It all started when my neighbor handed me an industrial cardboard food wrap tube. “I figured you could craft something out of this,” he said, casually. That was about six weeks ago. I held the 24-inch cardboard tube in my hand and imagined a ruined tower with a spiral staircase twisting up.
My plan was to use the food wrap tube as a foundation and to use XPS foam to construct the tower around it. First, I set out measuring and cutting the steps. I wanted to use a general 1-inch grid, so I cut them 2″ x 3″ and about a half inch wide. The Proxxon Hotwire Cutter THERMOCUT 115/E immediately proved invaluable. Using the Proxxon, I had controlled cutting surface that allowed me to make consistent straight cuts efficiently. With the tower being 24 inches tall, I knew I would need about 46 1/2-inch thick steps. Once I cut all the steps, I made a curved cut along one edge so that they would fit flush against the curved edge of the cardboard tube.
After I had the correct shapes cut for the steps, I added texture and detail. First, I used an exacto hobby knife to carefully cut the 1-inch square grid onto each step. Next, I used a nail file to bevel the edges and the hobby knife to cut a few chips and scars here and there. Finally, I added texture by rolling a ball of aluminum foil across all of the edges.
Prior to attaching the steps, I cut the base from a piece of 1-inch thick XPS foam. Using the Proxxon THERMOCUT 12/E Hot Wire Cutter, I hand carved and shaped the edges of the base freeform. Next, I stenciled a circle using the circular end of the cardboard tube onto the base and cut out a circular opening using an OLFA 5003 L-1 18mm Ratchet-Lock Heavy-Duty Utility Knife. Then, I hot glued the cardboard tube to the circular opening in the base. Once the glue was dry and the cardboard tube was vertical and stable, I began to glue each step, working my way up from the bottom.
The most time-consuming portion of the project was the brick work. Using the Proxxon hot wire table cutter, I measured and cut thin strips of foam. Next, I used the hobby knife to cut each individual brick. Using a nail file, I beveled and shaped each brick before hot gluing them to the cardboard tube. This required a ton of patience, but the end result was impressive.
The sconce brazier bowls were added along the way as I went. The brazier platforms were made in much the same basic brick technique used to make pillars. Black Magic Craft has a great video on this technique if you are unfamiliar. The wooden bowls were purchased in bulk for low cost at a local hobby store. I cut a similar curve as the one used for the steps to affix the brazier platforms to the cardboard tube base.
I cut a thin (1/2-inch) triangular piece of foam to use as the landing platform at the top of the tower. After adding a grid and some details, I glued it to the top step. Once the foam was complete, I turned to painting. I used a standard mix of black acrylic paint and white glue for the base coat shell, followed by a coat of grey acrylic paint applied with a sponge. Finally, I used a dry brush to add light grey highlights to the entire piece.
Recently, I received a shipment of foliage accents from Huge Miniatures. I can’t stress enough how much I like their products. They look awesome! I am planning on crafting a large forest terrain set in the near future ( I will post about it) and this tower project was a great opportunity for me to test out some of the items from Huge Miniatures. The three products I selected to accentuate the tower (shown here) were: white flower tufts, fertile grass tufts, and medium green dense clump foliage. I am so happy with the way it turned out. Adding some foliage accents really helped to bring the piece to life. I can’t wait to use more of these modeling supplies from Huge Miniatures on a larger scale – the quality is outstanding!
I will throw up more photos on Instagram (@thecraftingdm). I plan to use the tower in an upcoming session. My players are currenty expooring a deep dungeon. Naturally, they will need a staircase to climb back out to the surface. I am thinking maybe a little wind from the natural underground venting to force some Dex checks as they climb this massive staircase. In the dungeon, the player disturbed some pretty gnarly ancient undead. What they don’t know yet is that some skeletal hordes are about to crowd the area Walking Dead style, making for an interesting escape out (up the stairway). More pictures to come!