Mines of Moria Pillars

I have been hankering to play some Moria scenarios in Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings tabletop game. Here's what I'd like my game to look like:


(Click on any image to see an enlargement.)

But here's what comes with GW's Mines of Moria game pack:

Games Workshop Moria Pillar

It's not quite the same effect, is it? The GW piece looks to be a scale 10'-15' tall, while the movie image make the pillars look ten times that! In addition to the size, the architecture is entirely different.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find satisfactory plans for the pillars seen in the movies. So I'm going to roll my own, and document the process here. While I do hope someone else gets some sort of use out of this, I'm also doing it because I was throwing out too many failed efforts resulting from trying to keep all the measurements in my head or on random scraps of paper.




Step 1: Create the Inner Core

Cutting the sides

Assembling the sides

Cut 4 strips of foam core, 1-3/4" wide and 10" long. Glue them together with each side overlapping its neighbor on one side to form a column 10" high and 2" across each side. We'll cover the bottoms and the tops later anyway, so though it's better if everything is even and level its not a huge problem if things aren't.

Use the straight pins to hold the pieces in place while they dry. At this point the pillar might feel pretty flimsy, but we're going to add enough mattboard to it that it will have some heft by the time we're done.

Step 2: Build Up the Bottom: First Layer

First layer decoration

First layer decoration attached

Remove the pins from the bottom of the column. Number the sides on the top 1 - 4; chances are your sides are not going to be entirely exact and you need to be able to tell them apart.

Cut four 5" x 2" pieces of mattboard. Mark the center of one of the 2" sides, then mark 1" down on each adjacent long side. Cut out the corner triangles indicated by these marks.

Number each piece 1 - 4, and trim the piece if needed to fit side with the same number. Then glue each piece to the bottom of its column side, with the point upwards. Ideally, these pieces should touch rather than overlap at their edges, which will enhance the stairstep effect that we're trying to recreate.

I found that less glue means less curling, but even so the mattboard seems prone to "unstick" at the top and bottom. So I wrapped the pillar tightly with masking tape to keep the pieces held down as they dry.

After the glue is dry, remove the masking tape. You'll notice in the pictures that I left the bottom masking tape in place, but this became a problem when it was time to bottom corners in step 10. So I recommend that you remove it rather than recreating my mistake.

Step 3: Build Up the Bottom: Second Layer

Second layer decoration

Second layer decoration attached

Now cut another four pieces of mattboard in the same shape as in the last step, but smaller by 1/8" in the top, left, and right directions. So 4-7/8" tall, 1-3/4" wide, with 7/8" triangles cut away.

Mount these as in the previous step. You want the top and sides lined up exactly, while the bottom doesn't matter as much because it's going to get covered up later anyway.

I didn't wrap the bottom with masking tape at first because I skimped on the glue and it looked like I could get away without the tape, but shortly after taking these pictures I noticed a bit of curling at the bottom and so ended up wrapping it anyway.

Step 4: Build Up the Bottom: Third Layer

Third layer decoration

Third layer decoration attached

Cut four more pieces of mattboard, again 1/8" smaller on the top, left, and right side compared to the pieces in step 3, so final dimensions 4-3/4" tall, 1-1/2" wide, with 3/4" triangles cut away. Glue them on as in the last step.

The piece is getting pretty hefty at this point. I'm no longer worried that the pieces will fall over in casual play as often as my trees do.

Step 5: Ring Around the Pillar

Ring around the pillar

Put tick marks on each pillar side, 2" up from the bottom.

Now cut a strip of mattboard 1/8" x 9". Bend it around the pillar to form a sort of ring, just above the tick marks (so leaving the full 2" of space between the ring and the bottom of the pillar).

The 9" should be slightly too long, so you'll need to cut it down a bit. Put a mark on the strip where it wraps back on itself. (Remember which side you started on so you can put it back on exactly the same way, which will avoid any slight differences in the side widths.) Then take the strip off, cut off the excess, and glue it back in place.

I used clamps to hold the ring in place while the glue dries, but masking tape seems to work well, also.

