Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve published anything here. For a while there, the commissions were rolling in so fast, I simply couldn’t keep up. I also put videos ahead of written pieces and, well, I was kind of lazy as well. It isn’t easy running two websites and it’s even more difficult when one of them (this one) involves so many different elements including saber builds, chassis design, and 3D printing. It truly is the works from a lightsaber and prop perspective.
Setting my lengthy absence aside, I’d like to share a build I did last winter for a customer. This Saberforge Reborn began its journey as a grab bag piece (a fantastic pull if you ask me). My customer, Matt, reached out looking to add sound to the hilt, but he also wasn’t happy with the weathered finish used by Saberforge. Once completed, the build was to be given to his daughter as a Christmas gift. Spoiler warning, she loved it. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at this awesome hilt. I have to apologize in advance for the lack of photos in this piece. I forgot to take my usual collection of pictures before shipping this hilt.
- Saberforge Reborn
- Plecter Labs Nano Biscotte V4
- GOTH 3Designs Chassis
- Tri-Cree XP-E2 (Royal Blue, Red, Amber)
- 2,600 mAh 18650 Li-ion Battery
- 28mm Veco Bass Speaker
When Matt’s saber first arrived, I immediately gutted it. He wasn’t sure exactly what LED the unit shipped with, but I could tell that it was a Deep Blue quad Cree. Because Saberforge’s Deep Blue uses four identical royal blue dice, there was no real way to add the desired flash-on-clash features without replacing the LED unit. I’ll discuss this more in a bit, so suffice it to say that once all the electronics were out it was time to start on a proper weathered look.
I’d be lying if I said that taking sandpaper to a customer’s hilt wasn’t just a little frightening. Sure, Matt didn’t like the original look, but aesthetic modifications aren’t really my specialty and even worse, my eye for symmetry makes it difficult for me to achieve the ideal randomness for weathering. To combat these reservations, the first thing I set out to do was to knock down the vinyl record-like stripes introduced by Saberforge’s lathe-based technique. Once this effect was properly subdued on all of the hilt’s flat surfaces, I then followed up with an even more aggressive pass using 150 grit sandpaper on the Reborn’s numerous sharp and high points. I finally took a 200-400 grit sanding sponge to smooth out the work, leaving plenty of dark finish in the hilt’s crevices to simulate dirt and grime while also brightening up the higher and more exposed portions to appear naturally worn and polished. The end result was a piece that, while not ravaged or filthy, looked more realistically used.
The next step was electronics. Matt had a few requirements going into this build. First, he wanted a purple blade for his daughter. Whether he realized it or not, this color selection was perfect for Darth Revan’s off-hand hilt (the saber that the Reborn replicates). Second, he wanted flash-on-clash functionality with a yellow flash in particular. Finally, he requested I add a couple of custom sound fonts to round things out.
Matt’s choice of soundboard for this build was the Plecter Labs Nano Biscotte V4. The V4 is an absolutely superb board with 16 swings and 16 clash sounds, up from the 8 of each category featured in the V3 model. Moreover, the V4 sports a more sensitive accelerometer that requires almost no tuning to dial in for ideal swing detection. Lastly, it supports Neopixel blades, but that’s a discussion for another build as this one used a standard in-hilt LED setup.
The soundboard and other related components were fit to a Goth-3Designs chassis from Shapeways. Goth-3D makes some incredible chassis systems and this was the first build I ever completed using one. I’ve since moved on to using my own 3D printed chassis, but I’ll never hesitate to recommend Goth-3D to people who are looking for some true pieces of functional art to include in their builds.
While I was working on the Reborn, Matt sent over two custom sound fonts to be preloaded on the Nano Biscotte’s SD card. Both were two very similar fonts from Genesis Custom Sabers – Corellian and Rogue. Corellian reflects a very stable blade with a consistent hum that shifts pitch somewhat during the loop. The swings have loads of flutter and are sweeping, much like Darth Vader’s lightsaber from the films. Meanwhile, Rogue has a deep hum with pitch shifts that give the saber life. The swings have a small amount of flutter and the clashes are high-pitched and brief. The last of the fonts was the standard Gray Meat track that is included with every Nano Biscotte. Of the default group (Dark, Light, and Gray Meats), this one is the best.
From a lighting perspective, each sound bank used the requested indigo blade color. I then tweaked the flash-on-clash color and flicker settings for each profile to give Matt’s Reborn some variety. Corellian featured a near-static blade to match its stable hum. For this font, I also made the impact flash effect very short and pumped in almost no indigo, leaving the full brunt of the amber LED to provide a dramatic effect. With Rogue, I bumped up the idle flicker some and lengthened the flash-on-clash lighting effect. I also layered in some more of the indigo to produce more of a true yellow when paired with the amber die. Lastly, Gray Meat sported marginally increased flicker paired with a peach-colored flash-on-clash effect that was made by mixing even more indigo with the amber.
To supply the light for the blade, I chose a Tri-Cree red, royal blue, and amber LED star from The Custom Saber Shop. Mixing the red and royal blue made for a hot pink color that fell short of the purple Matt requested. Correcting the color involved loads of trial and error with different resistors on the red, but I eventually settled on a beefy 18 ohm part.
Joining the Tri-Cree and the Nano Biscotte was a Veco 28mm speaker and a Tenergy 2,600 mAh battery. Both are decent options, but better batteries (Keeppower) and speakers (Saber Essentials) are readily available now. The Veco speaker is loud, but its clarity suffers somewhat at higher volumes. The Tenergy batteries are rock-solid reliable LG-made cells that come with protection circuits and leads pre-installed, making them easy to add to any build.
That pretty well rounds things out. Of all the sabers I’ve completed, this Reborn was one of my favorites. A much appreciated break from the Ultrasabers hilts and Hasbro/Master Replicas conversions that I was often doing at the time, it afforded me some space for creativity and the resulting piece was quite unique.
Though I mention commissions like this in the video above, I am no longer taking on such work. That sad, if you have any questions about this build or others, feel free to drop a note in the comments or send me an email.