottom of the 'saber & pop the LED out to turn it on or off - easy-peasy.

  10. Jen (and John,) I'm running out of synonyms for incredible. If you're going to keep on turning out cool stuff of this quality, you're going to have to invent some new words so we can sufficiently gush about them. (Squeevelous? Incretastic? Sensatioperb?) Your Lady Vadore costume is just going to blow people away.

  11. So excited to see the finished costume! Are you going to debut it at Dragon Con? I hope to see you there!

  12. This is incredibly cool! I love that Lady Vadore will have a saber that is equal to her fabulous outfit! I did find it ineresting that you went with green, rather than the traditional red Sith Lady Vadore a good witch or a bad witch?

    Marisa F.

  13. So, what will John's costume be?

  14. AH-MAZING! Kudos to your craftiness and there's no reason to have saber envy because yours is awesome! However, there's no reason a girl can't have a different saber for every occasion... like shoes, right?! :) Can't wait to see it and Lady Vadore in person... how will we know where to find you at SWC (we are not part of the Twitter-verse)?!

  15. @ Mary B.- The debut will be at Star Wars Celebration, but I'll also bring it to D*C that next weekend! Your odds of catching me in it are slim, tho, unless you plan to be at the Time Traveler's ball. I'll probably wear it there & maybe one other night for a lobby crawl, but no more. I don't think I'd last more than a few hrs in it, with the crowds & heat!

    @ Marisa - the color choice was based more on my style preferences, but I think I'll go with your explanation better: I'm on the good side! Ha!

    @ SM3 - John won't be in costume for Star Wars Celebration, but I think I'll get him to wear his steampunkery for D*C, at least. (Originally we were going to make him a 'punked Emperial Officer's uniform, but time got away from us. Maybe next yr?)

    @ Cara - No Twitter? Eek - that *does* make it harder. Ok, well, I plan to be in costume on Friday, so look for the glowing green Lady Vadore that afternoon/early evening. Saturday & Sunday I'll probably be in my usual hat & pigtails, so you'll have to be more eagle-eyed. If you do find me, though, I'll have pressies! I'm making up some fun new pins to give away. :D

  16. We will be at SWC as well, so will also be looking for the glowing Vadore. My husband is likely to be doing a lot of standing around near Roxy (with our own rancor Ricky... mate Lucy came to the last one), hanging out with Rebel Pilots, and debuting his new Lando.

  17. I am not worthy...I am not worthy.... I have to show this to my two geek-sons - they will stand in awe, alongside me. Your creativity knows no bounds!!!!

  18. Hi Jen, do you guys know about this stuff:
    It's awesome & you probably have about a million things to do with it.

  19. Seeing this just makes me all that more excited about C VI. I need to follow you on Twitter so I can find you!!

  20. if you check out the custom saber shop online, you might be able to modify it to hold a detachable blade.


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