Make Miniature and Dollhouse Scale Stone Steps and Stairs From Foam and Clay

  • 01 of 06

    Make Miniature and Dollhouse Scale Stone Stairs From Foam and Air Dry Clay

    Stone staircase in 1:12 scale made from foamcore board coated with air dry clay.
    Miniature Stone Staircase in 1:12 Scale Made From Layers of Foamcore board covered with air dry clay. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Stone stairs and steps are easy to make in miniature and dolls house scales using air dry clay and sheet foam or foamcore board. Stairs are an important dollhouse component and designing your own stairs can add a style or period feeling you cannot achieve in other ways. You can design circular staircases, semi-circular staircases, or flights of stone steps and landings, by layering foamcore board, then covering it with an air dry clay (like Creative Paperclay)and finishing it to resemble your choice of stone finishes.

    The lightweight stairs made with this technique can be glued to the front of a dolls house or used to make steps to a miniature garden pergola, or a set of ruins for a gaming scene. As the stairs have a built in base, they can be left free standing and removed from buildings or scenes for transportation, or if you need access to a front opening dolls house.

    Custom designed stairs allow you to build in space for figures to stand, plant pots, suits of armor, or whatever you want to add to your grand staircase.

    See the DIY Dollhouse or Miniature Building Parts List for more projects, including opening windows and doors.

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  • 02 of 06

    How to Size the Parts For a Set of Miniature Faux Stone Stairs

    Rise and run measurements for making realistic miniature scale steps
    To make your miniature steps in a realistic scale, you must decide on the rise and run measurements for each step. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    To make a realistic set of model or miniature faux stone stairs you will need to size them to look realistic in whichever scale you are working. Stairs are sized based on the run, or length of the step, and the rise, or height of the step. To make a set of miniature stairs, you should find foamcore board or sheet foam which is as close to the thickness of your stair rise as possible, in your particular scale. Stairs are normally set to be at a rise of 4 to 8 inches, so you should be able to find something a suitable thickness for your scale. For the set of 1:12 scale stairs shown here, I used 1/2 inch thick formcore board, but you can also use High-Density Insulation Board, Gatorboard, or sheet styrofoam.

    To Build a Staircase to Fit a Particular Height 

    If you want to make a staircase fit a particular existing height, or length you will need to work out how many steps and what height and length they should be before you begin. This is where rise and run come into play.

    • Work Out the Stair Rise. - To work out how tall each step will need to be for a fixed distance, measure the straight vertical distance between where you want the top of the highest step and the base of the lowest step. Example - If I have four inches to the landing for my stairs I will need eight steps 1/2 inch thick. This is assuming I will be finishing the landing area with the same stone finish as the top step, so there will be an extra 1/8 inch of height above the total height of the stairs to allow for the top 'riser' which will match the landing.
    • Work Out the Stair Run - To work out how long each step will be, you can either work out how much space you have to fit the stairs in, or you can work out how wide you want each step to be (to accommodate plant pots for example). I wanted my stairs to show off pots of flowers, so I made them wide, roughly 1 1/4 inches. To reach a height of 4 inches with the rise above, my stairs would need 7 x 1 1/4 inches or 8 3/4 inches of run space. I reduce the number of steps by 1 to determine the run as the top step in the run is the step off the landing, unless you plan to extend the landing outwards with shaped steps, like the semi-circular ones in the photograph on the page before this.


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  • 03 of 06

    Cut the Foam Sections of Your Miniature Faux Stone Steps To Shape

    Single step for a faux stone staircase in miniature, made from foamcore board.
    Single step for a miniature stone effect staircase cut from foamcore board. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Once you have determined what height and space your stairs should occupy, you can cut out the pieces so that each piece will stack on top of the lower layer. For custom shapes, like the semi-circular stairs I show in the example, use a plate, or a large compass, or pencil tied to a string which is pinned to the center of your foam, to draw the curved edge.

    This system of stacking your steps means your lowest step will be the total length of your staircase, the step above that will be the lowest step length, minus the run of the lowest step and so on. To make sure you don't make a mistake, cut your lowest (longest) step section first, and measure each successive cut against the one just before it, to make sure your steps stack up properly.

    Try to keep the foam edges as straight as possible, this will make the process of covering your steps with air dry clay much easier.

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  • 04 of 06

    Assemble the Layers of Your Miniature Faux Stone Staircase

    Glued tiers of foamboard used to make a set of semicircular stone steps in dollhouse scale.
    Glued tiers of foamcore board are used to make the base for a set of miniature faux stone steps. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    To assemble your miniature faux stone staircase or dolls house scale stairs, begin by gluing the layers of foam together so that they all meet evenly at the back face of the stairs. Check to make sure that the stairs are an even distance from each other along the front, make sure they all have the same 'run' distance.

