Paper Lightsabers from Scratch: An Interview with Creator Alejandro Sanchez

Star Wars fan Alejandro Sanchez always wanted his own lightsaber collection, but the metal replicas were too expensive. Undeterred, Sanchez, who lives in Argentina, decided to design, build and paint his own lightsabers out of paper. In just a few short years, Sanchez has created and amassed a highly detailed and realistic collection of paper lightsabers that even General Grievous would envy.

SaberSourcing interviewed Alejandro Sanchez about his innovative paper lightsaber creations.

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How did you decide to construct paper lightsabers?
I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was 4. I have action figures, vehicles, books, clothes and more. One of the things that I love the most about Star Wars is lightsabers; my mother bought me a big Darth Vader toy lightsaber and played many hours with it. But the first thing I did with paper wasn’t a lightsaber, but a gun.

Paper Han Solo Blaster with two lightsabers
Paper Han Solo Blaster with two lightsabers | IMAGE CREDIT Alejandro Sanchez

In 2005 I got a copy of the first Call of Duty video game and I was amazed by it, specially the guns so I investigated a lot about them (the Sten MK2 in particular because it was my favourite), and I wanted a toy version of it to play with but it didn’t exist.

A couple months passed and I decided to create one myself using paper. Just needed to roll some sheets to create the case and stock and get a big toothpaste box for the magazine. Then I joined everything with scotch tape. After that I did more guns.

In 2007 I got all the Star Wars movies on DVD for my birthday and I figured out that I could do lightsabers too. I made like 5 and I wanted to paint them but for some reason the paint wasn’t very effective so I decided to create sabers using another method. Luckily the solution was simple: use glue and super glue. I remade all my lightsabers using this new method. Unfortunately I had a discussion with my mother and she threw away all my replicas.

Around 2015 I was watching a revolver documentary, I liked it and was determined to build one. Took me several months to finish it but I didn’t like it so I had to made a new one. I continued to create more guns and a couple of lightsaber and by the end of September I joined a Star Wars Discord chatroom with artist, writers and collectors (they know me as Fran). One day the admin of the group mentioned that he wanted to get lightsaber and blaster replicas from the movies and began to post pics and the prices; I really wanted one because they looked perfect but they were too expensive. Nevertheless I had the determination to build them so in April I started and until September I did 11 more.

Paper Revan lightsaber
Paper Revan lightsaber | IMAGE CREDIT Alejandro Sanchez

Can you describe your paper lightsaber making process from concept to completion?
First of all I start searching pics online (reference books, forums, other lightsaber builders, blueprints, etc) to check out the details and know how I’m going to make them. When that is done I start with the building process.

I grab a paper sheet, measure the length that I want, cut it so I can create a tube (lightsabers usually have a 30-40 centimeter diameter).

Now I need to fill this cylinder to make it stronger hence I repeat the same process but instead of gluing them I roll one by one inside the main tube and glue them.

After that I mark where the grips, buttons, and other objects are going to be. If the saber has holes I mark them and remove that portion with a knife. Some areas are thicker than the rest therefore I delimit it, roll a piece of paper of the same length around it and glue it. I do this until it has the width that I want. To join buttons, grips and other things I use super glue.

When the building process is over the painting stage begins. I apply 2 coats of white or grey paint (if the lightsaber has a golden section paint it yellow first) then I use silver, black, gold or other colour for the specific areas.

How sturdy are the lightsabers to hold in your hand?
Quite sturdy, not as heavy as a real metallic or plastic replica but you can feel its weight and that’s because all the rolled papers inside. If I hit someone on the head with one I could injure or kill that person (I hit my head gently once with one and it was painful) but they are not for playing; I always handle them carefully because if I hit them hard or fall some buttons can break or bend.

Are all of your paper lightsabers hilts based on in universe designs, or do you make custom hilt designs as well?
The ones I did many years ago were custom but the modern ones are all based on designs from movies and video games. I’d like to make some customs in the future.

Can you describe your favorite part about making paper lightsabers?
One of my favourite parts of making a lightsaber is the building process itself. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of using something as simple as paper to create one of the most iconic weapons in sci-fi and movie history, even if its a painful process.

For me the pride and sense of accomplishment that I get when I finish a saber is why I find this hobby so interesting and exciting. When I post my work on my social media and people like it, comment or give me positive feedback I feel like I did a good job and give me an enormous satisfaction.

What advice would you give someone who wants to try making their own paper lightsabers?
My advice is to be patient and practice a lot. It’s not a simple task to do this because it takes many hours and effort. Many times I had to remake a tube because I didn’t like how they looked.

If you fail don’t give up just continue until you can pull it off and always begin with a simple design. If it’s good you can do more complicated ones.

Do you collect or build metal lightsaber hilts as well? If so, how does your paper lightsaber collection compare to your metal lightsaber collection?
No I don’t collect or build metal lightsabers because I don’t have the money to buy them or fabricate them. This is one of the main reasons why I use paper but if I had the money I would love to get a metallic version.

Paper Skywalker lightsaber
Paper Skywalker lightsaber | IMAGE CREDIT Alejandro Sanchez

What’s your favorite lightsaber from Star Wars Canon or Legends and why?
Canon: Obi-Wan’s from A New Hope and Luke’s from Return of the Jedi.

Legends: Revan’s from The Old Republic.

I love the designs of those and I think they look cool.

What’s next for you?
I am on a break right now but I plan to return to fabricate at least 2 or 3 hilts during the summer holidays and continue with more next year (I have reference photos for 20 sabers at least). I also plan to do some blaster pistols and revolvers.

Follow Alejandro Sanchez and his paper lightsabers on Instagram

COVER IMAGE: Alejandro Sanchez’s paper lightsaber collection (IMAGE CREDIT: Alejandro Sanchez)

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