• Total Nerd

An In-Depth Guide To How Lightsabers Actually Work

While they might be the most recognizable part of Star Wars, the technology behind lightsabers has never really been explained on screen. So, how do lightsabers work? Audiences may have picked up on the fact that kyber crystals were mentioned as the source of power for lightsabers in Rogue One, but only if they were paying close attention. It's certainly true that kyber crystals (otherwise known as lightsaber crystals or focusing crystals) are the most important part of building a lightsaber, but there's far more going on inside the hilt of one of these Star Wars weapons.

Lightsabers are intricate tapestries of electronics and Force power that take great skill to both build and use. Lightsaber designs are as varied as their wielders, but they all have similar components at their center. Jedi, Sith, and really every Force-user employs minor differences in the way they construct their weapons, but there's a standard process behind their creation and use. If you've ever been curious how a lightsaber works, you don't need to rely on the vauge riddles of tiny orange aliens with huge glasses. Here are the cold, hard, lightsaber-y facts. 

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  • Power Cells Are Very Important

    Photo: Lucasfilm

    Lightsabers need power to function, just like any other piece of technology. In a pinch, just about any power cell of appropriate size can be used, including those used in blasters. However, given the appropriate resources, Jedi typically choose Diatium cells for their ability to charge a saber for long periods of time. Some forward-thinking Jedi also design their lightsabers to keep spare power cells in the pommel, in case they're sent away on a long mission.

  • The Original Lightsabers Were Attached To Power Packs

    Photo: Dark Horse

    When lightsabers were first invented, thousands of years before the events of the films, power cells weren't small enough to fit within the hilt. Instead, they drew their power from power packs on the wielder's belt. The power was fed via a small cable attaching the blade to the belt. If you think that sounds dangerous and inconvenient, you're absolutely correct. The risk of the cord being cut by either the user or an opponent was very high.

  • The Hilt Needs To Be Made From Durable Material

    Photo: Lucasfilm

    A well-made lightsaber can last decades, but the blade is only as good as the materials used in construction. In some cases, lightsabers were quickly made out of any mostly correct materials lying around. Corran Horn built his saber, for example, out of the body of a swoop bike throttle assembly.

    However, those who have the time and resources put a lot of care into their lightsabers. Darth Sidious constructed his saber out of phrik, a rare metal that was resistant to lightsaber blades. Other materials to serve as hilts include wood and bone.

  • The Power Cell Needs To Be Insulated

    Photo: Lucasfilm

    When activated, a lightsaber sends a great deal of energy into a very small space. While this leads to the creation of a lightsaber blade, it can also create some serious technical troubles if the construction isn't correct. The power cell needs to be properly insulated in the hilt, for instance. That way, when the weapon is activated there won't be any energy discharges to damage the weapon or its user.