What are known today as Lightfoils are petite and elegant copies of an ancient Caraadian weapon of the same name. Lightfoils are popular among certain young Par'tha nobles, especially those that call themselves sabre rakes. In the beginning, lightfoils were built by a few technologically adept sabre rakes, following the designs of actual antique Caraadian lightfoils they had on hand. Gradually, as the designs were established, others got into the act, and lightfoils are now a hot item on the fringe markets frequented by sabre rakes.
The lightfoil is at once the simplest of weapons and the most difficult to wield and master. It is, essentially, a sword, but with a blade of pure energy powerful enough to cut through most materials - except another lightfoil blade. But those same blades are as likely to sever their users as their opponents. To strike with a lightfoil, one must close to within an arm's length of one's opponent, who may well carry a blaster, grenade or other long-range weapon. The foil's true potential only becomes apparent in the hands of an expert, following years of dedicated practice and instruction. Anything less results in injury or death for the wielder, either due to self-inflicted wounds or the inability to stop an opponent's weapon.
Each lightfoil was unique. Each one was different in size, shape color, and styling, though they all remained simple in design and appearance. Even the controls and capabilities on many differed. Some foils had variable blade length, shortening for close fighting, lengthening to hold an enemy at bay. Some included safety switches that shut the blade off if the grip was released; others locked on so they could be thrown. Despite their variations, no foil used by the ancient Caraadians was ever known to fail.
Modern Lightfoils are weaker than their authentic counterparts, largely because those who build them do not use the same focusing crystal designs found in real lightfoils. They aren't crafted with the attentionand devotion to excellence the ancient Caraadians gave to real lightfoils, either. They have a tendency to fail at the worst times. But to the sabre rakes, this just adds to their appeal.
Although the exact details of lightfoil operation remain shrouded in mystery, the general technology is known. The foil's compact size and nearly limitless energy were based on ancient technology, carefully guarded by the ancient Caraadians. At the heart of the lightfoil lies a small, efficient power cell. All the controls and components fit into a compact handle 24 to 30 centimeters long. When the lightfoil is activated, a tremendous charge of pure energy flows from the power cell. A series of multi-faceted jewels focus the energy into a tight, parallel beam. Each foil has a unique frequency which determines the "feel" if the blade, how it handles when cutting something or contacting a force field or another foil blade. The frequency of each foil can be calculated from its blade color and pitch it generates. Foils use between one and three jewels to give their beam a specific frequency.
Foils with a single jewel have a fixed amplitude, which determines the blade length. Other foils with multiple jewels can alter their amplitude, and thus the blade length, by rotating or varying the separation between the jewels. The antique lightfoils used natural jewels, but, evidently, the sabre rakes can forge synthetic jewels with a small furnace and a few basic elements.
The beam emits from a positively charged continuous energy lens at the center of the handle. The beam then arcs circumferentially back to a negatively charged high energy flux aperture, usually set in a disk that also serves as a handguard. The power amplitude determines the point at which the beam arcs back to the disk, setting the blade length. The tight, arcing beam forms a blade of amazing strength.
A superconductor transfers the power from the flux aperture to the power cell. Almost no energy is lost in the process - the beam doesn't even radiate noticeable heat, though it does fluoresce and hum. The foil loses power only when it cuts through something - but not when contacting another foil blade. The operator must use his strength and skill to force his blade against another foil blade; no lightfoil can cut another's beam.
Controls at the hilt of the foil adjust the power cell capacity and allow periodic recharging. Though exact duration figures are not known, it is clear that they can last for years at a time before recharging becomes necessary.
Lightfoils do not require many exotic materials, and have been constructed or repaired in all manner of desolate places under primitive conditions. However, they do require the highest level of craftsmanship. Knowing both what the pieces are and how to put them together is the secret to building this elegant weapon.