After looking around the forums a bit, I have noticed that there really isn't a topic that covers exactly what makes a saber a saber.
So we will be covering a few of the basic components of that which we call an FX-Saber. I hope that this topic will help the newer initiates to our hobby/lifestyle/whatever you may call it. :)
Then comes the topic title's main question: "What's in a saber?"
This is specifically for LED lightsabers because EL is basically archaic now. I know that my comment here may bring down an angry mob, but let's face facts here. You see more LED based builds than you do EL builds these days. Both types have their merits, but for the sake of this topic we will be sticking to LED based systems to remain on topic.
Without Further Ado...
What are the basic component requirements of an LED lightsaber?
This is a question that I have seen a LOT in my time on these forums. There have been many answers to this, but they are always saber specific, and never really summed up in a generalized manner, and most of the time not all in one place. So here is the Low-down, Barney-style breakdown in layman's terms.POWER SOURCE
Every electronic device requires this. Everything from an electric toothbrush, all the way up to the Space Shuttle uses them. Of course we are talking about BATTERIES. The battery is what stores the electrical charge that is used to power the whole thing. Without them your saber would be just another pretty paperweight sitting on a shelf to look neat.
Choices in batteries range from cheap dollar store alkalines, up to the newest LiFePo smart cells. We aren't getting complicated here so we will save the discussions on battery composition for another topic, because that deserves it's own discussion FORUM alone.
Basically, your battery type, size and output are going to vary depending on a lot of factors:
High powered LED
- Type of LED used
- Type of Driver Circuitry used
- Whether or not there is sound
- Hilt size / internal space available
- Personal preference
- Rechargeable or non
- Battery output
- Battery Chemistry...etc
The next thing is your LED choice. There are many High powered LED units available on the market today, and many more on the horizon. LEDs have become one of the most efficient artificial light sources available in the world, and have been adapted in many ways to serve as more than just indicator lights on your stereo.
You cannot go outside in a civilized area without seeing them: Traffic lights, Vehicle headlights, LED signage, Police cars, Airplanes, kid's shoes, movie theaters, fountains at your favorite theme park, casinos, gas stations, *FLASHLIGHTS* etc... They are EVERYWHERE now. Even the little eye on most Television remotes are IR (infra-red) LED emitters (though a lot of companies are moving to Bluetooth and Wi-fi remotes now).
Enough about their uses in other things though, we are concentrating on "Luxeon
" sabers. I used Luxeon in quotes because that is a specific BRAND of high powered LED that is made by Phillips.
There are many other brands of these types of LED, and they all serve the same general purpose to us. TO MAKE OUR SABERS ALL SHINY-BRIGHT! 8)
The LED is what brightens our day when we hit the power button on our "Elegant weapons of a more civilized age"
Most LED's used in sabers are mounted on a "star" PCB
, though some use just the emitter itself.
As with batteries, the discussion of types will require it's own topic, and there are many of those right here on the Fx-Sabers forums. However, your choice of LED will affect just about every other aspect of your saber's construction, so it is definitely something to research and consider your options in mass before deciding on exactly which one to use.Focusing optics
Every saber that you want to look nice when lit MUST have them. There are two industry standard optics that most people will recognize, of course there are other alternatives but these two are the most well known. The Collamitor Lens with holder, and the parabolic reflector. The purpose of these is to focus the light emitted from the diode (nice play on the meaning of L.E.D. eh?) down the blade to illuminate your saber. Sure, you can get away without one, but the saber just won't look as nice as one containing some sort of optic.LED heatsink
As with all electronic devices, when voltage and current flow through conductors, some amount of heat is produced. Such is the case with a high powered LED, and believe me, THEY CAN GET REALLY HOT! especially higher wattage LED's. To counteract this, and to help cool the circuit, a heatsink is required to dissipate some of that heat away from the LED.
Most heatsinks are usually made of aluminum or copper, and can be as simple as a slug of metal, to as elaborate as a multi finned, custom machined work of art. All that should really matter is that you will most likely need one because it will help prolong the life of your LED. Heat=BAD MOJO so do someting about it! ;DMethod of Driving the LED
There are four main categories here:
- "Direct Drive" - This is a method of hooking an LED directly to a battery and switch with no other components to regulate current and voltage. With this method, you must exercise extreme caution not to overpower the LED too much or you risk damaging or destroying it. Most LED manufacturers discourage this method for High-powered LEDs, but if done properly and limited to the safe specifications of the component, can look quite nice. You must be pretty precise about your battery output for this to work properly.
