- "This was the formal weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. More skill than simple sight was required for its use. An elegant weapon. It was a symbol as well. Anyone can use a blaster or a fusioncutter—but to use a lightsaber well was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
It was a blade of pure energy emitted from a hilt most often crafted by the wielder to match their own needs, preferences, and style. Because of the unique balance of the saber, with all its weight in the hilt, and a strong gyroscopic effect it was very difficult for the untrained to wield. In the hands of an expert in tune with the Force, such as the Jedi or their ideological opposites, the Sith, the lightsaber was a weapon to be greatly respected, even feared. To wield a lightsaber was to demonstrate incredible skill and confidence, as well as masterful dexterity and attunement to the Force.
Through the millennia of their use, the lightsaber became synonymous with the Jedi and their values to uphold peace and justice throughout the galaxy. This perception endured despite the many early conflicts with Sith and Dark Jedi who also wielded what the general populace often called laser swords.
- "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 constant companion, your tool, and a ready means of defense."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Since the formation of the Tython Jedi after the Force Wars circa 25,000 BBY, ceremonial weapons became an integral part of the order. The first Knights used alloy swords imbued with elements of the Force through a ritual called the Jedi Forge. Later, combining advanced offworld technology with the forging ritual, the Jedi learned to "freeze" a laser beam, technology that would lead the Jedi toward the design of future lightsabers.
By the time of the Duinuogwuin Contention around 15,500 BBY, the order's studies in energy technology yielded success; the Jedi developed a method to generate a focused beam of energy that arced circumferentially back to its source, creating the first portable high-energy blade. These preliminary lightsabers were highly unstable and inefficiently guzzled power from a belt-mounted power supply; they could only be used for a brief duration before overheating. Owing to these flaws, the first lightsabers were little more than ceremonial appurtenance to the Jedi apparel, seldom worn, and much less utilized.
The stability shortfalls that plagued the weapon's previous designs were corrected through the ages, so that by the Hundred-Year Darkness of 7,000 BBY the cumbersome and rare siege weapons gave way to elegant and more commonly used lightsabers. Despite their stability, however, power output continued to be an issue. They still required the belt-worn power pack of previous generations. The power cable from belt to blade tended to restrict the Jedi's movement in combat and prevented the discovery of the saber throw. However, the newly stable blade granted them a superior advantage in hand-to-hand combat against heavily-armored foes.
It was not until after the Great Hyperspace War that the earliest modern lightsaber was designed. The restricting power cable and external power pack of old designs were replaced with internal power components by the time of the Gank Massacres in 4,800 BBY. An internal superconductor was introduced which transferred the returning looped energy from the negative-charged flux aperture back into an internal power cell. With this modification, the power cell would only expend power when the energy loop was broken (when the lightsaber blade cut into something), solving the ages-old power supply problem.
After the Great Jedi Purge, lightsabers became rare relics prized by some collectors. In the years of Palpatine's Galactic Empire, some lightsabers found their way onto the black market and were sold for untold amounts. They only truly re-entered the galactic scene with the rise of the New Jedi Order, thanks to the teachings of Luke Skywalker and the re-discovery of ancient Jedi holocrons and teachings believed lost after the Jedi Purges.
After the fall of Palpatine and the re-emergence of the Jedi, other groups of Force-users like Desann's Reborn and the Disciples of Ragnos mass-produced lightsabers to arm their fast-growing legions. By contrast, the New Jedi maintained the old ways and rituals, using their connections with the Force to personally construct their own sabers. Imperial Knights also constructed their own lightsabers, ensuring that all were of the same design, yet keeping each weapon unique. These lightsabers were seen as symbols of how the individual self was less than the Empire the Knights served.
The ritual of constructing one's own lightsaber was an integral part of Jedi training, and involved not just technological skill, but also a close attunement to the Force. In the days of the Old Republic, the ice caverns of Ilum were used as a ceremonial site where Padawans came to build their first sabers. It was here and similar places like the caves near the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine that the Jedi would choose the best focusing crystal for them through meditation and communion with the Force, and then complete the assembly of their lightsaber.
Traditionally, constructing a lightsaber took about a month.  This includes assembling the pieces, both by hand and with the Force, and meditating to imbue the crystals. A Jedi would often spend weeks putting it together, making sure that each part fit perfectly, and that it met their exact preferences in length, color, blade frequency, and so on; at the height of the Clone Wars, though, it was reported that one could be built in as little as two days. Corran Horn's first lightsaber, a dual-phase lightsaber constructed during his time under cover as an Invid pirate, is an example of one made in such a timeframe.
The lightsaber's hilt consisted of an alloy cylinder traditionally 25 to 30 centimeters long; however, design and dimensions of hilts varied greatly in part to the preferences and physiological needs of each creator. The hilt casing contained the intricate components that created and shaped the unique blade. High-powered energy was unleashed through a series of positively charged focusing lenses and energizers, manifesting a beam of energy that extended outward from the base to a length of about a meter, then arced circumferentially back to a negatively charged fissure ringing the emitter. A superconductor completed the power loop by feeding the transformed energy back into the internal power cell, where the energy loop began anew. By adding up to three focusing crystals of varying attributes,[source?] the blade's length and power output could be adjusted using control mechanisms built into the hilt's shaft.
