Full-Scale 1792 Guillotine




Introduction: Full-Scale 1792 Guillotine

Every year I try and come up with one major Halloween decoration project. I've been cooking this one for several years and it finally made it to the top of the queue.

This is a full-scale reproduction of the original 1792 Guillotine. It's mostly complete, minus the proper support beams and table which I didn't have time to build.  (I also left out a true release mechanism)

It is about 12' 6" tall, weighs quite a good bit and is fully functional. The "blade" is painted hardboard, not metal, but would still be quite unplesant to have fall on you. That in mind, the guide channel has been blocked so the blade assembly can not drop to the bottom.

The whole build was done using 1x4, 2x4, 2x8, 2x10 and 1x12 lumber, plus a piece of hardboard for the blade.  Before putting any of the pices together, the rounded "factory" edge of the 2x4, 2x8 and 2x10s was removed.  The 2x4s were cut to 3" width.

The main uprights are constructed from sandwiching a 1x4 between two 12' 2x4s. The 1x4 in the lower portion of the uprights is the full width whereas the upper part is trimmed down to 1.5" to create the drop channel for the blade assembly.  It also extends 3" above the uprights in order to create a natural tenon that the top pulley assembly fits on to.  Once all assembled, the bottom 3" of each of the uprights was trimmed to create a tenon to fit into the base footings.  There was also a channel routed on the back of each upright for the lunette halves to slide in.

The lower crossbar and top pulley assembly are made the same way, just sandwiching together 2x4 and 1x4 pieces.  In the case of the top assembly, spaces were left to accomodate the pulley wheels as well as create mortise slots for fitting over the uprights.  The lower crossbar was put together somewhat like the uprights, with the middle 1x4 pieces extending from either side to create tenons to fit into matching mortise chisled into the uprights.

Once all the pieces were properly fitted, the edges were routed with a chamfer bit to give a nice edge.  The distance between the uprights is 16".

The lunette halves were made from 1x12.  The neck hole was roughed out with a jigsaw, evened out with a drum sander and then finished off with a deep chamfer edge.  They are held in their own channel on the back of the uprights by two iron strips.

The base footings are just a double layer of 2x8 lumber, treated the same as the rest.  A mortise is cut in the middle to accomodate the uprights and a notch is cut in the back where table supports will go in the future.

The blade is assembled from a (just under) 16" piece of 2x10 and a (just under) 19" piece of 1x12 cut to match the width of the 2x10.  The blade is attached to the 1x12 and the whole thing slides up and down in the channel created in the uprights.  The blade passes in front of the lunnete and stops just short of the lower crossbar.  To prevent splitting the wood, and to bump up the sound factor, a strip of metal was attached to either end of the blade assembly and a angle bracket placed at the bottom of each side of the slide channel.  It makes a pretty gratifying sound when they come together!

The blade is painted with "hammered steel" spray paint and then the beveled edge is covered with aluminum tape to give it a sharpened look.

All of the wood was stained with Minwax "Early American".  The blood on the lunette was done by mixing a good bit of wood dye (red) with some of the Minwax stain.  That was then poured over the bottom half and blotted with a finger to make the dye stick.  Then the edges blended out a bit.

And that's about it, nothing to it!

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    15 Discussions

    Hmmm, a fake not authentic. I will continue to search for the real thing, all steel, trailer mounted, functional for deployment on Wall Street and in the Capital in 2017. I understand the older designs tended to self destruct with use but that the guillotine design held up better than it's predecessors, although I'm unfamiliar with how or why. I would think there would need to be some sort of shock absorber at the bottom. As heads have been known to react with blinks during questioning for up to 5 minutes I think a pillow rather than a basket or bag to drop into is needed. Pitch forks and torches should be in plentiful attendance as an old tractor pulls it to use destinations. It should also cut firewood as an alternative use in case the unlikely happens and it's not needed for rolling heads of oligarchs and their puppets.

    Brilliant, this thing is so sick. Please post plans one day, would love too make this

    Awesomesauce. Just make sure you can collapse it/take it apart for after halloween.

     This is the best guillotine i have ever seen!  The historical reference is remarkable to what was actually used.  The attention to detail is unmatched to any that i have seen before.  Very cool, wish i had one :)

    1 reply

    Haha, thanks.  I tried to stay true to the old design, as far as was practical anyway.  Before I started it was just supposed to be a simple decoration, but things got a little out of hand once I got into it.  :)

    To COOL ! !  How are you going to store it for next year? The wife and girls want a guillotine for our haunted house, my son and I keep putting it off because of storage issues, we already have a 12x10' shed stuffed to overflowing. The drawbridge we built this year will spend most of its life as an 8x4' table on my youngest daughters deck. Anyone got any ideas on how to make a guillotine do double duty as something else 11.5 months of the year?

    1 reply

    The major pieces are made to come apart , so it will fit alongside one of the walls in my garage quite nicely.

    For leaving one up year-round, best thing I can come up with is to modify it a little bit and turn it into the world's coolest (and deadliest) watermellon slicer!

    Very nice. I saw the only one ever used in North America on a trip to Saint Pierre one time. It's a "newer" Berger style one from the late 1800's.

    This would be a hoot with small pumpkins on Halloween.

    1 reply

    I saw some of those Berger models when researching this one, they've got some good advancements to them.  This style was much easier to build.  :)

    Funny about the pumpkins, that was the original intent for the project, but I got sidetracked into making it more functional than fun.  Then took it apart before I could run some tests.  Next year!