Darth Vader's lightsaber was powered by a crimson synth-crystal with Darth Sidious's second lightsaber serving as a model. However, Vader considered his master's weapon to be an antique, and sought to create a more personalized weapon with more ballast. Wishing to impress his Master, Vader attempted to create a novel design, but the resulting weapon was little more than a black-alloy version of his first Jedi lightsaber.
This weapon featured a thick, ridged handgrip, a high-output diatium power cell, a dual-phase focusing crystal, forward mounted adjustment knobs, and a beveled emitter shroud. However, due to the size of his mechanical hands, Vader was forced to make the grip considerably thicker and longer than his original lightsaber, resulting in a weapon that Vader believed was inelegant to the point of being ungainly.
Due to the many modifications featured by his lightsaber, it is possible that Vader in fact created multiple weapons.[source?] Vader appeared to have experimented with a rounded emitter shroud similar to his second Jedi weapon. He was known to have utilized a crimson Adegan crystal rather than a synth-crystal in his blade as well.
When he originally joined the Sith, Darth Vader simply continued wielding his second lightsaber that he created as Anakin Skywalker. However, this lightsaber was taken from him by Obi-Wan Kenobi after his defeat at the Jedi's hands on Mustafar. Deprived of his weapon, Vader was forced to create a new one.
Utilizing a synthetic lightsaber crystal supplied by his Master, Darth Sidious, Vader constructed his new weapon in the shadow of the Death Star I. It would be two standard weeks before this weapon was first used in combat.
Vader would use this lightsaber for the rest of his time as a Sith Lord, and used the weapon to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi and cut off the hand of his son, Luke Skywalker. During his final lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke during the Battle of Endor on the Death Star II, Luke temporarily succumbed to his anger, and after attacking Vader viciously, he cut off Vader's cybernetic right hand, with the hand and the lightsaber falling down the same reactor shaft in which Sidious died.
Behind the scenes
Technically, the first Sith lightsaber designed was Darth Vader's. However, there were no early plans to make Vader's weapon distinct from the other lightsabers depicted, beyond the black styling on the hilt itself. The concept art of Vader's lightsaber hilt was based upon George Lucas's descriptions of the weapons as jewel-studded cylinders. Ultimately, the hilt carried by David Prowse in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back was made from the flash attachment of a British 3-cell MPP Microflash, a flash tube attachment used on forties-era press cameras, with the ridged grip made by gluing portions of hard plastic 'T' track used for the sliding doors of display cabinets (often mistaken for wiper blades) onto the bare cylinder, and the switch plate fashioned from the LED display of a 1974 calculator.[source?]
In Return Of The Jedi, however the original prop was misplaced and a similar 'lookalike' was created by modifying a 3-cell Graflex Flash tube like the one used for Luke Skywalker's first lightsaber, it is believed by some to be a stunt saber used in the first two movies as the MPP Microflash was much harder to find than the Graflex or possibly even one of the original Skywalker sabers heavily modified. The original lightsaber effect was provided by the reflective, spinning dowel that made up the blade, which appeared to glow to the camera.[source?]
However, Lucas was unsatisfied with these early effects, and had the glows further augmented by rotoscoped animation. During this phase, it was decided to make the lightsabers have different color blades to further differentiate them, and Vader was given a red blade. While the methods used to create the lightsabers would change over the course of the next two movies, the presentation of Vader's lightsaber itself would remain consistent.
Revenge of the Sith: The alternate ending of the Star Wars Episode III video game depicts Darth Vader defeating Obi-Wan Kenobi, impaling him through the chest. When Vader meets with the recently arrived Palpatine, his master provides him with a new Sith lightsaber. This lightsaber is of identical design to the lightsaber he constructs in the canon storyline, hinting that Palpatine may have provided the completed weapon to Vader. Vader briefly inspects the weapon before tossing it in the air in an elaborate flourish and impaling Palpatine, proclaiming the galaxy belongs to Skywalker alone.
The Force Unleashed: In the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Vader is depicted as being able to channel Force energy into his lightsaber, charging it up when he throws it. This technique is similar to the mechanics of Force weapons.
During the final boss battle against Darth Vader, Galen Marek is given the choice between attacking the Emperor and saving Rahm Kota, or finishing Vader. If the player chooses to kill Vader, he engages in a lengthy lightsaber duel with the Sith Lord before telekinetically pummeling him. As he is battered about by Marek, Vader drops his lightsaber, which is retrieved by Marek and rammed into his back. After Marek is badly injured and subsequently "rebuilt" by Palpatine, his belt is seen to hold several lightsabers, Vader's included.
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