    We used PVA (white) glue to glue the foamcore board stairs together as this glue will work well with the paper covering on the foam. If you are using high-density insulation board, or sheet styrofoam, use a glue which is suitable for the foam. Construction adhesives and silicone glues may be a good bed for your material. Just make sure your chosen glue doesn't dissolve the foam.

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  • 05 of 06

    Cover Miniature Foam Stairs with Air Dry Clay for a Faux Stone Finish

    Painted faux stone finish on miniature steps made from foamcore board and air dry clay
    A faux stone finish painted with acrylic paints on air dry clay. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    To set up your foam stairs or staircase for a faux stone finish, cover the stairs evenly with air dry clay. We used Creative Paperclay which works well for thin, even finishes resembling stone in several scales. Other air dry clays work as well. Try to find one that will dry with a smooth finish.

    Cover the Stair Risers Beginning at the Bottom of the Stairs

    To cover the stairs with paperclay, roll the paperclay out to a thin layer wide enough to cover the riser of your lowest step. To roll even layers, set a strip of illustration board roughly 1/8 inch thick, or two 1/8 inch thick strips of craft wood on either side of your roller and roll the clay to a 1/8 inch thickness using these guides. Apply a thin layer of PVA glue to the riser (front edge) of your lowest step, and lay your strip of paperclay over the face of the riser, pressing it gently into the glue. Use the edge of your clay roller (a jar or a can will work) to roll the surface fairly smooth, eliminating any finger marks.

    Cover the First Step with Air Dry Clay

    Now roll out a similar strip of clay to cover the top of your first step. You will need to decide if you want your steps to have an overhang, like the ones shown here, or if you want them to be solid blocks without an overhanging lip. If you want them to have an overhanging lip, make the layer of air dry clay slightly wider (for 1:12 scale roughly 1/8 inch wider) than the step, and lay it on top of your lowest step after coating the top of the step with glue. Roll the clay into the glue, then use a craft knife or a flexible polymer clay blade to trim the edge of the front of the step evenly out from the riser below it (see photo). Continue to apply the clay to each step, rolling it smooth as you proceed. If you have to leave your air dry clay before you are finished, cover the assembly with a damp paper towel, and wrap your stair project in plastic film, or set it into a tightly closed plastic bag.

    Mark Your Stone Lines 

    Before your air dry clay dries, use a ruler or another metal straight edge to mark out the lines for the edges of your stones on the risers and the treads of your stone steps. Refer to photos of actual steps to get the size of your stones correct for your particular scale.

    Leave your air dry clay to dry. Most air dry clays will crack as they dry. Don't worry about this, when the clay is dry, add a bit of 'filler' clay into the cracks and smooth it over. If this makes some areas a bit raised, don't worry, you will sand your steps down before you finish the faux stone paint coat.

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  • 06 of 06

    Painting a Faux Stone Finish on Air Dry Clay Coated Dolls House Steps

    Stone slab lines marked into air dry clay for a dollhouse scale set of faux stone steps.
    Stone sections are marked into air dry clay on dollhouse scale steps before it dries and is given a faux stone finish. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    To create the effect of faux stone on your miniature steps it helps to have some real examples of the type of stone you want to copy. Before you begin painting your steps, sand your air dry clay finish until it is as smooth as possible. Fill any areas that need repair, or intentionally wear down the centers of your steps to create the effect of age.

    Take a damp rag and run it lightly over your steps to remove any dust before you begin painting. You may want to rub your air dry clay coat gently with a damp cloth to polish or 'burnish' it to a soft sheen, this will make a very smooth coat for you to begin your faux stone coloring on.

    Choose the main light color for your steps and paint over all areas with this as a base coat of acrylic paint. For these steps, I began with a soft taupe color. Allow the base coat to dry thoroughly. Now use a dry paper towel or a stiff dry brush, to add a bit of blotchy color in a slightly darker tone. If you are using a stiff bristled brush you may want to pull the bristles and flick some paint off the brush using your thumb or fingers. This will create a slightly speckled effect. You can add more speckles in darker colors if that suits your stone type. Use a fine brush with a light wash of dark color to fill in the gaps between the stones to create shadows. You can also use light irregular strokes of color to suggest veins if your stone has those. Use a dry rag or a paper towel to add extra bits of lighter color to soften the edges of strongly colored areas and blend them together. If you wish, you can ​create the effect of lichens using chalks or pastels. This technique is shown on a cobblestone foundation made from paperclay. You can see a stronger colored stone made by painting directly on foam insulation board in the instructions for making faux stone walls