At age 36, Makoto Tsai is a group of artisans who have made a career of making very realistic replicas of the famous energy swords used by the heroes and villains in the space saga.
Fans of "Star Wars" meet on Saturday to officially celebrate the intergalactic series of mourning this year by the recent death of Peter Mayhew, the original performer of the character Chewbacca. Many of the participants will use Makoto Tsai's saber.
From his workshop near Taipei, he exports his products to about forty countries, including the United States, Cuba, France, Peru, Iceland and Tunisia, where 80% of his orders come from.
For 255 dollars it is possible to buy a saber produced by him, which has sold about a thousand copies in the last ten years.
Taiwanese or Chinese fans get a 50% discount on the price under the condition of going through a written examination "to prove they are really in love" with the story created by filmmaker George Lucas.
"I make every piece by hand, it's very close to me," says the young man in his workshop full of objects connected to the saga. "I want only those who really like the film to have the saber," he says.
Although the saga is one of the longest franchises in Hollywood and makes millions of dollars a year, fans have long complained about the low quality official sabers available on the market, indicating that they are no more than pale imitations of what you see in the movies.
Search for perfection
As a result of this failure, a craft industry was born to compensate for the emptiness left by the big toy manufacturers.
Thanks to advances in batteries, LEDs and digital technologies, these craftsmen produce relentlessly more and more elaborate replicas of the series' traditional weapons.
For this they use, among other things, luminous tubes and sound cards that react to the movements.
One of the most important lightsaber experts is the American Michael Murphy, who lives in California.
On your site and forum fx-sabers.com finds the best in terms of lightsabers.
"The number of people able to manufacture them, like Makoto or me, has risen from 25 in the early years to over 100," the man known as Yoda told AFP.
But because of copyright, many avoid giving their creations names directly linked to the series, as well as changing some details in the objects.
The original saber used by actor Mark Hamill, an interpreter of Luke Skywalker, in the first film in the series released in 1977, a low-cost production, is light years in terms of low quality compared to the objects used in the following episodes. The first saber was manufactured based on flashes of old Graflex cameras.
And due to the fans, this type of object is very difficult to find. The most expensive sabers, created with these old flashes, are sold for up to 15 thousand dollars on eBay.
The passion for the universe of the characters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia and Darth Vader came into the life of Makoto Tsai when he was a teenager.
His search for the perfect replica led him to study electro-optic engineering and to work in that industry. Nowadays, it is dedicated exclusively to making swords.
The engineer explains that he does permanent research to create "brighter, tougher and easier to manipulate" sabers during the sabers duels in which he participates to promote his products.
"May the Force be with you"
Its activity allows you to organize free meetings for fans of the saga as well as solidarity events, he reveals.
"I spend two-thirds of my time organizing events. My mission is to increasingly promote the Star Wars universe in Taiwan and attract more fans," he adds.
One of the proudest moments was when he visited the presidential palace on Star Wars 2018.
In this event, all the participants who were dressed as the characters of the film, shouted alongside the vice president of the country, Chen Chien-jen, the famous phrase "May the Force be with you." Other fans, dressed as Imperial soldiers, stood by the military police to stand guard in front of the presidential seat in the heart of the capital Taipei.