Two crystals employing a bifurcating cyclical-ignition pulse would allow the blade to be used underwater, but this modification added difficulty to what was an already complicated construction process. As a result, most lightsabers did not include 'waterproofing', and would short out when submerged in water. Rain, however, was vaporized on contact. Generally only Jedi such as Kit Fisto, from aquatic races would go to the trouble of constructing a waterproof saber, as only they had the mobility to use it effectively underwater.
Whether by the fledgling Padawan, the experienced master or a Jedi artisan, construction of the lightsaber began with the acquisition of the necessary components with which to build the weapon. All lightsabers contain some common basic components:
- A handgrip
- An activation stud plate
- A safety switch
- An emitter matrix
- A lens assembly
- A power cell (for the most part, unlimited in power; requires little recharging)
- A power conduit
- A recharge socket (recharges the power cell when the lightsaber is off)
- One to three focusing crystals
Many lightsabers, such as that wielded by Zayne Carrick in 3,964 BBY, made use of a pressure sensor in the hilt's grip that deactivated the blade whenever it was released. Notably, Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber lacked such a security measure. Other lightsabers were constructed either without the pressure sensor or with a locking mechanism to keep the blade activated when thrown or dropped.
Traditionally, the crystal was the last component to be sought.[source?] It was the very life essence of the weapon, and gave it both its color and potency. Much scrutiny went into the selection of this final and most important element of the lightsaber.
With all the components in hand, the Jedi would begin the assembly process. Because of the intricacies of the technology used, the Force was employed to bind the components at a molecular level.[source?] This micro-manipulation of the components enabled the closed loop design to operate with near-perfect efficiency.
While many lightsabers appear similar at first glance, closer inspection reveals many differences (subtle or obvious) in design. Because each Jedi personally constructed his or her own weapon from scratch, no two lightsabers were the same. However, some Padawans built their lightsabers to resemble those of their Masters as a sign of respect.
The knowledge of lightsaber construction largely disappeared during the extermination of the Jedi, but Luke Skywalker found the records and the materials he needed to construct his own lightsaber in Obi-Wan Kenobi's hut on Tatooine.
Crystal color, type and number contributed to some of the variations often found in lightsabers. The color of the crystal used decided the eventual color of the lightsaber "blade." Adegan crystals, also known as Ilum crystals, were some of the most popular ones used in lightsabers. These crystals could be imbued with the Force, helping Jedi become one with the saber. The crystal's weak Force signature could be felt by Jedi a short distance away.
After discovering the Kaiburr Crystal on Mimban, Luke Skywalker added a small shard of it to the focusing crystal assembly in his lightsaber. The fragment of the crystal made the blade more powerful and efficient. Other people, such as Leia Organa Solo and Lumiya, also utilized shards of the Kaiburr in their respective weapons (Leia's in a lightsaber and Lumiya's in a lightwhip).
Used because their engineered qualities created a slightly more powerful blade and were more easily augmented, synthetic lightsaber crystals, or synth-crystals, were a synthetic reconstruction of a crystal, commonly with a red shading rather than those geometric models naturally created, although they could be made in any color. Due to the common red shading, they were often nicknamed 'bloodshine blades'. Not without disadvantages, these crystals were more unstable, short-lived, and less maneuverable than their natural counterparts. Synth-crystals were frequently used by dark-siders, most of all the Sith. Though it rarely happened, a Sith synthetic crystal lightsaber blade was capable of overloading a regular lightsaber in combat, making it short out, thus giving the Sith a small psychological edge over their opponents.
During the Great Sith War epoch, many lightsabers were created using Kunda Stones, a natural geologic formation from the planet Kadril, in place of crystals. These stones boasted numerous practical applications in medicine and communications; however, when added to other focusing crystals, they produced a broader beam.
Some types of pearls or ingots of certain ores could be used instead of crystals, though this was an arcane and ancient craft dating back to before the Battle of Ruusan. Following his adventures on Taris, the Jedi once known as Revan discovered that a krayt dragon pearl could be utilized as part of a lightsaber, greatly enhancing its power.
Corran Horn notably used a Durindfire Gem as his main crystal, giving his blade a silver hue.
The most common variety of lightsaber hilt was about 20-35 centimeters, using one or two crystals, and was best wielded with two hands. It was a trademark of the Jedi Knights and their Sith counterparts. During the time of the New Jedi Order, a number of hilt varieties of this lightsaber type existed, but it is unknown if Force-sensitives of other eras also conformed to these standardized hilt options.
