This project shows how I created a simple, fake jail cell. My cousin recently graduated from the Police Academy and my aunt is having a party to celebrate. She asked if my family could design and build a simple jail cell that people can stand in for pictures.
The project is basic and gives a fun realistic finished look. Perfect for pictures! The idea can also be used to make a simple jail cell for a Haunted House.
The way this jail cell is made is to be able to be free standing and the sides open. Since people will be taking pictures I wanted the sides to be open so someone can step in from one side, take their pictures, and orderly leave from the other side. Since I used boards I already had, the pictures look best when zoomed in so the rest of the world does not show through. This project can be made to any size board and pipes you have and for Haunted Houses it can be made to have the side walls as well!
Step 1: Materials
Hammer (optional but comes in handy)
4x4 Plywood Board (or larger for preference)
2- 1x2x8ft Boards
5- 1in diameter Electrical PVC pipes (10ft long)
20 PVC pipe end caps (end caps depend on how many bars you make, each bar needs two end caps)
1 package of 1/2in long number 6 pan head Screws
Metallic Aluminum Spray Paint (or color of choice)
Paints for background board (colors of your choice)
5- 2x4x8ft Boards (to make stands)
2- Pack of small L-Shaped brackets
Step 2: Paint the Background Board
If the board needs to be cut down, do this first. In my case, I used a leftover board we had laying around from an old project. It was not the size I wanted, but to keep the cost of this project down it sufficed.
Knowing I was making a jail cell, I decided I wanted to make the back wall of the cell a gray color like cement. I had a dark gray and white so I mixed my colors to make the shade of gray that I wanted. Using your painting tools, just brush a solid coat of gray onto the board.
Once it is dry I decided I wanted to make the wall look a little dirty and gritty. To do this I took sand paper and scuffed up the wood and paint. This gave the wood some texture and grain that I could use to dry brush over. Once it had a texture I could feel through the paint, I mixed my white and gray some more and made a dirtier gray. I then dry brushed lightly in some areas and not so lightly in others. I wanted the background to look worn and dirty.
(end optional step)
After "dirtying" up my wall I decided I wanted to give the illusion of the wall being made of cement blocks. I used some painters tape and marked out horizontal lines along the height of the board. I did my best to keep them straight and even. (Although apparently I must have a crooked eye since some of the lines sway off a bit. oops) Now paint in the horizontal brick lines with a darker gray. Once these dry measure out how wide you want your bricks to be and using the painters tape mark out the vertical brick lines between each set of horizontal lines. Make sure to make these lines uneven on each row to give it a brick wall look.
Step 3: Making the Bars- Paint and Cutting
Take your PVC Pipes and lay them down on a tarp. (or your grass if you don't mind painting your grass) Take your silver spray paint, or the color you purchased, and begin to spray down all five pipes. Let the first side dry and then spray paint the back and sides.
Once the pipes are fully painted and dry use the jigsaw and cut off the larger piece at the one end of the pipe. After all those larger pieces are removed and you have solid bars all one size mark the center point on each pipe.
Using the jigsaw, cut the pipes through the center pipe. Once you are done making all of the cuts you will have 10 approximately 5ft tall bars.
Step 4: Making the Bars- the Top and Bottom Beams
Now that we have painted and cut bars, we need a way to mount them together and make them look like actual prison bars! We will do this by using the1x2x8ft Boards. I started by cutting these boards in half to have a total of 4, 4ft long boards.
After cutting them in half I spray painted the top and one side of each board. I would have painted the whole board but I was running really low on paint.
Instructions for the Bottom and Top piece:
For the bottom and top boards, you will need to use the pipe end caps for mounting the bars. If you have paint still spray the end caps to match the color of the bars. This is not necessary, but makes the finished product look just that much nicer.
