Long Road To the Harbor City, Part V: Two methods to make stairs

Yes i know that i promised three methods BUT this article covers only two of those methods. The third method contains so many pictures that i decided to wrap it up in it´s own article. Anyway stairs seems always to be some kind of a problem to the terrain makers. Should you make perfect scaled steps where its almost impossible to place a figure on top of them OR should you make playable stairs which you can actually use in a game BUT which look little bit off ? If you ask me it depends completely on you, what you are aiming at. Stairs that are in perfect scale looks really really good so if you think that there is no reason for the players to use them and you want them to be visually stunning, go for that. On the other hand if you want, like me, that players can utilize everything on the board, including stairs, then you have to forget the perfect scale. I like the idea that in a game a battle groups last standing hero steps up to the stairs to get a high ground and confronts his innumerable enemies to fight to the last breath!!!!!!

I wanted to try different methods to build stairs so i would gain some experience for the future projects. I made big stairs in front of the Inn, smaller stairs behind the Inn (which lead to the second floor) and big stone stairs for the Merc´s house. In this article i will explain the first two.

Big entrance stairs (The Inn)

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There is not much to say here because these are so dead simple. I cut different sized support beams from 0.5cm balsa-rod. Then I cut the actual stairs from a 0.1cm thick balsa-sheet (one step is made from two balsa-pieces to give the stairs some volume). I made sure that the balsa would be width enough for a normal miniature base. Then i just glued the boards on top of the support beams and glued the whole thing to the base of the house. Easy isn’t it? Just make sure that you leave enough space between two steps so the miniature base can also fit a little bit under the stairs.

Use sharp knife when working whit plastic sheets. If your blade is dull, it will slip easily and cause some nastiness!


Remember to always have a miniature at hand to check the scale. It´s little bit funny if you construct stairs that should be playable BUT can´t be used because the miniatures can´t fit to the stairs properly!!

Backstairs (The Inn)

These are going to be little bit trickier ´cause these are located on the back wall of the Inn. It´s important to remember that these kind of structures have to be quite sturdy. Nothing is more frustrating than terrain that you have to fix after every play session.

I decide that the foundation for these stairs would be made from plastic sheet to make them stronger. I first measured how many stairs I would need and then cut seven squares from 1mm plastic-sheet (these were little bit bigger than normal base size). I measured and marked the place of each stair onto the wall and glued thin strip of balsa to those spots to act like a little supports.

At this stage I knew that I would cover the plastic with balsa so I had to keep this in mind in every measurement. If you don´t take notice of the thickness of your balsa, it will mess up your plans.

Then I just glued the plastic squares to the wall in a 90 degree angle. I used some bluetac to hold them in place for the drying time.

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After some background checking from the depths off internet I placed some support beams under the steps. These beams a) looks good and realistic and b) gives the stairs much needed support. These beams are NOT balsa, but real wood (0.5cm diameter). I thought that balsa would break here so more sturdier stuff was needed.

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Then it was time for some woodwork! I used 0.1cm balsa and cut 0.5cm wide strips to act like boards. Notice that i gave some “weathering treatment” to the boards with my knife before gluing so that those wouldn’t look too neat. This also helps the boards to stand out when glued.

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At this stage I noticed that I had forgot to add a deck under the door. I cut it from plastic-sheet, glued it under the door and placed some balsa boards on top of it. It looked little bit too angular so i used knife to give it some roundness.

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I didn’t like that the plastic-sheet was showing underneath the balsa so I clued thin balsa-strips around the steps. This hides the plastic nicely and also tidies up the step.

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So here are the finished stairs without the soon-to-come railing.

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So here is two methods that I used to build stairs. I remind you that there are two main things that you should keep in mind all the time when making stairs.

  1. Make them sturdy enough if you plan to place miniatures on top of them!
  2. Keep a miniature at hand all the time that you can check that the stairs are really usable!

As always comments and question are welcome!!

Next Up: Part VI: The third method to build stairs






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One Comment;

  1. Ola said:

    Awesome job as always! You make it look so easy as well. Can’t wait for the tutorial on how to paint these pieces! ;D

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