Quick Build Energy Sword

TurboCharizard

RMO & BCO
405th Regiment Officer
Community Staff
One of my local conventions has some wonky prop policies which makes almost anything that's vaguely gun like not allowed which makes for a big goofy space gun nut like myself a sad lad. The solution to this was to use a bunch of shop scraps and leftover electronics to build an Energy Sword.
Because something you can swing around is totally safer, right?
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Be warned that this prop barely passes the ten foot rule of costuming and it only does so thanks to the bulk of MJOLNIR Mark V and the intensity of the light output which blows out a lot of cellphone camera sensors.

Because the leftovers from other projects that are sitting in my parts bin may be different than yours, a parts list is probably a good idea to get everyone on the same page.
  • 6mm lexan sheeting 75cm x 30cm
  • 3mm lexan sheeting 75cm x 30cm
  • 2mm steel slotted flats ~60cm
  • 4 x Bolts/nuts/washers dealers choice on size
  • Neopixel strip lighting
  • 1 x Adafruit GEMMA
  • 1 x rocker switch
  • 1 x Micro-USB cable
  • Solid core wire
  • 2000mAh USB power bank
All said and done you could likely source all the parts for under $50 with the most expensive pieces being the Neopixel strip lighting and the Adafruit GEMMA controller, these could be swapped out for a cheaper alternative, I just like the extra effect of turning on the sword and having a constant crackling and flickering.

As always when working with precious material on a short deadline (read: working in the evening after stores close) we want to make a pattern and guarantee that we have enough material to work with. I was limited to a short sword that's just under three foot in length but this project can easily be scaled up to make something that a full sized Elite would wield. Because the material is transparent and the protective sheeting doesn't play nice with Sharpies, a template was created on paper, transferred to painters tape and then the lexan was cut on a bandsaw using the tape template as a guide. This could be cut out using a rotary tool but lexan has a tendency to heat up and melt back together, the kerf of the saw blade and the speed of the teeth removing material stops heat from friction from refusing your cut pieces back together.
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Now with one blade of the sword cut out, we need an identical copy. Personally, I don't trust myself to follow the lines perfectly once, let alone twice. This is why using a series of loops of tape (or double sided tape if you're fancy) the already cut piece is stuck to the top of the sheeting to act as a guide for the second half. This way the two sides can be matched perfectly and if you cut too far on your second side, it's mirrored in the first. Continue doing this for the remaining pieces if you want to stack thinner lexan on top to add more detail and surface area to illuminate. Once everything is cut, carefully glue it in place with the appropriate adhesive and clamp it in place to cure, or be a monster like myself and use CA glue. Align two lengths of slotted steel so that you can place at least two bolts through each side, carefully drill through your sword through progressively larger drill bits so as not to crack the lexan. A drill press is very handy here so that you can apply firm, even pressure and progress slowly.
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So now you have a cool sword that's see through. Rad.

LET'S MAKE IT LIT FAM.
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Yes, this sword was a demo piece used in a presentation I did.

If you want to stop here and make a cool sword that just uses the $10/meter strip lights that are powered by a 9V battery, that is totally an option and it'd look awesome. I just wanted a little bit more swish swish stab to mine. Be warned though, the following bits of this post include microcontrollers and addressable LEDs so if you're not a fan of squiggly stuff, hit eject now.
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Neopixels are extremely easy to use and I love tossing them into any project for a little bit of extra flair. The hardest part for most is the coding aspect but you can get some pretty cool effects with only a little bit of effort. Since we're working on a sword that illuminates from the hilt to the tip and both sides are effectively mirrored this project is even easier because we can treat the two LED strips as a single strip and wire them to the same data pin. In my case I needed to cut and splice the strip at a few points to go around corners without damaging the strip but the basic wiring diagram is as follows.
  • Vout to 5V on both strips
  • GND to GND on both strips
  • Do of the GEMMA to Din of both strips
Wiring.png
A Micro USB with a rocker switch spliced in connects the GEMMA to a small USB power bank. When breaking down a USB cable it's usually colour coded in the same manner where if you're only transferring power to something from a power bank all you need is the red (Vcc) and black (ground) wires. Pick your favourite to add a switch along but the usual convention is to add it to your Vcc.
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For animation I went with something quick,
  1. Setting consecutive pixels from OFF to COLOUR with an appropriate delay that makes for an animation that's pleasing to the eye and looks fluid.
  2. Quickly selecting pixels at random to flicker to bright WHITE and reset to COLOUR after a delay of milliseconds to give a crackling with energy effect.
I've never uploaded code to the forums before so if this destroys something, Art, don't kill me.

