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How to Make a Guillotine for School

Guillotines are an execution device with a wooden base, a sharp blade and a hole for a person's head to go. The blade drops down to decapitate the person. This method of execution was most popular in France during the French Revolution but was adopted by other countries as well. Fake versions have been used as Haunted House and Halloween props, and smaller versions have even been used to trim cigars. A fake guillotine makes a useful visual aide for reports about execution styles or historical weapons.

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  1. Make the base of the guillotine. Make a square with four of the 2-foot long plywood pieces. Layer the top and bottom pieces over the others and nail them together with the hammer.

  2. Build the sides of the guillotine using the 5-foot long pieces of wood. Place two pieces 1 inch apart on the left side of the base and nail down. Do the same for the right side. The space in between the two pieces is where the blade and headrest will fit, so don't place them too close together.

  3. Cut a cardboard rectangle 1-1/2 feet wide and 2 feet tall using the utility knife. Cut a circle in the top centre of the cardboard for a head.

  4. Cut another piece of cardboard for the blade. Make the piece 1-1/2 feet wide and about 1 foot tall. Angle the bottom cut to make it look more like a blade. Cut a small circle at the top centre for the rope.

  5. Spray paint the cardboard pieces. Paint the knife a metallic grey and make the headrest any colour you want. Let the pieces dry then slide the head rest through the guillotine sides. Slide the blade through the sides and let it rest at the base until you attach the rope.

  6. Place the last piece of plywood flat on the top of the guillotine and hammer to the sides. Screw in the loop at the top and thread the rope through the loop and down to the blade. Tie the rope to the small hole at the top of the blade. Pull the rope so the blade is at the top of the guillotine. Tape it to the back of the side or hold it until you are ready to demonstrate the device.

  7. Warning

    Wear safety goggles while hammering and spray painting. This is meant to be a toy. Nothing metallic or sharp should be substituted.

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Things You'll Need

  • 2-inch thick plywood (five 2-feet long, four 5-feet long)
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Cardboard
  • Utility knife
  • Spray paint
  • Loop-top screw
  • Rope
  • Safety goggles

About the Author

Catherine Paitsel is a professional writer pursuing her master's degree in international affairs at The New School. Paitsel graduated magna cum laude from Pace University with a bachelor's degree in political science. She studied fashion design at the Pratt Institute and is also a licensed New York real-estate salesperson. Her interests are investing, sociology, entrepreneurship, design and enjoying New York City.

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