Medieval Staircase

A medieval Table Top Terrain Build.

creator: x14km2d | build: 2021-10-13 | update: 2021-12-30


You probably remember the wooden staircase I used in my Reality & Authenticity article, right? Somehow the just quickly glued together staircase was too good to throw it in the trash, so I put it aside for now. Overall, the idea matured in my head to build a medieval staircase out of the wooden stairs, which can be used in a city or castle setting. I also wanted to try out my self 3D printed bricks and test what advantages and disadvantages they have in a modeling project. I will also show some simple techniques that you should learn if you want to build your own terrain.

I will explain all the steps in detail, so that you get a clear idea of how to implement a larger project and what you need to pay attention to. There are many small places where you can easily make a mistake. Therefore it will be quite easy, because building terrain always means to work a little bit faster, because you should build a lot of modules. Especially if you build a lot of generic parts, you should not go too much into details, but you can work them in later on a second version. First you build working terrain, then you build working and beautiful terrain.


Since I had glued my wooden staircase together really quickly, it was crooked. I used a modeling knife to adjust the edges of the individual steps and cut them straight. The small pieces of wood are components for stretching a canvas. These are supplied by most suppliers when you order canvases. I collect them in a small box and use them often in a project when I need a more stable surface. It worked really well for the stairs.

We place the wooden staircase on a suitable piece of Foamcore and trace the outline. It doesn’t have to be super neat, but just fit. We do this twice. Once for the left side and once for the right side. We wrote a big L or R on the two sides so we put them on the right side when we glue them on. We cut out both sides with a sharp modeling knife and glue the sides with hot glue.

Now we put the stairs the right way up on another piece of Foamcore, because we now need a floor. This should be as neat and straight as possible, because we will not change it later. So this is the side where other tabletop players can look underneath and it should look neat there too. It doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, but you should make an effort.

The last wall is the other side of the stone staircase. This is also visible, but will later be covered by stones. You should still make an effort to work cleanly here, so that you save yourself unnecessary corrections. In the photo you can see that the stone wall is a little higher than the wood. This has the following reason. You won’t see the wood later, so you will glue stone slabs made of Foamcore on top of the wooden steps. The edge should be a little higher, so that it fits with the stone slabs.

Here I have glued the stone slabs made of Foamcore onto the wooden steps. But here the material looks different. Why? Foamcore consists of a foam material that has been fitted between two sheets of paper. The paper can be peeled off the Foamcore if you want to get to the softer material underneath. If you want more stable and also smoother surfaces, you just leave the paper on the Foamcore and work the panels that way. That’s what I did with the side panels, since they are still being processed with other material and should therefore be more stable.

As you can already guess, I wanted to work on my stone steps even further. With a pencil I scratched small cracks in the plates. But make sure that you do not overdo it. Sometimes less is more and it is also important that these cracks are authentic. To make the surface look even more like a real stone I used the super simple
aluminum ball technique that I first saw at Black Magic Craft. To do this, you take a small piece of aluminum and roughly roll that into a ball. It doesn’t have to be neat, because the ball should have a recognizable texture. If you roll it hard on the Foamcore, you transfer the texture from the aluminum ball to the material and it looks almost like stone. Super simple, isn’t it?

Since I still had a lot of space on the wall of the stone staircase, I developed the idea to attach a heavy wooden door. This even has an authentic sense at this point. For example, if this stone staircase is at a tavern, it could be the entrance to a wine cellar. Or the stone staircase is attached to a castle, then the staircase could lead to a deep and dangerous dungeon where skeletons and ghosts dwell. Both can be accommodated very well in one setting and add more depth to your story. Even if you only play on one table, you can put levels in your story and I’ll explain that in more detail in a separate article at some point.

I cut out the stairs from Foamcore without measuring beforehand. I already have the mass in my head and can estimate it pretty well. You should always have a miniature figure standing nearby so that you can estimate the proportions correctly. You can see this again on another photo. I simply scratched the wood grain into the wood with a pencil. There are different techniques, which we will look at in more detail in other articles. Here we do it so that the wooden door can be built without special tools.

Actually, I had to install a small window here, but then discarded the idea. I have to see if I can build small windows with the 3D printer, because that is me by hand then too small. But now finally came the components that I wanted to try all the time. My bricks produced from the 3D printer.

Here I made a small mistake. It is better to build a wall from the bottom up. Just like a real bricklayer does. On the upper edge you can better remove small discrepancies. For gluing I used wood glue, so I have more time to put the stones in the right position. Even though the bricks are very small (for my hands) you could glue them on the wall pretty fast. Also glued the side with stones.

