Have you ever had a clever idea that has spun terribly out of control? That happened to me this year.It started with a tiny seed, and a bit of opportunity.
I have wanted to make a replica sonic screwdriver for some time. I’ve also wanted to make a lightsaber for ages. It has been almost a decade since I had open access to the tools I needed to do either properly, though.
This year, finally, my dreams came true and a metalworking lathe was donated to my local makerspace. I just had to pick which to do first.
I chose both.
I decided to make a sonic lightsaber.
The first step was to sort out the electronics. Fortunately I am not the first person to build a lightsaber. I could get everything I needed for the internals from The Custom Saber Shop. I decided to use a Nano Biscotte module as my controller, because it was pretty easy to customize the sounds it used, and required relatively little electronic skill to assemble with the rest of the system.
A word of warning, the pre-wired options from The Custom Saber Shop are really helpful in that they protect the costly board from your inept soldering. However the actual wiring is misleading and isn’t just plug and play. Read the user guide to help figure out what all other parts you might need.
I also decided to go with a normal battery pack to save me the extra complexity of including charging ports. That was a mistake, making the sword safe to open up to swap batteries was much more challenging than making it rechargeable.
Once I had the parts to, which included the LED with heatsink, resistor, controller, speaker, diode, blade, and battery pack, I could measure them up and draft my handle.
The sonic screwdriver I was basing it off of was this one.
I drafted it up in Draftsight, a pretty robust 2D CAD package that is available for free.
The handle would be in three parts. The head which would hold the LED and blade in place, the main body where all of the other electronics would be housed, and the black back piece which would hold the speaker in place and be removeable so the batteries could be changed.
I machined the body out of 1.5” aluminum bar. I would have liked to use a tube, but I couldn’t get any with an appropriate inner diameter. That meant I had to spend a bunch of time boring out the middle of the thing.
The machining went quite well, considering how out of practice I am and how old our lathe is. It’s war-era lathe. Nearly indestructible, but a little out of alignment.
The final big struggle with the sword was getting the crackle pattern into it. I used a product called Kroma Crackle. It did exactly what I needed, but it’s not exactly meant for 3d surfaces. It’s runny, needed to go on 4mm thick, and took three days to dry. Getting a nice even coat on a cylinder proved nearly impossible and needed me to be constantly rotating it for hours.
Now I had a sword, and that threw me down a dangerous rabbit hole. I needed a way to show it off.
A full Tenth Doctor/Obi Wan Kinobi mashup was now inevitable.
I started with the Jedi tunic. I had an easy solution for making the tunic look Doctor-ish, I just had to use the distinctive brown-with-blue-pinstripe fabric that The Doctor’s suit is made from. The challenge there is that is extremely specific and hard to find. Fortunately, there is a site that will print it for you if you are willing to pay enough.
Down the rabbit hole I go.
Fabric ordered, I found a pretty solid pattern online to use for actually making the thing. Thank goodness for the obsessive star wars costumers out there.
The tunic needed a belt. I could have gone the easy way and just worn something plain, but why choose the easy path now? I picked up some weighty vegetable tanned leather and stamped in a pattern of Gallifreyan text.
The internet tells me that’s The Doctor’s name. It’s probably actually an insult of some kind. It’s aesthetically pleasing, though, and that’s what matters in this case.
I put it all together, but it was missing something: shoes. I have the same sand coloured converse sneakers that The Doctor wears, but they don’t quite evoke the Jedi feel. I ordered a pair of white knee-high Chuck Taylor knock-offs from amazon. Thankfully I have fairly average-sized feet, as they don’t make them in men’s sizes. A women’s 12 was the largest I could find and they just barely fit. I dyed those slightly beige, and voila!
I am Obi Wan Tenobi!