"This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster, but an elegant weapon for a more civilized age."
— Obi-Wan Kenobi
The lightsaber is the traditional elegant weapon of the Jedi Knights in the Star Wars fictional universe.
Lightsabers were invented in 9,990 BBY. Using a lightsaber in combat takes skill, confidence and dexterity. Attunement to the Force is very helpful as well. The first Archaic Lightsabers were developed as a siege weapon, using "frozen blaster" technology. These required a separate power pack which was often worn on the back. The power sources and components were miniaturized in the construction to create the simple weapon used in the later era.
In the original film trilogy, lightsabers were limited to blue and green for the Jedi, while red-bladed lightsabers were associated with evil Jedi Knights or Sith. The various expanded universe (EU) sources and the prequel films opened up the spectrum of blade colors to include (among others) purple, pink, orange, and yellow. Obi-Wan Kenobi primarily wielded a blue-bladed lightsaber, while Mace Windu famously uses a purple-bladed lightsaber. The color of a lightsaber's blade is dependent upon the crystals used to focus it. Blue-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Guardians; green-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Consulars; yellow-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Sentinels; and red-bladed lightsabers are more closely associated with the Sith.
The very rare Great Lightsaber, similar to a standard lightsaber, had focusing crystals and a power supply producing a blade up to 300 centimeters in length. The rare Dual-Phase Lightsaber is any lightsaber constructed to operate at two different blade lengths. Darth Vader's lightsaber is an example of this, as he has buttons on his hilt allowing him to change the blade length at will. The Electrum Lightsaber are lightsabers with hilts forged from electrum. There are also variant lightsabers with shorter handles and blades (known as Short Lightsabers) that can be wielded as offhand secondary weapons or as the primary lightsaber of a small Jedi.
A deviation created by the Jedi Order from standard lightsabers, the training lightsabers helped train apprentices in the use of a standard lightsaber. Training lightsabers are similar to a standard lightsaber. However, the power is greatly diminished and the size is reduced. Training lightsabers are used in combat education in the Jedi academy of the Old Republic. While these lightsabers are non-lethal, contact with the blade is still highly painful.
see also: Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat
In the hands of someone trained to use the Force, a lightsaber is a powerful and versatile tool. In the hands of the untrained, however, it is far more of a danger to the user, mainly because only the hilt has mass in any detectable amount, making it difficult to judge the position of the blade accurately during use. A lightsaber can cut through anything (blast doors and enemies alike) except another lightsaber blade. The only known exceptions to this rule are: the cortosis ore, capable of repelling or even shorting out a lightsaber blade (as shown in the novel I, Jedi and the video game Knights of the Old Republic), an unnamed metal superconductor used for ship armour hundreds of years before the Empire (as shown in the novel Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover), so-called Mandalorian Iron (as shown in Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith comic), and certain types of energy shields. Cortosis ore sets up a feedback loop in the lightsaber blade assembly which shuts it down. In the novel series Jedi Apprentice, the lightsaber blade coming in contact with water also causes the blade to short out; this was an anachronism to that novel, however, as Kit Fisto's use of a lightsaber underwater in the Clone Wars Animated Series and numerous other Expanded Universe moments show.
Using the Force, a Jedi can use his lightsaber to deflect and reflect incoming energy attacks. Lightsabers are melee weapons but can also be thrown for a ranged attack and recalled through psychokinesis, a basic Jedi skill. There are many different 'styles' of lightsaber fighting, including (but not limited to) Darth Vader's 'heavy' style, which incorporates large and forceful sweeping attacks. There is also the basic 'medium' stance, the first one learned in Jedi training. Average in defense as well as offense, it is the most common stance. Last is the 'light' style, emphasizing quick, brutal slashing attacks.
There are also the more 'exotic' ways of wielding the lightsaber as a weapon, such as the rare double-bladed lightsaber style, as seen used by Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. One of the rarest styles of lightsaber use is dual-wielding them. Used briefly in Episode II: Attack of The Clones by the young Anakin Skywalker, as well as in an animated miniseries, this style incorporates blinding fast attacks and devastating sweeps, but each individual swing is weak and easily deflected. While not really unique styles, some more experienced Jedi choose to wield their lightsabers in non-conventional ways, such as backhanded or half-backhanded.
It is the principal weapon of the Jedi but are also used by the Sith. After the extermination of the Jedi, lightsabers became rare relics. The use of it is usually restricted to the Jedi, partially because it is too dangerous for an unskilled user, but also partly because, for non-Jedi, blasters are more effective. However, lightsabers remain prized by some collectors, and some black market sales do occur.
Typically a Jedi is given his lightsaber on his first day of training. Jedi Masters emphasise that the lightsaber is a measure of progress for an apprentice as lightsaber techniques take great skill and concentration. It is considered a final test for a Jedi student to be able to construct their own saber.
The crystal is the heart of the blade.
The heart is the crystal of the Jedi.
The Jedi is the crystal of the Force.
The Force is the blade of the heart.
All are intertwined:
The crystal,The blade,The Jedi.
You are one.
- Speech made during lightsaber construction ceremony
"Clone Wars Micro Series" Cartoon Network
The lightsaber is made up of a short polished metallic cylindrical tube (30 centimetres) that emits a beam of plasma that acts as a sword blade.
