How to Build Neopixel Lightsaber?

If you have been with me through my lightsaber journey, you have a pretty good hunch about my goals.

I have always wanted the brightest lightsaber since I caught sight of one. Mainly to flex in front of my Star Wars fanatic friends.

Buying a lightsaber sounds easy and convenient if you do not look at the price tag. Neopixel lightsabers already cost a small fortune.

So to bet my nonexistent fortune I decided to build myself a lightsaber from scratch. It was a tough journey as I caught up with many mistakes.

To help you avoid all those inconveniences I have listed the process in easy steps. You will be swinging with a lightsaber of a kind in no time!

Moreover, if you want a particular style you can always change the curves during the shaping process of the hilt. Right now we will start with an iconic Rey/Luke Skywalker lightsaber and code the light effects accordingly.

Let’s get to it!

Step 1: Get the Neopixel Strip

It would not be a neopixel lightsaber without the neopixel strip. Right?

Normally a high density 144 neopixel LED strip can be used. It is easier to program and the brightest at the core microcontroller board. The power supply with the LiPo battery is adequate with a steady DC/DC converter stream.

However, we also have to care about heat dissipation. As two strips are added along the sides of the blade it generates enough heat to melt the material of the blade. Holding a scorching blade with a pained expression is not my idea of flex.

So we have to keep the heat dissipation below 40%. The catch is that not all the colors will be at their brightest intensity. The white will not be so bright yet the other RGB colors will be somewhat brighter. Not much of a difference if you ask me when you still get to enjoy the blade modes.

Step 2: Prepare the Sound Effects

You know what I am going to say next. Right?

The correct code will give you all the effects Star Wars lightsabers bewitched you with. Free codes are available on the internet for all your secret moves. Whether it’s flash on clash, deflecting blaster blocks or smooth swing you can get the effect with the help of the software.

In the original and earliest Star Wars lightsaber the sound effects were not coming from the lightsaber. No. the sounds were added later from the sounds created in the studio. There was no physics involved.

However, with the advancement, you have software that can easily catch up to your movement. How did you think the lightsaber was able to catch up? It gives the hmm sound when you swing it and stops when you step. Also, lightsabers give blaster effects when they hit a surface and turn off automatically.

That is all due to miraculous software for the microcontrollers in your lightsabers. For neopixel LEDs, an Arduino board is commonly used. It is not only reasonable prices but easier to control as well!

Find out more about Adafruit Neopixel Library and Arduino board here. Once you find out about the customization you will not be able to stop yourself.

Kylo Ren effects? Darth Vader Effects? All only a few codes and system customization away!

Step 3: Customize the Software

Download the software linked to your Arduino board and start experimenting.

With different board software, you have several customization options. You can update the codes for blade modes, sound fonts, ignition modes and more.

The good news is that the codes are available on the internet and you can just copy them!

We know that the knob on the hilt is responsible for all these effects. If we had an individual knob for all the lightsaber effects then the hilt would be one giant pipe of never ending knobs.

So that is why the color theory is used.

For example, you set a code for red indicating blade extension and retraction mode while the green is for swinging sounds. This way you can double or triple press the knob according to the setting and get your desired effects. The software may take some time but it will easily catch up.

Moreover, you can use any type of board from cheaper to expensive and update it to enjoy multiple effects.

One thing I would definitely invest in is the board type. Find out more about the board options here!

Step 4: Gather the Construction Materials

Let’s get to the most dreaded part. The one that puts a dent in your wallet.

Or not! If you follow my scheme of running around spending excessive money and still managing to get a quality product!

I may not be as artistic as the YouTubers who can build a lightsaber from old plastic pipes, windshields, empty torch bodies and whatnot. However, I know where to get the materials at the right price.

What you cannot forgo are a good sturdy polycarbonate blade and a PVC pipe hilt. They have proven to be effective in my lightsaber building journey. Polycarbonate pipes are unfortunately only available at Amazon. However, on the bright side, you can get good PVC pipes for the hilt from Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware or any box store.

Though I highly recommend adding your creativity to the mix. After all, each Jedi has his calling. Individual personality will be instilled in your lightsaber that sets you apart from others!

Step 5: Construct the Blade

Let me tell you something. Indulging in any material other than polycarbonate is a mistake.

Been there. Through that.

Polycarbonate is most suitable for making lightsaber blades. That is because it is durable yet transparent enough to allow the LEDs to shine without a dense layer in the way. You can cut polycarbonate and bend it into shape without damaging it. In the nutshell, it is all in one.

Lastly, the original polycarbonate has a blue tint to it. Choose that one. This tip will help you filter!

You can duel, display, spin and cosplay with a polycarbonate blade and the material will suffice. So remove the thoughts of acrylic, transparent PVC and others from your mind.

Coming to the dimensions I recommend buying the polycarbonate according to what you intend to do with your lightsaber. For example, if you want to duel then go with a heavy grade 25mm OD and 22mm inner diameter blade. Although you can go far as 31mm/ 1.25” OD if you like.

Mostly 25mm is a standard for all kinds of purposes. Also, keep in mind that you have to add LEDs to the blade. Make space for that. Normally, I use a thin tube (1.6mm wall thickness) because the LED strip is already 12-15 mm wide.

Now the trick is attaching the blade to the hilt. You can either use O-Rings and screws or a pipe coupler. Both of these have proven to be effective in holding the polycarbonate pipes in place with the hilt. They fit snugly if you get the dimensions to the dot. No fear of a loosely attached blade or it slipping out altogether!

Now let me in you on a secret!

Always choose the O-Rings or the coupler with the same dimensions as your blade. There is no better fit than this. The blade fits right even though the dimensions are exactly similar. You can also size down the coupler!

