Build Your Own Stilts.
Disclaimer: build these at your own risk, if they don't work don't
come and sue me, I am making no guarantees etc etc. Get someone to teach you
how to use the stilts, learning on your own is frightening and potentially
painful and could lead to injury.
Walking on stilts is dangerous, no thats not right, walking is ok, falling off
is dangerous. Always wear knee pads and wrist protectors,
believe me it hurts to fall on your kness without the knee pads.
Skateboard/Rollerblade pads should be fine.
Other sources of information
I guess google and youtube will have other info, if you can find a
rec.juggling archive there are lots of posts from way back when !
Some other stuff on the old JIS
So you want some stilts and you dont want to pay big bucks for them. It's
fairly simple to make a budget pair of stilts that will serve for years. They
may not be as comfortable or flashy as your professionally made ones, but they
work and are cheap!
These plans are based on a pair made by Steve Brindley which he has used
for a lot of professional and recreational usage. I adjusted them for my
height etc. Measurements are either in imperial (inches and feet) or SI metres
and mm depending on how I feel when I get to that bit! 1 inch = 25.5mm
Before you rush out to the shops you need to ask a few questions:
These questions determine the exact amount and size of wood for example a
child's version you can probably use wood that is 1.5" x 1.5" ( 35mm x 35mm),
for an adult you'll need 1.75" x 1.75" (45mm x 45 mm ) for a fatbloke probably
2" x 2" (50mm x 50mm). You make these judgments yourself. Obvisouly the bigger
the wood the heavier the stilts and more tiring to use. I used cheap softwood
(pine) better quality is Ash but hardwoods are too heavy.
- How high do I want these ?
- How tall am I ?
- What weight do they need to support (child/adult/fatbloke) ?
Here's a shopping list of things you'll need, the measurements are what I used
for mine you'll need to adjust accordingly and plan it first, don't just run
out and buy the bits and find you have to go out again! Also when you are
buying the bits think about sizes, dont get screws that will go right through
the plywood when attaching the bracket.
You can change as many of the details as you like, eg the width of the plywood
and size of coach bolts, if you do adjust the other measurements to fit.
- 3m Planed Wood (approx 2" x 2" section approx 5 UKP)
- 1 x 10 mm Plywood 1ft square (approx 1 UKP)
- 2 x Brackets (approx 0.4 UKP each)
- 4 x Coach Bolts, 125 mm (5") or 100mm (4") (approx 0.5 UKP each)
- 4 x washers for above.
- 6 x 2 inch screws
- 6 x small screws
- 5m Upholstery Webbing (for straps approx 1 UKP per metre)
- 1m Velcro (wide stuff 50mm donn' know but I think approx 5 UKP)
- I pair of shoes/boots that fit you!
- foam padding
- cover for padding
- Tape Measure
- Fret Saw/Jigsaw/jnr Hacksaw
- Two drill bits:
- big one for coach bolts maybe 6 inch long by 9mm
- one small one for pilot holes for screws maybe 3 inch by 3 mm
- Staple Gun (or hammer and tacks)
- Plane (optional)
- Sewing machine
Here's a tip from my late grandfather (Arthur Stone) a master vatmaker (whose
wooden vats graced Guinness breweries in Dublin and the Sarson Malt Vinegar
factory near London Bridge railway station as well as others) and fine man.
"measure twice and cut once"
It can be expensive and very frustrating to ignore his advice!
Step 1: The Measuring.
First decide how high you want the stilts to be (we'll call it H). Mine
are 20 inches give or take a little bit and that fine for me; according to my
brouchures you can buy them either 18 or 30 inches high. Think about how
high you want to be from your audience. If you are a lanky git already then you
may not want to add too much, if on the other hand you are a short arse you may
wish to bolster the height some more.
Now sit down and with your leg bent 90 degrees measure the distance from the
ground to the middle of your kneecap (we will call this K). For me this
is about 22 inches
Calculate L = K +H. This is the length of the piece of
wood you'll need for each stilt. It's approximate, mine turn out to be 43
Draw around (be VERY generous) your shoes/boots onto the piece of plywood.
Flatten off a section with a straight line on the inside of the outline about 3
inches from the heel and about 3 inches long. Add about an inch to the inside
of the template to allow for the ankle bone, (think about it).
Step 2: The Sawing
Cut your length of timber into a piece L long, with nice square ends.
Now cut another piece of the same timber about 8 inches long, this is the
support. Sand off and nasty bits.
If you are a very Fatbloke you may need another bit of support for the foot.
Ideal would be a bit of 2" x 1", 4 inches long. This would be attached to the
side of the support for the footplate to rest on.
Cut out the footplates from the plywood using a fret saw or jigsaw or band saw
or a junior hacksaw if required. Sand these off. The squared off flat bits
will rest against the upright.
Step 3: The Drilling
From the top of your piece of timber measure K from the top of the stilt
and mark a line around the wood. Align the top of the support with this
line. The footplate will rest on this support. Drill a hole (wide
enough to take a coach bolt) 2.5 inches down from the top of the support
though the support and upright and put in a coach bolt. Drill another
hole 2.5 inches from the bottom of the support. You may wish to use 3
bolts for heavy people and maybe a longer support, I put in a long screw
instead. Coach bolts have a domed head which I put on the outside to avoid
Position the footplate and drill 2 pilot holes through it into the
support, put in the 2 inch screws. Now attach the bracket underneath to
the footplate and to the front of the support. You can now add a mini
bracket from the side of the support to the footplate if you require, I
used a mini shelf bracket for mine.
Now it should look something like this.
Step 4: The Sewing
Cut your webbing into lengths sufficient to go around the stilt and your foot/
leg at least one and a half times. I guess something greatler than 2ft
should be ok, but check first. Hold one end of the strap in place on
the stilt then wrap it
around completely once then come around again to finish in front. If you have
plenty of strap go around again. Mark where the end of the strap overlaps the
previous layer (this is for the velcro).
Overlock the end of the webbing (or melt if nylon) using a zig-zag stitch to
prevent fraying. Stitch on 4 inches of velcro loops, find the marked piece
of material and stitch on the 4 inches of velcro hooks. When you have attached
the strap the velcro should match up!
You will need one strap for the footplate, one for the ankle and one for the
Step 5: The Padding
Stick the foam onto the inside of the upright. You can use staples or tacks to
fasten it but probably using tape is best (gaffer tape or packing tape should
do) to keep it in place. You can then wrap some nice cloth around and fasten
with a staple gun /tacks, fasten them to the outside of the upright away from
Step 6: The Bondage
Now you need to attach the straps.
Footplate: Either staple gun or using a screw and washer
arrangement, fasten one end of the strap to the base of the footplate,
securely. Leave an inch or so before staples so they dont pull through.
Uprights:For these fasten the straps as above to the back of
of the upright. One should be just below the kneecap and the other
just above the ankle bone.
Important note from Zoe Van Hoover.
"The only advice I can think of is don't use velcro to hold them on
if you plan to use them in damp weather."
Which sounds like good advice. Indeed at the moment I am sewing some ties (from
strips of old sheet) to supplement the velcro straps. these will just be say a
two inch strip folded into quarters and sewn flat, then attached at the same
point as the straps to add an additional bondage method.
Step 7: The Finishing Touches
Paint or varnish the bottom half of the upright for visual effect.
You'll need some rubber on the bottom, you can either us a bit of old car type
or a special moulded footer like on walking sticks if you can find them.
Other sources of information
Comments are welcome on this design, I'm sure there are things that can be
improved, you can mail them to me (rob at juggler dot net).
I've already had some useful comments from Peter Bendall and Zoe Van Hoover.