Jeff is a married father of two. He has been freelancing from home since his oldest son was born.
How to Make a Light Saber Out of Cardboard
So your kids love Star Wars as much as you do. They watch the movies; they play with the toys. They want to dress up as a Jedi Knight for Halloween, or maybe they just dig lightsabers. Awesome, this is every grown-up nerd’s dream come true. But those plastic telescoping official lightsabers are a little lacking. I mean, they’re cool and all, I guess, but they’re obviously toys. The handle is oversized, and the blade is too short. It’s fine for most kids, but some are more discerning. That’s where you want to get something a bit more . . . more.
Museum-quality replica lightsabers are available. Some are just the handle, which you wear on your belt, and aren’t meant to be used other than as a prop. Some have a light-up blade and make noise. These are a special effect more than anything else and aren’t meant to be used in mock combat for two reasons.
First, it might not stand being jostled about and may break. Second, you and your opponent could hurt each other with these. They’re also more expensive than water on Tatooine—not a good thing to give to your average ten-year-old.
This Is the Weapon of the Jedi Knight
Don’t despair. I’m going to show you how to make a decent-looking toy lightsaber with a bunch of stuff you probably already have lying around the house. It will be light enough to be safe for use in mock duels, and it’s cheap enough to consider disposable.
When it breaks (not if it breaks: it will break eventually, no question), it can be replaced in less time than it took to make it in the first place because now you know what you’re doing. This is also a cool parent-and-child project. It can be part of your padawan’s Jedi training. Jedi knights are required to build their own lightsabers, after all.
To make a lightsaber, you need the following items, most of which you probably already have lying around the house somewhere.
- A roll of duct tape
- A roll of black electrical tape
- A roll of blue masking tape
- A long thin cardboard tube, like the kind that comes with wrapping paper
- A pair of sharp scissors
- Take the cardboard tube and the masking tape. Unroll a length of tape as long as the tube. Be careful: it’s really easy to tangle up such a long length of masking tape.
- Stick the tape to the outside of the cardboard tube from end to end. Make sure that it’s smoothly adhered to the cardboard with no wrinkles or bubbles.
- Now do it again, and overlap the first length of tape by about a quarter inch. Repeat. Soon, the tube will be covered with blue masking tape. Now let’s close one end.
- You're going to close the tip of your lightsaber with blue masking tape. Take a short length of tape, between four and six inches long, and put the middle of it across the open end of the tube. Fold each tape end down and smooth it over the tube. The end of the tube will not be closed.
- You will need to repeat this step, but overlap the tape, just like you did when you covered the length. Don’t worry about making the ends of the tape perfectly, even at this point. Just try to get them more or less the same length. You don’t need your scissors yet.
- Once you’ve got the tip closed, you will wrap the end of the cylinder in blue tape to cover up the dog-ears where you folded the tape over the end and to even out the ends of the tape you used to close the tip. This step is optional, really, but it makes for a much neater end product if the lines are clean rather than ragged. Use your scissors to cleanly cut the ends of the tape for this step.
- Now let’s make the handle. This is where you’ll need your duct tape. Use duct tape to close the remaining open end of the lightsaber exactly as you did with the masking tape above. Use short lengths of duct tape, and trim the edges with your scissors. Duct tape is hard to tear cleanly with much control.
- Once the end is capped, decide how long you want the handle to be. Cut a length of duct tape and apply it to the handle end of the cylinder, lengthwise. Repeat, and overlap the edges. Soon you’ll have a blue cylinder with one slivery end to it.
- Use a short strip of duct tape to neaten up the edges of the handle as you did with masking tape at the tip. Trim the ends with your scissors.
Building Your Lightsaber: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide
Next, Add the Details
If you want, you can call your ’saber done at this point, but it will be much cooler if you add a few details. Get your electrical tape and your scissors. We’re going to cut thin lengths of electrical tape and use them to create o-rings and handgrips on the handle part of your lightsaber.
Be careful when cutting the electrical tape and sticking it onto the handle; electrical tape is also easy to tangle. There is no “right way” to decorate your lightsaber handle. Some like their grips to run lengthwise; others prefer a series of o-rings for the grip. As long as it looks reasonably cool, it’s fine.
