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Thread: JB's Pathfinder Scratchbuild

  1. #1

    Default JB's Pathfinder Scratchbuild

    My girlfriend has been hinting that she wanted me to make her a saber for quite a while. After spending months lurking and reading, I decided to make a lightsaber my girlfriend's for a May 4 surprise (the chrome one below). I decided on something more traditional looking, to suit her tastes. That was a 2 sink tube, corrugated hose build. She loves it and I've been slowly fixing that up, and recently added a BB board to it.

    With that out of the way it was time to start drafting up my own saber. I wanted my saber to be unique, suited to my tastes, and have a look of a well used blade from a time before the technology was refined. Based on everything I read and my newly won experience I came up with a draft in illustrator. One of the very first things I had decided was that it would be leather, brass, and cloth wrapped after the fashion of exhaust wrap on classic motorbikes. The conduit on the wrapped section seemed like a very natural way to dress it up.

    I realized that craft foam would be within a reasonable margin to make a mock up of what the blade would look like before I started hacking things up. I also, fortunately enough, had just finished a roll of aluminum foil and the cardboard was the perfect size to fit over the 1.25" tailpiece. Waving this around I realized it was a big on the long side and decided to chop it down a bit, and simplify the design a bit to accommodate the changes.

    I cut the pipe, 17ga brass, and some accent grooves with a pipe cutter, and cut a bit sharper than a 45? on the emitter with a hacksaw and miter box. The leather was in a $6 scrap bag from a craft store. It was surprisingly easy to cut with a blade arm paper cutter. Stitching it on was not difficult, but time consuming work. I snapped the thread near the end, but decided to leave it until I had to take everything apart for the final construction. I moved the shroud around until it looked right and drilled new holes and marked my cut on the 1.25" tailpiece.

    And after liberating a couple inches of copper from the scrap bin at work, I had my emitter together and thought I'd let a bit of the chrome show through to give it a bit more texture. Then after I found suitable wrap material I swapped out the cardboard.

    Next up was the conduit. After a helpful board member pointed me to a couple local art supplies I had a few sizes to try. This was by far the most difficult and frustrating part of the build so far. Bending the conduit to shape was much easier than I expected. Getting it to keep shape and tuck away as I had planned took quite a while (and swearing). Once I was done with that, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Fiddling with the shroud while working on all that I decided to show a little bit more chrome and copper and drilled and tapped new holes. The hilt I built for my girlfriend is next to it (currently held together only by the end threads on the 1.25 interior tailpiece and rubber gaskets).

    Up until this point I used nothing but basic hand tools and a cordless drill. I had been putting off the more complex middle ring because using a nibler like I did to clear the material on the 22ga sink tub wasn't going to be as easy on the 17ga, and I don't really have any other suitable tools on hand. I tried clearing the bulk using a step bit with vise and cordless drill. It quickly became obvious that wasn't give a quality result.

    After talking to my father about picking up a cheap set of taps he reminded me about 10 years ago when he picked up a drill press on clearance... obviously it was time for a bus trip to the folks' place. I used a step bit to clear the bulk, then I used tin snips to get a bit closer to my template. Finally I shaped the rest with a grinder my father also picked up on the cheap many years ago. Final refinement was made with a sanding drum on the drill press. Since I'm going for the well used look, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to clean this up too much more than it already is.

    I haven't cut the holes yet because I haven't found buttons I like yet. I've debated sanding down AV switches to get brass with purple accent rings. Ultimately, I think I will use tactile switches with custom covers cut from the brass pipe. I plan on using a hole saw that will give me a disk a little bigger than my target size then clean it up with the grinder and sanding drum. I have some ideas on how to give them accent rings using plastic tubing, but I may just skip that all together.

    At this point I adjusted my reference drawing for no real practical purpose since I've been working mostly in my head by now.

    I'm still deciding on how to handle the pommel cap. I have about 20 different options I've been cutting it down from. My favorite option will cost around $20, which seems a bit ridiculous considering that is almost the cost of the rest of the materials combined.

