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The Graflex

For those of you who don't know the history of this fine piece of hardware, fear not... your about to obtain a bit of knowledge that will put you one step closer to "saber master" status. Thanks to Red Five from the FX- Saber forum, we'll get an indepth look at the origins of this amazing movie prop and weapon.

But first, here's how is all started...

Obi-Wan: I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

Luke: What is it?

Obi-Wan: Your father's light saber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times... before the Empire.

STAR WARS: A New Hope - 1977

The Original Light Saber

It all started sometime in the 1930's & 1940's... yes, you didn't misread. This was the birth of the original light saber. Now, if your very confused... I understand. But you won't be for long.

The lightsaber prop used in the 1977 release of Star Wars was not a custom designed prop. In actuality, it was a modified Graflex 3-cell flashgun. The Graflex flashgun held the flash bulbs for a vintage "Speed Graphic" camera from the 1940's.

There are different versions of the flashgun, but it's a 3-cell flashgun with patent #2310165 stamped onto the bottom that was used for the film.


All Graflex's have a degree of natural weathering from being around for 60 years (which is actually more movie prop realistic being that Luke's sabers were used and weathered from training). So, the Graflex looks the part of being a real lightsaber that's served its master well. Because of their popularity, these days you can find replicas... which are newly manufactured versions of the original.


In the middle of the flash is the mounting clamp that attached to the camera. Slid into this clamp is a Light Emitting Diode display bubble type lens from a vintage 1974 calculator. These lenses are 2 inch long clear strips with a row of convex lenses referred to as "bubbles" to magnify the glowing red LED numbers. The lenses used on the lightsaber props had seven bubbles. Very few calculators have 7 bubble lenses so far only two models are known, the Exactra 19 and the Exactra 20. These were introduced by Texas Instruments in 1974 and are referred to as 6 digit displays (only six of the spaces are used for numbers, the leftmost is for modifiers like a negative sign).

Additionally, a -HP-44 bus type computer card edge connector cut down to 2" long with 13 gold connectors was slid into the Graflex's mounting clamp in place of the buble strip.


Seven 3 5/8" long black handgrips were added to the bottom half of the flash. The exact identity of the grip material has yet to be determined, but recent revelations suggest stamped metal T-track from old cupboards with sliding doors. The grips in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are rubber or plastic and could be newer style T-track or reproductions of the original ANH grips.

(Note: It was previously believed that the Skywalker saber had six grips due to the limited reference available and that Icons made their replica with six grips. This was recently proven incorrect. The Skywalker ESB version however does have six grips.)

For more information, you can visit this topic on the FX-Saber forum here: