How to Make Prisoner Stocks

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You can make your own prisoner stocks.
You can make your own prisoner stocks. (Image: colonial stocks image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com)

Prisoner stocks, also called pillories, were used as punishment starting in the 14th century. Stocks are two wooden boards, hinged to open vertically from one side, with hand holes and a neck hole carved out where the boards meet. The prisoner would place hands and head into the stocks, which were then locked in place, and the miscreant would be forced to stay there until the authorities decided he or she had been duly punished. You can make your own prisoner stocks for fun or historic reenactment.

Things You'll Need

  • 3 2-inch by 10-inch boards, 5 feet long
  • 2 4-inch by 4-inch posts, 5 1/2 feet tall
  • Pencil
  • Electric screwdriver
  • 2-inch screws
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit
  • 6 metal bolts, at least 6 1/2 inches long
  • 6 matching nuts
  • Large metal hinge
  • Jigsaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal latch hardware
  • Stain (optional)
  • Polyurethane (optional)
  • Paintbrush (optional)

To make bases for the posts, cut one 2-by-10 board in half, making two pieces 2 1/2 feet long. Attach the center of each board to one end of each 4-by-4 post using at least four wood screws 2 inches long for post stability. Turn "footed" posts upright.

Carve and sand the stocks. Measure and mark the center of each remaining 2-by-10 board. Draw a half-circle 7 inches in diameter on each board, making the center of the board the center of the half-circle, which should be 3 1/2 inches at the height of the curve. Cut out the half-circle with the saw. These half-circles will make the neck hole when the boards are latched together. Measure and cut two smaller half-circles on each board 2 feet on either side of the neck hole. Make them 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches at the height of the curve for hand holes. Sand the boards with medium-grade sandpaper, paying special attention to the cut half-circles.

Attach the stock boards to the base. With the board oriented so the half-circles are up, use the electric drill to drill three holes the width of your bolts 3 to 4 inches in from both ends of one 2-by-10. Drill corresponding holes through the posts at a distance of 8 inches from the top of the posts. Use bolts to affix the drilled board to the posts, lining up each end of the board with the outer edge of each post. Tighten the nuts holding the lower board in place. The board should be on one side of the posts rather than suspended between.

Finish your stocks. Place the second 2-by-10 board on top of the first, lining up the carved half-circles to make the neck and hand holes. Attach the metal hinge between the two boards at one end with screws. Affix your metal latch hardware to the other side so you can "lock" the prisoner in place. Add a nice finish to your prison stocks if you wish, using wood stain and a layer of polyurethane.

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