ScrapSmith Sabers – Interview with Danie

It’s always interesting to see the interesting folks we have in our local gaming community. Danie Booyens has been around for a while now, playing with the Infinity crowd. I recently found out about Danie’s amazing side hustle and I thought some of you folks might also find it interesting. Meet Danie, he is such a lekker oke! Buy him a beer next time you run into him.

What do we need to know about you and what would few people guess when they meet you for the first time?

My name is Daniel Booyens, I go by Dan or Danie, I’m 35 years old living happily in Johannesburg with my wife and two little girls.  I’ve always loved to make or build things and have done so since an early age.  My dad and I built Lotus 7’s for racing and customized all manner of other vehicles so I’ve been comfortable around tools since I can remember.

Honestly I try to be pretty open but I guess people wouldn’t know that I played bass in many a Blues/Rock band in my youth!

What kind of a gamer are you? What games do you play outside of tabletop?

I love tabletop wargames and play mainly infinity but have been getting into Warhammer 40k recently.  I enjoy the modelling and painting side of it most and you can generally find me converting my forces using 3D printed parts or bits that I’ve modelled with Green Stuff. 

Aside from tabletop I really enjoy a good single player RPG just to take my mind off of life and really get sucked into a game’s storyline.

How long have you been playing tabletop and which games did you start with?

It doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing it for very long but now that I’m actually thinking about it I realise it’s been a good 3 or 4 years since I started.  Infinity was the first game that really grabbed me and I still love it.

What drew you to the hobby?

The miniatures themselves are a big draw for me, I love the build and paint so this was a great outlet, but I also really love the social aspect.  In general I find the wargaming community to be super welcoming and friendly, I’ve never met someone across a table that I didn’t enjoy playing and chatting with.

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about the hobby?

I find people believe that tabletop gaming of any kind is really only for a very specific personality type which is obviously nonsense.  Whether you’re a geek or a nerd or even if you’ve never been interested, unplugged gaming is a great space.  There’s something for everyone and I think the general public would be surprised by how many different varieties of people and personalities are involved.

Tell us about your lightsabers?

I’ve been building Force Fx lightsaber props for around 5 years now.  I love tinkering with them and customizing them, and I’ve recently started offering my skills for commission work.  I will help you source a high quality replica or design your own custom sabre from modular parts, I will weather/acid etch/modify to your specification and I will install the sabre with electronics so that it lights up and plays sounds in response to button presses, motion and striking.

The hobby can be a little pricey so I put no markup on the physical sabre or parts that I source, I only charge for my time and labour to build and install your ideal sabre.

Why did you get into building sabers?

I was looking to learn something new so I decided to teach myself how to program a microcontroller.  I wanted to have an end goal in mind and thought it would be cool to try make a lightsaber that could respond to motion detection.  Little did I know that this was an established hobby with loads of cool tech available!

I spent a lot of time going through forums and I stumbled across Profezzorn, one of the first people to use pitch shifted hum sounds in response to motion detection to produce a “smooth swing”, that is a lightsaber “whooom whooom” sound that responds to your swings, whether they are hard or soft, quick or slow, and produces an appropriate sound, as opposed to older tech which would select a pre-made swing sound from a set and play one at random in response to any movement.

The math alone was enough to grab me and I attempted to follow his work (which he had extensively documented) and replicate it on my own controller.  Once I was successful I started to experiment with some of the newer soundboards built specifically for sabers as well as with neopixel lights for the blades, the rest is history.

Why are your sabers cool?

  • I don’t mass manufacture or batch build at all.  Each saber is completely unique and built to your specifications. 
  • I use high quality parts and the most advanced tech available to give you a product that feels as real as possible.
  • I build Neo-Pixel blades meaning the blade will be as bright as possible, will be able to change colours and will respond to either motion or clash detection.  So it can flash when it hits something similar to real lightsaber duels.  Theblade can also be programmed to produce any number of cool lighting effects, honestly the options are close to endless.
  • I have experience with the 3 major soundboards on the market (GHv3, CFX and Proffie 2.2) so I can install and pre-program them to your requirements.
  • I design and 3D print my own electronics chassis that sits inside your saber and holds everything together.  This means that instead just making something functional, I try to make the inside as cool as the outside.  As an example, I’ve put together a few chassis’ with crystal chambers where the crystal lights up and mimics the effects of the blade.

How does this compare to some other saber brands and customizers out there and how is your sabers the best?

There are a few lightsaber installers around but they are all based overseas, mostly in the US.  There is no one local to South Africa (that I’ve found at least) who will put together a saber that is unique and customized to your specification.

What are your trying to achieve with your business?

I have a day job that I find very fulfilling and I’m not trying to turn my hobbies into fulltime work, but as we all know, hobbies can get expensive!  This helps me to do something that I really enjoy without much spend. As a major bonus, I get other people into the hobby and help them enjoy the feeling of swinging around a lightsaber!

How do you balance your business, job, hobby with having a young family?

It can certainly get hard and burnout is very real.  I don’t take on more commissions than I can realistically deliver on and will build in a little time between builds to switch up hobbies. 

In terms of family, I think my wife likes getting me out of her hair occasionally and we both believe in having our own lives and hobbies as individuals as well as the time we spend together so that helps a lot.  The kids love seeing what I put together and while they’re still a little young, I think I’ve got a pair of future gamers on my hands!

What is your next challenge in the world of sabers?

3D printing really opened up a whole new world in terms of chassis design but one aspect that is difficult to access in South Africa is 3D printing of metal components.  While it will be a little pricey to accomplish, I want to order parts to build a full metal lightsaber chassis and motorized spinning crystal chamber.  This would be my first “Master” level build and would put me on par with some of the best in the hobby.

What events are your looking forward to this year?

I was very sad to miss D9k last year and will be doing everything in my power to attend this time around!

Any other hobbyist projects on the table for you?

I am currently painting up my Corregidor force for Infinity and converting a customized Deathwatch force for 40k.  I also have my eye on a Kylo Ren replica saber by KR sabers but they are notoriously difficult to track down for a reasonable price.

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