How to make a mini guillotine

Updated February 21, 2017

The guillotine was designed by Dr. Joseph Guillotine as a humane method of execution. The guillotine quickly became a symbol of tyranny though, during the French Revolution as it was used to put down criminals and insurrectionists. Victims were placed face down on a table between head restraints and their neck was severed completely in about 30 seconds by the guillotine blade. Although no longer used, hobbyists and people interested in the period of the French Revolution sometimes enjoy creating miniature guillotines to serve as toys or models.

Place a two-foot piece of 1/4-inch wide by 1/4-inch deep maple wood on a flat surface. Use a ruler and pencil to mark off three four-inch lengths and one, 1-1/2-inch length. Use a circular saw to cut the wood into these four segments. Wear eye goggles while using the circular saw. Sand the ends of the pieces with fine grit sandpaper.

Lay two of the four-inch pieces down on a flat surface. Place wood glue on one side of the third four-inch piece and adhere it to the two side rails about 1-1/2-inches from their top edges. Glue the 1-1/2-inch piece to the bottom of the side rails with wood glue. Let the unit dry.

Use the circular saw to cut four, 1-1/2-inch long pieces from your wood stock. Sand these pieces with fine grit sandpaper. Glue them to the inside four corners of the guillotine frame you just created. Secure them further by tapping small nails through the posts into the end and top crossbar pieces.

Measure and cut two, six-inch long pieces and two 1-1/2-inch pieces from the wood stock to serve as support for the guillotine blade structure. Cut a line, 1/4-inch deep and 1/4-inch wide into the centre of one side of each six-inch post with a utility knife to serve as a channel for the guillotine blade. Glue the 1-1/2-inch long pieces to the front and bottom of the blade posts. Position the upright blade post unit parallel to the top end of the four, short upright posts you just created. Attach the six-inch long post unit to the guillotine frame by hammering two small nails through the bottom of the guillotine frame into the upright post assembly unit.

Measure six pieces of wood from your stock, two at four inches each and four at two inches each. Mark 60-degree angles on the top end of each of the six pieces. Cut the pieces into their appropriate lengths with a circular saw then use a handsaw or jigsaw to cut one end of each piece along the 60-degree angle line you marked. Mark a 30-degree angle at the straight end of each piece and just the jigsaw to cut along the lines. Sand all ends with fine grit sandpaper.

Nail two of the two-inch long pieces to the front of the guillotine assembly so that they set on the open top of the frame and the vertical six-inch post assembly unit. Hammer the two remaining two-inch pieces together with small nails so that they form a triangle. Nail this triangular unit to the right edge of the upright six-inch post assembly unit. Nail the two four-inch pieces to either side of the rear end of the guillotine frame and to the front side of the upright six-inch blade post assembly unit.

Create a frame for the table top from two 1-1/2-inch long pieces of your wood stock and two, 2-1/2-inch long pieces. Glue the pieces together to form a rectangle that fits on top of the four short vertical posts you created earlier. Hammer four small nails into the table top frame so that they go through each corner of the table top frame and into the four upright posts, securing the table top frame to the posts.

Cut a piece of maple wood to measure six inches long by 1-1/2-inches wide to form a table top for the frame you just created. Cut a piece of wood stock to measure 1-1/2-inches long and glue it to one end of the table top you just cut. Cut two additional pieces from your wood stock, each measuring 1-1/2-inches long. Glue the pieces together so that they form a 90-degree angle. Glue this piece to the bottom centre of the table top. Place the table top on the table frame.

Create a blade for the guillotine out of three pieces of wood stock; cut one to measure 1-1/2-inch and two to measure 1/2-inch each. Cut a 60-degree angle on the longer piece to form a blade. Glue the two 1/2-inch pieces to either side of the blade about 1/2-inch from the top of the blade as blade supports. Drill a 1/4-inch wide hole through the top centre of the blade. Insert a six-inch piece of string through the hole in the blade. Tie a knot at the end of the string so that it does not slip out of the hole. Drill a 1/2-inch wide hole into the top of each blade support.

Create a top for the blade to hold it loosely to the top of the guillotine frame. Cut a piece of stock wood to measure four inches long. Line up that piece with the hole in the centre of the guillotine blade. Mark the spot where the hole meets the piece of wood you just cut. Drill a hole that is 1/4-inch wide through the piece at this point. Thread the string from the blade through hole and let it hang loose. Glue the piece to the top of the vertical posts of the guillotine frame. Glue the other end of the string to the left side of the guillotine's vertical frame so that it is slack in the string.

Create a head hold to fit on top of the table that the blade will slide through. Cut four pieces of wood stock to measure 1-1/2-inches long. Cut four additional pieces to measure 3/4-inch long. Use a utility knife to cut a semicircle into the bottom of each 1-1/2-inch long piece. Glue the eight pieces together to form a small square with a circle inside and a 3/4-inch open space at the top and bottom of the square so that the blade can fit through the top of the head hole and decapitate the miniature victim in your miniature guillotine.

Create a blade release lever by cutting a piece of wood stock to measure six inches long. Drill a 1/2-inch wide hole halfway through the top of the piece, about 1/2-inch down from the top edge. Fill the hole with glue. Insert one end of a wooden pin that measures three inches long by 1/2-inch wide into this hole. Insert the other end into the 1/2-inch holes in the blade supports.

Release the guillotine blade by pulling the blade release level so that the blade slides down the frame and through the head hole. Experiment with your guillotine by placing grapes and other small, soft circular objects in the head hole.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • 2 feet of 1/4-inch wide by 1/4-inch deep maple or other hard wood
  • Metal ruler
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Eye goggles
  • Wood glue
  • Small nails
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Handsaw or jigsaw
  • Maple wood measuring 6-inches long by 1-1/2-inches wide
  • Drill with 1/4-inch wide and 1/2-inch wide drill bits
  • Wood pin measuring 1/2-inch wide and three inches long
  • String
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