It’s taken a long while, but I finally finished a Savi’s Workshop version of my dearly coveted Leia’s lightsaber, as seen in Rise of Skywalker. This is a project almost a year in the making– I first started this design right when TROS premiered. I completed a rough non-Savi’s version based on many blurry low-res screencaps, but I had planned to create a more screen-accurate version once there was more reference material available.
Unfortunately… 2020 happened, sidelining this project for much longer than I had wanted.
A Quick Moment on Feelings
Among many major life changes, one of the more personal side effects of this year was the closing of the physical location of my beloved Burbank Makerspace. (In fact, this week would have marked the 5 year anniversary of a small business I truly loved and believed in). As hard as it’s been, I know we’re still more fortunate than many others this year, so I’m not complaining in the least. More importantly, I know we still have the future to look forward to. I’m incredibly grateful for what we still have, along with all the support & kindness from our friends and our community. I can’t thank you all enough for the continued encouragement.
It’s taken a few months, but I finally finished setting up my itty bitty living space as a functional working space. This project is incredibly special to me, because it helped me prove to myself that I can still make things I like with only about 120sqft, lots of vertical shelving, and plenty of optimism. It was a struggle to find the enthusiasm to enjoy making “fun” things again without feeling guilty or drowning in the never-ending existential crisis that’s been 2020, but we did it. 😀
I want to take a moment to thank our friends on the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Discord, and all of our Patrons on Patreon. Discord friends, you’ve kept me sane through some incredible challenges this year, and kept reminding me why I love Star Wars and the Galaxy’s Edge community. Patrons, you’ve continued supporting us while being so incredibly understanding with our slower updates over the past few months, believing that we would return with more regular content as soon as we were able. That faith and kindness served as the main motivation to not only finally complete this passion project, but also excessively document this project with hours of WIP videos: I decided it was time to move out of my comfort zone and setup cameras to capture tons of the behind the scenes stuff of 3D printing, sanding, painting, weathering, and assembly. (Video coming soon!)
And a reminder: The point of this blog was always to show that I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m just hopping around and figuring out stuff along the way. That absolutely, definitely, most certainly includes the devil’s witchcraft of “recording video for the internet”.
This is literally my first time using a Gopro (graciously on loan from Spork), and first time using a webcam to capture something that wasn’t a work meeting, virtual lightsaber meetup, or an internet cat party. There’s gonna be some growing pains as I figure out a good setup via trial and error, while attempting to sideline my completely unreasonable anxiety about recording myself and installing codecs.
2020, YEAR OF CHANGE! Hooray for personal growth. ^_^
Above: A Gopro recorded 3D printing, while a webcam on an articulating arm recorded over my desk.
One of the priorities of this version was to try to be as screen accurate as possible. Thankfully, the official Star Wars site released some beautiful detailed photos of Leia’s lightsaber on their blog. To date, an official prop replica hasn’t been released yet, so these photos would have to do. (I had thought Dok’s would have released a Legacy saber by now, but I’m not sure if it’s been sidelined because…2020?)
Comparing my original design to the new photos, I decided that there were enough differences that it would be best to redesign most parts from scratch (and easier, honestly). The detailed photos revealed that the saber had a beautiful pearl inlay that I had mistaken as raised metal details in the old potato quality pics.
The bigger design mistake was the emitter. My original ver of Leia’s saber’s was wrong– from the blurry photos I had, I thought they were cups. It’s actually flat beveled rings instead. Which meant… to make this easily 3D printable w/o supports, I needed to break up the emitter design into smaller pieces for assembly later. Not my favorite solution, but… still better than removing supports from cylinder overhangs.
One of the hardest parts about converting Leia’s lightsaber design to be Savi’s Workshop compatible is the notorious “skinny neck” problem that Luke’s Return of the Jedi Legacy saber also has— the neck’s diameter is smaller that the Savi’s chassis, so sadly it has to be fattened up.
You can clearly see the difference above between the screen accurate version and the minimum neck size needed to work with Savi’s blades.
The other challenge was trying to match the same general proportions while still staying Savi’s compatible: Usually, Savi’s sabers are 6 pieces: The emitter, top and bottom sleeves, two switch plates, and a pommel. If I had followed that format, I would have ended up with a long neck and a stumpy ridged grip, with the switch portion being centered on the Savi’s lightsaber instead of being located on the top portion.
