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An in-depth look at: Lightsabers

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > STAR WARS Discussion
An in-depth look at: Lightsabers

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 06:24 PM | #1
This is the return of the in-depth series. As many of you know I have been busy with my ‘versus’ series, but I decided to come back to my roots. This particular series will be all about the Jedi Order. Lightsabers, the Three Pillars, the three infamous specializations and their exemplary members, the history of the Order, and their duties. Much can be learned from the Jedi, so let’s dive right in with an in-depth look at Lightsabers!

(Be warned: This will be a long one)

A lightsaber is the weapon of the Jedi Knight, and many galactic citizens see it as a symbol of their Order. However, the Jedi Order did not always use lightsabers. In the early history of the Order, Jedi and Dark Jedi wielded swords imbued with Force energy. As the lightsaber came into existence, Force-imbued weapons fell into disuse. However, some Jedi still used Force-imbued weaponry. Jedi Masters like Vodo-Siosk Baas and Siolo’urmanka wielded Force-imbued quarterstaffs and, despite not carrying lightsabers, they were held in high regard as swordsmen.

The first lightsabers were archaic devices that relied on power packs attached to the Jedi’s belt. The lightsabers themselves were connected to the packs by a cable. The cables were a disadvantage because they limited combat utility for the blade and heavily relied on the power pack for sustainability. Eventually new parts were created to eliminate the need for a power pack. This new lightsaber became the symbol that galactic citizens would recognize all Jedi by.

Construction of a lightsaber became a Jedi’s rite of passage. A Padawan’s Master would instruct them in collecting the required equipment to build a lightsaber. Then they would go to Ilum, where the Padawan would search the Ilum caves for a crystal that was as unique as they are. Young Jedi will memorize this mantra:

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. We are one.


Grand Master Luke Skywalker discusses lightsaber construction and personalization in this presentation to Jaina and Jacen Solo, Lowbacca, Tenel Ka, and Raynar Thul:

You may have heard about the Jedi Masters during the Clone Wars who were able to fashion lightsabers in only a day or two, using whatever raw materials were at hand. But don’t get the idea that your weapon is a quick little project slapped together. Ideally, a Jedi took many months to construct a single perfect weapon that he or she would keep and use for a lifetime. Once you build it, the lightsaber will become your companion, your tool, and a ready means for a defense.

The components are fairly simple. Every lightsaber has a standard power source, the same type used in small blasters, even in glow panels. They last a long time, though, because Jedi should rarely use their weapons.

One of the other crucial pieces is a focusing crystal. The most powerful and sought-after gems are rare Kaiburr crystals. However, though lightsabers are powerful weapons, their design is so flexible that practically any kind of crystal can be used. And since I don’t happen to have a stash of Kaiburr crystals, you’ll have to make do with something else of your own choosing.

One of my students, Cilghal, a Mon Calamari like Admiral Ackbar, made her lightsaber with smooth curves and protrusions, as if the handle had been grown from metallic coral. Inside, she used a rare Ultima-Pearl, one of the treasures found in the seabeds of her watery planet.

My first true failure as a teacher was another student named Gantoris. He built his lightsaber in only a few intense days, following instructions given to him by the evil spirit of Exar Kun. Gantoris thought he was ready, and my mistake was not seeing what he was up to.

You, my young Jedi Knights, must be different. I can’t wait any longer to train you. You must learn how to build your lightsabers- and how to use them- in the right way. The galaxy has changed, and you must meet the challenge. A true Jedi is force to adapt or be destroyed.

I’d like you to start on your lightsabers immediately. But I hope you’ll need to use your weapon only rarely… if ever.


Many Jedi like Cilghal personalized their weapons in very unique ways. The legendary Jedi Master Tyvokka’s lightsaber was made of wood, and Tenel Ka’s lightsaber was formed from a Rancor’s tooth. Some Jedi like the Nautolan Kit Fisto made their lightsabers waterproof. Other Jedi incorporated a dual-phase mechanic into their weapons. This mechanic uses focusing crystals to shift between two crystals, allowing the Jedi to adjust the length of the blade at will.