At this point I added some more details to the door, but already here I didn’t like the door anymore. Nevertheless, I finished the model first and I will explain that again in detail in the summary, why I am not satisfied with the door. On the wall I used a small leftover piece from a Warhammer Spruse. This is supposed to be such a holder, to which you can tie either horses or dog, if you go somehow. For example, in a deep and dark dungeon.

With this we are already done with the model and we only needed a few hours for it. All in all, you should get the model done in two days without putting yourself under stress. I let the stone staircase dry for 24 hours, just to make sure that no stones fall off when I paint it and then have to glue it back on.

Paint Job

As I mentioned in the desert sand tiles articles, I have not been able to find a good alternative for a black primer. I tried the black Army Painter Primer, which is nothing more than normal black spray paint. I can’t use that for my terrain models. so I used very simple dollar store acrylic paint for the base and that worked pretty well. First I painted everything with black, let that dry and then roughly painted over it again in dark gray. The door I left in black

In the next step I applied a rough dry brushing with a light gray. This does not have to be super neat, just so accurate that you can see a structure in the stone. After that I painted single stones with Dirt Spatter and Hardened Carapace. This can be used to create a slight variation that makes the terrain more interesting. This is a very simple technique, but it can do a lot.

To simulate moss, I used Castellan Green to paint the bottom edge of the stone wall. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but rather look like dry brushing. Try not to bring any patterns into it, because it will look unnatural. In the meantime I painted the door with Werewolf Fur, but I wasn’t happy with it either. At this point I became increasingly dissatisfied with the model and my motivation dwindled by the minute. Also the Army Painter Strong Wash did not fit to the model and made everything useless and muddy.

To save the model, I applied a Longbeard Grey dry brush and declared the model finished. In the summary I explain again what exactly bothers me.

I am becoming more and more dissatisfied with the Army Painter colors. Citadel colors harmonize quite well with other brands and it is possible to combine them. Army Painter colors are always shiny and the color palette is also exhausting. There are certainly good opportunities where you can use Army Painter colors and also for beginners they are quite suitable, but for terrain these are just not fit. I also didn’t like the washing at all. Everything was just brown and muddy. I really have to look that I create my own black wash that I can use for my terrain projects.

The door! This damn door! I have already built dozens of doors, but this one did not want. The beginning was great because I also wanted to keep the door simple. So that the can be rebuilt even by beginners. But then I wanted to put a round frame out of Foamcore, which then eventually buckled and became crooked and angular. That was then only unsightly. Also the base with the Amry Painter color was not a good idea of mine. This filled almost all the small crevices of the door, but I wanted to highlight them even more with dry brush and washing. The door will not look like this after the conversion, because I am super dissatisfied with it.

There are still many small details that bother me. For example, my silver paint dried up and I couldn’t paint the hanger and details on the door. Also the lower edge of the terrain is crooked. I still need to find a solution for that as well. I also need some moss and more tuffs so I can add more depth to the object. All in all, this was a good start and for beginners, this is already a complex project. However, I realize that my demands have risen sharply in recent years and this object is not yet finished. I also already have a lot of ideas on how I can solve the problems. But I don’t do that right away, because I have other projects and items that I want to do first. When a bit of time has passed and I have a good plan worked out, I will get back to the model and upgrade that. Nevertheless, I am satisfied, because the beginning is made.


One failure that many beginners make is to immediately throw a project in the trash if it didn’t turn out the way you imagined. I have a whole box full of unfinished projects that I will eventually finish. But since I really want to keep working on my staircase I have developed a few sketches and ideas that I will describe here in individual chapters. With this I also want to show that you shouldn’t be afraid to partially or maybe completely break a project and rebuild it. One point that really bothered me was the door. Foamcore is pretty good if you want to build walls, for example, but it gets tricky when it comes to more precise details. Foamcore doesn’t seem to do that quite as well as, say. XPS Foam, which is not available to me at the moment. Therefore I had to look for a new material.

New Door Design

Before I did anything at all, I cut the door out of the stairs. Since I found it really ugly, it came out completely. Since I had glued the door to the paper of the foam core, it was no problem to cut between the individual layers with the modeling knife and thus to separate the door cleanly from the staircase. This gave me a new idea. Wouldn’t it be much better to add more depth to the stairs by placing the door at the back of the wall? Since the staircase will be against a wall anyway, this would give the viewer the impression that the model belongs to the wall and is not seen as an independent module.