DIY Lightsaber: An Easy Tutorial Anyone Can Do
This DIY lightsaber project will be fun to work on with your kids, and it will look very cool with a costume. As I mentioned above, it’s light enough that even if your padawan gives in to anger, no arms will get chopped off. The worst damage that this lightsaber is likely to inflict is a bit of a sting.
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As a bonus, this saber won’t survive a full-strength swing. It will be a bit fragile. They’re not going to spontaneously break, and they’ll even hold up to a little light sparring (emphasis on the light). But if the kids swing at full strength, they’ll break their ’sabers and will have to wait until you feel like helping them make another one to have their next duel. This is why young Jedi must use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
There’s no reason you can’t make your lightsaber more elaborate if you feel like it. You could use reflective spray paint to make the blade shinier. You could add an on/off switch to the handle with colored markers, or stickers, or even craft jewels and a glue gun. I haven’t tried this, but I suspect that you could use expanding foam insulation to make your ’saber more durable. I don’t know what this would do to the weight of it, though, so if you try this, it’s at your own risk. (If you do try it, let me know how it works for you, okay?)
The more extras you add, the longer the project will take (a good lesson in patience for young padawan), and the more it will cost. The project as described above will take you maybe 20 minutes and is practically free. Have fun, and May the Force be With You!
The words Lightsaber, Jedi, Padawan, and Star Wars are the registered trade marks of the Lucasfilm corporation. Their use here is not to be construed as a challenge to their copyright.
Emma on July 29, 2014:
to make it glow you can use glow-in-the-dark paint :)
Bernadyn from Jacksonville, Florida on April 16, 2014:
I need a few of these for my son's party this year...much cheaper than buying the real thing...Pinning! Nice instructions on here, too, thanks. :)
Jeff Berndt (author) from Southeast Michigan on October 23, 2012:
Glad you found this useful, Sarah! Happy Halloween!
Sarah on October 21, 2012:
Thank you so much for posting this! I was trying to find a lightsaber light enough for my 2 year old's Luke Skywalker costume for Halloween and not having any luck till I found this and made him one. It looks fantastic and was so cheap and easy! Now I have enough tape to make a whole lot more, just gotta collect all the wrapping paper tubes I can empty this Christmas.
Reve from Dhaka on March 22, 2012:
Awesome hub Jeff Berndt. This will certainly help parents to make thing interesting for their children.
Jeff Berndt (author) from Southeast Michigan on January 16, 2012:
I'm not sure what happened, but over the past couple weeks, international readership of this article has exploded. Thanks to all of you for stopping by, and I hope you have enjoyed making your low-budget lightsabers. It's nice to know that so many people around the world are interested in helping their children pretend to be Jedi Knights. Perhaps there's another story in this... :)
ben johnsons on July 15, 2011:
it looks so llllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmeeeeeeee
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 06, 2011:
Awesome DIY project!
Jeff Berndt (author) from Southeast Michigan on October 28, 2010:
A Jedi training party is a brilliant idea! I wonder if I can convince one of my kids to have one of those...
Duck Tape over pipe insulation is a good idea. Those would hold up to sparring better than cardboard, and would still be light enough not to hurt--very clever. Tell me, though, do they stay straight after use, or do they get a little droopy after a few mock battles?
I'm so pleased that you found the article useful. Let us know how the party goes, eh?
Gloria on October 28, 2010:
This was awesome. My son's 10th birthday is this weekend and we are having a Jedi Training Party. I tried several different suggestions for making a safe lightsaber for the kids to play with indoors and this suggeston came out the best except I used foam insulation for pipes instead of the cardboard rolls and colored Duck Tape so it stuck to the foam better. Thanks for the suggestions. My son and his friends are going to love this!
Jeff Berndt (author) from Southeast Michigan on September 20, 2010:
Brilliant! I hope he loves it!
Kids Crafts Mom on September 19, 2010:
Cool - I'm making a red one for my Darth Vader loving son
Jeff Berndt (author) from Southeast Michigan on June 28, 2010:
Thanks, Steve. Making the 'saber light up would require some expensive components (not cardboard!) and more skill in wiring and soldering than I currently have. But making one that lights up is one of my goals. When I do it, I'll certainly write about the experience.
steve on June 28, 2010:
Not bad! I like htat it's so cheap it won't matter much if you break it. Too bad it won't light up though.
Ken on April 30, 2010:
Cool....I have one of the nice lightsabers that lights up. I also have a couple old Hasbro ones (from the Mid 90's) which aren't too bad.