All lightsabers contain some common basic components
- A handgrip
- An activation stud plate
- A safety switch
- An emitter matrix
- A lens assembly (focusing crystal)
- A blade-length adjuster (only on Dual-Length Lightsabers)
- A power cell
- A power conduit
- A recharge socket
- A belt ring (optional)
Lightsabers are powered from the control studs by a circuits channel and focusing crystal found only in nature on the planet Ilum . Before 1,000 BBY, the Jedi also used crystals from the planet Ruusan. This appears to be a matter of tradition rather than necessity, as there are examples of crystals from elsewhere in the galaxy being used effectively in lightsabers. Since the Jedi control the supply of suitable crystals, the Sith use synthetic crystals that generate a red blade. Some of the early Sith had other blade colors, but as fallen Jedi they might have re-used the crystals of their old lightsabers. Shadows of the Empire has Luke Skywalker using a synthetic crystal in his lightsaber construction. Luke built a lightsaber with a green blade, implying that the Sith intentionally construct their crystals to produce a red blade.
The Dual-Phase Lightsaber used crystals that handle differing power level requirements. These are wired to the diantium power cell, which acts like an energy source for the lightsaber. The crystal is also wired to three knobs: the blade length adjust, the blade width adjust, and the activator. Users of this lightsaber type include Anakin Skywalker, Micah Giiett, Gantoris, and Corran Horn.
A Double-Bladed Lightsaber or Lightstaff is essentially two lightsabers in a single oversized hilt. It is a very difficult weapon to handle, but extremely dangerous in the hands of a master. Notable users of double-bladed lightsabers are the Sith Lord Exar Kun and Sith Apprentice Darth Maul. Kun's lightsaber was both double-bladed and dual-phase.
When the activator is pushed, internal power cells create photoelectric energy and the blade is focused from the crystal. A tight, non-thermal parallel beam of plasma energy appears on command which is focused through one, two, or three multi-faceted crystals. The activation button energizes the weapon forming a positively-charged shaft of coherent packets of energy about a meter long. The plasma beam is attracted back to the saber hilt by a negatively-charged, high-energy flux aperture. The plasma packets are recycled to create the glowing blade by a power cell superconductor. The saber hums and scintillates with a distinct sound and has a shimmering blade. The entire functioning processes are completely contained and self-regenerative.
The typical design of the hilt is generally of straight tube. Count Dooku however, preferred a curved hilt.
The knowledge of lightsaber construction largely disappeared during the extermination of the Jedi, but Luke Skywalker found records and the materials he needed to construct his first sabre on his own in Obi-Wan Kenobi's hut on Tatooine.
Also, according to the EU novel I, Jedi , there were myths at one point that the lightsaber was powered by the Jedi's connection to the Force. However, records preserved by Corran Horn's grandfather Rostek Horn indicate that the Force is only used at the end of construction. Once all the pieces are assembled, the Jedi uses the Force to meld them on a molecular or lower level, permitting unheard-of energy efficiency. This efficiency is what allows the blades to remain lit and active for long periods of time. The only real energy drain is when the blade comes into contact with something.
Sometimes certain events necessitated a change in a Jedi's preferred weapon. A Jedi would modify the lightsaber or construct a new one to suit the demands of the situation at hand, such as with Mace Windu and his lightsaber after the Battle of Naboo. It is, however, an unrevealed occurrence that made him build a new lightsaber in the ten year period between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
Concordance of Fealty
"Master Eeth Koth, I have something to return to you. It is a product of your own hands which you once entrusted to mine. In returning this lightsaber, I return your trust." --Master Windu
The Jedi tradition of entrusting one's lightsaber to a fellow member of the order is called the Concordance of Fealty. This exchange represents a bond between companions of the Force and imparts a sense of support in battle. A Jedi is graced by such a gesture from a respected friend.
Lightsabers on film
The original film prop hilts were constructed from old camera-flash cylinders. The 'switched-on' sword props were designed with the intention of creating an 'in-camera' glowing effect. The 'blade' was three-sided and coated with super-reflective material-- the same sort used for highway signs. A lamp was positioned to the side of the taking camera and reflected towards the subject through 45-degree angled glass so that the sword would appear to glow from the camera's point-of-view. A motor in the hilt caused the blade to spin so that a reflective surface was always presented directly to the camera. This also created the familiar 'flickering' effect. Ultimately, this process yielded unsatisfactory results and animation was employed to enhance the brightness of the sabers. It was at this point that the artistic decision was made to assign different colors to the blades.
For The Empire Strikes Back, the lightsaber-blade props were simple white rods and the glow effect was achieved entirely through animation (a special kind of animation called "rotoscoping" in which animation is drawn over live footage to maintain precision).
For Return of the Jedi and the later movies, the hilts were custom machined from aluminum. In place of the glowing blade, carbon rods were used as blade reference during fight scenes. In the first two prequel films, they upgraded to resin "stunt" handles and aluminum tubes. For the final film of the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith, the aluminum was replaced by a carbon-fiber blend specifically manufactured for the production.
In the original trilogy, the 'glow' effect was hand-drawn animation superimposed on the film, using the prop as a guide. In the later prequel movies, the blades were created digitally. Many have commented that the lightsabers in the DVD release look worse than the original, an unfortunate result of the advanced remastering algorithm used to clean up the films for their digital release; in a true special effects gaffe, the color of Luke's lightsaber on board the Millenium Falcon in episode IV was green (instead of blue).
Creators of fan films have used various techniques for creating the coveted "lightsaber effect," most of which involve programs such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, MainVision , The GIMP, or Blender.
The characteristic sound was, of course, added later by the sound effects team, but Ewan McGregor mouthed his own lightsaber noises before being asked to 'leave it to the professionals' when filming The Phantom Menace.
Arguably one of the most lusted-after props in film history, various toy replicas have been released, ranging from essentially a flashlight with a plastic tube attached, to accurate copies of the original film props, complete with motion-sensitive sound effects, and coloured blade. Reproducing the beam of pure energy boasted by the originals still seems to be some time off, however.