The Electrostaff is a weapon used in the Star Wars franchise by a variety of characters. Most notably it was used as the primary weapon of the IG-100 MagnaGuard bodyguards of General Grievous. They were powerful electrical weapons that allowed them to go head-to-head with Jedi Lightsabers.
I thought it might be fun to build a prop replica, so I started doing some research to see what has already been done and what is possible. I quickly discovered that there are some big technical challenges with making one of these in a way that looks good. My main focus would be on prototyping the “business end” of the weapon. The staff part could come later.
I started by evaluating options to use real, arcing electricity. I bought a boost step-up power module generator for evaluation. It takes 4-6V input and boosts it up to 400KV which allows a small arc (1cm max) to jump across 2 wires and makes a loud “snap” sound. While the electrical current is very low, it can still hurt someone because of the high heat. Because of the heat, the circuit should not be run for long. So, this is both dangerous and impractical for my needs.
Next, I considered attempting to do something similar to a plasma globe. It’s safe and requires low input power, but it’s not very bright – it would result in a poor effect that would be lost in a well-lit room. I also considered using a Stun gun – small arc, but nice effect. Unfortunately, dangerous and impractical for extended use.
Finally, I considered attempting to use a Jacob’s Ladder traveling electric arc. When they run, they provide a cool buzzing sound which is very similar to the sound made by the Electrostaff. They also have a bright electric arc that is a dazzling effect that runs for a long time. Unfortunately, you need a big power source that can provide lots of power, along with a large flyback transformer. These would be hard to conceal on the staff. This is a similar concept to the boost step-up power module mentioned above, only scaled up.
I had almost given up when I stumbled across this video fragment. It inspired me to attempt to make this effect by using spinning LEDs.
After much trial-and-error of printing 3D parts, I came up with a design that was stable and working.
I leveraged on-hand components to quickly assemble this to confirm it was a viable solution. These included some small DC motors that were not well suited for the tasks I needed, but I made them work. I used double-sided foam tape to attach the battery holders. I have no power switches for any of the circuits, so I have to pull the batteries after each use to turn them off.
The end result tricks the eye by moving the LEDs rapidly to make them appear to be arcing electricity. It’s a difficult thing to properly capture on film, but I managed to capture the concept in the video below:
Total work effort was about 12 hours of work across 2 weekends. Overall, I’m pleased with the result and already making plans to improve it. If I’m able to perfect it, this might find its way to my Etsy store for sale.
- Gear motor with more torque to drive the center axle
- EL Wire along the arms?
- More LEDs?
- Experiment with the RPMs of both motors to maximize battery life while still producing a good effect
- Hide a sound board and a tiny speaker into the base to provide the crackling sound effect.
- Elongate the top to a point, like in the picture
- Expand the bottom so it can be fit on a pole.