Lake Placid man says saber building is ‘labor of love’
LAKE PLACID — If you were a kid in the last 35 years, you may have had one of those Hasbro extendable Star Wars lightsabers in your toy box. With a flick of the wrist, a red, green or blue plastic tube would come flying out. You’d imitate the sounds — “Vrrrmm, vrrmm, KSSHH.” Then you’d hit something a little too hard, and the lightsaber would dent, making it impossible to stuff back into the hilt.
Jim Moscatello’s sabers are more hardcore.
The hilts are made of aluminum, the insides contain high-tech sound and light boards, and the saber itself is almost indestructible.
“The blades are polycarbonate. They’re one-and-an-eighth-inch thick and are really difficult to break,” he said. “One of the companies I buy from tests the blades by bashing them against steel pipes, and none of mine have broken yet.”
Moscatello, a banker from Lake Placid, started building his own personal sabers about two years ago. Then his friends asked for a few. That’s when he realized it could be a profitable racket, and he created his own business, which is now called Starforge Sabers.
Because the word “lightsaber” is trademarked, Moscatello calls his products “LED sabers.”
“As we know, Disney kind of loves suing,” he said.
Since that first build, Moscatello said he’s made more than 100 sabers. He sells them for between $60 and $375. Each saber takes between two and four days to fully construct.
Sometimes the sounds the sabers emit aren’t the standard whooshing and whirring from the films. With one of them, when you click the on switch you’re greeted with a lion’s roar.
“I’ll program the boards with sounds from He-Man or Thundercats — pretty much any recognizable sound from my childhood,” he said.
Moscatello was a big Star Wars fan growing up.
“The first time I saw ‘Star Wars’ was in 1992,” he said. “It was around Christmas time. My parents had dropped me off at my aunt and uncle’s so they could go shopping. It was really impactful because I was adopted late in my parents’ lives. My sisters both saw the movie in theaters and introduced me to it. I would even watch those two Ewok movies religiously. It was really a part of my childhood.”
The first Star Wars film, which now often is called by the subtitle “Episode IV: A New Hope,” was released in 1977 in only 32 theaters on its opening day. Director George Lucas wanted to make a film paying homage to classic serials like Flash Gordon and samurai movies from Akira Kurosawa. Lucas even thought the film was going to be a flop. However, that wasn’t the case, and it quickly became the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Multiple movies and spinoffs, TV shows, video games, amusement park rides, books, comics, Halloween costumes, garbage cans, bed sheets — pretty much anything you can think of, Star Wars has a product with its logo on it. One of the few brands that rivals Star Wars is Disney, and Disney bought it with Lucasfilm in 2012.
The latest film in the series, “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker,” debuted in theaters last week.
Moscatello started to dive more into the Star Wars fandom when “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was about to release in 1999. He and his friends would bring their toy lightsabers to school and choreograph fight scenes.
“In high school, when you’re a nerd like I was, it’s not like how it is today, where the nerds and the smart kids might be popular. You were really an outcast,” he said. “I had very few friends in high school. All of them loved Star Wars. With us, if you went to hang out with someone and you brought your lightsaber, you weren’t looked at as weird. It was more like, ‘Oh, cool. You brought yours, too.'”
Lightsaber duels are not limited to climactic scenes in the movies. Outside the silver screen, some treat saber fighting as a legitimate sport, similar to the way many colleges have Quidditch clubs based on the game in the Harry Potter series. Recently the French Fencing Federation, the national governing body for the sport, updated its bylaws and weapons to include sabers. It was done as an effort to increase participation. In 2018, ESPN2 broadcasted a competition hosted by Saber Legion, one of multiple dueling organizations.
“You can meet some pretty serious competitors,” Moscatello said. “They come to these events decked out in full gear and lacrosse pads ready to go all out.
“I’m looking to start my own local club.”
Moscatello didn’t have prior workshop experience before starting his business. He learned how to solder, use a lathe, install electronics and program a 3D printer all in the goal of building sabers.
“It’s really a labor of love,” he said. “A lot of people have asked me, ‘Why do you do this type of work?’ It’s not just for the money, because it’s a really niche market at this point, trying to find a buyer for this type of thing.
“For the most part, it’s escaping. I lead a life as a banker. Banking is great. I love my job, but it’s not as exciting as you would think. Walking down a corridor at a convention and possibly meeting a Jedi or a Sith lord, and having a duel with everybody cheering you on, that’s one of the beauties of it.”