You may know Celso Itliong as one of the admins for the Elite Lightsaber Society Facebook page. He also has one of the coolest lightsaber collections this side of the galaxy. His collection features some of the most legendary and iconic builds from the great sabersmiths, including Vader’s Vault, Solo’s Hold, HARP, and more. His reliquary of sabers is an awesome display of the attraction of lightsabers, representing the intersection of functional art, science fiction, and fun. Thanks for doing the interview, Celso.
When and how did you first get into collecting lightsabers?
I’ve always wanted to start collecting lightsabers ever since seeing it ignited onscreen many years ago. It was because of other hobbies that I never really got into this. A few years ago, while on break from work, I visited a Rogers video store across the street and found they were selling a Masters Replica Luke Skywalker saber. That was sometime between 2000 and 2005. This was my first encounter with an LED blade that actually simulated the scrolling effect of a lightsaber being turned on and off, complete with sound effects. Needless to say, I was fascinated. I always liked Obi-Wan’s TPM hilt and I tried in vain to purchase this particular saber only to find that it was not readily available. After much Googling on the aforementioned hilt, in late 2013 I found that Ultrasabers (US) sold such a hilt and after viewing the US Guardian video many times over and learning the ins and outs of this hilt, I finally took the plunge and purchased it. I was hooked the moment I ignited the Guardian.
What do you find appealing about them enough to keep wanting more?
The reality of actually living out that dream of igniting that saber, of hearing those unique saber sounds while wielding it made me want to acquire another saber almost immediately. And I did. I acquired 3 more US hilts in just under a month by taking advantage of the sales and promotions offered at that time.
Do you have a philosophy for saber collecting, like which sabers you go for and which ones you don’t?
This is a two-tiered answer. With Ultrasabers, I wanted to collect hilts that best characterized certain blade colors. With the Guardian, I naturally went with Blue. Green naturally for the Consular. I pictured the Bellicose with an orange/red blade color and because the Shock LE had this classy and elegant design to it, I went with a yellow. Now as I was contemplating which hilt to acquire for a red colored blade, I came upon Madcow’s YouTube Ascend video. You see, it was after I had gotten my first hilt, that I had started doing more research into my new found hobby by reading and watching not just US reviews but other sabers that offered a different kind of board that I’ve never heard of – the Crystal Focus. The Madcow Ascend video mentioned the FX saber Forum and that in turn led me to also being a member of the Imperial Royal Arms saber Forum and my introduction to NEC’s Igniter sound board. It was shortly after carefully doing my homework on Genesis Custom Sabers that I acquired my red blade hilt in the Ascend in early 2014. Having seen the advanced boards the FX and IRA Forums had to offer, I completely left US by selling all my US hilts and indiscriminately bought hilts that visually appealed to me. But after a year of continuous buying and selling to acquire that next awesome saber, I realized I had to focus on what sabers I actually wanted to keep. I never liked canon hilts – there are of course exceptions – and preferred non-canon and originally designed ones particularly those that visually appealed to me. And so it was to this end that I focused on such hilts which reflect my present collection of lightsabers.
Are you more into Star Wars or Lightsabers? Which one comes out on top if you had to make a choice?
Both go hand in hand. But as far as what defines my love of Star Wars, that would be the lightsaber since it is the iconic object/image that best represents Star Wars.
What makers do you have at least one saber from?
Genesis Custom Sabers (GCS), Vader’s Vault (VV), SF, Solo’s Hold (SH), Nocturne Armory (NA), Force Relics (FR) and Parks. I had also owned an LDM/OM as well.
What are the top lightsabers you own?
I presently own 10 lightsabers and what I have in my collection are all my top sabers. Each has a place in my heart. In no particular order….
Two GCS Ascends simply because its design is what I pictured a lightsaber hilt would be. Functional, simple yet elegant in design. Ergonomically speaking, very comfortable to wield. This was the saber I brought to last year’s Lightsaber Battle in Toronto, and the only one I duel with.
GCS Corran Horn: the design, such as a sliding kill switch, simply blows me away both in its outward aesthetics to its inner design and PVC chassis. The crystal chamber was the first I’ve seen of this kind
SF Jade Fire: My first commissioned saber. I’ve always wanted a Mara Jade hilt and when I saw what Solo’s Hold did with his SF Jade hilt, I contacted him to design me a Steam Punk inspired hilt and he delivered in spades. Always wanting to try new ideas, Aaron drilled the hilt to incorporate a reveal CC —- an idea that SF would later borrow and incorporate into their line of Jade hilts. Dubbed CRI-Jade, it’s thus far my only saber with NEC’s Igniter Mini (sound board).
VV SK: Dubbed “Dos Equis” by Alan because of its VV-SK-XX designation, this hilt was the prototype of what the hilts where to become in both of Vader’s Vault’s two SK Run on the FX Forum. This particular hilt was also the test hilt for Plecter’s new CF 6 board that would allow, for the first time, an RGB LED SK hilt for use in the second SK Run. Very fine craftsmanship went into the fabrication of this hilt. Pictures don’t do this hilt justice.
SH TFUII Promo hilt: Again, the look, quality and design of the hilt drew me to this. Moreover, It’s unique locking system and no threaded parts makes this hilt eligible for very, very hard duelling. The specially designed GOTH 3Design chassis completes this hilt.
NA ‘s Ven Zallow: I had very specific ideas I wanted for this hilt and when the Parks Axis and the unfortunate FX Ven Zallow Run failed to deliver, I turned to Wes to fabricate me an empty hilt to accommodate a crystal chamber and a CF board. I envisioned this hilt to be TOR-themed and with that in mind, I have 6 TOR Jedi and 6 TOR Sith fonts installed in the board. Also installed are the 3 audio Cinematics and all 14 audio Galactic Timelines that were released on YouTube prior to the game’s public release. (Crystal chamber by HARP)
SH Luke V2: One of the few canon hilts I like. It appealed to me more than the Hero version of the hilt. Exquisitely and expertly machined by Solo’s Hold, this was a no brainer for me. This hilt is all the more special for me since it has one of HARP’s uniquely designed crystal chassis.