So in the next steps I cut a hole in the shape of the door in the Foamcore. In the process, the actual wooden construction was also in my way, which I then also had to carefully break out, cut and bend. So I could cut that better and needed more space I just cut away part of the bottom as well. This is the part I meant when people are afraid of breaking a model again. We will fix that later. But now we have to work on the inside of the stairs first. So that I can work better, I glued bricks with superglue as spacers. We’ll see why I did that in the next photos.

Since I wanted a clean frame for the door this time, I used Foam. The color doesn’t really matter, because you won’t see any of it later. Unfortunately, the frame was crooked on the right side, which had already bothered me with the first door. The problem was with some bricks that took up too much space. I carefully broke these out with flat-nose pliers to give me more room. After I finished the frame and smeared it with Mod Podge and let it dry overnight, I could finally glue on my newly created flat bricks. I actually use wood glue for this so I have more time to glue the bricks, but that didn’t work so well. So I used superglue again, which was a bit more difficult because I had to hurry. In the back you can also see a flat brick that unfortunately was glued so crooked and tight, so I can’t get it off. Fortunately, this will not be seen later.

For the door I wanted to use a different material this time. I still had green stuff from another project which I had never really used. I watched some videos about it and then just went for it. First I mixed the green stuff together in my fingers and then put it on a piece of baking paper. I then folded it in half and rolled the green stuff flat with a paper towel. To save green stuff, I cut a body for the door out of Foamcore dun glued the green stuff to it. This made the door thicker, but I used less material. Overall, the door took a really long time to make and the result is a mix of cool and ugly. Coogly. For the rivets on the door, I used really small nails that I cut the heads off of. Since I didn’t have a door ring I had to model one, which was pretty difficult. Nevertheless, everything worked out quite well and I am happy with the door.

Now I just have to repair the stones on the right side and glue on a facing of stones. But I’ll do that later, because I have the idea to make a cast of my coogly door1. This would allow me to use the door on other projects and not have to keep remodeling it in green stuff. After that I will work on the base of the stairs.

A New Base

Actually, I had the plan to use the medieval stairs alone as a module. But now that I’ve added a lot more depth to the model with the new door, I’ve been thinking about a base. Bases are a double-edged sword. A base e.g. for a figure with a simple color can be used everywhere. But if I make a base with snow, I can’t use it in a desert setting. Some players do it anyway. If I choose a setting for my base now, I can only use it in that setting. I still try to keep it as neutral as possible so I can use it more often or I just build more terrain modules.

I decided again for chipboard, because I still have enough of it and can first use up my supplies before I have to buy something new. I used a sharp modeling knife to roughly cut out the shape I want. I always make a few sketches on the base to maybe come up with a spontaneous idea later. For this I sometimes use different colors. Here I used a yellow marker to think about the way to the door.

Since the base will often be used in games, I sealed the chipboard again with Mod Podge. This also makes the chipboard a little more stable, so that the base does not break so quickly. After that I glued the stone stairs to the base with wood glue. I put it on the windowsill to dry and waited for one night.

At this point I had problems with the door again and I have never had such a stressful castle door. Actually, I just wanted to glue bricks as an archway, but they became crooked again. After that had dried one night, I tore the bricks all off again. Maybe I should buy or get a book on the subject. Instead, I also added bricks to the bottom edge of the construction. It had bothered me that the edge of the stairs was so crooked and there were too many holes. I have fixed this with a second row of brick stones. This looks authentic and fits the construction of the stone staircase.

For the path I have chosen sand as a material. This is to be painted later so that looks like earth. To attach the sand to the base I simply smeared wood glue on my finger and then applied to the base. This works super fast and wood glue can be super easy to wash off the fingers.

In the last step of this section I glued two medium sized stones on the base. Not too many, because I don’t want it to look too cluttered and I might have room for more details that come to my mind later. So far I have finished the base. Now only the archway is missing and a tree would be quite good. Since it is a decayed stone staircase, the tree could also be somehow dead. But it should not look too much like a cemetery.


  1. Even if I talk bad about my own door here, I think it turned out super well. Don’t let anyone tell you that your models or terrain is ugly. It is not, it is as good as your skills were trained. If you are a beginner, the models will look a little less professional, but that is not the most important point. The important thing is that you like the models and that you can play with them. You will eventually build better models. Of course, the professionals in the videos all looks super great, but they usually do it professionally. They live from their hobby and often do it for many years. Do not orient yourself to professional video creators vids or on Insta, but to your own skills and ideas. If you believe in your model and terrain, eventually other people will too. The haters are just jealous because they can’t do anything, unlike you. Better a crooked and lopsided model than no model at all. Because you can’t play with nothing. Trust yourself. I know this is harder than it sounds.↩︎

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