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I've always thought of lightsaber blades as dowel-shaped, but if you look at some of the lightsaber fights in the original movies, there are points where it momentarily looks flat like looking at a sword blade edge-on. That might just be artifacts of early effects technology, since I haven't noticed anything similar in the newer movies. However, the darksaber is very clearly rendered as flat, but also clearly a very unique weapon.

So, as in the title, are lightsaber blades flat like a sword, or round like a dowel?

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    Maybe both. The dark saber has a flat blade. – Jack B Nimble Jan 13 at 3:45
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    out of universe, the film CGI technology was not that great at that time, lightsabers were hand drawn using rotoscoping (AFAIK) – Max Jan 13 at 11:32
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    @Max This [Corridor Digital video](youtube.com/watch?v=Lh1Tz3zwhFU) shows some of the techniques used for OG Star Wars VFX. Some shots the lightsabers were hand drawn, but they also used other techniques elsewhere. – AmiralPatate Jan 13 at 12:42
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    For the benefit of old fogies like myself, the Darksaber referred to above is this one: starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Darksaber For the youngsters that don't know why I'm bothering to mention this, I first thought of this Darksaber: starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Darksaber_(superweapon) – Kaz Jan 13 at 14:53
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    @TylerH no, the darksaber is a lightsaber, created by the Mandalorian Jedi Tarre Vizsla. (Or from this more official source: "An ancient lightsaber that serves as a powerful symbol of leadership to the Mandalorians, the Darksaber is a unique weapon with a black-energy blade lined with a crackling white edge.") – shim Jan 13 at 18:59
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Lightsaber emitters are typically round:

lightsaber emitter

Also, if these lightsabers were anything other than round you would expect them to appear differently depending on the relative angle between the viewer and the lightsaber. However, you can usually see that the dimensions of the lightsaber beam are consistent from every angle, which implies they are circular.

The very first time we saw a lightsaber in Star Wars, Luke holds it at a variety of angles:

Luke testing out the lightsaber

(EDIT: though here is an example like OP mentioned where there are brief moments where it appears flat, oh well.)

And as OP and Jack B Nimble mentioned the Darksaber appears to have a flat blade.

The Darksaber's hilt is noticeably different from the typical round emitters:

darksaber hilt

And when it is moved around by characters wielding you can see that from some angles it appears wider and others more narrow, which is what you would expect for a flat blade. This is demonstrated nicely in this gif:

Sabine holding darksaber

The Darksaber is a unique kind of lightsaber and thus this difference reinforces the idea that lightsabers are typically round.

Here are a couple more shots that seem to show a round blade:

Rey

Darth Vader

And finally, for what it's worth, note that the lightsaber props have sometimes been wooden dowels, which are round. If they were going for something other than round, they'd probably have used something else.

wooden dowels

EDIT: another thought I had was that really you could only know the answer to this if you were looking at a canon-confirmed lightsaber in 3D. Fortunately, there's a canon VR game "Vader Immortal" that features lightsabers. I haven't played it but I suspect the lightsabers look pretty round in VR. Can't say definitively from this gameplay video but seems round to me. 😜

EDIT: As pointed out in the comments by @aleppke, you can look at the holes lightsabers make. An example I found of this is in Clone Wars (the hole there looks pretty circular to me):

Ventress stabbing trooper, Clone Wars

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    I'm assuming a full digression into the fascinating history of the original lightsaber props from Ep. IV is out-of-scope here? The dowels were only used later, when it was discovered that post-production rotoscoping was required anyways. – Sebastian Lenartowicz Jan 13 at 13:01
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    I think the real answer is lightsabers in the original release of Star Wars (episode IV) were not fully round/cylindrical, but since then they have been. There’s definitely strange stuff in the original version of the fight between Vader and Kenobi – Todd Wilcox Jan 13 at 13:35
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    If you have more information you should add it as answer 👍 – shim Jan 13 at 13:36
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    @ToddWilcox For sure, but that was an artifact of low-quality FX and not an intentional in-universe thing. As with many of the dodgy FX shots in the originals, Lucas has gone back and fixed them with CGI since. YMMV on the other CGI of course, but those shots are pretty unambiguously better. – Graham Jan 13 at 15:11
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    I wonder if we could find/recreate a version of that first gif (with Luke) post-special edition, with the CGI fixed to make it round? Would be good to see them side-by-side. – Darrel Hoffman Jan 13 at 15:47
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The original 1977 film (which you can't really see anymore) used mechanical beams to simulate swords. These beams were circular and, if you see the non-special edition, you can even make out the beam from the final cut (where Obi-Wan is circling Vader's saber with his own and the pole itself is visible for a split second when the tube is aimed directly at the camera)

Any "flat" looks may be due to the fact that they edited the original films to have a better glowing effect, more consistent with the prequel trilogy.

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    What is a "mechanical beam" in this context? – shim Jan 13 at 15:48
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    @shim That's how they describe it in the video. It's not metal (Mark Hamill describes how often they would break), but they had to be sturdy enough to duel with, while reflecting enough light for the original rotoscope effect. They almost looked fiberglass. – Machavity Jan 13 at 15:50
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    actually they weren't sturdy enough to duel with. In the whole fight between obi wan and darth vader they never touched saber props, because when they hit eachother they broke. Later on they used metal version, but when they discovered tiny bits of metal were flying on impact they had to cover them in shrinkrap. =) – Millard Jan 13 at 16:22
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    you can see an example of one of the original ANH blades in special features on various DVD's also in the "Extras" section on Disney+ for 'A New Hope' - it's some sort of metal rod coated w/ reflective material. They had hoped that just shining a light on the rod would be enough of an effect in itself, but it wasn't what they hoped so they did the rotoscoping – NKCampbell Jan 13 at 21:52
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    You can't non-questionably-legally see them anymore. Harmy's Despecialized Edition - However, "As of January 2020, he had received no legal challenge from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the owner of Lucasfilm and 20th Century Studios, over the Despecialized Edition." – Mazura Jan 14 at 0:54
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The expanded universe canon--at least before Disney decanonized all of it--was that lightsabers were consisted of a flat, but very thin loop of flowing plasma magnetically confined to the handle, and that they do technically have an "edge", being more effective slicing along the edge than against it, though it can't be seen due to how brightly it glows.

This also was presented as an explanation for why only force-sensitive people can wield them effectively; the huge current and strong magnetic fields (including interaction with the magnetic field of any planet you're on, presumably) meant it would pull sideways when swung, and you needed to be able to predict and account for that, which was only really feasible for those who could use the force for that, though in theory possible for someone who's just very good with them.

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    Do you have a source? – shim Jan 14 at 17:39
  • @shim I'm afraid I don't remember which book it was that I read that in. – Hearth Jan 14 at 21:16
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    In Traitor, lightsabers are explicitly described as round and containing no edge - though they are all "edge" in the sense that every part of the blade cuts equally well. – Cadence Jan 14 at 23:38
  • @shim Now that I think on it, it may have been in one of the KOTOR games. I don't recall which, and I don't exactly have the time to replay them to find the source, but if someone else can find it I'll happily add it to the answer. – Hearth Jan 16 at 0:40
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They are round. You’re right about the Darksaber though, it’s flat because it’s a unique lightsaber but normal ones are usually round. However, the blade of a lightsaber is pure light. And light can give off different shapes and effects depending on the angle that you look at it. Your brain can manipulate light in so many different ways. But I think it’s just old filming quality.

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  • Can you offer any evidence to back up these assertions? – Valorum Jan 21 at 8:35

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