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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Terrain Tutorial: Simple Stairs

For this landmark 100th post, here's a terrain tutorial!

If you've ever wanted to add stairs to your sci-fi terrain, you have a few options. First you could use molded styrene stairs from a company like Plastruct.



The stairs work perfectly for miniatures gaming, but the the largest size is only about 1.5 inches across. That's fine for 25-30mm bases, but not quite wide enough to accommodate larger-based models.



The second option is to scratch-build them. I'll show you a simple way to make stairs with some basic materials.

What you will need:

Styrene strips (1.5mm wide x 12.7mm thick)

Styrene rod (1.5mm square)

Steel ruler

Rafter square


Hobby knife

Cutting mat

Super glue



Building the Sides

Start by trimming the ends of the strips at a 45 degree angle. If your cutting mat has 45 degree markings, use that as a guide. Otherwise, you can use the rafter square (see below).



To evenly space the steps, mark the strip at half-inch increments. This will make each step approximately 3/8 inch high. That's a little high for steps if you're thinking of them in true scale, but it's not terribly out of scale and , more importantly, will allow miniatures to stand on the steps.



Using the rafter square, draw guidelines at each mark.



Remember to "mirror" each side of the steps, so the markings will be on the inside.



To set the height of the staircase, fit the strip in place and make a few marks to indicate where to trim.



Trim the side and dry fit it in place. Here you can see that there is a little bit going under the ledge, and the top was trimmed even with the frame. This is something that you will need to adjust, based on the surface you are adjoining the stairs to. Make sure you fit both sides separately and adjust for any slight imperfections in the construction. If in doubt, cut the piece a little large, and then shave off little bits until it's snug– Better to work gradually than take off too much and end up with a piece that's too short.



Both sides are ready for the next step. (Heh, get it?)



Adding the Support Rail

Super glue the square rod along the guideline. Set the step below the line, not above it. The end at the front of the step should be about 1.5mm back from the edge, so it won't stick out from under the step. This detail isn't too important, as the rails can be trimmed later.



Cut the rail at the back, even with the edge of the side.



Repeat this process for each rail, and use the guides on your cutting mat to keep everything square.



Add the rails to the other side, and then it's time to cut the steps themselves.



Making the Steps

You can make the steps as wide as you like. I've cut these to 2.25 inches, plenty to accommodate a 50mm base. As with the previous steps, make sure your cuts are square, and that the measurements are precise so everything fits together evenly. 



Start by gluing the bottom step to one side. Align the top of the step with the edge of the side.



Here you can see the spacing, and how the support rail aligns with the edge of the step. If the rail is too far forward, it can be trimmed flush with the step.



Add the rest of the steps, trying to keep them as vertical as possible. 



When the glue has dried, apply a bead of glue on top of the opposite support rails. Place the two halves together. If your spacing is accurate, everything should fit perfectly. Otherwise (like with mine) you may need to push the steps into place a bit. 



Once both sides are dry, the steps are ready to attach to the terrain!



Super glue them in place and distress them a little by cutting notches with your hobby knife.



As I said, models (even larger-based models) can stand on the steps– perfect for maintaining accurate placement when a model's movement will only take it halfway to the next level.



This type of construction is great for metal stairs and they can be painted with metallic colors and washed with P3 Bloodstone to simulate rust.



I always strive for terrain that's playable and takes model placement into consideration. And these simple stairs fit the bill perfectly!

'Til next time!


  1. Nice tutorial! I may end up giving them a go for a display board I'm planning. The board their one looks pretty sweet aswell especially the resin tiles, I'd love to be able to make some of them

  2. Great tutorial thanks! Will probably give this a go with my terrain!

  3. Gracias por el tutorial, es fantástico poder hacer las escaleras de esa forma. Saludos

  4. Great tutorial!!!
    Even as ist is all simple in the end, it's a great help to have such a step by step planning considering model placement.
    Thanks a lot!

  5. Very good. Excellent point, I love skirmish gaming but it can be frustrating when models cant stand somewhere...

  6. Nice tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Haha was trying to make stairs without help.. zero success just more bits. Found this have the best stairs ever. THANKS!


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