Take the end caps and drill a hole at the center of each cap. (picture 9) This hole will be used in a few minutes for screwing the pipe ends to the bar. Now take a look at your bottom bar and figure out how far apart you want each bar to be. My bars were about 4ft long and I had 10 poles to mount. I put the first and last bar 2in in from both ends and just made even spacing between them for the rest. Make your own measurements based on the length of the bottom piece you use and how many bars you have.
Once you decided and marked your spacing begin drilling the end caps onto your bottom bar. These end caps drilled into the bar will become sturdy joints to mount the pipes onto the bottom and top of the bar.
After you finish drilling all the caps into the top and bottom bar, begin putting the pipes into the bottom end caps. DO NOT put them in the TOP YET!
Step 5: Making the Bars- the Middle Beams
So the top and bottom piece are done and you mounted the bars to the bottom piece. Now it is time to make the horizontal middle bars.
Instructions for the Middle pieces:
The easiest way to do the middle pieces is to just drill a hole for each pipe to slide through. Use the marks you made for the top and bottom pieces and make the same marks on the two middle boards. Make sure these marks line up very closely to the top and bottom marks since the pipes do not really bend well.
Once you drill all the necessary holes in your board (in my case 10 holes) you can begin to slide them through the mounted poles. If you have issues when drilling the holes like I did then use your judgement and make a decision on how to fix your problem. For me, the last hole on the first pipe cracked so I just decided to take that entire pipe out of my system.
Once you slide in the two middle pieces you can add a little bit of hot glue underneath each hole. This however is not necessary if you follow the same method of mounting the bars like I did in the next few steps.
Finally, you can NOW put on the top bar piece. This is where the optional hammer comes into play. It really makes getting the bars in place an easy job for the top. Lightly tap above each bar in the end caps to really get the bars tightly into the end caps. Once these are in place and in the caps it will be a very very hard task to get them back out.
Step 6: Making the Stands
Take one 2x4x2ft and place it on its side to make a mark on a second 2x4. Make this mark in the center of the board. (see picture 1 and 2) Cut this shape out of the board. This will give you the bottom piece of the stand.
~optional~ You could round off the top edges of the base pieces so no one can get hurt if they trip over them. This project is being used at a family party and their will be a lot of smaller kids running around so for safety reasons, I felt it was necessary.
Now use the cut out 2x4x2ft and mark on the 2x4x8ft board. (see picture 4). Make this mark and cut out the square shape. This will allow the two boards to interlock and make a T shaped stand for the background piece.
Repeat this to make four sets of T-shaped stands. A set of 2 for the background and a set of 2 for the bars.
Step 7: Mounting the Background to Its Stand
This is a pretty quick step. Pre-drill four holes in the wood. Two on the left side and two on the right side. These holes will be the holes where your mount the board to the stand to raise it off the ground.
~Tip: Drill the holes in the dark color of the design so the screws will be less noticeable.
Once the holes are pre-drilled, line up your beam from the T-shaped stand and screw the background board onto the beams. Do this for both sides so you can have a free standing background.
Step 8: Mount the Bars to Thier Stand
This is the final step in the project. YAY!!!!
Take your long beam and line it up next to the bars. We will be using the L-Shaped brackets to attached the horizontal beams on the bars to the vertical beam of the stand.
Line up the beam from the stand and make careful marks where the horizontal beams on the bar meets the stand beam. Take your L-Shaped bracket and lie it against the stand beam where you made your marks.
Pre-drill the screw holes for the L brackets and begin to screw in the brackets to the stand beam. Drill and screw in the first 3 brackets worth, leave the bottom bracket for last. Sometimes when aligning the brackets the marks we make can get a little off, which is why we save the bottom bracket till the end. Doesn't hurt to re-match the beams up!!
Now attach the L-brackets to the horizontal beams on the bars. Try and do the brackets so that the L-bracket is on the back of the bars unless you plan on painting the bracket to match.
Once both sides are bracketed together pick the bars up and place them in the bottom of the T-shaped stand. You now have a set of free standing prison bars. Place them in front of your background piece and leave room for people to step between the background and the bars and to play around for silly pictures.