How to Make Theater Poles & Ropes

Updated February 21, 2017

Crowd control ropes are often seen in theatres. These temporary pole and rope barriers help to direct the flow of traffic or discourage entrance into off-limits areas. There are a number of ways to create a pole and rope barrier. One of the simplest is to use chain-link fence top rails and heavy medium density fibre-core (MDF) bases for the posts and sew a sleeve of velvet or other material to cover your rope. You can easily create as many poles as needed and create the length of ropes required for your space.

Cut a piece of chain-link fence top rail to 32 inches for each pole you need, using a reciprocating saw and a fine-tooth blade. Tap a rail bracket onto the top of each pole. These are the round-eye-style metal toppers that are used on fence posts to allow a pipe to pass through.

Use the top of a 5-gal. bucket to trace two circles onto 3/4-inch MDF for each pole. Cut the circles out with a jigsaw. Glue and screw the circles together using wood glue and 1 1/4-inch drywall screws. Use at least six screws around the edge of the circle and drive the heads flush with the face of the MDF. Drive four tack-style nylon furniture foot buttons into the face of the MDF on the same side as the screws, evenly spaced, with a hammer.

Turn the base, nylon feet down. Set a 1/4-inch round-over bit with bearing in your router. Loosen the two collet nuts by turning the outside nut counterclockwise and the inside nut clockwise simultaneously. Put the shaft of the bit into the collet and tighten using the reverse motion. Release the barrel, either by wingnut or snap clip, depending on the router, and turn it to adjust the bit depth. Set the bit with the shoulder at the top of the curve just above the router base plate. Turn the router on and run it around the edge of the MDF pole base counterclockwise for a smooth edge.

Center a 2-inch galvanised pipe floor flange on top of the circle and attach it using 1-inch wood screws in each hole. Use a rubber mallet to tap the pole firmly into this flange. Paint the entire pole assembly with two coats of spray paint in your choice of colours. Hold the can 8 to 10 inches from the surface and work in short bursts with side-to-side, brush-like motions. Spray as evenly as possible to prevent runs and drips and allow the recommended drying time between coats.

Cut 3/4-inch nylon rope to length with a sharp knife to fit between your poles. Run the rope through a piece of foam pipe insulation, leaving enough at each end to tie a slip knot. This will give it body and thickness.

Cut a 4-inch-wide strip of heavyweight fabric in your choice of colours -- red velvet is traditional. Use a sewing machine to stitch a straight seam between the two long edges of the strip, 1/4 inch from the cut edge, to make a tube as long as your rope. Slide the rope and pipe insulation through it.

Tie a slip knot through the back end of a 3 1/2-inch dog-leash style spring clip at each end of the rope. Hot glue the fabric at each end to the rope, up tight to the spring clip. Pull the spring clips open by pulling back with your thumb. Hook the clip to the top-rail eye bracket on each post to complete the barrier.


Duct tape can be used to tape the seam in the fabric if you do not know how to sew.

Things You'll Need

  • Chain link fence top rail
  • Top rail eye brackets
  • 3/4-inch thick MDF
  • 5-gal. bucket
  • Jigsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Drill
  • Drywall screws
  • Router with round-over bit
  • Galvanised pipe floor flange
  • Wood screws
  • Rubber mallet
  • 3/4-inch nylon rope
  • Pipe insulation
  • Heavy fabric
  • Sewing machine
  • Dog leash style spring clips
  • Hot glue gun
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About the Author

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.