There are a lot of people that would love to begin modifying, customizing, or even scratch building their own sabers, but I have noticed one thing.
There is a lack of a good beginner's guide for the budding sabersmith in all of us. Since we here at FX-Sabers support ingenuity, creativity, and the shared love of all things saber. It is time that one be written. This will be a work in progress guide that will outline the essential tools and practices of some of the best sabersmiths on the planet.
I am still new to this myself, so if any of you have comments or suggestions. Please, feel free to add them! I do however ask that all comments and questions be kept on topic! All off topic posts will be deleted. Have fun, be safe, and May the Force be with You!
Safety, it is THE most important factor in working with ANY tools, chemicals, and ESPECIALLY electricity. Please keep this in mind, as there are many materials that can be considered dangerous when working on your saber.
wear eye protection when working with power tools, chemicals, or other dangerous items. This CANNOT be stressed enough! A $5.00 pair of safety glasses is a VERY intelligent purchase. Think of it this way; $5.00 now can save you THOUSANDS of dollars worth of ocular surgery, or even blindness later!
2. If you are using power tools, don't wear loose clothing or jewelry. That's just plain wrecklessness, and can get you injured VERY quickly.
3. Soldering irons are HOT. Now I know that some of you are scoffing at this (DUH!) but, I am including this because a soldering iron is a HIGHLY recommended, and sometimes absolutely necessary tool. Keep these off of flammable objects, and don't touch the tip, or let anyone else come in contact with it.
4. NEVER work when you are tired, medicated, or under the influence of alcohol. Sloppy mistakes are easier to make in these conditions. It ups the percentage of injury, and destruction of valuable materials, tools, and your project.
5. Make sure to keep your work area free of clutter, debris, or precariously stacked items that may fall. It may sound a little OCD, but "A Place for Everything, and Everything in it's place." is a good practice. It helps move the project along much more smoothly, plus it cuts down on the possibility of accident or injury. Take a tour of an Automotive manufacting plant sometime. There's not a lot of clutter laying around. Ever wonder why?
6. If you get frustrated, take a break. It is of no use trying to work in that condition. Go for a walk, play a game, post here on the FORUMS! You might just find the solution to the problem when you least expect it. This keeps you from getting "punchy" and possibly injuring yourself.
7. Chemicals. This is where you need to take great care in your prevenatative measures. There are many chemicals that can be used when you are modifying or building your project. Make sure you read the instructions for use provided by the manufacturer. Store Caustic or flammable chemicals in a secure, non flammable cabinet.
8. Try to find a secure area to work in. You don't want pets, children, friends, or other family members getting hurt. Make sure you have adequate electrical service in your work area, and make sure that all outlets are grounded properly.
9. ELECTRICITY- It CAN injure or KILL you if you do not take proper precautions. Most of the voltages, wattage, and Amperages you will be working with are relatively safe. HOWEVER, It's always good practice to make sure you are adequately insulated JUST IN CASE. Wear rubber soled shoes. Make sure all of your power cables for your tools and equipment are in good condition, and make sure they are properly shielded.
10. Keep a fire extingushier in your work area. All homes should have at least one anyway. Make sure it is the proper rating, and keep it in good working order.
11. Have someone check on you periodically while working. Just in case of injury or accident. It would be unfortunate if something were to happen, and no one were around to help if you needed assitance.
Recommended Tools And Materials
You will be working with several different types of tools when creating your saber. Below, I have listed some basic and recommended tools that will be quite beneficial in your ventures. Consider it a BASIC Sabersmithing toolkit.
- Shatter resistant Safety glasses (I use 3M)
- Bench or Tabletop Vise and clamps
- Dremeltm or similar rotary tool with flex shaft and accessories. This is a very handy thing to have!
- Screwdrivers, Phillips head, Standard bladed, and security (optional)
- Precision or Jeweller's screwdriver set
- Allen (hex) wrenches
- Hammer and punch set
- Long-nosed pliers (various sizes)
- Strap wreches
- Drill or drill press
- Tap and dies: 4-40, 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 12-24
- Tubing or pipe cutter
- Coping saw or hacksaw
- Digital Voltage or Multi-Meter
- Soldering Iron w/heatsink, solder and flux
- De-soldering tool or copper wicking for solder removal
- Wire cutters, or side cuts
- Wire Stripping tool
- Heat shrink tubing (preferred) or electrician's tape (not recommended)
- Pick and probe set
- Anti-Static Wrist Strap (optional but highly recommended)
- A few spools of hook-up wire, 18-24 AWG. Stranded or single conductor is fine
- Metal polish of your choosing (will discuss this later)
- Hot glue gun
- Heat gun or hair dryer
The previous list is the BASIC stuff. Not all of it is required, but it's all recommended. As you get more advanced, you can move into the realms of Lathes, Mill tables, Bandsaws, CNC, etc. For now I am sticking to the basics.
Layout and Design
Okay, NOW we're talking!
This is one of, if not THE most time consuming and important steps of your build. This is where you use your creative energies, inspiration, and ideas to give life to the saber that lives in your head! Take some time on this, the more you work in this area, the better your end result will be.
Think of what you want the saber to look like. Go ahead...Close your eyes and imagine what character would carry this elegant weapon of a more civilised (or uncivilised if you so choose) age. Watch Star Wars! How do you want your saber to convey it's owner's personality. Not only is the saber a weapon, but an extension of the wielder's body and spirit.
Grab a sheet of paper (Or a REAM) and your favorite method or conveyance of artistic thought (pen, pencil, crayon, stick in the sand, paint, whatever you feel comfortable with). You don't have to be DaVinci here, so rough sketches are the best idea. Just get the "feel" of your design, let it flow through you. USE the FORCE! It's there, just feel it. (This is encouragement for those that have trouble with drawing.
Some of you might use Drafting techniques (I prefer this after initial sketches), others might go a little easier and use graph paper (I recommend 10X10 to the inch grid). Using graph paper helps you get a feel for scale and dimension.
Think of how your saber will be assembled. What materials do you want to start with? Are you using an MR Force-FX and just converting it? MHS parts? Or is building the most AWESOME sinktube Saber you've ever had the priveledge to witness, more your speed? Are you using EL, LED strips, or Luxeons? Will your saber be a dueler, or a wall hanger, or BOTH? Will you be using a Vintage or replica Graflex, Heiland, MPP, or Kobold flash? Special considerations must be taken for vintage stuff, so be aware of this! More on that later!
If the saber is to have sound; what board will you use? MR? Hasbro? UltraSound? Plecterlabs Crystal Focus? Or will you be building a stunt saber without sound?
What type od LED and battery setup do you plan on using? Will you go with a rechargeable setup with an in hilt charging system?
After you have worked these thoughts through. It's time to make your choices of electronics, materials, and how much time and money you want to put into this saber.
That's all I have for today. Feel free to add your comments, concerns, ideas in topic!