Archaic lightsabers, also known as protosabers—The earliest known form of lightsaber. It consisted of a hilt most often made of solid duranium, a focusing crystal that was set in place inside the hand-carved hilt, a power pack that was strapped to the belt or back of the wielder and a cord that connected to the power pack and to the base of the hilt. Much like later lightsabers, their focusing crystal was set inside a hilt from which a blade of energy was emitted. The main difference between these lightsabers and later lightsabers lay in that the hilt was connected by a cable to an external power supply carried by the wielder on his or her back. The invention of smaller power cells that could be fit within the hilt of the lightsaber and the greater freedom of movement gained by this advance in lightsaber technology made protosabers obsolete. Odan-Urr wielded such a lightsaber, as did many of the Jedi before the Great Sith War.
Electrum—A lightsaber with a hilt forged from gold-like electrum was often called an "Electrum lightsaber." The electrum finish gave the lightsaber a majestic, regal appearance. In the last days of the Old Jedi Order, golden and electrum lightsabers were reserved for senior members of the Jedi Council. Mace Windu's and Darth Sidious's lightsabers were examples of such kind.
Curved-hilt lightsaber—A standard design during the prime of Form II lightsaber combat, curved hilts allowed more precise movements as well as reasonable flexibility in lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat. The curved hilt also provided a challenge when defending against it, because the wielder would strike a slightly different angle than with a normal hilt. It was also more complex and gave the maker more of a challenge in aligning its crystals. This lightsaber was known to be used by Count Dooku, his apprentice Komari Vosa, and later his Dark Side Adept Asajj Ventress. Ventress's lightsabers could combine to make a curved double blade. This was also known as paired lightsabers. The Wookiee Jedi Master Tyvokka used a curved blade, suggesting that he may have been a practitioner of Makashi. Prior to the Battle of Ruusan, the Sith Master Na'daz possessed a lightsaber with a curved hilt. Na'daz's apprentice, Kas'im, acquired that weapon after killing him, and he later presented it to Darth Bane.
Tonfa Style/Guard Shoto
Training lightsabers—The training lightsaber was used by Jedi younglings, to practice lightsaber combat. While non-lethal, contact with the blade could cause bruising and even minor burns. This type of lightsaber was often used in conjunction with the basic Shii-Cho style of lightsaber combat. It was also used by Padawans and training droids in the Jedi Praxeum during the New Jedi Order.
- "Dual-phase blades seem to be something of a fad among Jedi at certain points"
- ―Luke Skywalker
Dual-phase Lightsaber—This rare type of lightsaber used a combination of focusing crystals to create a blade that could extend up to double the original length with a simple activation. Unlike typical lightsabers, which often possessed a manual adjuster for reducing the blade emission, the dual-phased blade could be triggered in an instant, adding an element of surprise to catch an opponent off guard. Additionally, dual-phase lightsabers also had a blade-width adjust. Gantoris wielded such a lightsaber, as did Darth Malak, Corran Horn and Darth Vader.
Records from circa 400 BBY indicate that Keiran Halcyon constructed a special dual phase lightsaber that could go from the standard 1.3 meters to a length of three meters with flick of a switch. Most dual phase lightsabers date from an earlier period of Republic history when lightsaber duels were common and the Sith were at the height of their power. As more beings became aware of the Jedi fighting skills and the Jedi themselves strove to end disputes without drawing their weapons, duels grew less frequent and dual phase lightsabers went out of style.
Short Lightsaber or Shoto—A lightsaber employing a shorter blade than the more common lightsaber. The smaller blade allowed for easier use in combat by those Jedi who were of a smaller stature, such as Jedi Masters Yoda, Even Piell, Yaddle, and Tsui Choi. Moreover, a shoto was sometimes utilized in the Niman (Jar'Kai) combat style by individuals of normal stature, for example the ancient Jedi Master Kavar and a number of Darth Malak's dark side minions. The shoto could also be used as an assault knife. Luke Skywalker constructed his own shoto after the Battle of Endor. Master Sora Bulq during the Clone Wars era was known to carry a shoto which he used in combat with Senior Jedi Master Mace Windu. Those not sensitive to the Force could use this type of lightsaber due to its shorter blade. Luke Skywalker also made one to combat Dark Lady of the Sith Lumiya and her lightwhip to aid him in combat. Guard shotos were rare, perpendicular-gripped type of lightsaber. Maris Brood, a Zabrak Jedi and Sinya, a Twi'lek Black Sun bodyguard, used such weapons.
Underwater Lightsaber—While most lightsabers short out when the blade touches water, this blade was made to operate underwater due to two crystals employing a bifurcating cyclical-ignition pulse. It was carried by Kit Fisto during the Clone Wars battle on Mon Calamari. Other Jedi whose lightsabers were functional underwater were:
- Anakin Skywalker (both his first and second "Jedi lightsabers")
- Luke Skywalker (both his father's and his own lightsaber)
- Mara Jade (at least two of her lightsabers, as her second was Anakin Skywalker's)
- Jacen Solo
- Qu Rahn
- Imperial Knights
The color of a lightsaber blade was defined by the focusing crystal used in its construction. The Jedi collected crystals of varying types and hues from natural deposits, whereas the Sith made use of fabricated synth-crystals usually designed to emanate shades of red. After the purges of the Old Republic's Jedi order, synth-crystals were also shaped and used by Jedi on occasion. Luke Skywalker's green blade and Jaina Solo's violet blade both sprang from synth-crystals.