To solve this problem, I designed the ridged grip as a single piece combining the bottom sleeve and the switch plate. This means currently there’s a fake switch in the top design, while the actual switch is located on the ridged grip in the usual Savi’s location. I’d rather sacrifice the switch to keep the proportions. 😀
Overall, I tried to keep my version as screen accurate as possible while working with the constraints of Savi’s lightsabers… but I did make a big change with the emitter. I know this design choice means that this Leia lightsaber isn’t screen accurate, but… I don’t care. Seeing the blade light up between the emitter rings makes my heart happy, canon be damned. I love it so so much. 😀
Above: Testing all the my quick print pieces before reprinting everything on higher quality
As usual, I designed all the files in Sketchup, and cleaned up any weird export geometry with 3D Builder on Windows. All the final pieces were printed in standard quality (.2 layer height) without supports on my trusty Makerbot Replicator 2 using Hatchbox’s grey PLA. Files are currently available on our Patreon.
Above: Updated final design (top) vs last year’s best educated guess (bottom)
While waiting for all of my parts to reprint in higher quality, I worked on some other details of the saber. One of the biggest surprises from the detailed reference photos was the beautiful mother of pearl inlay on the grip and button area. For this effect, I decided to use a sheet of white pearl guitar pickguard material. I exported the inlay shape as a DXF from my Sketchup file and imported it into Illustrator to create a file that would be compatible with a Cricut Maker vinyl cutter.
I only had one sheet of my faux pearl material, so I did some test cuts first using gold cardstock paper. After adjusting the sizes a little bit to account for cut tool tolerances, I had a file I felt confidence enough to use with my actual material.
Fun Fact I Learned the Hard Way: Different Cricut Maker tools have different tolerances. My perfectly calculated tolerances for cardboard (with the fine cut tool) were waaay off when I switched to the knife tool to cut through the substantially thicker pickguard plastic and adhesive backing. Also, using the knife tool with basswood settings resulted in much longer cut times, as it had to run 18 passes to get through the material… and even then, it didn’t entirely cut through. Nnnngh.
I wasn’t going to use the adhesive anyway, so I completely removed all the back adhesive layer layer of the plastic, leaving me with a significantly easier material to cut. I was able to cleanly cut through it with just the fine cut tool in two passes. This left me with a lovely semi-translucent sheet of pearl faux inlay, with I liked aesthetically much more than how it looked with the white opaque adhesive layer instead.
Painting & Weathering
After all the parts finished reprinting, I did some light prepping of the parts before paint. I used a regular heat gun to get rid of any tiny stringing, then trimmed and sanded and rough parts that would have still shown after paint. For primer, I used automotive high build primer to fill in any lines and gaps, then used Rustoleum Silver Metallic spraypaint for a strong, metallic base coat. I then hand-painted the copper pieces using Army Painter miniature paints in Weapon Bronze & True Copper, while also touching up silver paint in Army Painter Shining Silver and a Silver Sharpie. After weathering, I added in more shine to the silver by brushing on some Vallejo Model Metallic Air Aluminium paint.
When you watch the full process video, you’ll see I kept changing my mind about weathering: As with all Star Wars props, I prefer a nice used and lived-in finish to match the in-world look. However, I didn’t want this to look TOO discarded and abused– this was the lightsaber for a space princess lovingly cared for by her wrecked-with-guilt space hillbilly brother, after all. I wanted it to look a bit used, but still important.
So in the video, you’ll see me add a little weathering, add too much weathering, knock back some weathering with more paint, add more weathering, immediately regret an additional wash of weathering and then polish with more paint, and repeat. A lot. For at least two seasons of Schitt’s Creek, by my multitasking account. >.>
I started with some light washes using Army Painter Dark Tone Wash, then things escalated quickly to just brushing on globs of Liquitex black acrylic paint and wiping off the excess. For places where silver paint met copper paint, I used an old model painting trick to create more separation: I used a very sharp pencil to accentuate a “panel lines” effect to make it seem like they were separate pieces. It’s a nice way to add subtle dark metallic dirt in crevices where I’d expect dirt to accumulate after normal wear and tear.
Above: Pre-Weathering (Left) vs Post-Weathering (Right)
Bonus Pro Tip: CHECK ALL YOUR PIECES BEFORE SPENDING DAYS PAINTING. Learn from my failures, dear readers. No matter how small of a change you make to a file/model before printing, test your piece again before moving on to paint. Since sometimes you might just adjust a minor feature by .25mm and a week later suddenly realize after your last coat of paint that it no longer fits on the lightsaber and is also missing threads because you forgot you had hidden that object before exporting and now you have to completely reprint it and do the entire sand/paint/weather process again for one piece because it’s 2020 and this year wants to keep finding new ways to completely crush your spirit. <3
Above: Soul-Crushing Failure as Chewie Mocks Me
After I finished all of my paint and weathering (again. FML), the final step was gluing the pearl inlay and emitter rings in place with some standard CA glue. I mostly avoided accidentally gluing myself to random things. Mostly.
I’m incredibly happy with how this project came out. I’d like to add a D-Ring and create a new activation button in the near future, but for now this will hold me over until an official Leia lightsaber is available at Dok’s.