Martin Beyer opens the hilt of his lightsaber and exposes the filigree chassis with blue glowing crystal. “‘Star Wars’ fans pay a lot of attention to detail,” he says. In his workshop in Hanover, the graduate color designer has been making exclusive replicas of the iconic weapons that Jedi knights use to fight in a galaxy far, far away since 2016.
“Star Wars” merchandising is a billion-dollar business and already includes lightsabers in all price ranges, from cheap children’s toys to high-quality exhibits. But none of them awakened the Jedi Knight feeling in Martin Beyer. “I can do better than that,” he said to himself. When he posted a video of his first lightsaber on YouTube, it got a million clicks – and around a hundred offers to buy it every day. He finally auctioned it off on eBay for 12,500 euros. Beyer, who used to design 3D models for video games, has since made a living from replicas of Luke Skywalker’s glowing blue lightsaber.
Beyer works on a handmade copy for about seven weeks and sells it for 5,000 to 10,000 euros on its own website. The buyers are mainly Japanese – middle-aged “Star Wars” fans who are fulfilling a childhood dream. The replicas are robust, “but not suitable for sword fighting,” explains the designer. None have broken yet. “A customer once dropped a crystal and broke it. I replaced it.”
So far, Beyer has only created about ten such unique pieces. Since he works alone, he can only meet a fraction of the demand. If you want to tinker yourself: A 3D-printed lightsaber kit with detailed instructions is available.
Only two other lightsaber makers work at Beyer’s level worldwide. “One in the USA and one in France. But I don’t talk to them anymore,” the Hanoverian dismisses. In the exclusive arts and crafts there is not only mutual inspiration, but also accusations of plagiarism. Has Disney approached him for props in the next “Star Wars” movie? “No, but I know they’re talking about me,” says Beyer, laughing.
Step 1 (no photo): Design the inside of the handle as a 3D model on the computer. The blade holder and the multi-part chassis with crystal holder, battery compartment and slot for the soundboard look different in every lightsaber.
(Image: Frank Heymann)
Step 2: Blow up the handle. The flash wand of a Graflex camera from the 1940s serves as the cover. For Beyer, only very well-preserved specimens, which cost around 700 euros, come into question. “They were also used to build Luke’s original sword in the first movie,” he explains. Before “Star Wars” became a successful blockbuster, the budget was small, redesigned everyday objects served as props. In “Episode I – The Phantom Menace” from 1999, a lady’s razor represented a radio.
Step 3: Cutting, bending and soldering chassis elements from sheet steel and brass. Beyer mills, grinds and polishes details for hours. “A critical step is when I start the drill,” says Beyer. Then an inaccuracy could destroy a day or two of work. It will be cheaper if Beyer has the handle elements produced using 3D printing. 3D printed elements already have the desired shape and only need to be polished. Although dimensional tolerances of five percent when 3D printing metal repeatedly produce unsuitable pieces, the method saves four to five weeks of work overall. 2500 euros are due for 3D-printed lightsabers.
Step 4: Wire the electronics to the batteries and switch. Blue LEDs provide lighting effects when the sword is switched on. The humming sounds are provided by a soundboard with a motion sensor.
Step 5: insert crystal. According to the film backgrounds, the Lightblades’ energy comes from self-luminous “kyber crystals”. Beyer depicts them with selected gold-coated rock crystals. The rock crystal used not only has to have the right shape and size, but also a specific crystal structure that scatters the pulsating light from the blue LED well. Beyer also wants to sell the “Kyber crystals” individually as pendants in the future. At a price of a few hundred euros, it’s a bargain compared to the whole sword.
Step 6: Put together. The chassis elements are screwed or glued. Beyer places the blade on the blade holder: a Plexiglas tube, illuminated by LED strips or a power LED in the handle.