- "Resistored" - This method utilizes a properly rated resistor to dampen the current flowing to the LED. This method is safer than using "direct Drive" but not as efficient as using a dedicated driver. Resistors have a nasty by-product of heat caused by the energy they restrict. The unused current must go somewhere, so it is dissipated as thermal energy. Think of them as you would a muffler on a car; they restrict the flow of current much like a muffler restricts the flow of exhaust gasses from an internal combustion engine.
- "Dedicated Driver" - This type is preferred for use with LEDs since the circuit actually regulates the voltage AND current in one complete package, and helps preserve your battery life over the charge cycle. Most specific SABER Drivers are of a PWM (Pulse Wave Modulation) type, and are comprised of different components that regulate the flow of electricity. For this reason, they are usually rated to run at a specific range of amperage, and can generally operate in a range of up to 24V input. Buckpucks are an example of a standard driver, as Corbin's and Erv's drivers are PWM.
- "Soundcard / Driver combo" - This is the "HOLY GRAIL" item category in our hobby. These types are what most people are familiar with. Be it Hasbro (bleh), MR (Meh), Ultrasound (Now we're talkin'!), or Crystal Focus ("OMG! I think I just filled the cup!") They all do pretty much the same thing. They run the LED AND the make all those cool, whooshy-clashy, hummy sounds we all know and love. NOT a requirement really, but everyone wants them...
Turns the saber on and off. Speaker
We all know what these are... No need to really discuss it. They are only required if your saber has sound...
Captain Obvious strikes again! :DWIRE
If you don't know what a wire is, you have no business owning electronics...EVER. ;D
This is what you connect all of your electronic components with. ;)
The wiring used commonly in sabers will be sized from 22-30 gauge multi-conductor (stranded) wire. anything larger or smaller will cause you grief (of course unless you work for AMD or Intel and happen to be a precise robotic piece of equipment, just completely insane, or your parents are Hill giants and your hilt requires 4" rigid CONDUIT inside to house the power supply cables.) *And you all thought I was going to keep the serious air about this topic! ;) ;) ;)Blade Holder
This is what holds the blade securely in your saber (novel idea eh... who'da thunk it! ;))
A blade holder is typically high impact plastic (in the case of MR sabers), or T-6 aluminum (almost everything else). The dimensions should Ideally be 1" (actually a fraction over for proper blade fitment) Internal diameter with a 2" Socket depth. This can vary depending on application, but those dimensions are the most widely used in most sabers. Outer dimensions will be based on the Internal dimension of our next part on the list...THE HILT BODY
Besides the sound selection (if included) and color / intensity of the LED, this part is where people can express their creativity or lack thereof (c'mon you know it's funny), personality, passion for tradition, or wild display of anarchy. This is the most visual part of the main body of a saber. This should be the last stop for your electronics to rest in. Sure it's good to visualize what design you want, but it is extremely important to decide on your electronics set up and take that into MAJOR consideration before machining, carving, forging, summoning, or transmuting your hilt.
The hilt typically consists of three main components: Emitter
, and main body. This can be adorned with all kinds of decorative or functional "Greeblies" (meaning extra stuff), painted, stained, baked, dragged through the mud, dropped, airbrushed, plated, anodized, scorched... you name it.THE BLADE!
I think that it should be OBVIOUS that you are not going to be having a REAL beam of light that can cut through metal pop out of an LED emitter any time soon, so you are going to need something with substance to beat on Jedi with... (Sorry... that's the Dark side in me talking!)
This means that you will need to acquire some polycarbonate tubing and some sort of diffuser to make the light nice and even, and a reflective tip. You have a lot of choices in this area, so just look around the community here on the forums to see what kinds are out there.
I hope this helps a little, and that no one gets too offended with my strange sense of humor showing through in this post.
Enjoy, build lots of sabers, be safe, and have FUN!