Prior to the final battle of Ruusan, ancient Jedi wielded blades of every color and hue. Some of the more common colors were orange, yellow, cyan, blue, green, viridian, violet, silver, and gold. Some ancient Jedi, such as Sylvar, even wielded blades of red hues, although the order typically avoided any colors that might associate them with the Sith. Red was also avoided since it was the most common representation of blood and violence. After the terrifying end of the Ruusan conflict, however, Jedi turned to more common Adegan crystals of blue or green coloration. Other colors, like bronze and brown, did still exist, but were extremely rare. Mace Windu, for example, braved the terrors of Hurikane to find his violet crystal. Black lightsaber crystals were also known to exist, but were almost non-existent.
In the era of the Jedi Civil War, the color of a Jedi's blade was a traditional symbol for the path the Jedi chose in his duties within the order, although a Jedi was not required to use a color that corresponded with his or her Jedi class. A green blade was the sign of the Jedi Consulars, scholarly diplomats and negotiators. Blue was the color associated with Jedi Guardians, the physically vigorous defenders of the galaxy. The third color, yellow, was held for those among the Jedi Sentinels, Jedi who found their skills balanced between physical prowess and scholarly awareness of the Force. For the purposes of the lightsaber's strength, these crystals functioned identically; color was the only variation.
After the Great Jedi Purge, Emperor Palpatine razed many of the known crystal sites, making it more difficult to find crystals of any hue. After the rise of the New Jedi Order, however, the discovery of long-forgotten resources and the use of synth-crystals brought a variety of colors back to the order's lightsabers.
Unusual Weapon Variants
Double-bladed lightsaber—also called a Saberstaff, Lightsaber Lance, Doublesaber, or Lightstaff, had a longer-hilt version of the standard lightsaber, and could emit a blade from both ends. This is the most common of the rarer forms of lightsabers. Each blade could be activated independently of one another or simultaneously. It could be one hilt or two normal lightsabers attached together. This was often even more dangerous to the untrained wielder than to the opponent. It came to be known as a "Sith lightsaber" because it was preferred by Sith and was possibly invented by Dark Lord of the Sith Exar Kun, whose lightsaber was both double-bladed and dual-phase. This made his personal style of lightsaber combat very complex, as he would vary the strength and length of either blade independently; sometimes letting the opponent's blade pass right through his, sometimes blocking. Darth Maul was inspired by Kun and created his own saberstaff which he used to duel Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn simultaneously.
Although double-bladed lightsabers were commonly believed to be aggressive and destructive, Bastila Shan and Shado Vao were two of the few light side Force-users to wield a double-bladed lightsaber. Also, when Darth Vader led the raid on the Jedi Temple, several Jedi were encountered using double-bladed lightsabers. However, double-bladed lightsabers were used most commonly among the Jedi during sparring sessions.
Great Lightsaber or Lightclub—Special focusing crystals and power systems enabled this rare lightsaber to project a blade up to 3 meters in length. These large lightsabers were generally used only by beings of immense stature. Gorc, a mutated Gamorrean Dark Jedi, used such a weapon.
Lightwhip—The lightwhip was an exotic variation of the lightsaber that only specially-trained Jedi could wield. It could either have a solid core of cortosis or other lightsaber-resistant minerals (see below) or it could be a blade of pure energy. Like the lightsaber, it emitted a coherent beam of energy, but unlike the lightsaber's, it was long and flexible enough to be wielded like a whip. Known users of the lightwhip included Sith Lady Lumiya, the Sith Lord Githany, Nightsister Silri, bounty hunter Vianna D'Pow, Jedi Master Kit Fisto, and possibly the Black Sun Vigo Xist.
A Fiber-cord linked lightsaber was a form of the dual-blade lightsaber, except that the hilts of this weapon were joined by a fiber cord. More difficult to control than a double-bladed saber, the fiber cord joint of the weapon gave the wielder the benefit of striking from unexpected angles. Asajj Ventress's lightsabers were modified to accommodate a fiber cord link on occasion.
Lightsaber cane/staff —The Veknoid Jedi Master Zao carried a weathered wooden cane, upon which he attached a lightsaber emitter. Although blind, Zao could still utilize the weapon with frightening accuracy. The Legacy-era Sith Darth Nihl also used a lightsaber staff.
Similar to the lightsaber cane, this was a force pike modified to include a lightsaber emitter, resulting in a blade similar those projected by the saber cane. It could be wielded by anyone skilled in the use of the force pike, and was used to great effect by Emperor Palpatine's Shadow Guard.
