"This weapon is your life!" - Obi-Wan Kenobi
Lightsabers are weapons that were created personally by their wielders. They were tasked with seeking out components that "called out" to them with the Force. They were designed to match their users, and while some may resemble others, no two were ever alike. A lightsaber is a personal weapon, with the various people out there, surely there are more than one kind of lightsaber.
While Lightsabers are famously depicted as being hilts being deployed as swords, these are the standard variations of hilts. However, the design is relatively simplistic and could be employed in a various different forms. Some favored specific forms and some required rare materials to be used. There are also several non-canon weapons that were developed by the saber community that are unique to themselves. Here is a list of some of the more popular variations:
Curved Hilt Sabers: The Hilt is curved either at the emitter, pommel and/or the middle of the hilt. It's main focus is that the curvature allows for a shift in balance, allowing for differing angles of attack. It also accentuated the power in attacks. This makes it a good weapon for Form II and V, and as such it is referred to as a dueling saber. Most famous example is Count Dooku's saber.
Shoto: Also known as "the short saber". The hilt and blade are smaller than the standard saber. It is often used as a defensive, or "off-hand" weapon. It is also favored by Force Users of diminutive size.
In the fan groups, there is some discrepancy between what would make a good "Makashi Lightsaber". Due to the films, many people believe that it is the curved hilt. However, many of the fencers in the group, who are the most inclined towards Form II, say that it is the Shoto. The length of the hilt allows for tight control and aside from a lack of basket or handguard is the closest to an actual rapier hilt.
A curved hilt is considered a duelist's hilt in that it allows for different angles. It also makes moves like Sun Djem difficult to perform due to the design and way curved hilt had to be held, which is part of Makashi's techniques.
Guard Shoto: A variation of the Shoto. It is modeled after the Japanese tonfa, a short handled weapon with a perpendicular grip. The weapon is used underhanded, and is good for trapping, slashing and stabbing, making it a good Form V weapon. Not as good in attacking. Required considerable skill and training.
Dual Phase: The Lightsaber is a weapon utilizing an extending blade. A Dual Phase Lightsaber extends the blade out further than the standard. Somewhat similar to the mythical extending staff of Sun Wukong in Journey to the West.
Light Club: The opposite of the Shoto, in that it is a massive hilt that is meant for Force Users of Massive Size.
Double-Bladed Saber: A staff-based hilt that produces two blades on either side. Widely regarded as a Sith weapon, especially as it is the weapon of Darth Maul. Covers 4 times the area as a regular saber. Utilizes broad, circular motions in attacking and defending. There is a variation where both ends are curved. The use of the curved staff requires intense focus, as moving the saber moves the balance point on the staff.
Saber Pike: A Staff-based hilt that has a smaller blade at the top. The staff is predominantly made of some lightsaber resistant material. Good on range, and seems to prefer shiak strikes. A variety of this is the Long Handle Saber, whose hilt was several times longer than a standard hilt, but not as long as a staff.
Light whip: a Lightsaber whose beam is not restricted in a static position and is capable of moving. Highly unpredictable, and was just as much a risk to the wielder as the opponent. One had to know how to use a regular whip before using a weapon. The most famous user was Lumiya, who used a lightwhip that also had cortosis strands, making it an energy and physical based weapon.
While the many in the Saber Community have kept to emulating the what Star Wars has given them in ways of variation, several members have developed other variations of the lightsaber.
Light Pu-Dao: Based on the traditional Pu Dao in Chinese Martial Arts. It's roughly a cross between a Saber Pike and a Long Handled lightsaber, with the blade being just longer than the handle. Glenn Devecchis (Jin Ke), and The Ankhou use Pu Dao Sabers.
Light Sai: Shoto-like weapons based on the traditional Japanese Sai. As a lightsaber, the blades are smaller, and the rest of the hilt (especially the prongs) are most likely made of some form of lightsaber resistant material. The only pair that exist belong to Maria Nowak (as Crimson Finyx) and were designed and built by Chris Cox (General Ing Chao)
LightShield: Essentially a hand held Force Field built to reflect attacks. Built by Brian Van Kuik (Taomoon Nightstar) which uses a clear, circular riot shield wrapped in EL wire and using a pressure sensor to register hits, making the surface glow brighter.
Light Shivs: Shoto based sabers. the hilts are palm sized and the blades are almost equal in length. Used as a knife. Built by Juan Leiva (Yogen Himashi).
The reason for these variations lies in the uniform design of the saber. At its most basic, it is a cylindrical tube. The very nature of designing one as a personal touch bred different designs and touches on basic hilts, let alone different hilts altogether. This is one of the more popular aspects of the Saber Community.
Many in the community will normally buy their first sabers from Ultrasabers.com. This site makes basic hilts with no real adornments. This can be considered similar to a lightsaber hilt at its most basic form. It's up to the user to modify the exterior to suit their purposes, whether it be personal or performance.
My personal favorite is The Custom Saber Shop. You buy the pieces of the saber you have designed. The parts are shipped to you and you build it yourself. Short of machining the parts yourself, this is the closest to making your own, personal saber.
And finally, and by no means the least, we have the Sabers from Advanced Light Weaponry. These sabers are made from scratch out of steel, and are meant to last. They are designed by the instructions of the buyer, and no two will ever be exactly alike. These are functional pieces of art, a true expression of the person wielding it, which is what a lightsaber was.
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