Kit Woo builds lightsabres. Yes, the kind that Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi wield. And, mind you, they’re not just fancy display pieces. Woo has been supplying custom-built sabres to FightSaber, a local community that choreographs and stages Star Wars-inspired duels, and his creations span the gamut of single-bladed sabres to Darth Maul-esque double-bladed ones. Here’s his story.
How did you start building lightsabres?
It was a hobby that turned into a small business. Back in 2009, I chanced upon a US website for lightsabre enthusiasts and was inspired to construct one myself. It took me about six months to source for parts. I started with simple materials and tools like PVC tubes, a hand drill, a hack saw and an X-Acto knife.
When did Kit Sabers begin?
I displayed some of the lightsabres I made at Black Tactical [a local shop that sells replica weapons], and three were sold within the first week. That was in 2010. I was quite amazed that people bought them, so I continued to build more and source for better parts like polycarbonate tubes for blades.
Were you always a hobbyist? Previously did you build figurines and all that?
I'm quite a late bloomer. I was more into gaming and never into this sort of technical stuff until I started working. But now, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I build things myself. I have a day job as a service engineer, so I’m quite familiar with mechanical tools and techniques.
You must be a really huge fan of Star Wars, right?
Actually, I'm not a hardcore fan of Star Wars. What I like about the franchise is the lightsabres. I couldn’t afford to buy the master replicas that cost $200 to $300 apiece, so that’s how I started looking for alternatives. In fact, I've never owned a master replica!
You've been making custom lightsabres for FightSaber. Do you ‘duel’ with them regularly?
When I build a lightsabre, I would test them out first with FightSaber. Azmi [Danuri], the founder, approached me for technical support and I started joining them in training sessions and performances. That helped me understand how lightsabres are used during sparring and how I can improve their durability.
How many different types of lightsabres do you build?
Too many to count! I don't really mass produce as most are custom orders. Lightsabres are a very personal thing. Customers sometimes come to me and say, ‘I like this design but I want something different, like a claw at the back.’ Most of the time, I build upon requests so that they can claim that the weapon is truly their own. I've built more than 200 lightsabres so far.
So, what's the most expensive lightsabre you've built?
There's a twin-head design that has two blades coming out of a single hilt. The hilt alone is about $200. The whole ensemble can come up to $300 to $400. Those with soundboards can be as much as $600. People like them because there are sophisticated circuits that can make lightsabre sound effects as you're wielding the sword.
And the strangest request you've ever received?
One guy sent me a request for a lightsabre with an animal head on the handle. It's inspired by one of the savage beasts at the end of Attack of the Clones, where Anakin was stuck in the battle arena. But I couldn't help him because I didn't have the means to sculpt the features of the creature onto the hilt.
How long does it take for you to create?
A simple design can be done within a week or two. Elaborate custom jobs take about a month.
Do you have a favourite character?
I like this character called Star Killer, from a Star Wars game called Force Unleashed. He's an apprentice of Darth Vader. He was an assassin trained to wipe out the Jedis, but he eventually switched allegiance to the Light Side.
How many lightsabres do you own?
I only own three sets of sabres, and they're mainly for performances. After building so many lightsabres, I’ve realised that I’ve not yet come across a design that really appeals to me. I'm still waiting to discover a lightsabre design that I want to own!
What do you think about the cross-hilt lightsabre that's coming out in The Force Awakens?
I think it's pretty awesome but it's going to be hard to wield it with the crossblades. I actually built a prototype a few weeks back. I don't think I'll use it for fight scenes. I'll just get myself stabbed! [Ed’s note: Check out the video here.]