first retractable lightsaber split image of beam and cutting door lock

Alex Burkan (Russia), the man behind the YouTube channel Alex Lab, has created the first retractable lightsaber

The lightsaber produces a plasma blade measuring over 1 m (3.28 ft) in length. Reaching temperatures over 2,800°C (5,072°F), the blade has the ability to cut through steel. 

"All my life I was a great Star Wars™ fan and the lightsaber was my most-wanted gadget," said Alex.

"Of course it’s a great feeling to get into Guinness World Records with something that you just made with your own hands. The only wish now to make something more epic!" - Alex Burkan

"Since 2013 the main field of my research and work was hydrogen generation equipment so I decided, maybe, that I could build something."

However, replicating the Star Wars™ inspired lightsaber was no easy task.

close up of lightsaber

"Every single step during [the] development and building process was a challenge."

"For many years I have collected ideas and spare parts for my lightsaber and power equipment on the internet markets and [from] scrap yards."

The first step for Alex was designing and building high pressure equipment which could then be adapted for his lightsaber.

Alex drawing the lightsaber in note book

"The key component of my lightsaber is an electrolyser. An electrolyser is a device that can generate a huge amount of hydrogen and oxygen and compress the gas to any pressure without a mechanical compressor."

Alex also uses this electrolyser, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, as a hydrogen booster for his motorbike.

After hundreds of experiments and bench tests, Alex was able to adapt the hydrogen and oxygen burner so it formed the shape and length required for his lightsaber.

Alex in his work shop

But Alex’s quest for a realistic lightsaber was far from over. He then had to create a compact yet powerful hydrogen and oxygen burner that could fit in the handle.

"Finally, the most challenging job was to squeeze the whole gas distribution system in a lightsaber handle."

"It is the starkiller lightsaber from The Force Unleashed game!"

As well as cutting through metal, the lightsaber has other cool qualities. 

lightsaber cutting through metal door lock

"Plasma is a stream of high ironized particles so this lightsaber can also attract lightening and other high voltage charges," Alex said.

"The most awesome thing this gadget can do is give you a true feeling of a real lightsaber in your hand."

Despite all the work that has gone into getting his lightsaber to it’s current state, Alex has plenty of improvements he wants to make to refine his design.

"This is a first prototype so it has lots of limitations. It works for only 30 seconds on full power, the hydrogen torch is not as stable as it could be and you can easily see it when it moves. Sometimes the lightsaber just blows up in your hand because of hydrogen flashback."

Alex holding light saber at full length

Alex is planning improvements to the prototype such as upgrading the nozzle and replacing the fuel tank with a carbon tank system. 

"I think the science will help us and finally we can get the lightsaber close to the movie version."

Alex isn’t the only person – or indeed record holder – who's tried to create a real-life version of the iconic Star Wars™ weapon. 

Hacksmith Industries (Canada), the brain-child of YouTube creator James Hobson, also created a lightsaber of their own, which broke the record for first retractable proto-lightsaber.

hacksmith lightsaber

Unlike Alex’s lightsaber, the one designed by Hacksmith Industries requires an external power source. Their lightsaber is powered by tanks of liquid propane gas and oxygen gas which are attached to the lightsaber from a small backpack.

"I know I’m not the only who tries to make the dream of a Jedi lightsaber become real, and that’s cool," Alex continued.

"The most crazy thing is that we made them almost simultaneously. Isn’t it cool that two guys from different parts of the world dream about one thing that doesn’t even exist?"

"The Hacksmith version is much more powerful, it definitely works longer than 30 seconds. Our duel would be extremely fast and furious, because I have only 30 seconds to win!"

lightsaber on top of notebook

Despite inventing rival lightsabers, Alex says he and James occasionally talk to each other about their upcoming or current creations.

"Sometimes we discuss our current projects. Sometimes we threaten each other with our new inventions, but we always support each other."

"Things and ideas that unite people all over the world are awesome"

After securing a Guinness World Records title for his retractable lightsaber, Alex is now working on other exciting projects.

Alex with lightsaber and Guinness World Records certificate

"Right now I am working on an Iron Man suit and other equipment that also works on hydrogen. I hope to see you again and break a few more records!"

You can see what Alex is up to on his English and Russian language YouTube channels.