Step 6: Add the LEDs to the Blade

The blade is ready and so are the neopixel strips of your choice. Time to adjust these.

One thing I hate the most while adding the lights to the polycarbonate blade is that the LED chip areas appear like bright dots. The light is not evenly distributed. That makes your lightsaber look cheap and brings down the quality of blade effects.

It does not matter whether you bought an expensive long WS2182 LED strip for a 70cm to 92cm blade. Or you went with the cheaper version with two strips with a gap between them. It is that the cheaper version needs modification. You can adjust the gap by reconstructing the strips. They are normally two WS2182 strips that are 50cm long. You must have seen them around as they are easily available.

Now pick those LEDs and ass them to the blade carefully. Remember we had to be careful of the space? I mentioned that because we are going to solve the LED bright dot appearance right now.

The rest of the space other than the LEDs is for the material that will help diffuse the light evenly from the blade. Either we cut the problem from the roots and buy neopixel strips with a white background, they reflect the light better than the black ones, or we take the other route.

You can add a silicone coating and a layer of diffuser/ packing foam for the premium look. In fact, most lightsaber companies use this technique to mask any kind of blade imperfections. Besides the layers are also protective and waterproof. So less damage to our blade. Yay!

Step 7: Construct and Attach the Hilt

The pop up drain pipe with the o-rings you used previously will fit perfectly fine.

The length of the pipe is up to you. Although the standard length is 32cm and that is what I recommend as well. It is easier to handle, twist and control while dueling.

Back to the drain extension pipe. The o-rings keep the whole hilt pipe together perfectly. You can also buy connectors from the market and convert your lightsaber into a double bladed lightsaber or Kylo Ren style.

For the design of the hilt, you can check our Graflex lightsaber design and several others. We have great ideas in store for you!

Now when it comes to attaching the blade I recommend you complete the circuit work with the soundboard outside of the hilt. Wire the battery, board, conductors, push button and everything together. Then adjust everything in the hilt. It is easier and more convenient this way. Test everything before you adjust so you do not have to open everything all over again.

You can follow your own circuit or copy mine. Mine is super easy to understand and build.

Read More:

What is Neopixel and Neopixel Lightsaber?

Are Disney Lightsabers Neopixel?

Step 8: Adjust the Power Supply

Now when it comes to the power supply there are always dozens of questions. Hopefully, I was not the only one!

You have come so far yet this crucial step can take everything downhill.

Note that neopixel LEDs must operate at the full 16MHz clock rate and be the 5V version. Both in terms of voltage (to control the LED strip) and processing power, the 3.3V version is insufficient (to run the sound synthesizer).

You can use a controller and attach it to the battery, it will sense the heat build up of the blade and warn you. Checking the DC/DC current to the LEDs is very important. A secure battery connection can save you from a lot of problems. That includes saving your effort as well as your money!

The power source should align with the requirements the Adafruit NeoPixel has posed as mentioned above. This way your lightsaber will last longer and give impressive light effects.

Step 9: Add speakers (Optional)

Like me, there has to be someone who wants to build an impressive lightsaber that is awe-inspiring.

A little bit of extra touch will not hurt. Right?

If you are on par with me then let’s discuss the speakers. They add a nice touch and certainly enhance the dueling experience ten folds.

The speaker got to be the right size. We are trying to adjust everything in the hilt and upgrade. Creating more chaos will only cause problems later.

Good for us there are several speakers available that are right for the hilt and used for slimmer sized objects. They amplify the sound and use 2 watts of power. You can add a speaker to the base/pommel of the hilt. Also since it is optional you can take it out easily.

Magnetic speakers that you find in other house appliances can also be used for the lightsaber. They are super in and many are available for the sole purpose of lightsabers only. So it is easier to get a speaker that is lightweight and mall cut with a great Amp.

Step 10: Put Everything Together & Start Already!

The last and final step. Wipe the sweat off your brow and get ready to be amazed!

Now that you have put everything together. What are you waiting for? Test the lightsaber and find out if it has exceeded your expectations. You bet it has!

Check out all the modes and light effects and prepare to take the lightsaber for a dueling contest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you make a custom Neopixel lightsaber?

You can customize a lightsaber in a number of ways for the hilt design, hilt material, blade design, blade color, sound fonts and much more.

Is Neopixel a RGB?

Neopixel strip is a bunch of RGBs combined together that can be individually addressed. However, there is a remarkable difference between a standard RGB lightsaber and a neopixel one.

How many LEDs are in a Neopixel lightsaber?

A neopixel strip has 144 mini LEDs in a high density 32 inch lightsaber blade. However, that can be changed according to the size of your lightsaber blade.

How many LEDs can run on 12V?

For 12V you can run up to 150 neopixel LEDs in a 36 inch lightsaber blade.

Do I need a capacitor for Neopixel?

You can add buffers to neutralize the large voltage changes from the power supply. Sometimes you are using a large power DC battery that can damage the neopixel strip so you can add a capacitor to counteract that.

Can you fight with Neopixel?

Although many websites state that the neopixel lightsaber is durable yet not all lightsabers are suitable for dueling. Make sure the materials used to build the lightsaber are up to the dueling standard. Also, keep an eye out for the durability seal on the website.

Can you carry a neopixel lightsaber on an airplane?

It is not like you are carrying a real Sci-Fi Star Wars lightsaber. The toy neopixel lightsaber will suffice as it poses no harm in the real world.

Do Neopixel lightsabers have sound?

A standard neopixel lightsaber offers 2 sounds. That can be changed according to the soundboard installed inside the hilt. You can buy an expensive neopixel lightsaber board to enjoy multiple effects like swing effects, light modes, blade modes etc.