Secrets of the Jedi Lightsaber (Infographic)

Facts about how "Star Wars" lightsabers work.
How "Star Wars" weapons work. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Of all the weapons of sci-fi and fantasy, perhaps none has captured the public’s imagination like the lightsaber. 

A Jedi Knight (or his dark-side equivalent, a Sith) assembles his lightsaber by hand as part of his training. The saber is partly electronic but includes “kyber crystals” that cannot be made artificially.


The blade of the saber is generated when the activation lever is pressed. Lightsaber blades can cut through almost any material. 


Pulp magazines from the early 20th century often featured heroes fighting with ray guns alongside swords and medieval armor. These inspired George Lucas when he created the atmosphere of technology plus magic seen in the films.


Although in early drafts of the script lightsabers (or “laser swords”) are ordinary weapons that are carried by many of the characters, Lucas eventually decided to limit lightsaber use to specially trained Jedi and Sith.


Some saber hilts in the original trilogy were made from antique camera flash handles. Luke’s was a Graflex, while Darth Vader’s was an MPP Microflash.


The first lightsaber props had a spinning blade covered with reflective material similar to that used on road signs. This material bounced stage light to create a live-action glowing effect. This proved disappointing, so eventually, all lightsaber blades were drawn-in by hand using animation techniques. 


Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber in “A New Hope” was made from an assortment of unrelated objects, including a sink knob, a machine gun part, the clamp from a Graflex flashgun, a plastic bubble strip from a pocket calculator, a World War I rifle grenade, and a fuel injector valve from an aircraft get engine.


For “Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” a new lightsaber was designed for villain Kylo Ren. The saber’s three blades sparked controversy among some fans, who declared the crossbar a weakness in the design.


In the animated “Star Wars Rebels,” Ezra Bridger builds a lightsaber/stun blaster hybrid weapon.


As far as “real” lightsabers that work as seen in the films, science says no way.  According to engineer Matt Gluesenkamp of General Electric, a lightsaber’s blade appears to be a form of electrically generated plasma. No battery-size power source exists that could provide the required amount of electricity. As for lasers, the beam would not stop at the end of the blade but would continue indefinitely.

Karl Tate
LiveScience Infographic Artist
Karl has been Purch's infographics specialist across all editorial properties since 2010.  Before joining Purch, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University.