Forked lightsaber—This form of twin-bladed lightsaber was essentially a regular crystal lightsaber with a second emitter coming out of the hilt at a 45-degree angle to the axis of the lightsaber. In addition to being the most unusual of lightsaber designs, and subsequently the most rare, the hilt was also slightly curved. One of the few known Jedi Knights to use this lightsaber style was Roblio Darté, who fought in the Clone Wars at the Battle of Parcellus Minor.
Other than emitting a colored light, a lightsaber blade was a massless form that neither radiated heat nor expended energy until it came into contact with something (except for air, apparently). The power of the energy blade was so great that it could cut through almost anything, though the speed through which it cut was dependent greatly on the density of the subject. Cleaving flesh, for instance, was a smooth and unobstructed action, while rending a hole in a blast door could take a while. One important note about lightsaber wounds is that they rarely bleed profusely, even when a limb had been severed. The energy blade cauterized the wound as it passed, and thus even a severe wound did not tend to bleed heavily. A notable exception was Ponda Baba, whose arm was cut off by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Chalmun's Cantina. It may have bled because of Baba's alien physiology. When cutting through dense material, the immense electromagnetic field generated by the arc causes resistance rather than letting solid matter enter and interrupt the arc. This gives the blade a feeling of being solid when immersed in dense material. Rarely, some solid materials can actually pass through the electromagnetic field and short out the arc (see, "Resisting the lightsaber" below). Other Electromagnetic energy fields and coherent energy are also repelled by lightsabers' arcs. These include most force fields, blaster bolts, and other lightsaber blades.
Resisting the lightsaber
Aside from the blade of another lightsaber, there were rare materials or creatures found throughout the galaxy that could withstand a lightsaber blade, but with varying degrees of success:
Cortosis, though a rare and expensive metal, became a common defense against lightsabers in the eras of the Sith Wars. One of the reasons that it was so expensive was the need to refine it. Pure, unrefined, freshly mined Cortosis ore was for unexplained reasons ionized, and anyone who touched it would be killed instantly. Near the end of the Clone Wars, the Separatist Droid Army employed cortosis battle droids in an attack on the Jedi Temple. Shortly after Order 66 was given, the Jedi Shadday Potkin attacked Darth Vader with a Cortosis blade during a failed ambush attempt on Kessel. There were three known methods of forging cortosis armor and weapons, each with varying effects:
The first method was to make the armor or weapon with a cortosis weave, which utilized the ore's primary elements. When contacted by a lightsaber's blade, the cortosis fibers that were worked into the metal caused a surge that shorted out the energy blade. The lightsaber could be reactivated immediately, but it gave the opponent the momentary upper hand. It can be assumed that the natural ionic properties of the material allow the cortosis fibers to penetrate the electromagnetic field created by the lightsaber arc before being sublimed into plasma. The presence of this solid within the blade arc creates the short. The drawback to the weave was that its alloy construction was still susceptible to damage from the lightsaber attack.
The most common (and inexpensive) method employed during the Jedi Civil War era was the use of a variant cortosis alloy that resisted the lightsaber blade itself, though it did not cause the lightsaber to deactivate as its more pure form did. This enabled troops to fight enemy Jedi or Sith blade to blade.
The rarest type of cortosis came in the form of a refined metal with all the impure elements removed. Thus purified, there were no "weaker" metals for the lightsaber to damage, and unique conducting elements remained to short out the energy blade. This refined alloy, nicknamed a cortosis shield was most often employed as armor.
Lightfoil were small and elegant energy swords based upon lightsaber design. They were popular among certain nobles of the Tapani sector, especially those that called themselves "saber rakes". Lightfoils were weaker than authentic lightsabers due to the poor quality focusing crystals used in their manufacture and the relatively low level of craftsmanship compared to Jedi artisans. On the plus side, though, they apparently did not require any connection to the Force to create, and were fully usable by non-Force sensitives.
Phrik, like cortosis, was a rare metal that could withstand the potency of a lightsaber blade, although unlike the aforementioned metal, Phrik did not possess the ability to cause the blade to short out. Phrik was most notably used in the construction of the electrostaffs wielded by General Grievous's MagnaGuards. Other notable uses of Phrik included elements of Palpatine's lightsaber and Dark Trooper armor.
Darkswords were an ancient type of sword which could be used to parry lightsaber blows, being made from a special material. Unlike cortosis, this material did not possess the ability to temporarily deactivate a lightsaber blade it made contact with.
Armorweave was a cloth said to give some resistance to lightsabers, though the protection the reinforced material afforded was limited.
Sith Alchemy was employed during the eras of the first Sith Empire to augment the properties of the applied metals so as to counter the seemingly unstoppable lightsaber. The Sith also made use of such elements as cortosis in the forging of their swords. After the original Sith Empire, the most notorious use of Sith alchemy was in the construction and reinforcement of Darth Vader's armor.
Mandalorian iron: A metal used by the Mandalorian warriors.