FR Kanan: The originality of this hilt is what attracted me to it, but more specifically, the tsuba. The existence of that tsuba was enough for me to commission Garry Ripper to fabricate a ninja blade to complement this hilt.
Parks ESB Graflex 2.0: The Graflex – first SW lightsaber ever. I wasn’t too keen on the ANH version but the ESB is just miles better in my own opinion. The design and aesthetics of the ESB version stands above that of the TFA. It is the hilt that Luke uses to battle his father. The TFA version seems to have been modified after its recovery from Bespin so it is no longer the “original” hilt, per se, that was lost in Episode 5.
Do you want any custom originals that are not based on any of the Star Wars media? I always thought that these would be more popular than they are.
I do have one in mind. It’s a WIP and I prefer to not divulge anything until such time.
Who are your favorite saber makers – the ones that, in your opinion, produce the best quality sabers?
I will only mention those who I’ve seen first hand of their work and that would be the saber makers I mentioned above, as well as JQ sabers. I’d also like to qualify this remark and include CSJ Props since I had seen his work first hand on a fellow hobbyist’s hilt at last year’s Lightsaber Battle in Toronto. Also of note, although SF was part of the saber makers I mentioned above, it must be noted that SH heavily customized that empty Jade Fire hilt.
How did you manage to get HARP to work on your sabers? His makes are insane but it seems impossible to get in line for one.
As far as I know, before his exposure to the saber community on Facebook, HARP’s works and builds were confined to the FX and IRA Forums. To my knowledge, demand for commissioned works were not nearly in demand as they are at this present time. That being the case, HARP readily agreed to work on my Ven Zallow’s crystal chamber and electronic install. As for HARP’s work on my Luke V2, he had joined Solo’s Hold’s empty Luke V2 Run on the IRA Forum. I however could not due to prior saber engagements. A few months into the run, I noticed that not only did HARP join in SH’s empty Luke V2 run, but One Replica’s as well, also on the IRA Forum. I concluded that the former would do installs on both and possibly sell these. I immediately contacted HARP to see what his real intentions were and having confirmed my suspicions, I called first dibs on the SH empty Luke V2.
What is the top lightsaber you don’t own that you would like to?
How about that Martin Beyer Graflex?
I think like many others who saw and appreciated Martin’s unique chassis take of the Graflex, we would’ve all gone for it.
What is your least favorite saber model and why?
Sidious’ hilt. Looks like a dildo
Do you prefer Naigon or Plector for sound boards?
Depends on the hilt and/or what I have in mind for it. For instance, I would automatically defer preference to Naigon’s board on a Corran Horn hilt because of the board’s Dual Phase feature – twist motion that’s similar to what is done on a speed motor bike handle. (You can check out vids of Naigon boards on Celso’s Solo’s Hold Jade Redux and Plecter on his Solo’s Hold TFU2 promo)
What are your top five favorite sound fonts?
In no particular order: Rogue, Rain Sizzle, Resblade, Transform and Obsidian
How are your lightsabers displayed in your home? Are they all out at once?
Presently still working on that. I however would have stands for these and in a display case. I don’t mind guests getting a feel of my hilts but at the end of the day, I would want these encased to protect these from the elements.
Do you open carry?
What’s the biggest change in the world of sabers you’ve seen since TFA came out? I’m sure there’s positives and negatives.
How the saber hobby community has literally exploded exponentially. It use to be confined to the 2 main saber forums but certain lightsaber Facebook groups I think has topped both in sheer size of members. Interest in acquiring sabers or DIYers have grown resulting in shortage and/or sold out parts and unfortunate long wait times for its re-availability. Moreover, the appearance of new and trusted saber vendors and saber smiths is certainly one other positive aspect since TFA came out.
What do you think about the world of collectable lightsabers now?
It still is a niche hobby despite the growing numbers of hobbyists. There are many out there, Star Wars fans included, that are oblivious that this particular hobby even exists. I for one didn’t know myself until I seriously got in to it. Even in the hobby itself, there are still collectors who know nothing of the existence of other saber smiths and saber companies.
What do you recommend to the new collector?
For those on a tight budget, I would, with reservations, recommend Ultrasabers. It’s a great way to ease into the hobby without breaking the bank. Now as for those who have more of a disposable income, Genesis Custom Sabers, Force Relics, JQ Sabers, Saberz, and Vader’s Vault. I say these makers only because they have regular production run sabers.
Do you think the new entrants to the field know or understand about the great makers?
It’s a learning process. Eventually, they will. I will add this though. There are those new to the hobby who have something to offer and I’ve seen this in the number of individuals that have offered very high quality saber hobby-related parts such as stands, covertecs, and chassis, as well as offering their skills in advancing the saber building community. I’m personally not one to dwell on those who have been part of, and have contributed to the saber hobby back in the day. It’s always nice when individuals step up and pump fresh new ideas into the hobby.
With collectible hobbies that get hot, people often start collecting with the idea that their items will gain in value over time. Do you see this happening with sabers?
I suppose it depends on the type of hilt. Take for instance the Graflex. Certain Graflex hilts made by certain smiths have gone on to sell for crazy amounts of money.
Is there a community of saber fans in your city that you interact with or is it primarily online?
I personally know of a few individuals with whom I’ve met either through the saber forums or on the FB saber groups who reside in around the city I live in. Nothing major really but we got to meet late last year in one of those Lightsaber Battles that are held in a number of cities every year.