But sometimes a Jedi can’t wait to build their lightsabers. Sometimes circumstances demand that they build their own lightsabers from scavenged parts that would most likely be found in junkyards. Jedi Corran Horn was forced to use scavenged parts and jewels when he infiltrated a pirate gang, and had only the instruction of the Jedi Master Nejaa Halcyon for guidance. Horn discusses this and the finalization process of lightsaber construction here:

The most difficult part of creating a lightsaber was producing a power cell that stored and discharged the amount of energy necessary to energize a lightsaber blade. That said, the parts list called for a pretty basic power cell- in fact, because of the age of the instructions, I had a hard time locating one that ancient. Newer cells were more efficient than the one my grandfather had specified, but I didn’t think it would present a problem. After all, as I read the instructions I came to realize that the nature of the battery was not as important as how it was integrated with the rest of the components.

The core of the Jedi ritual for creating a lightsaber came down to charging the power cell that first time. My grandfather ridiculed the popular superstition stating that a Jedi channeled the Force through his lightsaber. He suggested that this was a misunderstanding of what it took to charge it initially and tie it to the rest of the weapon. The Jedi, carefully manipulating the Force, bound the components together- linking them on something more than a mechanical or material level, so they worked with unimagined efficiency. Without this careful seasoning and conditioning of the lightsaber, the blade would be flawed and would fail the Jedi.

After assembling the components, I prepared to charge the power cell for the very first time. With my finger poised on the transformer button that would start the energy flowing, I drew in a deep breath and lowered myself into a trance. I knew that manipulating matter sufficiently to meld the part and forge the weapon would have been all but impossible for anyone but a Jedi Master like Yoda, but doing just that as part of the construction of a lightsaber has been studied and ritualized so even a student could manage it. It was very much a lost art, a link to a past that had been all but wiped out, and by performing it I completed my inheritance of my Jedi legacy.

I hit the button, allowing the slow trickle of energy to fill the battery. I opened myself to the Force and with the hand I had touching the lightsaber’s hilt, I bathed the lightsaber with the Force. As I did so, subtle transformations took place in the weapon. Elemental bonds shifted, allowing more and more energy to flow into the cell and throughout the weapon. I was not certain how the changes were being made, but I knew at the time they were being made in the lightsaber, they were being made in me also.

And I was Jedi.


Many different variations on the standard lightsaber were created over time. The curved hilt was the least radical of the variations. The extended handle was curved thirty degrees. The design was preferred by Form II masters who sought a weapon that accommodated balanced weight and precise handling.

The shoto, or short lightsaber, was designed for Jedi who were unable to hold a full-sized lightsaber hilt. The blade extended to roughly half a meter. Most Jedi who use a shoto use it as an off-hand weapon for defense or an alternate means of offense. In contrast, a light club was designed by Houks or other unusually large individuals. The club had a massive handle and much larger blade.

The double-bladed lightsaber, as its name suggests, has two blades, one protruding from each end. The first was designed by Exar Kun, but his was a standard single hilt. Future designs incorporated a much larger hilt. The weapon was difficult to defend against, but just as difficult to master. Similar to the double-bladed lightsaber, the lightsaber pike had an elongated hilt and was built with lightsaber resistant materials with a short blade on one end.

The most radical of lightsaber variants was the lightsaber whip. Instead of a rigid blade, the whip’s energy was flexible and could entangle or cut opponents. The lightwhip used by Dark Lady Lumiya was an even more exotic specimen that had multiple strands.

Though there are many different kinds of lightsabers that the Jedi can use, the lesson most Masters teach remains the same. The lightsaber is a tool for defense and should rarely be used. Luke Skywalker discusses this here:

The lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi Knight, though a true Jedi rarely uses it to settle a dispute. It is better to outthink and outmaneuver your opponent. But when forced, a Jedi strikes quickly and decisively. In peaceful times, the lightsaber is only a symbol of the fight we wage within ourselves- to keep us from taking the wrong path.