Yuuzhan Vong bio-engineered weaponry and armor, such as the amphistaff and Vonduun crab armor held a natural, limited resistance to the lightsaber; however, weaknesses were soon found in the armor and staff. Luke Skywalker's first engagement with this bio-technology ended favorably only after striking the Yuuzhan Vong spy's amphistaff repeatedly in the same spot, weakening and ultimately killing it.
Water: All lightsabers, unless specially made, would short out when they were (to some extent and period of time) submerged in water, due to rapid chain reactions and the instant overpowering of water on the blade. In rain, a lightsaber would steam up, but not short out. See also Underwater Lightsaber.
Orbalisks: These parasitic and sometimes symbiotic creatures from Dxun had shells so strong even lightsaber blades could not penetrate it. When a Force user wore these creatures as a protective coat, it rendered the wearer virtually immune to most forms of attack. Darth Bane covered his entire body in orbalisks, excluding only his face, feet and hands thanks to special armor he crafted to stunt their growth.
Other counteracting materials existed in the galaxy, such as an unidentified super-conducting metal that was used for ship armor centuries before the Galactic Empire, as well as various energy shields, like Durge's. Some creatures, such as lava dragons, were possessed of natural armor that reflected the blade much as the blade reflected a blaster bolt. It is also probable that quantum-crystalline armor could not be cut by a lightsaber, as it was believed the only way to destroy the material was to send it into a black hole.
- "This weapon is your life."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker
The lightsaber was a very versatile weapon, owing to its unique lightness and omni-directional cutting ability. It could be wielded one-handed with ease, though Jedi were routinely trained in using the saber with both hands and either, so as to be prepared for all situations. Early in the weapon's history, when the Sith were numerous, the art of lightsaber dueling flourished. In later periods though, only rarely would Jedi face an adversary with a weapon capable of repelling a lightsaber. Defending themselves against blasters and other energy weapons was introduced early in their training. While a skilled Jedi could actually use his or her blade to reflect blaster bolts back to their source, non-energy based projectiles (slugs, bullets, etc.) would merely be dissolved by the blade. Blocking unusually dense slug material, however, ran the risk of not completely sublimating (changing solid instantly to gas) the slugs. Molten slug material deflected off the blade could splatter onto its wielder or surrounding objects.
Although the blade was weightless, swinging, two handed slashes were the most common movement. This was because inertia was still needed to cut through solid objects. Solid objects were repelled by the blade arc until they were changed to gas or plasma. Therefore, inertia was required to counter act the initial repelling force. The stronger the swing, the faster and easier the blade would cut. If little force was applied to the swing, the repelling force of the blade arc would leave shallow cuts. This can be seen when Count Dooku tapped Obi-Wan in the shoulder and leg, and when glancing blows by Luke Skywalker and Vader failed to cut fully through guard rails on the second Death Star. When two lightsaber blades came in contact with each other, the two repelling forces made the blade appear to be solid.
Also, the field that caused the energy to arc back into the blade caused some gyroscopic effects. While technically weightless, the blade still had some resistance to changes in motion. The gyroscopic effects appeared to be centered at the apex of the arc, meaning that the longer the blade, the more difficult it was to control. The slight gyroscopic effects were easily controlled by a trained force user, but could become problematic for lay person. The best example of this is when the Ewok Tarfang temporarily picked up Mara Jade Skywalker's lightsaber in a low gravity environment. When he swung it at a group of Killiks, he spun wildly out of control until Luke stopped him with the Force.
The Jedi were trained to use the Force as a conduit between the wielder and the weapon. Through this bond in the Force, the blade became an extension of their being; it moved with instinct as though it were a part of the body. The Jedi's attunement to the Force accounted for the almost super-Human agility and reflex illustrated in the use of the lightsaber.
Since the lightsaber's invention, the Jedi have established varying forms of style in lightsaber combat which cater to the unique features of the weapon and the bond between it and its owner.
In the hands of non-Force-sensitive users
- "This little toy of yours is fun. I can see why you guys get into the whole Jedi thing."
Although the lightsaber was used primarily by the Jedi and Sith Force users, a number of non-Force users were known to have used or possessed a lightsaber:
Suvam Tan, the eccentric Rodian inventor, was such a mechanical genius that he managed to construct his own lightsaber from scratch despite not having any Force sensitivity. It's unknown whether or not Suvam was actually able to use his lightsaber, though.
Darca Nyl, a former mercenary, used the green lightsaber of a dead Jedi during his pursuit of Lycan. Though he rarely used it in battle, it often gave him the advantage of being able to pass for a true Jedi. It was destroyed along with Lycan in a trap laid by Darca in a Force-sensitive cave on Molavar. He then replaced the damaged lightsaber with one of Lycan's.
General Grievous was probably the most famous user of lightsabers without any Force ability; he used lightsabers during the Clone Wars, all of which were taken from Jedi he had either killed or defeated in battle, except for Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas' lightsaber, which was a gift from Count Dooku. His body's agility and mechanical forearms compensated for lack of Force-sensitivity, allowing him to wield lightsabers with great efficiency.
