How to Build a Pilates Machine

Manufacturers of the pilates machine, sometimes referred to as pilates equipment, use a variety of materials to create equipment that is secure and safe to use. The Pilates machine is used to create a certain level of resistance for the individual working out so that various muscles can be toned and strengthened. The original pilates machine was and remains identified as The Reformer: this device was developed by Joseph Pilates.

  1. Using the 8 ft. 2” x 4” boards and the 2” x 4” boards cut to 2 ft. in length, create a rectangular frame. Connect with wood glue and allow to dry.

  2. Insert a 4”x4” post at every corner inside the frame’s interior. Attach each post to the frame using four carriage bolts where the boards connect: two along the vertical edge and two along the horizontal edge. You will have sixteen connections in all. Flip the frame over and stand it up on the legs you created. Check it for stability. Paint or varnish if desired and allow to dry.

  3. Take the 7ft. 2” x 2” board and starting from the edge of the board, make eight marks with the pencil 1” inch apart to create the gear grooves. Using the saw cut out the small square formed by the first two pencil notches to create a groove. Repeat this process three more times to make four separate grooves. Take up the second 2” x 2” board and repeat.

  4. Position one the 7ft. 2” x 2” board inside the interior of the frame and along the bottommost edge; make sure the grooved ends of the wood are facing up. Attach with six wood screws 1 ft. apart from another. Repeat the process on the opposite side, ensuring that the grooves on both 2” x 2” are parallel to one another. Using small screws, attach an aluminum sliding track to each 2” x 2” board, aligning the track with the board at the opposite end of the gear grooves.

  5. Take the 3/4" sheet of plywood and hot glue the 3/4" sheet of padded foam to the surface. Apply the vinyl material on top of the foam. On the backside of the construction, attach the vinyl to the plywood with the staple gun and staples to make the carriage. Attach the headrest and shoulder pads to the end of the carriage seat. Attach the carriage seat to the aluminum glider track.

  6. Attach the foot bar and gear system to the interior of the frame where the gear notches are located. Attach the spring bar to the carriage seat. Attach the springs you select.

  7. Attach the handles to the pulley systems. Attach the pulley system on the interior side of the wooden frame.


    Springs are installed on the pilates machine as a source of resistance. All other resistance one experiences during the use of the machine is derived from one’s own weight. Springs are connected to a spring bar to establish the resistance offered; springs of varying hues are used and each color distinguishes the amount of resistance one receives.

    Resistance Types by Spring Color

    Green: mild resistance Blue: moderate resistance Yellow: heavy resistance Red: extreme resistance

Things Needed

  • 1 3/4" thick 22" x 3 ft. sheet Padded foam
  • 1 3/4" 22" x 3 ft. sheet Plywood
  • 1 3ft. x 3.5 ft. sheet Vinyl
  • 1 Foot bar and gear system
  • 1 Headrest
  • 12 Wood screws
  • 16 Carriage bolts
  • 2 2" x 2" boards 7 ft. in length
  • 2 2" x 4" boards 2 ft. in length
  • 2 2" x 4" boards 8 ft. in length
  • 2 6 ft. Aluminum sliding tracks
  • 2 Shoulder pads
  • 2 Handles
  • 2 Pulley systems
  • 4 4" x 4" boards 12" in length
  • 4 Cinder blocks
  • Paint (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Sand paper
  • Saw
  • Springs of varying resistance (see tips)
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Wood glue

About the Author

Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.