This belief was shared by many Jedi Masters, but few Jedi did not carry one. One such Master was Fay, who traveled the galaxy for centuries and resolved conflicts and disputes without carrying a lightsaber.

For those Jedi who did wield a lightsaber, they would study the seven lightsaber Forms: Shii-Cho, Makashi, Soresu, Ataru, Shien/Djem So, Niman, and Juyo.

The first Form, Shii-Cho, was introductory for most students and was basic in its nature.

Makashi, the second Form, was designed purely for lightsaber combat. It is a Form built around precision and footwork, thus many Makashi masters prefer curved-hilt lightsabers.

Soresu, the third Form, was pure defense, originally designed for defense against blaster technology.

The fourth Form, Ataru, was seen as the highest level of Jedi combat and was designed for Jedi to let the Force flow through them to turn them into a blindingly fast pinwheel.

Shien/Djem So was the fifth Form. Shien was designed for offensive deflection of blaster bolts. Djem So was the dueling variant of the fifth Form that focused on strong defense and powerful offense.

Niman, the sixth Form, was designed for balance and moderation. Not as defensive as Soresu, or offensive as Djem So. It was a Form chosen by those who did not see themselves participating in combat regularly.

The final Form, Juyo, was generally restricted by Jedi Masters because of Juyo’s nature. During the New Sith Wars, many Juyo users succumbed to their emotions and joined the Sith ranks. Juyo requires a Jedi to embrace the excitement of battle and let their emotions flow through them. Most practitioners of the Form succumb to their emotions, but true Masters can control their emotions and use Juyo to its fullest.

Whether the galaxy is threatened by agents of the dark side or pirates and other lawbreakers, the Jedi are there, lightsabers in hand. The galaxy has been witness to several wars, and the Jedi have been there to defend the Republic, and their lightsabers have become a symbol of the Jedi Order and what they stand for.

Sources used: The Jedi Path, Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, The Essential Guide to Warfare, The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology.
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 06:26 PM | #2
Originally I had planned on using Luke Skywalker's discussion on how he built his first lightsaber, but it would have dragged the OP out too long (IMO). If anyone feels I should do this, I will edit it in or post it.

Also, check the Index (link in my sig) for more information on the seven lightsaber Forms as well as the Marks of Contact.
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus

Darth_Krushya's Avatar


Darth_Krushya
12.01.2013 , 06:57 PM | #3
Thank you. I recognized the The Essential Guide to the Force, but I liked that you posted it here for others who have not.

The only thing I do not understand is the materials that the hilts are made of. In the Golden age of the Jedi when materials and Jedi were numerous, I feel that hilts weren't JUST made of what materials that could be found, but the shaft itself could have been constructed of light-weight metals or even highly durable plastics like "Plasteel," and "Duraplast,". I would like to think that when the materials were plentiful, Jedi had their pick of components and materials to make the best constructs.
THE JE'DAII CODE: "There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no fear; there is power. I am the heart of the Force. I am the revealing light of fire. I am the mystery of darkness. In balance with chaos and harmony. Immortal in the Force."

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 07:07 PM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by Darth_Krushya View Post
Thank you. I recognized the The Essential Guide to the Force, but I liked that you posted it here for others who have not.

The only thing I do understand is the materials that the hilts are made of. In the Golden age of the Jedi when materials and Jedi were numerous, I feel that hilts weren't JUST made of what materials that could be found, but the shaft itself could have been constructed of light-weight metals of highly durable plastics. I would like to think that when the materials were plentiful, Jedi had their pick of components and materials to make the best constructs.
Yes, the hilt was constructed by components that the 'builder' chooses. Did I indicate otherwise?
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus

Darth_Krushya's Avatar


Darth_Krushya
12.01.2013 , 07:22 PM | #5
No you didn't, but I just wanted to see the names of the materials used. That's all. You did well. Thank you.
THE JE'DAII CODE: "There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no fear; there is power. I am the heart of the Force. I am the revealing light of fire. I am the mystery of darkness. In balance with chaos and harmony. Immortal in the Force."