***CODE SEGMENT***
#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h>
#ifdef __AVR__
#include <avr/power.h>
#endif
// Board Adafruit Gemma (ATiny85 8MHz)
// Programmer USBTinyISP
#define PIN 0
#define NUMPIXELS 22
#define RED 161
#define GREEN 152
#define BLUE 255

Adafruit_NeoPixel pixels = Adafruit_NeoPixel(22, PIN, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);

int delayVal = 12; // delay between consecutive pixels turning on at startup

void setup() {
pinMode(PIN, OUTPUT);
pixels.begin();
}

void loop() {
for(int i=0;i<NUMPIXELS;i++){
pixels.setPixelColor(i, pixels.Color(RED,GREEN,BLUE)); // set Pixels to defined colour
pixels.show();
delay(delayVal);
}
Crackle( 25, random(25,150));
}


void Crackle( int CrackleDelay, int SpeedDelay) {
int Pixel = random(NUMPIXELS);//select pixel from set of NUMPIXELS
pixels.setPixelColor(Pixel, pixels.Color(255,255,255));//set to white
pixels.show();
delay(CrackleDelay);
pixels.setPixelColor(Pixel, pixels.Color(RED,GREEN,BLUE));//revert pixel to degined colour
pixels.show();
delay(SpeedDelay);
}
//RGB(0,250,200) Set Pixels to Cyan instead of purple/white

***END CODE SEGMENT***
See, super simple code that's easy to follow along with and nobody gets hurt. I may update some values later on and change animations to something more fun but I'll post edits to the thread as required.

Other than that, everything is all for aesthetics. I may add a decorative cover that is in the shape of the normal sword hilt at some point soon but for now it's just a whole lot of swish swish dab.
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Photo credit to Rinzlerr of Aperture Industries.
 

SI3RRA 117

Well-Known Member
Dude if I had months to plan that sword out it still wouldn’t compare!! I’m in envy! You take almost anything and “toss” something together that trumps anything I could even think of, let alone execute! Nice write up and awesome piece once again!
 

PerniciousDuke

RXO & BCO
405th Regiment Officer
Community Staff
I love your write up on this! Electronics really scare me, but I got all the way through your post without cringing!

I don't understand safety rules sometimes. Your sword seems like it could actually hurt someone (poke an eye out) whereas the worst the shotgun could do is be dropped on a foot. But at least it prompted this impressive two day build! Nice work.
 

TurboCharizard

RMO & BCO
405th Regiment Officer
Community Staff
Dude if I had months to plan that sword out it still wouldn’t compare!! I’m in envy! You take almost anything and “toss” something together that trumps anything I could even think of, let alone execute! Nice write up and awesome piece once again!
When I say "toss" things together it doesn't mean that I just wave a magic wand and stuff ends up together, there's definitely some forethought and planning to make sure it goes smoothly. I've seen your builds so I can definitely call baloney on you not being able to design and create something like this.

I love your write up on this! Electronics really scare me, but I got all the way through your post without cringing!

I don't understand safety rules sometimes. Your sword seems like it could actually hurt someone (poke an eye out) whereas the worst the shotgun could do is be dropped on a foot. But at least it prompted this impressive two day build! Nice work.
Thanks friend, I'm hoping that some of these more lengthy and diagram/code heavy posts start a trend of people trying out different techniques and adding even more cool features to their armour.

I'm a stickler for safety and following the rules but when someone says "nah you can't have that" even when it follows federal law, that's when I start getting creative.

If I saw that panel title I wouldn't go...

Thank goodness it has your name on it. Now I'm slightly intrigued XD
Are you afraid of learning SCIENCE through MEMES?
 

ExCeLLuR8

Active Member
Awesome instructions man, I will be using these tips very soon to "toss" one together myself. I'm definitely interested in a decorative hilt to be game accurate. Sean Bradley had the best halo energy swords I've ever seen. He made the blades with vacuum forming to have the 3d look from the game and he molded his Hilts and casted them out of resin. Then did similar electronics. I spoke to him the other day and he said Microsoft actually "nicely" forced him to stop selling them, which is complete bs. I found pics and they were literally plucked from the game they looked so good. Oh well, guess I need to take up resin casting next... I will most definitely be building a sword of my own using your method. It like how sturdy it is. Once the frame is there, I can figure out the hilt later. Thanks man!!
 

ColdFireD96

New Member
Yeah I am super inspired to build my own sword with the LED's. It'll be a good entry to electronics for me and I really want a good energy sword that I can be proud of. Thank-you for the direction in the post and the inspiration!
 

TurboCharizard

RMO & BCO
405th Regiment Officer
Community Staff
I promised that I'd be making a battery cover at some point and well, having a cosplay contest with cash prizes was a catalyst to get my butt in gear.
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Now, this model will not work for everyone since my battery, wire placement, switch casing and steel size is most certainly different than everyone else. What I could do is create a hollow handle and upload that. Is that something that folks would be interested in?

Also, glamour shot of the new colour and effects that closer match the Halo: Reach Energy Sword variant but held by an ODST because I was lazy on Friday. Photos of my SPARTAN-III wielding this will be inbound eventually, for now though please enjoy some "swish swish stab".
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Photo credit to CplYapFlip of Hanamaru Photography
 

ExCeLLuR8

Active Member
I promised that I'd be making a battery cover at some point and well, having a cosplay contest with cash prizes was a catalyst to get my butt in gear.
View attachment 267997
Now, this model will not work for everyone since my battery, wire placement, switch casing and steel size is most certainly different than everyone else. What I could do is create a hollow handle and upload that. Is that something that folks would be interested in?

Also, glamour shot of the new colour and effects that closer match the Halo: Reach Energy Sword variant but held by an ODST because I was lazy on Friday. Photos of my SPARTAN-III wielding this will be inbound eventually, for now though please enjoy some "swish swish stab".
View attachment 267996
Photo credit to CplYapFlip of Hanamaru Photography
I Definitely would be interested in a hilt when the time comes for me to build a sword too. Definitely high on my list!
 
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