My Son and Lightsabers


It’s really happening. On Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at approximately 18:20PM PST, my four-year-old son requested we not only watch a “Star Wars” movie, but that we make lightsabers out of cardboard tubes.

I had the worst poker face in the galaxy.

A quick, way-too-geeky timeline:

“Star Wars” has always been in the periphery of Henry’s life (a “phantom menace,” if you will), but the opportunities for the leap have come heavier in the last month. In August we attended an outdoor screening of the original 1977 cut of “Star Wars,” which would mark Henry’s first full viewing of its majesty. And even though he stayed up for two hours past his bedtime, with rare breaks from the screen, he promptly told me “I just don’t like ‘Star Wars’” right after watching. And the next day after. And the next.

I get it, I told him. And that’s OK. He can like or dislike what he wants to. All evidence to the contrary, I’m not going to force/Force “Star Wars” upon him (besides, keeping things from a kid is a sure-fire way of making sure he DOES get interested in that thing). They are, after all, just movies. At this point, from a parenting standpoint, I just need to give him a small working knowledge of the story so he can get the parodies and jokes that will continue to populate the entertainment world. In a way, I have to get Henry through “Star Wars” so he can enjoy “Spaceballs.” Little goals.

HOWEVER, toys are an excellent steering tool toward fandom, and since August, Henry has acquired some key instruments: Speeder Bike Lego set, a Jedi Starfighter, and an inflatable lightsaber. It’s a Vader style, about 2.5 feet long.

Henry has played with all of these, but the lightsaber has gotten the most work lately. And I’ve been most impressed with Henry’s innovation on the “ignition” of the thing. He folds the blade over the hilt, holding it in place with one hand. With the other hand he “beeps” the button and releases the blade. It’s kind of brilliant.

Flash forward to 9/24/2013, where he actually requested the construction of a lightsaber.

Actually, lightsaberS. He is, after all, an American. He needs more, more, more, right? And, really, our house would need at least two so that we might enjoy many battles.

Since the materials fueled this decision, we’ll start there. My wife recently bought some small rugs for her classroom, and they came with strong-ish cardboard tubes, almost 5 feet long. We cut them in half, giving us four sticks.


Henry chose the colors: Purple for him, green for Mom, Red for Dad.

The “Red for Dad” reference should be obvious, though I’m not sure how consciously he made it. We’ve told him (in an effort to prep him for “Empire”) about Luke’s father’s true identity, but I can’t be 100% certain that Henry associated me with Vader. If he had, then wouldn’t Henry have given himself a blue blade? Anyway…

My wife painted the colors, and since we had an extra, I insisted on a blue one.

Next up: the hilts, and a serious decision.

Obviously* green would go with Luke’s “ROTJedi” hilt, the red would go with Vader’s, and the blue would go with Luke’s father’s lightsaber. But the purple one? Rachel kept trying to get my goat, telling Henry it was the color of Mace Windu’s, but since I’m trying to keep that mess under wraps for the moment, I had to come up with my own design.

All of the hilts were first given a wrapping in aluminum foil. Three of them (red, green and purple) had the dull side out, while the blue got the shiny side out. I taped down one end with Scotch tape, then wrapped it around and sealed it with another bit of Scotch tape.


Then I got creative, trying my best to match the movies’ designs, using black electrical tape and duct tape. Luke’s green saber, for example, has a kind of striped grip at the top, varying from black and silver. So I made covered the top with a couple inches of black electrical tape, then added some thin strips of duct tape over it. Voila… striped grip!

Next I made some “On Buttons” with thick-ish rectangles of duct tape. I also added some “grip” markings for style, then applied the buttons to the hilts with another little bit of Scotch tape.


This last bit didn’t have to last because in the next step, I wrapped the entire thing in clear packaging tape. My wife and I figured un-protected aluminum foil would just fall apart, and duct tape would get sticky quick, so we made a tape-based sealant. I capped off the tops and bottoms with appropriate amounts of black electrical tape, just to finish it off.

The arsenal.

Honestly, it was a lot of tape. With the amount of tape I used, I’m not sure how cost effective it was compared to one of the under-$10 store bought toys, but it has to be cheaper than FOUR of those, right?

There are a couple things I’m most proud of with this project:

1.) The little extended point at the top of the blue one. It’s just a triangle of aluminum foil, but it looks close enough to the “real” thing.

2.) Coming up with the idea for the packaging tape.

3.) And the fact that I just did it. It shouldn’t surprise me that I’d spend what turned out to be 2 hours making lightsabers for anyone, let alone my son. And it doesn’t. But I hope he appreciates it. If nothing else, I’ll have something to twirl around for a while.




2 Responses to “My Son and Lightsabers”

  1. 1 Sharon

    Best. Dad. Ever. This story is awesome. I can’t wait until he watches Spaceballs.

  2. I couldn’t resist. I subscribe to your blog and enjoy your posts greatly. When I saw son and light saber referenced I wanted to share this. I shot this and my son is playing Javert. It was a blast shooting. We did it for fun.

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