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 07:32 PM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Darth_Krushya View Post
No you didn't, but I just wanted to see the names of the materials used. That's all. You did well. Thank you.
Oh! Well, they don't have specific names (IE Czerka such and such), but the components needed are: the handgrip, the emitter matrix, focusing lens assembly, and a focusing crystal.

Jedi pick the components that speak to them, making the weapon unique to them.
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus

Kacynski's Avatar


Kacynski
12.01.2013 , 07:40 PM | #7
The Lightsaber is for sure one (if not the) most iconic weapon in fiction. Very good to have a thread started for discussion about it.

What I would like to see elaborated in this thread is, how comes a lightsaber is such a mighty weapon for Jedi (and Sith) but barely useful for a mundane being? What are the properties that make it the most feared weapon in the Galaxy?

I think one of the most important features of the Lightsaber is its ability to deflect blaster fire. This is obviously something only a force user can achieve, as it needs some kind of precognition to work out (I always assume a saber can parry a shot because the swordsman knows where it will be shot and moves the saber in the right place before the shot is triggered).
Questions here: what are the limits of the Lightsaber to this ability (not talking about the wielder here, talking about the physical limits of the Saber).

Another important feature of the Lightsaber is that its blade packs such a high energy density that it can cut through almost all known materials. It is very impressive (and fear inducing) to see someone cut their way through a thick steel door (as Qui-Gon in TPM)
Questions here: again, what are the limits of the Lightsaber. Which materials resist the blade and why?

We also see that the Lightsaber is used as a kind of force focus to defend against force attacks (like Obi-Wan defends against Count Dooku's lightning).
Questions here: Is a Lightsaber necessary for that (obviously no, because Yoda deflected lightning with bare hands); or how does the Saber help? Is it just used as a tool for ones own mind, a psychological crutch so to speak? Or does a Lightsaber has its own merits when it comes to defend against the Force.

A weakness of kind of the Lightsaber is its close combat nature. At first glance it is of no use at range. At many instances though, we see it thrown with great effect. What other long range uses there are for a Lightsaber (if any).

One thing that also always interested me is, how closely attached the Jedi are to their personal weapon. Of course a Jedi can use telekinesis to grab any object, but it always seemed to me that they have a special bond with their Lightsaber so they can instantly pull from wherever it is.
Question here: Is this assumption true? Does a Jedi need to see their Saber to grab it with the Force? Or does the Lightsaber generate an imprint in the Force that can be sensed by its owner?

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 08:11 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
Questions here: what are the limits of the Lightsaber to this ability (not talking about the wielder here, talking about the physical limits of the Saber).
How do you mean? Like how much firepower can a lightsaber deflect? I think lightsabers can deflect turbolaser fire, but I may be misremembering.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
Another important feature of the Lightsaber is that its blade packs such a high energy density that it can cut through almost all known materials. It is very impressive (and fear inducing) to see someone cut their way through a thick steel door (as Qui-Gon in TPM)
Questions here: again, what are the limits of the Lightsaber. Which materials resist the blade and why?
Cortosis, phrik, Mandalorian Iron. Those are the materials I can name off the top of my head. I can dig up some more info as to how they resist it if you wish.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
We also see that the Lightsaber is used as a kind of force focus to defend against force attacks (like Obi-Wan defends against Count Dooku's lightning).
Questions here: Is a Lightsaber necessary for that (obviously no, because Yoda deflected lightning with bare hands); or how does the Saber help? Is it just used as a tool for ones own mind, a psychological crutch so to speak? Or does a Lightsaber has its own merits when it comes to defend against the Force.
A lightsaber can't defend against all Force attacks, but it can defend against Force lightning. I can't think of why at this moment, but I believe it is all about the energy of Force lightning.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
A weakness of kind of the Lightsaber is its close combat nature. At first glance it is of no use at range. At many instances though, we see it thrown with great effect. What other long range uses there are for a Lightsaber (if any).
Lightwhips are good for range, but they require a high level of mastery to be used effectively. Other than that, throwing it and deflecting blaster bolts.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
One thing that also always interested me is, how closely attached the Jedi are to their personal weapon. Of course a Jedi can use telekinesis to grab any object, but it always seemed to me that they have a special bond with their Lightsaber so they can instantly pull from wherever it is.
Question here: Is this assumption true? Does a Jedi need to see their Saber to grab it with the Force? Or does the Lightsaber generate an imprint in the Force that can be sensed by its owner?
As we see in the Sith Warrior story, Darth Baras can locate his lightsaber from (quite literally) across the galaxy. I would have to pull out The Jedi Path, but I believe that it says a Jedi can do that in there as well.
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus

