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SaberForge in Oregon City makes lightsabers for all, no midi-chlorians required

Custom sabers built with locally manufactured parts are SaberForge’s speciality.

Several glowing lightsabers in a range of colors and styles lean against a wall.

Some sabers are combat-ready, meaning you can put on armor and duel with your friends (without the fear of lopping off a limb with a sword made of plasma).

Photo by Ben McBee, PDXtoday

Owning a lightsaber traditionally requires a perilous quest on a Force-saturated planet to mine a rare crystal followed by telekinetic assembly and years of training, not to mention the prerequisite midi-chlorian count.

Or you could just visit SaberForge in Oregon City.

Your inherent Jedi (or Sith) abilities don’t matter when you step through the shop’s front door and enter a showroom that looks like a Star Wars film set. Expect to make eye contact with life-sized replicas of creatures from George Lucas’s space opera — that is, if your attention isn’t immediately drawn to the dozens of illuminated swords lining the walls.

Dozens of lightsaber emitters in a range of styles hang from pegs on a wall.

Every segment is customizable, from the glowing “blades” to the metal emitters and hilts (pictured here).

Photo by Ben McBee, PDXtoday

SaberForge makes and sells specialized sabers that are both fun and functional. We stopped by to meet founder Phillip Isherwood and see what goes into building a saber (in our galaxy, anyway) in honor of May the Fourth, aka Star Wars Day.

Building sabers started as a hobby for Isherwood, but that changed in the aftermath of the Great Recession. He shifted to selling his creations on eBay, then started SaberForge in 2009 from his home in California. Moving to Oregon in 2013 allowed him to scale up, expanding into the spaces the company now occupies. Currently, SaberForge employs a couple dozen people whose jobs range from installing electronic components to powder coating aluminum hilts in nearly any shade imaginable.

And the demand for laser swords is high. With Disney at the helm of the Star Wars franchise, drumming up new fans from up-and-coming generations is as easy as pumping out a trio of new films, producing a slew of animated and live-action Disney+ series, and turning part of Disneyland into a galaxy far, far away. But not all saber manufacturers are created equal. While many companies are based in China, SaberForge makes most of its own parts (aside from electronic components) in warehouses located a stone’s throw from its Oregon City showroom.

Phillip Isherwood holds a saber with a yellow-orange blade in front of a wall of other glowing sabers.

Isherwood said The Saber Legion is a good place to start for those who want to put their sabers to use.

Photo by Ben McBee, PDXtoday

Saber shoppers won’t find much variance in the LED technology from brand to brand. What sets SaberForge products apart, Isherwood explained, is “the complexity of our designs and the quality of our machine work.”

SaberForge is not Star Wars™ licensed, so you won’t find exact movie replicas, but most of the company’s customers go the custom route anyway. And in Isherwood’s words, their average buyer isn’t the stereotypical “25- to 45-year-old dude, single, who has a lot of disposable income” because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to have a glowing space sword that makes cool sounds when you swing it?

“Seeing people come in [to the showroom] — it’s everybody.”

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