The lightsaber is one of the most iconic weapons of all time. In 1999 when LEGO released the first sets, they knew they had to capture the look correctly. Of the fourteen regular production sets that were released in the first year, ten of them included at least one lightsaber. After 20 years of LEGO Star Wars products, the lightsaber has remained largely the same but let’s take a deep dive into the history of this LEGO weapon.
As we all know the LEGO lightsaber is composed of two pieces – the blade and the hilt. Both of these elements were brand new in 1999. Since that time each piece has been used in hundreds of sets for a variety of purposes. However in the first year, the blade only came in three colors – transparent light blue, transparent neon green, and transparent red. The hilt came in just one – the nostalgic chrome silver.
Now it’s time for a bit of a chemistry lesson. Many more sophisticated LEGO fans could easily sound off that our favorite plastic bricks are made of ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, but that’s not the only type of plastic used. Lightsaber blades are one example that goes again the majority and early ones were made of polycarbonate. The reason for this is that ABS is naturally opaque which means transparent parts couldn’t be made from it. The process of molding the blades also created voids which showed up as bubbles. LEGO has corrected this now by changing the way this element is created.
The first major change in the lightsaber occurred in 2005 with the introduction of the light-up lightsaber minifigures. Six minifigures were released with light-up functionality, and five of them were Star Wars characters. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi came in 7257 Ultimate Lightsaber Duel, Luminara Unduli in 7260 Wookiee Catamaran, Mace Windu in 7261 Clone Turbo Tank, and Darth Vader in 7263 TIE Fighter. These minifigures had a modified head and torso that housed the electronics as well as the batteries and a single arm/hand element to hold the light. Pressing down on the head caused the lightsaber to glow.
The two most common issues with these minifigs were that the heads were loose which meant that they would spin around and made them more difficult to play with and that the batteries would die. Thankfully the batteries can be changed, and there are a variety of instructional videos available demonstrating how to do so. A friend of the site, LEGbrOs has made one that you can see below.
Another change to the hilt would come in 2009 when LEGO switched from the standard chrome silver to metallic silver. By looking at the color name, the difference between the two would not be immediately obvious, but fans noticed the change right away. The chrome hilts would wear over time causing the finish to peel off and leave gray plastic exposed underneath. As LEGO moved away from chromed parts entirely, the hilts required an update. The metallic silver hilt has remained the new standard since its introduction.
Between 2007 and 2009 a few regular production sets, as well as the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con exclusives, included plain light bluish gray hilts for the minifigures. This served as the transition between the chrome silver and metallic silver colors. This transition time is also the only instance – that we can recall – where the lightsaber hilt was used upside down because yes there is a right way!
Of course a few other exceptions to the general rule also exist. Kylo Ren, M-OC Hunter Droid, and Sith Warrior wielded black hilts, Palpatine used a pearl gold one, Kylo Ren had pearl dark gray, and JEK-14 carried one in white. Count Dooku was the first to have a uniquely molded hilt which has never been created in a color besides chrome silver. Asajj Ventress was the next to receive a unique hilt which she shares with Naare from The Freemaker Adventures. The Inquisitor and Imperial Inquisitor Fifth Brother minifigs have a specially molded element to represent their gyroscopic lightsaber hilts. Making use of a non-hilt element was Ezra Bridger’s lightsaber which placed the blade inside a pair of binoculars!
Getting to the blade itself, of course Mace Windu is the only character to use a purple lightsaber which has been represented in a couple of different shades. Pre Vizsla has a dark saber and is the only one to use a non-transparent color blade. In 2011 LEGO changed the color of green lightsabers slightly using a new color named transparent bright green. Finally, Kylo Ren is the only one to have a non-traditional blade in terms of shape and required a special mold to capture the unique look.
There have been a lot of variations for such a seemingly simple weapon. One glaring omission is a larger hilt that could be used for Darth Maul. That could be set to change though as last year with the release of the Monkie Kid sets came a new element. Now we wait for a metallic silver version!
As the chief archivist, Kevin Downard maintains and curates the library catalog.
Getting in at the ground floor when the LEGO Star Wars theme first launched, Kevin has been collecting ever since. He is a self-proclaimed minifigure guru and has a passion for tracking down and cataloging every minifig variation – no matter how obscure. He has assisted Rebrickable and Bricklink in maintaining their set inventories, helped overhaul the rebelscum.com LEGO forum, and created the LSW Collector mobile app.