by Russ Liberty
This model is a scratch built 1:1 prop replica of Luke Skywalker's Lightsaber from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. This project was a new venture for me because not only is it scratch built, but also made of the same material as the hero prop from the movie.
Now for those of you who may not know, here is some background info on the prop. It was turned on a lathe out of 6061 aluminum and plastic was added for small detail areas. It only appears in the movie for a grand total of 3 seconds. The other Skywalker sabers are “stunt props” and are all different from the “hero” version.
For my replica, I had to create scaled dimensional drawings based on what few visual references exist of this hero prop. After many hours of research, I was able to get a fairly decent photo of the hero prop which was needed primarily for the paint scheme. The scale was determined by identifying the switch box on the side. From there I was able to make accurate dimensional drawings for the entire piece.
Next came the bravery test. Since I do not have the metal-working equipment to fabricate the 11 metal parts for this model, I had to go to someone who does. This was a one-shot deal as I was not going to ask this guy to re-cut a part just because my schematics were off.
After the metal fabrication, which was a lot of machine work, came the assembly. The metal components are held together by a two-ton epoxy. I made the remaining 13 components out of poly carbonate, high density plastic and steel wire.
Now the fun part. In order to paint aluminum, you must first prep it. I did this by soaking the bare metal in vinegar. Mildly acidic, vinegar will etch aluminum enough to hold paint. Following the “acid” bath came the sanding, for which I used 200 grit sanding film (the more you etch aluminum, the better your paint sticks). Back to the vinegar for another overnight acid bath. After it was washed and dried, three coats of primer were applied to the areas to be painted, followed by the paint itself. I used Testors Model Master emamels.
Now, for those interested in the three second face time the hero prop got. Watch the scene where Luke turns himself in. An imperial officer hands Luke's lightsaber (stunt version) to Vader. Shortly thereafter, Vader activates Luke's saber and examines it. The close-up shot of Vader holding Luke's saber is the only time you see the hero prop in the theatrical version of the movie.