    When my budget allows, my plan is to outfit this with a trans purple blade and RGB LED, girlfriend will get blue/blue. I may skip sound for now or go with another Hasbro BB board since that was pretty easy to cobble together. I have about 10.5" of 1.25" pipe to accomodate pretty much whatever I want at this point.
    Last edited by jbkuma; 05-23-2016 at 11:53 AM. Reason: grammar

  2. #2


    Great work so far dude. I look forward to seeing it finished. Also digging your signature pic

  3. #3


    When I was shaping the new center piece I decided to run sanding drum around the inside a bit in hopes that it would help with putting things together. Tonight I did some hand sanding to smooth out the score marks from sanding which were definitely in the wrong direction if sanding was suppose to help. Then, against my better judgement I decided to attempt taking things apart and reassembling. To my great joy, the few microns of material that were removed did just the trick! It was much easier getting the new center piece on. I did some hand sanding on the shroud and what little I was able to accomplish did help somewhat. My new problem is that the conduit pieces are slightly loose! I'll tack them in with some glue when things are being finalized, but for now I'm happy with the way things are going.

  4. #4
    Sith Warrior darth_chasm's Avatar
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    I do love some brass and copper. Looking good.
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  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Greenie View Post
    Also digging your signature pic
    Thanks! Passersby enjoyed watching us set the shots up. A father with a brace of kneelings said that from a distance he was worried, wondering why this crazy woman was jumping up and down, attacking the air. Then they saw me snapping shots and decided to walk over.

  6. #6


    Its coming along nicely! Keep it up man, it looks good.
    "Peace is a lie. Perhaps the greatest of them all. Peace, or a lack of change equals Death. If the waters of a pool cease to move, and become stagnant, the waters poison themselves, and kill all who drink from it. Chaos, on the other hand, brings great change. Should the pool be over taken by a river, life springs anew.
    -Lord Malyce, Exile of Sith, First Warrior of Sands

  7. #7


    Right now I'm idling somewhat as I save up for the guts. I've been hunting for parts and trying to find materials suitable to fabricate my switches when I had the breakthrough I've been hunting for for years. I am quite accomplished in 2D design, but I could never get anything going in 3D land. Sabersmithing seems to be the platform I needed all along to develop multiple skills that I've never found a real inspiration to work with until now. After talking to some friends and trying several packages out, I ended up settling on 123D. I'm not sure it's the best, or even if I like it best, but it's the one that stuck first and I've gotten pretty far in just a few days.

    The first thing I designed are button surrounds. I will mount tactile switches in these, then backlight. A friend offered to print up some prototypes for me and I'm pretty excited. It really almost feels like cheating to go from idea to physical thing so quickly. I will fabricate brass inserts from the same stock as the shroud, etc.

    Next, my parts for my pommel cap came in and they did not really match what I thought I was ordering at all. With my newly won skills I decided to turn my attention to designing a new insert, which turned into designing an insert that could also house the speaker, and naturally, ultimately, a chassis. The speaker/pommel insert portion is more or less final. I have a cap for the pommel section that will house a recharge port with plenty of clearance for the speaker. The middle section houses a 5v/USB charger, Nano Biscotte v3, and 18650 battery. The layout is sound based on published dimensional data, but I'll wait until I have the NBv3 in hand before I get much further with that. Wiring channels are all internal, and there is plenty of room for it. The micro SD will be accessible through the battery compartment. The crystal chamber and top are just a bit of fun for now. The top end is a 8pin DIN that could theoretically plug into a non-removable section inside that would hold LED and switch wiring.

    I'm debating retention methods for the chassis, perhaps 3 internal set screws at the base of the pommel section. That's obviously not ideal for a reveal chassis, I'm not sure I want any sort of obvious external embellishment down there. I have some other for catch systems that may just be crazy, but I'll have to design them and see how practical execution would be. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    I keep going back and forth over having some sort of belt loop. I've had several interesting ideas, but I also kind of like the simple, sleek look it's already got. If I go that route, there are plenty of easier ways of securing the chassis.

    In this design the Nano Biscotte would be about 1/3 - 1/2 way up the hilt from the base. Is that too low for the swing/clash sensor to operate properly?
    Last edited by jbkuma; 05-28-2016 at 09:02 AM.

  8. #8


    I went ahead and made a scale representation of the saber as well, then started laying things out on a "bench" to see how they go together.

    You can see here a couple different concepts I've got for getting the switches set up. Each has it's own merit. I'll keep working on new ideas for that. Putting the model together in 3D gave me some insight into some of the trouble I'll have assembling in the real works with either method. The chassis should work out pretty well even if I stop with the power module.

  9. #9


    Proof of concept on the switch surrounds/button housing. It was printed with a flat bottom to accommodate my friend's 3D printer. If I keep this design I could hit the back with a sanding drum, but I'll probably just lock up my measurements and get them printed ready to go.

  10. #10


    I always enjoy this level of creativity. By comparison I feel very much like a "paint by number" sabersmith.


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