Sunday, 12 April 2009

Making Ladders

This week I have been mostly making... ladders. Both wooden and metallic effect.

Necromunda is best played on a number of heights and Matt and I are now building a large amount of scenery with a lot of platforms on. We have been playing without any ladders and simply allowing characters to move between levels wherever seems appropriate. I thought that it was about time to actually get some ladders onto the scenery, whether we actually use them or not!

I have bought scale plastic ladders in the past and I remember them not being cheap. A quick check on the internet shows that for a 1:50 scale ladder (the rungs are 11mm wide), the price is £2.50 per 380mm, this works out at over £6.50 per meter!

I had a look around on the internet and couldn’t find any good articles on making ladders so I decided to write one of my own.

Metal Effect Ladder
This ladder is made from plastic rod, both available from your local model shop. It isn’t cheap, but it gives an excellent finish and is far cheaper than buying pre-made ladders. Two types of rod are used:

  • 3mm x 1.5mm rectangular rod
  • 1mm diameter circular rod

The rectangular rod is used as the upright, with the circular rod used as the rungs. Cut the rectangular strip to the required length, approximately 90mm long is a reasonable length. Mark lines 10mm apart on the uprights (on the wider side) and then use these to drill 1mm diameter holes using a pin vice or dremel/mini drill. If you wish, you can drill only partly way through, to give an even better final effect, though this can be very tricky in practice.
When both uprights have holes drilled along their length, cut the circular rod to 12mm lengths and slot them into the holes in the uprights, using a little polystyrene cement to hold them in place.

It is best to stick all the rungs into one of the uprights first and allowing it to dry before adding the second upright.
When the ladder is dry, all that remains is to paint it, I undercoat with black and drybrush silver, though any colours you wish could be used as these ladders are often painted to match their surroundings or to be highly visible in the case of emergency escape ladders.

Wooden Ladder
The wooden ladder is made, unsurprisingly, from wood. I can’t take credit for this method as I saw it in this month’s Wargames Illustrated, and thought it would be fine to use for scavenged ladders.

This is a remarkably cheap and easy way to build ladders, the only materials you need are:
  • Flat wooden stirrers, from your local coffee shop
  • Cocktail sticks, from your local wedding reception
The first rung is to split the stirrer in two along it’s length to give approximately 2mm wide strips. Draw a line along the middle of its length and then use this to cut the wood with a sharp blade. These will form the uprights of the ladder and should be cut to the desired length, again, 90mm is a good length. The two uprights should then be taped at each end onto your work surface, approximately 12mm apart.

The rungs are made from the cocktail sticks, cut these into 20mm lengths, these need to be wider than the gap between uprights as they should protrude over the sides. Glue these rungs onto the uprights using PVA, spacing them approximately 10mm apart. Allow to fully dry before removing the ladder from the tape.
At this point, you could wrap some fine cotton around the joins between the rungs and uprights to represent the primitive nature of their construction, though this would add a lot of time to the build.

Paint as normal, I used snakebite leather (I was running a bit low on bestial brown!) and drybrushed using a mix of snakebite leather and bleached bone.
As an alternative method, you could make the wooden ladder using the method for the metal effect ladder; drilling holes to slot the cocktail sticks into. I haven’t tried this method, but I imagine that it would be quite tricky to drill the holes without splitting the uprights, I also really like the rough and ready effect of the wooden ladder. If you try this method, please drop me a line to let me know how you get on.

I hope you find these methods useful, as always, I appreciate any comments or suggestions. Happy gaming!


Tristan said...

These look great Dave. Have made some ladders in the past (thankfully for orks as they always came out 'imperfect') with that tip to tape down the uprights *headsmack* they'll come out much nicer though. Cheers.

Stuart said...

Read an article (in The Courier IIRC)years ago where they made siege ladders with the rungs close enough that the bases could be inserted, allowed to rotate(fall backwards)and lodge between the rungs. So the figures could be climbing the ladder. I've never tried it, but thought I'd mention it.

Dave said...

Sounds like an interesting idea Stuart. I'd make sure my ladders were well supported before trying it though!

40k Terrain said...

Taping the rods down on the cutting mat is a great idea. Thanks for the tip.

Steve -- Warhammer Armies

Frugal Dave said...

Thanks Steve, that was the secret that I learned from the magazine, it makes it so much easier!