Orman Tagge had technicians construct a lightsaber based on scarce information of the Galactic Republic era when Jedi still existed. He practiced with it in order to avenge his loss of vision at the hands of Darth Vader, who had used his lightsaber to blind Tagge.
Thall Joben once used a green lightsaber, as he explained to his droid C-3PO that he once did some work for someone who owned a speeder, but they left the speeder with him and never reclaimed it; the lightsaber was one of the things left in the speeder by the person. It is unknown if this customer of Thall's was actually a Jedi or was simply someone who killed a Jedi or a Sith and took the lightsaber from them. Most likely, it was the latter, as most Jedi and Sith do not simply forget their lightsabers, although the Jedi may have been leaving his lightsaber to escape the Jedi Purge.
Boba Fett was rumored to have owned a small collection of lightsabers which were either stolen or found by Fett after Order 66. Fett challenged Darth Vader to a lightsaber duel where Fett used a green bladed lightsaber and was defeated by the much more skillful Darth Vader. In 40 ABY, Fett sparred with Jaina Solo with a green bladed lightsaber.
Han Solo used Don-Wan Kihotay's lightsaber to kill the Behemoth of Aduba-3. Solo found out that the lightsaber had disruptive effects on the energy that the Behemoth used to fire lethal rays from its forehead. Solo simply stabbed the monster in the guts, causing it to disintegrate in a flash of energy. Prior to the Battle of Hoth, he used Luke Skywalker's (formerly Anakin Skywalker's) lightsaber after he rescued Luke from a snowstorm on Hoth. Solo used the lightsaber to slice open the body of a dead Tauntaun, whose insides he then used to keep Luke warm while he constructed a proper shelter for the both of them. As he did so, he thought it might be some sort of sacrilege, using a Jedi lightsaber for such a disgusting task. Solo also used his wife Leia Organa Solo's lightsaber during the Thrawn Campaign when they were attacked by a YT-1300 light freighter, and during the Caamas Document Crisis to try and stop a riot on Bothawui. Mara Jade's lightsaber was also used by Solo while fighting Killiks shortly before the Swarm War. When he briefly lost it, Tarfang, an Ewok smuggler, wielded the lightsaber and fought the Killiks himself.
In the Tapani Sector, an entire subculture of "saber rakes" developed. These were a group of young nobles who dueled one another with lightfoils, a low-powered but still deadly energy sword, based upon lightsaber design.
Sinya, a member of the Black Sun crime syndicate, was a wielder of tonfa-style lightsaber. She and her lightsaber were destroyed when Darth Maul came to the Black Sun Station, destroying the station and killing her in the process.
Behind the scenes
- "An elegant weapon for a more civilized time, eh? Well, guess what...times have changed."
In the early incarnations of the Star Wars story, lightsabers were not weapons exclusive to the Jedi and Sith. In fact, they were quite mundane, being used by Rebel and Imperial troopers alike. George Lucas then limited the weapon only to the Jedi Knights & Sith to give the order a unique feel and an arcane quality.
In the early rough draft of the "Star Wars" in 1974, lightsabers are called "laserswords." Annikin Starkiller, a Jedi, wielded a lasersword with a red blade.
Crystals first appear in the Star Wars mythos simply as an embedded decoration on the hilt in the A New Hope novelization. Aside from this single instance, there are no crystals mentioned in any of the movies or their novelizations. Lightsaber construction is mentioned in detail during the Return of the Jedi novelization and numerous components are detailed, including an "organic connector," but no crystals are listed.
The Anakin/Luke lightsaber was made from a Graflex camera side-attach flash, while the Darth Vader lightsaber was made from a Micro Precision Products flash attachment, in the original trilogy. The handle grips were made of rubber windscreen wipers (probably from a British WW2 tank), and D-rings were attached to the bottoms of the units so that they could be worn on a belt.
The Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber from the original trilogy was the most complex hilt during that time. It was assembled from parts consisting of an Armitage Shanks Starlite model Handwheel, Browning ANM2 machine gun booster, WWI No.3 Mk.1 British Rifle Grenade and a Rolls-Royce Derwent Mk.8/Mk.9 Jet Engine Balance Pipe.
During the initial editing of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke's lightsaber was colored blue. However, against the desert blue sky environment, the decision was made to change it to green for a better visual effect, hence the birth of the green lightsaber.
In the original trilogy, the blades were made from carbon rods and were easily broken during battle.
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Samuel L. Jackson made a special request for his character, Mace Windu, to carry a purple lightsaber, which George Lucas told Samuel L. Jackson that he might get a purple one. Lucas eventually made Samuel L.'s character carry a violet bladed lightsaber. It is the first instance in the Star Wars movies when a lightsaber color other than red, blue, or green appears.
In The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, lightsaber blades were made of resin hilts with a steel rod and were not easily broken, but were easily bent during fighting. However, the lightsabers used in Revenge of the Sith were made of fibertube consisting of three layers of fiberglass, three layers of carbon fiber and another layer called texalium, which is essentially aluminum impregnated with glass that gave the weapon more resistance to damage. However, this new hardened saber was more painful to the actors that were constantly being hit when sparring.
