Collectibles Review: A New Hope .45-scale Lightsabers
I was born in the year 1980, or 3 A.S.W. Otherwise know as, 3 years after Star Wars. The film series spawned a merchandising empire that is so large and ingrained into our society and consciousness, that it’s almost hard to imagine a time before we knew about Landspeeders, Star Destroyers, or even The Force.
Looking back on it, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a young child in 1977, and seeing Star Wars for the first time. Think of it, watching Obi-Wan Kenobi pull out that metal cylinder from his storage bin, telling Luke that it was his Father’s Lightsaber, before suddenly, like magic, a glowing blue blade appeared attached to it!
Years after seeing the film, I wanted a Lightsaber of my own. I remember begging my parents for one of the original plastic ones in the early 80’s. Though it wasn’t until 1995 when the resurgence of Star Wars merchandise began, that I did get a plastic lightsaber. I ended up getting Luke’s from Return of the Jedi, and 5-6 years later, I would add Darth Maul’s double-bladed saber and Obi-Wan’s from the prequel trilogy to my collection.
But like many, I dreamed to hold the real thing, and imagine that at any moment, the flick of a switch would ignite a glowing pillar of light that could slice through almost anything.
In 2003, that wish (almost) became a reality, when the company Master Replicas (nicknamed MR) obtained the license and permission from Lucasfilm, Ltd, to make replicas of various items from the Star Wars series. During their time with the license, they manufactured numerous lightsaber hilts, as well as replicas of various blasters and guns from the series as well.
While I admired the perfection of their lightsaber replicas, having just graduated from college with student loan repayments on the horizon hindered my ability to ever obtain one. Realizing that not everyone could afford a $300 lightsaber hilt, MR hit on a new sales/scale method: “.45.”
This new approach was to machine/create replicas in a scale that was 45% the size of the original item. This also made them more easily obtainable, as these scaled replicas fell into the $35-$65 price range.
Through several different sources, I managed to obtain three of the .45-scaled lightsabers that to me, have great significance to the series – those belonging to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Episode IV: A New Hope. These three introduced us to lost weaponry in that galaxy far, far away, intriguing our minds as to what the former Jedi and The Clone Wars were really about (that is, until we finally found out…but that’s another story).
Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber
Once Luke ignited his father’s lightsaber, it also ignited in us a curiosity regarding the days of the Old Republic. After all, the mind boggled imagining over 1,000 generation of Jedi handling sabers similar to this one.
We never did get a major close-up of Luke’s lightsaber, but we did see him wield it in action twice: upon it being given to him by Obi-Wan Kenobi, and then in the Millennium Falcon, as Luke tests his mettle against a training droid.
Master Replicas‘ work on recreating the saber in .45-scale is quite amazing. The original lightsaber was not machined on its own, but the shaft is actually a re-purposed Graflex flashgun that held flashbulbs for vintage cameras. The prop department then added various pieces, along with the black-ribbed handle/base.
A New Hope would also be the only time that lightsabers would have these 7 beads embedded in the switch, which is actually a piece manufactured by Texas Instruments. The lightsabers used in The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith instead have a gold-plated, grooved cover.
Probably just referencing my action figures, I had often assumed the handle was one black piece. In actuality, it’s several windshield wiper pieces ringed around the base. At the bottom, we also see this replica stray a bit from the actual prop, with the copyright information, and the screw. The .45-scale of lightsaber was distributed for 3 years (from 2004-2006), and Luke’s A New Hope lightsaber was one of the last offerings.
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Lightsaber
Unless you were looking at his waist, many of us probably didn’t think that Obi-Wan Kenobi had a lightsaber anymore. At least, not until he whipped it out and sliced off Ponda Boba’s arm at the Mos Eisley Cantina. We rarely saw much of Kenobi’s lightsaber, with the closest image we got being the one below:
Unlike Luke’s lightsaber that had been well-preserved, Obi-Wan’s has actually aged along with its Master. Most likely, Obi-Wan used it whenever he could, but it also appears that he may have banged it around on some of the rocky cliffs near his home on Tatooine.
In 2004, Master Replicas released two separate renditions of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber as convention exclusives. The first iteration was called ‘first-built,’ and showed us what the lightsaber would have looked like ‘a long time ago.’ Later on that year, a ‘weathered’ edition came out, looking more like the prop that Sir Alec Guinness carried on set. The detail job isn’t just scratches and flecked paint. Just look at the dents above in the mid-rimmed section!
It seems like they cheated a little with the rather uniform ‘weathering’ on the raised edges above, but it’s small potatoes when you look at the detail work on the metal portion, with the grime and dirt, not to mention that shiny patch worn in, where we can assume Kenobi positioned his thumb on the hilt.
Unlike Luke’s lightsaber, Obi-Wan’s in the film is cobbled together from seven different parts. For example, the ribbed portion in the picture above is part of a Browning ANM2 machine gun booster, and the lower metal cap is actually an Armitage Shanks Starlite model Handwheel.
After Master Replicas had exhausted their supply of the weathered Obi-wan lightsabers, the secondary market value doubled for quite awhile. Luckily, I was able to obtain mine for the original value when it was released. Of the three .45-scale lightsabers I have, I love it for the detail and ‘history’ behind it. Speaking of 3 lightsabers, we have one more to cover.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber
Though Luke’s ignition of his father’s lightsaber showed us just what one of these things could do, it was not the first lightsaber we had seen in the film. That distinction, belonged to Darth Vader.
As Vader surveys the dead bodies on the floor of the Tantive IV, we got a fleeting glimpse of something hanging from his belt. It was only after Obi-Wan Kenobi encountered Vader on the Death Star, did we finally realize that Vader had his own lightsaber (one that many of us assumed he used to ‘hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights’ with).
Vader’s saber is layered with more black pieces than Luke or Obi-Wan’s sabers, which helps to blend into his all-black wardrobe. I really love the inner circle of rings inside the hilt.
In a way, the Emperor’s words in Return of the Jedi that Luke’s lightsaber was “much like his father’s,” could almost be applied when comparing Luke’s inherited saber and Vader’s. Like Luke’s, Vader’s lightsaber also uses a flash-attachment, but one developed by a company called Micro Precision Products. This is most evident when you see the grooves in the saber above, as well as the lettered-markings. Also of interest, is that Vader’s ignition switch only has 6 beads.
Aside from just a few pieces, Vader’s lightsaber is almost completely based on the MPP flash attachment. Vader’s lightsaber was part of the first year releases of .45-scale lightsabers in 2004, and included in Master Replicas’ Sith Collection, along with sabers for Darth Maul, and Darth Tyrannus.
Originally, I was unsure just how to display my scaled replicas. And then, Master Replicas solved that problem for me!
When I found out about this display stand from Master Replicas, it seemed just perfect! 3 levels, A New Hope had 3 lightsabers: it was meant to be! Speaking of display stands, the ones that come with the lightsabers have specific pegs, so the plastic holder pieces can only be set up one way. This explains why I was unable to make them all line up facing one direction.
Finally, I’m sure some of you may be wondering just how big these lightsabers really are. Like most credit sequences, I thought I’d wait until the end to show you, to keep from spoiling the illusion. So, without further ado: