Edmonton

Alberta artist's high-end lightsabers bring Star Wars fantasies to life

Alberta artist Rob Petkau works full-time making handcrafted lightsabers for Star Wars fans. For him, it's not job, but a passion.

'I design and build the absolute coolest stuff I can imagine,' says Rob Petkau

Artist Rob Petkau creates high-end lightsabers. (Courtesy Rob Petkau)

You're a child, you're an adult — it doesn't matter.

You've just seen Star Wars, The Force Awakens, and your imagination is spinning out of control, the fervour and fever of fantasy is burning up your brain.

What if ... I had a lightsaber. I want one so bad ...

Rob Petkau can empathize — actually, he can make your fantasy a reality.

The Alberta artist's full-time job is making lightsabers, but not those delicate collectibles collecting dust in a rec room.

He produces durable, intricately handcrafted lightsabers that can be bashed around in the way we used to use cheap plastic swords when we were kids. Except these are way cooler, like double way cooler.

Petkau is owner and operator of Genesis Custom Sabers, a company dedicated to fantasy. A friend called him a "science-fiction artisan" and it's a title Petkau is sticking with. 

"You can buy a lightsaber and you can go with your friends, and you can go to the park at night and smash these things around. And (mine) are meant for that," Petkau told CBC's radio show Edmonton AM on Thursday.

The lightsabers are comprised of polycarbonate, a bulletproof plastic used for police-riot shields. So they can take a licking and keep on kicking.

Just as cool are the motion-activated sounds that emanate from a lightsaber. They include swinging sounds and clashing sounds, which create a greater sense of authenticity for lightsaber enthusiasts. 

Petkau, who operates out of his garage, but takes orders from across the globe, started making lightsabers about 17 years ago. On a lark, he went to a hardware store, looking for parts to make what is likely the most famous movie weapon of all-time. He made one, then another, then another. A hobby turned into a part-time job. In 2010, it became a full-time gig, and business is booming. He sold 100 lightsabers last year.

Petkau ships out lightsabers to England, Germany, Japan and the United States, his largest customer base.

Customized lightsaber can fetch $3,000

But these authentic beauties aren't cheap. A top customized one can fetch up to $3,000; the standard, more functional type costs $500.

Petkau, like millions worldwide, is a Star Wars addict and that's why he loves his job.

"I design and build the absolute coolest stuff I can imagine. That's why I do this. I've always wanted to be able to pick up a lightsaber and turn it on and feel that.

"And so when you get that from someone else who's experiencing these things for the first time, it's really rewarding."

Petkau's two young sons test the new models for him, but it's no big deal to them.

"Dad makes lightsabers, what's the big deal?" their father says with a laugh. 

Perhaps, Petkau would like to add a few more kids. I know some over 50.

He does admit the newest Star Wars episode has things buzzing like a lightsaber.

"The movie has added a whole new level of fervour to that," he said. "I've been super busy the last six months."

Petkau's ultimate fantasy isn't far off from what he's doing for lightsaber addicts.

To see one of his masterful creations in a Star Wars flick would put a big smile on his face.

Imagine a Petkau lightsaber in Darth Vader's deadly grip. That would be cool.

now