In Star Wars Insider Issue 85, based on Ralph McQuarrie's artwork, see above, Karen Traviss made a story about Darth Vader called A Two-Edged Sword which had "Force-sensitive stormtroopers" in it. These versions had red lightsabers and were trained by Vader himself.
Lightsabers are usually rendered having a rounded end. During the Yoda/Dooku duel in Attack of the Clones, a lightsaber was depicted with a pointed end for the first time. It was Dooku's, and can be seen in the shot when Yoda says, "Fought well you have, my old Padawan." Pointed ends were featured much more prominently in Revenge of the Sith.
Lightsabers have been inconsistently portrayed in the Star Wars films with regard to how light from the blade interacts with the environment. Lightsabers are not a source of light in the original trilogy. Although they glow, they do not illuminate their surroundings. In the prequel trilogy, however, they do. This is best exemplified when comparing light cast from the weapons in the final duels in Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones. This inconsistency is due in large part to special effects technology limitations during production of the original trilogy.
Lightsabers are traditionally worn on the left for ease of reach by a right-handed person. Left-handers would find it easier to wear it on the right for the "cross-draw" tactic of readying a lightsaber for battle from a belt. Only when using two separate blades is their position irrelevant.
For some time it had been established that the blade of a lightsaber emitted no discernible heat. One could place their hand closely to the blade and feel nothing until their flesh made actual contact with the blade, in which case a considerable amount of energy was transferred from the blade to the body and the individual perceived distressingly high temperature. The Legacy of the Force novels Betrayal, Bloodlines, and Tempest state that lightsabers do in fact emit heat from their blades. Whether this is an oversight of the authors' or an attempt to retcon the previous continuity is unknown.
The History Channel aired a special episode of Modern Marvels entitled Star Wars Tech. In this episode contemporary scientists agreed that a lightsaber blade, if one could be generated, would most likely be composed of plasma enclosed within a electromagnetic field (plasma, if not contained, has a tendency to disperse throughout the surrounding atmosphere). Plasma is the fourth state of matter and is composed of electrically charged (ionized) gaseous particles and can at times have properties similar to solids (such as the ability to exert considerable force or pressure on another object). Plasma is the principle component of lightning bolts and the material that makes up the "surface" of earth's sun. Scientists disagree however with the claim that lightsabers emit no heat and yet still manage to cut through various materials. Scientists claim that in order for plasma to cut through metal and flesh on contact, like the blade of a lightsaber does, the plasma would have to be ten times hotter than anything found on earth, or about 2 million degrees. This would make the lightsaber an impractical weapon for personal combat.
In the novel of the film Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu choked on the ozone emitting from his lightsaber while he was struggling to deflect Darth Sidious's force lightning.
In the Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights novel Lightsabers, Tenel Ka remembered feeling a cold sensation in her left arm when it was accidentally severed off by Jacen Solo. Whether or not this occurs in select people or not is unknown.
Lightsabers first appeared in the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novelization. They appear in almost all the works of the Star Wars saga, with a few notable exceptions:
See main article, List of works in which lightsabers do not appear
- Han Solo Trilogy
- Star Wars: Republic Commando (Debatable as a lightsaber can be found as an easter egg, but it is part of a joke that a clone says)
- The Adventures of Lando Calrissian
- The Han Solo Adventures
- Much of Star Wars: Empire
- X-wing: Rogue Squadron
N.B. Archaic lightsabers appear in the following works:
- Star Wars toy line
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back toy line
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi toy line
- Star Wars: The Power of the Force (1985)
- Star Wars: The Power of the Force (1995)
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire toy line
- Star Wars: Behind the Magic
- Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novelization
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Movie Scrapbook
- Episode I: The Visual Dictionary
- Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Movie Scrapbook
- Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
- Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive
- The New Essential Chronology
- "Fightsaber: Jedi Lightsaber Combat"—Star Wars Insider 62
- Star Wars Gamer Magazine, Issue #8
- Star Wars: Purge
- Jedi Council: Acts of War
- I, Jedi
- Dark Apprentice
- Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
- Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
Notes and references
- ↑ Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Splinter of the Mind's Eye
- ↑ Shadows of the Empire (novel)
- ↑ Star Wars: Demolition
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
- ↑ Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith novelization
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- ↑ Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
- ↑ Star Wars: Clone Wars
- ↑ Darth Bane: Path of Destruction
- ↑ Dark Apprentice
- ↑ I, Jedi
- ↑ Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Clone Wars Chapter 5
- ↑ Creature Comfort
- ↑ Star Wars 87: Still Active After All These Years
- ↑ Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
- ↑ Dark Tide I: Onslaught
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
- ↑ Star Wars Legacy 32: Fight Another Day, Part 1
- ↑ Star Wars Legacy 33: Fight Another Day, Part 2
- ↑ Clone Wars Chapter 18
- ↑ Clone Wars Chapter 19
- ↑ Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
- ↑ Star Wars Tech