Little did George Lucas realise that day in 1977 that the premiere of his space opera would result in a huge fandom. Fanclubs, Jedi Orders, Customisers, cosplayers, Star Wars never left our consciousness.
Visit any convention and you’ll literally bump into lightsaber carrying Jedis. But never tell them it’s just an ordinary lightsaber. There is a huge difference. Today, you’ll meet Jeffrey Van Hove, co-owner of Force Relics, the place to buy genuine sabers.
Why did start? Did you make these for yourselves or because the Star Wars Community asked you?
“The ultimate test for any Jedi, is constructing your own lightsaber, and it was no different for us. As huge Star Wars fans, we came in contact with the products of Master Replicas. Though they retain their value and quality among saberenthousiasts, they do have their defaults. So we went looking for alternatives, and stumbled upon the custom market. Hence the idea to shift our hobby into second gear.”
Where did you start? Did you have any technical knowledge?
“We had no experience in metallurgy and that is a must when contructing a lightsaber. The 2 years we spent at nightschool learning metallurgy has proven invaluable. But we also delved right into 3D design, 3Dprinting and Plecterlabs’ electronics. with the sole purpose of building sabers and props. Only in 2014, after years of study and experimentation, did we feel ready to introduce our product to a larger audience.”
Impressive, most impressive. How much time does it take to manufacture one?
“That depends on the complexity of the design and electronics. A stunt saber (only light, no sound or motioneffects) for instance, with a simple design can be ready in 2 days. But a project like our Orgus Saber takes a lot more planning, labor en detail because of the metallurgy, woodwork, etching and powdercoating. The 3D design paired with the best soundboard on the market, Crystal Focus, is not easy either.”
Explain to us the purpose of the Crystal Focus.
“This soundbooard offers the client an option to choose from 12 different sounds. It reacts to movement, impact from other sabers en realistic light effects. Just as if they were plucked from the movies. But, building a high end saber takes a few weeks.”
How do you make the illuminated blades look real.
“We make those from polycarbonate tubes with a diffusion filter. The hilts are a combination of aluminum, brass, wood and sometimes plastic.”
Do you produce first or do you work from a concept.
“It depends. We offer our clients three possibilities they can choose from. We have basic finished designs that that are sold at conventions and on our webshop. But, you can ask some small custom changes on those models. Our second option is one where we make runs of a certain model, where people interested can sign onto. Based on those orders we produce the amount needed.
Lastly, we do commissions. We often are asked to make a saber based solely on a picture or sketch, made by the client. Totally unique, but they take time to build.”
Surely a major plus for any collector.
“We offer an original product that not only allows you to duel, but where you can decide on the design. You get a unique, handmade piece with a guarantee. We go the extra mile for our clients. We think of those fans wanting to cosplay and whack their saber without destroying a valuable investment.”
Are lightsaber designs bound to pattents? How do you work around that?
“We just do our thing and keep to low production runs. Everything is custom made and a replica remains your own interpretation. That is, unless you start copying the real props that are locked behind bars at LucasArts and Disney. We do make cross-overs now, combining two franchises.”
Both of us are Game Of Thrones fans, and we decided to invest in a Stark or Baratheon lightsaber.Jeffrey Van Hove
What are cross-overs?
“A cross-over is a mixture of 2 worlds. Both of us are Game Of Thrones fans, and we decided to invest in aStark or Baratheon lightsaber. Both have been built using a Plecterlabs’ Petit Crouton Soundboard. Adding a Game Of Thrones soundfont made by a soundfontmaker that gets the original GoT sound into that saber. It sounds easier than it is.”
Your product is very unique in the Benelux, but then you have to compete with the cheaper American versions. How would you recommend fans to buy your sabers?
“At Force Relics, we pride ourselves with delivering a perfect service. Is something wrong with your lightsaber, we check it immediately. We repair it, and when the default is not caused by damage or abuse, it falls under your guarantee. And we don’t charge an outrageous amount of shipment costs to clients living in the European Union.”
Those notiorious customs…
“People tend to order from American companies, simply because they are cheap. But when they make a sum of the cost, shipment and customs, it tells a different story. When something is wrong with that saber, they have to pay again to ship it over there and back. Our product is more budgetfriendly.”
Do you sell other merchandise besides lightsabers?
“At the moment we are broadening our range. Next to Star Wars, we offer handmade props from various movies and television series like Arrow, Firefly, Guardians of The Galaxy, Harry Potter,… . Anything and everything that seems like fascinating to build. Clients can also ask for customs. Our online shop also sells T-shirts, Funko Pop‘ figures and other toys.”