All About Lightsaber Blades: An Interview with Vee Ripper of Ripper Blades
It all started with a nightlight. Gary ‘Rip’ Ripper, a Star Wars fan and lifelong artist, created the first ever flat acrylic lightsaber blade after noticing a nightlight. In November 2016, Rip teamed up with best friend and now significant other Vee Ripper in order to expand the growing lightsaber blade hobby into a full time business. The company, and its lightsaber blades, are called Ripper Blades.
Nearly two years later, Ripper Blades launched Ripper Clones, a sister website selling a new, competitively priced budget line of artisan lightsaber blades.
The largest and possibly only ‘lightsaber blade only’ company, Ripper Blades are sold on RipperBlades.net [Use SaberSourcing Promo Code SSRIPPER to get 10% off your purchase of $100+], through the Ripper Blades Etsy Store [AFFILIATE LINK] and at fan conventions and events. The Ripper Clones website launched in September 2018.
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SaberSourcing interviewed Vee Ripper about Ripper Blades and Ripper Clones.
How did you get into making flat acrylic lightsaber blades?
Vee Ripper Rip has been an artist since he was a child. He was one of the best when we were in high school and I’m glad he never let go of this talent.
Gary Ripper I had worked for a plastic company for years. I was active in the community forums and we needed a black blade. I had an idea after looking at a nightlight and made a blade out of acrylic. I was making hilts at the time but once I started making the blades, I decided to focus on them instead. Before there was Ripper Blades, there was Ripper Sabers. The Darksaber blade was the first Ripper Blade.
Can you describe your creative process behind developing a new blade design?
Rip has a ton of ideas/concepts that he has not yet had a chance to get working on. Some of our new Ripper Blade designs come from custom builds. When someone commissions a custom blade, Rip does a video chat with them and they go over exactly what the client wants. Rip will give them his input on the build and they come up with a design that works.
Since Rip has been making Ripper Blades for about 8 years now, he knows what works and what doesn’t work. Lighting and angles are very important when designing a blade. If you don’t know what you are doing, you usually make a blade that is too big, doesn’t light up correctly and is just not practical for cosplay (we saw a few last weekend with blades so big, they could only focus on “walking” their blades) lol
How did Ripper Blades decide add cylindrical polycarbonate blades to the store?
We make blades for high powered LED hilts so it only made sense to provide that option. We started with our premium blades (ORIGINAL and PEARL unstables) and then had to add the day blades to the site because too many VIPs were requesting them. It was easier for us to just offer them on the website. We will be offering our premium blades on the Ripper Blade site and the day blades on the Ripper Clone side.
Other custom saber companies have started making their own flat acrylic blades. How do Ripper Blades differ from other flat acrylic blades?
Rip created this product so practice makes perfect. Rip LOVES making blades. He loves making a blade beautiful and making sure the customer will be 200% satisfied with it. It is not a “product” to him. He builds each and every Ripper Blade with passion and enthusiasm. I help with the Ripper Clones (we are hoping to train someone soon) but he still does the soft sanding and the etching on each and every clone by hand.
We will be working on the Kickstarter after the holidays. It will be to help get a CNC machine. This machine will help cut the acrylic but every Ripper Blade and Clone will always be finished and hand etched by Gary Ripper. A CNC machine will also make it possible for Rip to finally launch our Polycarbonate Battle Ready Ripper Blades. He already knows how he will do it but polycarbonate is too dangerous to cut by hand every day.
What’s the most challenging and rewarding part about running Ripper Blades?
This is the hardest “job” we have ever had but the most rewarding. It doesn’t end. We do something that has to do with Ripper Blades every day. We run our business from home so it is very hard to “leave work”. We enjoy the freedom having your own business gives you but it also takes over your life.
It really helps that we both enjoy what we do. The most rewarding part of this job is watching the joy a customer gets (regardless of their age) when they get their Ripper Blades. We encourage unboxing videos because we LOVE watching them. This is why it is so important for us to make sure each and every customer is completely satisfied with their Ripper Blade.
What’s the strangest question or request you’ve gotten from a customer?
I had to decline a custom blade with Satanic symbols. It just didn’t feel right.
One of the hot new trends in custom sabers right now are neopixel blades, which contain programmable LEDs within the blade itself. How does Ripper Blades plan to fit into this trend?
GREAT QUESTION! We have been sending all customers that have asked about neopixels to Kaizen Sabers (Chad Wolf in Canada) and Vader’s Vault (Deanna and Alan Johnson in Georgia). We are working on a run. Vader’s Vault will be offering them first and Kaizen Sabers will be offering them after. We have not yet decided what blades will be used. That is all still in the works.
Vader’s Vault has been in the business for at least 10 years and have made a reputation for themselves with the quality of their products. They have earned the best in the industry status. Kaizen Sabers is a newer company but Chad has shown us a several ways that he is a professional and mature business man. We helped him launch his first run last year (the Darksai) by complimenting his beautiful hilt with our Black Blades.
What advice would you give to a buyer that’s having trouble deciding whether they should buy a flat acrylic blade from Ripper Clones or Ripper Blades?
I would ask them what kind of budget they are working with. For example. If you have $80 you can get a longer blade (28″ to 30″) with Ripper Clones OR a smaller blade with Ripper Blades (Warrior is 19″). If this blade will be used at a con, I recommend going with a smaller blade (19″ to 24″) because a longer blade is harder to deal with in crowds. I would also go with a clone just in cause you lose it or it gets scratched during the con. If you plan on displaying this blade or taking pics with it, I recommend a Ripper Blade. It is more elegant and Ripper Blades are extremely photogenic.
If you have the money but are not sure a Ripper Blade is worth it, get a clone and you can decide then. We don’t have any policies posted in either of our websites but we will soon. Bottom line is that it is more important for us to make sure every customer is satisfied with their purchase then to make $20-$40.
If you don’t like your Ripper Blade or Clone let us know and we will either fix the reason why you don’t like it or give you your money back. If your stem breaks (after we told you not to swing it around like you did) let us know and we will fix it. The most it will cost you is a shipping fee. We pay for the return shipping and fix your blade free of charge. We don’t want someone that is not happy with their blade walking around so if we have to lose money to fix it or give you your money back, we will. Word of mouth is our #1 marketing campaign. It works.
What’s your favorite lightsaber from Star Wars Canon or Legends and why?
Rip’s favorite lightsaber from Canon is Darth Vader. All versions. He cosplays Darth Vader and it is his favorite character.
What’s next for you?
Well, we just launched Ripper Clones, we are working on doing the Palm Springs Art Walk to bring the world of light sabers to the masses EVERY THURSDAY. We are planning our Black Friday Sale (stocking up on blades and this year we will be giving away a blade with purchase. This blade will only be available for the Black Friday 2018 sale), I will be competing in Las Vegas with our friends from Lightspeed Saber League in December, working on the Kickstarter at the beginning of 2019 and Star Wars Celebration in Chicago in April. We hope to fit sleeping and eating somewhere.
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Ripper Blades Etsy Store [AFFILIATE LINK]
Ripper Blades Website
Use SaberSourcing Promo Code SSRIPPER to get 10% off your purchase of $100 or more (no expiration)
Ripper Clones Website
Ripper Blades on Facebook
IMAGE CREDIT: Ripper Blades
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