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How To Make a Medieval Torture Rack

This project describes how to build a large scale, realistic medieval torture rack. This project cost us about $25, not including the skeleton, table or sheet of plywood on top of the table. It took roughly two hours to complete, including the painting.

We started with a 10 foot length of 3" plastic electrical conduit. Black ABS drain pipe called DWV (for Drain, Waste, Vent) would have worked equally well, but it happened to be a couple dollars more. The conduit had a flared end to allow pipes to be easily joined together. We cut off the flared end and then cut the remaining length exactly in half. If you are working with a narrower table, you can cut your two pieces shorter but be sure to leave enough length so that the handle on either end will fall outside the width of the tabletop. I recommend about 10" extra, total, beyond the width of the table.

For our project we started with a backyard picnic table. However, it was too short. Even if your table is six feet long, your "victim" will be more or less 7 feet long with their arms stretched above their head. To make our table long enough, we simply laid a sheet of rough exterior siding over the table. I tried a piece of plywood, but it didn't look right and I didn't want to have to take the time to paint it, so I switched to a piece siding and it looked fine, especially in our dimly lit haunted house.

If you don't have a picnic table, try using a couple saw horses. A couple overturned trash cans will do in a pinch. However, in case you were planning to use a live actor on the rack, the trash cans may not bear much weight.

Our next step was to drill the holes for the handles. We used 3/4" wooden dowels, so a 3/4" hole worked fine. Measure 1 3/4 inches in from the end of the pipe and make a mark. Straight across from there, mark another mark inside the pipe at 1 3/4 inches. Use a drill with a 3/4" spade bit and carefully drill the first hole. Before drilling a second hole all the way through, find the mark you made inside the pipe and align your drill with it, then make the second hole.

Turn the pipe 90 degrees and repeat the previous step except this time measure 2 1/2 inches in from the end. This will keep your two dowels clear of each other when you install them.

Repeat the two previous steps on the other end of the pipe and on both ends of the second pipe.

We used four, four foot long 3/4" dowels for the handles. We cut the dowels in half to make a total of eight handles. Unfortunately, some of our dowels were slightly thinner than others and so they slid through the holes. We secured the loose dowels with hot glue. Insert all the dowels and secure them as needed.

The next step is to paint the pipes and dowels. After experimentation, we ended up choosing a surprisingly light shade of brown, almost beige. The darker wood color ended up being too dark and didn't look as good. When viewed at night in the dimly lit haunted house, they practically disappeared.

The easiest way to paint the pipes is to hang them off the ground with string. To save time, we use spray paint most of the time. In this case we didn't have paint suitable for plastic, and the paint scratched of pretty easily. However it did stay on if we were careful with the pipes. If you want the paint to last, either apply a coat of primer first, or use paint formulated for plastic.

While it isn't easily seen in the photograph, we applied black paint with a dry brush to create a wood grain effect, along the length of the roller and the handles. We dipped the brush in black paint and then removed as much as we could before applying light strokes randomly along the pipe. It really added to the realism in the daylight, but was invisible in the night. So unless your prop will be seen in brighter light, you can skip this step.

Next we added the rope. While you could just wind a length of rope and be done with it, the rope won't look as though it is tight. Since the rack is supposedly stretching the victim, the ropes should be tight. We used a 50 foot roll of 1/4" manila or sisal rope. Measure four inches from the handles and started by applying a dab of hot glue to the pipe. Place the end of the first piece of rope in the glue and the wind the rope around one time, going inwards toward the center of the pipe. Apply a dab of hot glue for each loop around the pipe and make sure the glue has set before doing the next loop. Keep each loop tight around the pipe and tight against the previous loop. We did seven complete loops and added about four feet of rope for tieing up the victim. When you cut the rope, seal each end with a dab of hot glue to prevent unraveling. Repeat these steps on the other end of the pipe and on the other pipe.

Finally, we filled the open end of the pipe with a little spray expanding foam to resemble the end of a log. I trimmed away any errant foam that didn't look right. A little spray paint was added after it dried.

It wasn't necessary to fasten our pipes to the rack, the stayed in place just fine. However, it wouldn't be hard to either fasten them done or make a support to mount them on so they can be turned.

For our haunt we had a friend dressed in a hooded cape stand at one of the rack and hold on to the handle. They remained still until someone walked close by and they'd wind the rack and the other friend laying on the table would scream.

Materials List for Torture Rack

  • 1 ten foot length of 3" plastic drain pipe or electrical conduit
  • 4 four foot 3/4" wooden dowels
  • light brown paint
  • 50 feet of 1/4" manila or sisal rope
  • Table or plywood set on saw horses

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