Blueprint of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from “Empire Strikes Back” (source)

Journey of a Lightsaber

WARNING: There are small spoilers ahead for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.

I’ve had this incredible urge to buy a replica of a lightsaber. Not sure why I want to buy one so much, but nonetheless I do. But which one do I buy? Obi-Wan’s? The one that Luke Skywalker had in Return of the Jedi? Darth Vader’s?

But then it came to me. Anakin Skywalker’s second light saber that he made after his first one was cut in half.

It was the light saber that Luke Skywalker was given by Obi-Wan at the beginning of “A New Hope”. And the one he grasped for at the beginning of “Empire Strikes Back”.

It was the one that Rey found in “The Force Awakens”. It’s the light saber that has existed in all three of the trilogies.

So I bought one. I probably spent too much on it, but I had to have it. Maybe it’s symbolic as I enter a new journey in my life with my new company. Maybe it will help give me the sense of self-reliance and adventure that Rey has, who I must say is my new favorite hero along with Imperator Furiosa. Maybe it’s harkening back to my childhood sense of imagination and dreaming. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Star Wars.

What came next after I received the lightsaber in the mail was unexpected.

I was excited when it arrived. I took pictures and posted it on Instagram and Facebook. I pretended to be Luke Skywalker.

But then I started taking a closer look at what I had received in the mail. The first thing I noticed was the “activator switch” had a different pattern than I had remembered. I went back to the product page in my Amazon order history to look at the photos that had been posted with it.

The “activator switch” was different! The buttons were different, there was a screw at the bottom of the black strips on mine, but the one in the photo from Amazon did not have any screws. Then I looked at the plaque that came with the lightsaber I got in the mail. It read “Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker Lightsaber”, but the photo from the Amazon product page said “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”!

So I searched online to see what the lightsaber from Episode II looked like and this is what I found.

It looked nothing like the lightsaber that I had received in the mail. It had a black band in the middle and other black attachments. So what lightsaber did I receive in the mail? Was it a fake or some crappier version? Did I just get swindled?

So I started digging some more on the internet and figured out by looking at this webpage that it was Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from “Episode V: Empire Strikes Back”.

But I kept wondering, is this a real replica or some knock off version? What did I actually buy from this unknown 3rd party seller off of Amazon? I suspiciously examined the lightsaber looking for clues. The “light ignition” part looked a bit shoddy, why was it like a clip? Was this from a version that had the saber attachment and I didn’t get the saber part? Why did the body look like it was from a metal flashlight? So I kept on digging, trying to find more information about lightsabers.

Then I came across this page talking about the appearance of Luke’s lightsaber in one of the early “Force Awakens” trailers. In one section, he explains how they made the original lightsaber in “Episode IV: A New Hope”.

The original iconic prop from 1977 was an antique Graflex camera flash with the bulb and reflector removed and some rubber grips glued to the handle. The prop makers attached vintage calculator display bubbles to the clamp to resemble an exotic power switch and a belt-clip ring on the bottom. A quirky, yet elegant piece of gear that felt (like all Star Wars artifacts at the time) endowed with complexity, history, and functionality.

It was made from the handle of a Graflex camera flash! The reason why the “light ignition” part looked like it was a clip was because *it was a clip*, a clip for the reflector pan of the flash. Here is a photo of the camera flash with the Graflex Speed Graphic camera.

Graflex Speed Graphic camera (source)

You can totally see that the handle of the flash looks like a lightsaber. So as I thought about the replica of the lightsaber, the different details started to make sense given this context. Now my attention turned to the details of all the variations of the lightsaber in the Star Wars movies. What were they and how do I verify I actually have a real replica of Luke’s lightsaber from Episode V?

This took me to this insanely in depth webpage on the exact details and differences of all of the replicas made of the Anakin/Luke Skywalker lightsaber. It confirmed that the hole below one of the buttons on my lightsaber was not a missing piece, but they intentionally left out the “beertab” that is used in other light sabers. It showed that my replica was the only one of the four to have the silver screws at the bottom. It basically proved to me that I had a genuine replica of the Episode V lightsaber.

This brought me back to the question, what version of the lightsaber did Rey have in “Force Awakens”? The only close up that was really available online was in the second trailer that was released, which after seeing the movie is probably Maz Kanata handing the lightsaber to Rey (though I don’t remember this scene actually happening in the movie).

In that short clip, we see that the tab next to the activation switch is silver and the same shape as the lightsabers in “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”. It also shows that one of the the buttons at the top is similar to the one in “A New Hope” because it is flatter, but on the other side it sticks out which is like “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”.

But the clincher is the bottom of the hilt. The black strips have a notch at the bottom with silver screws and the D-ring is bigger and hinges from the edge versus from the center. This means it is most likely the same version as the one used in “Empire Strikes Back”, which is the one I accidentally bought! The only detail that doesn’t match is one of the top buttons, which is flat in the “Force Awakens” trailer, but not in the replica for the lightsaber from “Empire Strikes Back”.

So in the end, I actually bought the lightsaber I really wanted, which is the one that Rey had in “Force Awakens”. I’m pretty sure I overpaid for it given that the plaque is wrong, no certificate of authenticity, and the display rack is probably not the one that came with it originally, but from my cursory review of others that I’ve seen on eBay and other sites, I don’t think I got too bad of a deal.

The final question in my mind brought me back to the story of Star Wars. The last time that we saw this lightsaber was when Luke got his hand cut off by Darth Vader and it fell down the shafts of Cloud City falling through the clouds. It wasn’t obvious from watching “Empire Strikes Back” that the object you see is Luke’s lightsaber, but looking at a storyboard from the “Making of…” book, it is confirmed that it was Luke’s lightsaber that is falling in the sky.

So the question becomes, how the hell did that lightsaber make it into Maz Kanata’s castle basement? There seem to be many spin-off stories on the internet of where it went, but I’m very curious to see how the story unfolds in Episodes 8 & 9 and if we will find out how it had made it’s way to Rey.

It’s a fitting end to my sleuthing, as I tried to figure out what happened with my lightsaber, and so even though I felt I was a duped and sold the wrong bill of goods, I’m going to keep it and enjoy it as if I were 5 years old again, seeing “Star Wars: A New Hope” for the first time.