Making Affordable Custom Lightsabers: An Interview with ACLightsabers Founder Alan Cheong

Alan Cheong started ACLightsabers [AFFILIATE LINK] in 2015 with the goal of providing Malaysians an affordable lightsaber alternative to United States based custom saber manufacturers. Three years, and over 500 Etsy sales later, Cheong continues to expand the ACLightsaber product line as well as its global fan base (including many buyers from the United States, Europe, and beyond).

SaberSourcing interviewed ACLightsabers’ founder Alan Cheong about his Malaysia based custom saber company.

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ACLightsabers custom saber parts
Workshop space for ACLightsabers (Image Credit: ACLightsabers)

How and when did you decide to start a custom saber company?
I started ACLightsabers in 2015. My main motivation for starting ACLightsabers is to provide affordable custom lightsabers. In those days, there were no manufacturers from Malaysia. All the lightsabers were imported from overseas, mainly from the US. The average cost of one lightsaber with sound is equivalent to one month’s salary for some people.

For many [Malaysian] workers who have mortgages to pay, car loans, children’s expenses etc, they just couldn’t afford a lightsaber. Our lightsabers were initially priced at only RM150 (about US$37 without sound) and it allowed a lot more people to own a lightsaber which is duelable and bright.

How do you differentiate AC Lightsaber and its products from other companies that sell affordable, budget-friendly lightsabers?
Many of the cheap lightsabers are cheap toys with very dim leds and also plastic blades which will bend upon impact. Our lightsabers uses the industry standard polycarbonate blades which are duelable and also, we use high powered LEDs which are standard in the higher-end segment.

With our lightsabers, you can choose the hilt design, the finishing that you want, the LED colours for your blade and we also have 4 different options for sound. This allows you to customize a lightsaber to suit yourself. A lot of the mass produced, off-the-shelf lightsabers are sold only in a standard configuration and you cannot pick and choose features to suit your wishes and budget.

Whilst most of the features that we offer can be found from other custom saber companies, they would cost at least 3 to 4 times more.

Our buyers are not high-end collectors but we cater to those who want the main core features of a good usable lightsaber at a much friendlier price.

Some companies also charge a very high shipping charge, especially for international shipping. Our tracked international shipping cost the same as their domestic shipping.

Can you describe the most challenging and rewarding part about running ACLightsabers?
Because we are only a small team of 2 staff, we need to work long hours to fulfill our orders. We put in up to 16 hours a day so that we can fulfill our orders quickly. We handcraft each and every lightsaber and we usually send them out within 1 week. Weekends are often spent working on customers orders instead of having a good time in a mall. We believe that when a customer orders a lightsaber, they should get it as soon as possible.

ACLightsaber custom sabers several hilts
Some ACLightsabers products (Image Credit: ACLightsabers)

In contrast, some companies used factory machined parts (many are imported from China) and yet it takes them up to 6 months to fulfill an order for an empty lightsaber with no electronics whatsoever.

The most rewarding part is the feedback we get from customers after they received their product. They are quite amazed with what they got for the price they paid. Because of their satisfaction, they tell their friends and they buy more too.

I also get my satisfaction from seeing the number of lightsaber users grow in Malaysia. Before ACLightsabers, the number of lightsaber owners and users in Malaysia are limited to some very hardcore fans and collectors. Now, I can see that even students are carrying our lightsabers during Star Wars events.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for a first time lightsaber buyer?
If you’re buying a saber for the very first time, you’re probably not even sure whether you’re going to use it for a long time. Many people buy a guitar, only not to use it after a short while. Don’t buy a toy. A toy will break easily. Buy a decent lightsaber without spending too much and see if you’re really into it. As you progress, you can add more lightsabers to your collection. But if you spend lots of money on a flashy, expensive lightsaber only to find it gathering dust somewhere, you would have wasted your money for no reason. As the saying goes, “Don’t climb Everest on your first day of hiking.”

Can you describe the strangest or most surprising request you’ve gotten from a customer?
One customer, who also happened to be an ex-colleague of mine some 20+ years ago, asked if I could make a lightsaber that will shoot out plasma beams, exactly how it is in the movies! Some people believe everything they see in the movies. Thank goodness, we don’t have that technology, otherwise I guess we will have many amputees around.

What’s your favorite Star Wars lightsaber (Canon or Legends) and why?
That’s such a difficult question, especially pointed to a saber maker, whose life revolve around many different lightsabers almost 24 hours a day (yes, I dream about lightsabers too).

I have no particular favourites in terms of the hilt design itself. I like almost all of them for their uniqueness but i am more impressed by the functionality of the lightsaber. I do dislike some of the canon designs especially when it interferes with the ergonomics of the saber. The rubber grips of the Graflex (now known as Rey’s model) and also the Vader model make it hard to hold and bulky to wield. Some have protruding control boxes which makes wielding the lightsaber a bit less comfortable than it would ideally be.

I focus more on the functionality of the lightsaber in terms of its sound and other effects that it can produce.

What’s next for you?
We are currently expanding our range of lightsabers. In addition to our core line up of budget lightsabers, we have added medium-tier lightsabers and also higher end lightsabers.

Despite that, we always offer cheaper pricing for our lightsabers in comparison to others who offer the same or lesser features than ours. It’s back to our core philosophy of offering affordable custom lightsabers.

We are offering neopixel lightsabers currently and in the next few months, we will offer the most technologically advanced and feature-rich Teensy saber paired with smooth swing fonts. These gives a ton of effects like fire blade, tron blade, strobe blade in addition to the standard blade effects like flash on clash, blaster blocks, blade lockups, pulsing, flickering etc. They can do it all and more. The smooth swing sound fonts will offer the most realistic experience of a lightsaber with precise movement tracking and sound. This is the next level of lightsaber standard which will make 2019 a very interesting year ahead.

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Find ACLightsabers on Etsy [AFFILIATE LINK]


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