Sturdy Shackles

How to Make Shackles, Prop Tutorial

Are you looking for a tutorial on how to make shackles as a usable prop for a show or haunted theater?  If so, you’re in the right place!  When preparing for the show Addams Family, I remember ordering a pair of realistic looking shackles from a theatre supply company.  While they looked pretty good, I was disappointed when they broke the first time that we rehearsed with them.  While metal ones might’ve looked and sounded nice and been way more sturdy, I just didn’t have that kind of money.  I got the idea for making a pair of shackles using a sliced up shrink wrap tube from a local factory.  Not only was it easy to make, but the end product was quite sturdy and looked amazing as well.

Supplies:

  • Thick, Cardboard Tubes big enough for your actors to put their hand through, sliced into 1 1/2″-2″ circles using a radial arm saw
  • The flap from a cardboard box
  • Metal Chain (like the kind used to hang a light fixture from the ceiling)
  • Hot Glue
  • E6000 Craft Adhesive
  • A drill
  • Miter Saw, Radial Arm Saw, or Hack Saw
  • two 8″ zip ties
  • paint (Black or Grey)

Step 1: Cutting the Cardboard Tube and Cardboard Strips

First I marked my cardboard tube the width I wanted the shackles to be. Then I made my cuts using a Radial Arm Saw.  If you don’t have access to one of these, you could use a hack saw, just be sure to clamp the tube down so that it’s less likely to roll around on you while you’re trying to cut it.  Next, I cut a strip of cardboard from the flap of  a box, using the circle I just cut to get the same width.  It’s actually looks okay if it’s just a tad wider, but you don’t want it hanging over much because it won’t stand up to repeated use.

Step 2: Assembly

Then, I folded my two strips of cardboard in half and added a bend about an inch down from the center.  I used a drill to place a whole in the upper section of the bend.  Then I opened the cardboard strips back up and placed a bead of E-6000 down the center of both.  I added hot glue to above the bend where I drilled my hole left and right of the E-6000 and then sealed the small bend where the chain will attach closed, being careful not to get glue in the hole.  If you happen to get glue in the hole, just drill through it again. I used a clamp to hold it in place until the hot glue dried.  By the way, the reason I use BOTH glues is because the hot glue provides a temporary hold while the E6000 provides a permanent one; between the two, it will hold up to the test of time, rehearsals, and multiple productions.

 

Step 3: Adhering the Attachment Tab to the Cuff

Next, I added hot glue to the left and right of the E6000 on one side of the strip and applied it to the cardboard ring, again using clamps to hold it in place to dry.  Now do the same to the other half of the cardboard strip so that the strip is wrapped around the tube with the bend sticking out for visual effect.  Drill a hole into the tube on either side of this tab.

 

           

 

Step 3: Paint

Now paint the shackles whatever color you wish.  I wanted them to look like wrought iron, so I chose black latex paint, but grey would also work well for a realistic look.  I suppose you could even use a metallic spray paint if you wanted.  After letting one coat dry, I added another for good coverage.  I even sponged a little burnt orange onto the chains to make them look rusted.

Step 3: Adding the Chain 

To attach the chain, I slipped a zip tie through all three of the holes, and ran it through the chain as well.  Don’t do it too tight or it will pull the tab flat.  Trim off the excess zip tie.  Do this to the other side, and you’ll have a nice sturdy set of shackles.

In Conclusion

If you are trying to determine how to make shackles for a show or haunted house, I recommend giving this method a try.  Mine lasted through all of my Addams Family rehearsals and multiple Haunted Theaters, where they really took a beating.

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