Introduction: Guillotine for the Ages

This is my guillotine I built this year to go along with my electric chair. It came out pretty good despite some last minute changes that had to be made. Originally I came up with the idea of building a guillotine that would be wired up with the electric chair to create one fluid execution scene. I wanted it to be completely unmanned so that it would reset itself after each decapitation however due to a last minute failure of one of my actuators I had to change it up some so that it has to be manually reset after the scene ends. On the bright side it still has a great effect and by next year it truly will be fully automated.

Step 1: Building the Guillotine

First things first I needed to build the guillotine itself. It was fairly simple. To start I got 4 pieces of 1x3's in an 8' length from lowes along with 2 1x2's of the same length and basically glued them together so that I made two 8' uprights each made up of a 1x2 glued in between 2 of the 1x3's as shown in the picture. (picture shows 1x4's for the sides but I actually used 1x3's for the prop) After those were good to go I just framed it up at the top and bottom with more 1x3's to get the width I wanted. Next I drilled a hole through the top for the rope to slide through as the blade dropped and tied the rope to the blade which I cut out of 1/4" plexiglass that I spray painted "aluminum" and bolted a piece of left over 1x2 on the front and back of the blade at the top just for added detail. Then came time to make it stand up. That was just pretty simple bracing. I screwed some 2x4 legs going out the back side and angled some 2x4 coming from the "legs" up about 1 1/2' and attached them to the uprights. After that it was nice and sturdy and it was then that I decided to combine my guillotine with a stockade setup just for fun. I just used some 2x12 and drilled holes for the hands and head the cut it down the middle attached a hinge on one end and a latch on the other so that it could open and close (not that it needs too but I'm a sucker for realism and functionality). With all that finally done all that was left was to stain it so that it would look older.

Step 2: Smoothing Out the Blade Drop.

I quickly found that the rope caught too much friction to let the blade drop smoothly so to help that out I just used a couple pulleys. Then attached them to a board which I screwed to the top of the guillotine in front so it would hide the pulleys from the trick or treaters. The picture is blurry. Sorry about that but my phone wouldn't focus on it with all the sunlight coming in around the sides but hopefully you can see enough to get the jist of what's going on there.

Step 3: The Head Catcher!

Now for the box intended to catch the head. For this I simply just used some plywood I had laying around to make a square box nothing tricky there. to help take up space I took a thin piece of plexiglass and spray painted it with the rubber sealer stuff then while it was still wet misted it with some red spray paint giving it a bloody pool look after I mounted it inside the box. I also took the heat gun to it a little while it was drying just to create some boils in the paint it made some difference but not a lot so it may not have been worth the effort in the end honestly. Now because of a mechanism I planned to use for popping off the head I needed a hole in the plexiglass so I cut one just big enough to stick a stuffed head into for creepy effect then ran the string I needed through it. I'll explain that in the next step.

Step 4: Losing You Head.

Alright so now we need to lose this poor man's head effectively. To accomplish this task I mounted a door lock actuator inside the box but under the plexiglass then tied a string to it and hooked the other end of the string to the bracket holding the head so that when triggered it would pull the string yanking the head down. As for the head itself I took a styrofoam head from Hobby Lobby then painted it up with some flesh tone liquid latex (for the record I found that the little makeup wedge applicators work way better than brushes for getting it smooth). Next I just attached a wig then jammed a large "L" bracket into his forehead and glued it in place. On the other end of the "L" bracket I welded on a hinge and mounted it to the top center of the box so that it lined up with the head hole on the stockade. In order to get the head to sit up pre-decapitated I glued one magnet in the base of his neck and another into the stockade head hole where they would line up and this held the head up perfectly so that it wouldn't fall until the actuator tugged the string and yanked it down. Also when the head is down you get a clear view of the exposed neck so to make it look gory I employed the same technique with the spray on liquid rubber sealer and red spray paint that I used on the plexiglass. Luckily I discovered that the rubber sealer actually ate away a little at the styrofoam which helped give it more texture.

Step 5: When Tragedy Strikes We Improvise.

So originally I spent long hours searching the internet for examples of how other people made there guillotine in hopes of finding a way to pull the blade up and drop it on queue completely unmanned but couldn't find any one who had done it. I took this as a challenge and went to work and after a WHOLE lot of R&D I finally came up with a design that worked unfortunately two days before the Halloween party I needed to have it finished for, my main actuator burned up and I couldn't get replacement in time. So I had to simplify and this is the compromise I made in the end. I took several scrap boards that I had laying around along with a drawer slide and a door lock actuator and screwed them all together so that in the end I could hook the rope around the end of the main board and the actuator would push the drawer slide outward pushing the rope free to drop. With this design it would still need to be manually reset each time but at least the scene could play out unmanned and that was gonna have to be good enough for this year. Next year however it would be fully animatronic, and will completely run on it's own. I will have to post some updates once it's done explaining the modifications I'll be making.

Step 6: The Devil Is in the Details.

With the guillotine build and all the moving parts situated all that was left was the detail work so I threw together a quick dummy to be locked in and ready to lose his head. Then hung a couple decapitated heads I found at a local party store that I loved too much not to have.

Step 7: Let's Tie Up the Loose Ends Shall We.

Since the prop was intended to work along with my electric chair I wired it up so that it would trigger with the same trigger that the chair used. For the guillotine I used a Boobox Flex controller from Fright Props to run it and I programmed it with the sound of a man laughing so that it would appear that the man about to be beheaded found the electrocution funny moments before the blade drops. The videos show it working once with out the sound (I'll own up to it I forgot to turn the stereo on), once with the sound on, and Once with the full scene in play electric chair included.(sorry about the skeleton swinging and the haunted rocking chair getting in the way a little) I hope everyone enjoys it and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask. Thanks