Lightsabers. The weapon of a Jedi knight. An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. The most efficient limb-removal device in the galaxy. But who made them? How did George Lucas determine their colors? Are there other light-weapons in the Star Wars universe? Here are more than a dozen lightsaber facts only the wisest Jedi Masters know.
1) They were essentially created by the Dark Side
The first proto-lightsaber was called a forcesaber, and was essentially dark side energy channeled into a blade via crystals and alchemy. If, say, a Jedi picked up a forcesaber, he or she would run the risk of immediately and unwillingly turning to the dark side simply by using it. The early Jedi made the first lightsabers in order to use these weapons without becoming evil.
2) They used to need battery packs.
The earliest lightsabers — also called protosabers — didn't include internal power cells, mainly because they hadn't been invented yet. Protosabers had external power sources, meaning the Jedi had to carry around battery packs on their backs or waist, which were attached to the lightsaber by a power cord. If the cord was cut, no more lightsaber. The Sith were the first ones to develop power cells that essentially cut the lightsabers' cords.
3) They used to be called lazerswords.
Not in the Star Wars universe, just in George Lucas' earliest drafts of the Star Wars script. "Lightsabers" is very definitely an improvement.
4) Luke and Darth Vader's lightsabers were made out of camera flashes.
Obi-Wan's hilt was made from a Rolls-Royce Derwent Mk.8/Mk.9 Jet Engine Balance Pipe.
5) A lightsaber can be any color.
A lightsaber blade's color is determined by the crystal it uses to focus the energy, Jedi and Sith alike could and did wield any color blade. The Sith got in the habit of using red after popular Darths Revan and Malax both used red lightsabers; Jedi fell into the habit of exclusively using blue and green when they started using the natural crystals of the planet Ilum to make their blades, where green and blue were the only naturally occurring colors.
6) A lightsaber can even be black.
Although there's only one black-bladed lightsaber, known as the Darksaber. It's an ancient weapon the Jedi had that was stolen by the Mandalores, way back. Weirdly, the Darksaber's blade is actually shaped like a regular blade, thin and with an edge, although the blade is slightly curved and the back of it is somehow serrated, too.
7) Luke's green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi almost didn't happen. Luke's new lightsaber was going to be blue, and was even shown as such in early Return of the Jedi promos. But Lucas made the call to switch it to green solely because the blue blade was more difficult to see during the fight scene at the Sarlacc, as it was getting lost against the blue sky.
8) Lightsabers were actually illegal during the Empire.
It wasn't enough that Emperor Palpatine tried to kill all the Jedi, he made owning a lightsaber a crime, as well as forbidding the trade of the crystals needed to make lightsabers across the galaxy, no matter what planet they grew on. Darth Vader has special dispensation to wield his lightsaber.
9) Lightsaber blades are animated because the original special effects sucked.
The first attempt at lightsabers used long, reflective, three-sided rods. The rods were spun with motors inside the hilts, which were supposed to mean the blades would continually reflective the stage lights. Not shockingly, this looked horrible, and the animation was later added. It was then that Lucas decided the lightsaber blades should have colors — originally, they were going to just be white.
10) Lighsabers aren't the only light-weapons.
While relatively uncommon, lightsaber can be created as pikes, essentially lengthy handles with a short lightsaber blade at the end. These were used by Jedi guards, like at the Jedi temple, and were co-opted by many of Palapatine's guards, secret and otherwise. And one of the Emporer's assassins, Lumiya, had a lightwhip — which was like a regular whip studded with lightsaber crystals, allowing the beam to move freely. There are also lightsaber tonfa, which are really just lightsabers with special hilts. But sometimes double-bladed lightsabers designed to separate could remain connected by a cord, essentially making them lightsaber nunchaku. There are also lightclubs, although these are basically just giant lightsabers.
11) There are seven forms of lightsaber combat.
1) Shii-Cho, or "the Way of the Sarlacc"; 2) Makashi, or "The Way of the Ysalamiri": 3) Soresu, or "The Way of the Mynock"; 4) Ataru, or "The Way of the Hawk-Bat"; 5) Shien/Djem So, "The Way of the Krayt Dragon"; 6) Niman, or "The Way of the Rancor"; and 7) Juyo/Vaapad, or "The Way of the Vornskr."
12) Lightsabers can't cut through everything.
There are a few materials that resist lightsaber blades, and thus have often been used to make armor. Cortosis is the most popular, and its original state actually had the ability to make lightsabers which touched it short out. Unfortunately Cortosis is deadly to the touch, and thus needs to be refined in order to turn into armor, at which point it can only deflect lightsaber blades. Some creature, like lava dragons, also have skin that's naturally resistant to lightsaber blades.
13) Cutting off somebody's hand with a lightsaber is actually a technique.
It's called Cho Mai. Cho Mak is when you cut off a more substantial portion of an opponent's limb. Cho Sun is a term to specifically describe cutting off your opponent's weapon-wielding appendage. Mou Kei is when you cut off several limbs in one attack. The fact that they have specific terms fo all kinds of limb removal somewhat explains why so may people get their hands cut off in Star Wars films.