Kacynski's Avatar


Kacynski
12.01.2013 , 08:32 PM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by Aurbere View Post
How do you mean? Like how much firepower can a lightsaber deflect? I think lightsabers can deflect turbolaser fire, but I may be misremembering.
Yes, that what I was talking about. Obviously if the kinetic force of the blast is too high, the wielder would be pushed back, his wrists would snap or something like that. I would guess that a Lightsaber can take more then the frail body of its wielder, but how much more?

Quote: Originally Posted by Aurbere View Post
Cortosis, phrik, Mandalorian Iron. Those are the materials I can name off the top of my head. I can dig up some more info as to how they resist it if you wish.
I knew about Cortosis, but I always wondered if there is an in-lore explanation for this. If you can dig up something it would be appreciated.


Quote: Originally Posted by Aurbere View Post
A lightsaber can't defend against all Force attacks, but it can defend against Force lightning. I can't think of why at this moment, but I believe it is all about the energy of Force lightning.
This would also be interesting to shed some light on. Is it because force lightning is electrical energy such as the lightning of a thunder storm?
What about the Saber used as a mind focus to better channel the force?

Quote: Originally Posted by Aurbere View Post
Lightwhips are good for range, but they require a high level of mastery to be used effectively. Other than that, throwing it and deflecting blaster bolts.
Don't get mad at me, but I always thought the Lightwhips took the concept of the Lightsaber too far anyway. They seem a bit silly to me, even in Galaxy that has Lightsabers. Just my opinion, though
But your point of deflecting blaster shots back at the shooter is a very good one, indeed.

Quote: Originally Posted by Aurbere View Post
As we see in the Sith Warrior story, Darth Baras can locate his lightsaber from (quite literally) across the galaxy. I would have to pull out The Jedi Path, but I believe that it says a Jedi can do that in there as well.
Ah, yes. The Lightsaber of Baras is a very good example of this bond I was speaking about.

Aurbere's Avatar


Aurbere
12.01.2013 , 09:41 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
Yes, that what I was talking about. Obviously if the kinetic force of the blast is too high, the wielder would be pushed back, his wrists would snap or something like that. I would guess that a Lightsaber can take more then the frail body of its wielder, but how much more?
Well, a Jedi increases their physical abilities through the Force, so they can take more than normal.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
I knew about Cortosis, but I always wondered if there is an in-lore explanation for this. If you can dig up something it would be appreciated.
Alright, I'll get back to you on that tomorrow.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
This would also be interesting to shed some light on. Is it because force lightning is electrical energy such as the lightning of a thunder storm?
What about the Saber used as a mind focus to better channel the force?
To the first question, likely so. To the second question, I'm not sure what you mean. That the lightsaber acts as a conduit, an enhancement so to speak? I believe The Essential Guide to the Force denies that claim. Let me get back to you on that.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
Don't get mad at me, but I always thought the Lightwhips took the concept of the Lightsaber too far anyway. They seem a bit silly to me, even in Galaxy that has Lightsabers. Just my opinion, though
But your point of deflecting blaster shots back at the shooter is a very good one, indeed.
I find the Lightwhip interesting, personally.

Quote: Originally Posted by Kacynski View Post
Ah, yes. The Lightsaber of Baras is a very good example of this bond I was speaking about.
Glad to help.
Added Chapter 66 to The Shadows Fall
"Your only hope to survive is to give in to the rage boiling within you, to acknowledge the Dark Side you deny, and tap into it!"--Darth Tyranus