Step 6: Build Up the Feet: First Layer

First Footpiece

The first layer foot piece should be 2" high (so it fits beneath the ring that we just added) and needs to be wide enough so that four such pieces will touch at the corners. For me this meant a width of 2-3/8", but you should measure you pillar and see what works for you. You'll need four of these pieces, cut from the mattboard.

Now make a guideline lengthwise on each piece at intervals 3/4", 1/2", 1/4", and 1/2" from the top. (If you line up the pieces side-to-side, you can mark all four pieces at once.)

Then mark a 90-degree angle in the center of the top edge. You can do this by measuring the edges, but my cutting mat has crossing 45-degree angles on it and I just used that instead. Center the top of the piece where those 45-degree lines meet, and mark the line intersections with the piece at on its top and the sides.

Note where your 90-degree lines intersect your 3/4" guideline and draw vertical lines down from these points to the next (1/2") guideline, and then out from those points to the edge of the piece at the last (1/4") guideline.

This is probably much easier to follow from looking at the image than from the text alone!

Cut out the pieces along the lines that you just drew, but don't attach them to the pillar yet.

Step 6: Build Up the Feet: Second Layer

Second Footpiece

First Footpiece attached

Now cut four more mattboard rectangles, each 1-7/8" high and 1/4" less wide than the previous pieces (so mine were 2-1/8"). Mark a light guideline 3/8" from the bottom, then center the top of one of the pieces made in the previous step at the top of this piece and trace around it. (I did this with dotted lines in the picture.)

Measure in 1/8" from the sides of the previous piece, and run a vertical line up to the 90-degree angle lines. These vertical lines will indicate the sides of the new piece. Make a light horizontal guideline joining the two intersections that you just made, then make another horizontal guideline 1/2" down from that. Now run lines from where the sides intersect the last guideline out to where the 3/8"-from-the-bottom guideline hits the sides of the piece.

As before, a picture is worth a thousand words.

You can do this measurement individually for each piece, in which case label which goes where. Doing this will account for small variations in each piece. If you are a very careful measurer, you can get away with doing these measurements once and then using the result as a template for the three other pieces.

Once you've got your second layer feet done, you can glue the pieces created in the previous step (not this step!) to the bottom of the pillar.

Step 6: Build Up the Feet: Third Layer

Third Footpiece

Second Footpiece attached

Repeat the last step to make the third layer of the feet. Same instructions, only the dimensions and reference piece vary.

Start with four mattboard rectangles 1-3/4" high and 1/4" less than the last step (so 1-7/8" for me). Since these pieces are nearly square, I recommend labelling or marking the edges somehow so that you can easily and quickly visually distinguish between the 1-7/8" sides and the 1-3/4" sides.

Mark the bottom guideline 1/4" from the bottom, center a piece from the previous step on the top edge and trace around it. Measure in 1/8" from the previous sides and draw vertical lines up to the top lines. Connect these with a light guideline, then draw another guideline 1/2" down from that. Draw lines from the where the vertical lines join the last guideline out to the edges where you drew the first guideline.

Now you can glue the second layer pieces created in the last step to the pillar.

Step 7: Build Up the Feet: Fourth Layer

Fourth Footpiece

Third + Fourth Footpieces attached

Repeat the last step one more time, using 1-5/8" x 1-5/8" mattboard squares. The bottom guideline is still 1/4" from the bottom (same as the previous layer), but expand the length of the two vertical sides from 1/2" to 5/8".

When you are done with this step, you can glue the pieces from the previous step and these pieces to the bottom of the pillar.

Step 8: Put Toes on the Feet


Toes attached

Cut four mattboard rectangles 3/4" x 1/2". (You can reuse the cut-off triangles from previous steps if you saved them.) Cut off the upper two corners to a depth of 1/8".

Cut four mattboard rectangles 1/2" x 3/8". Cut 1/8" off the upper corners here, too.

Now glue the bigger pieces at the bottom center of each pillar side, then glue the smaller pieces centered inside them.

Step 9: Top 'Er Off

Cap the pillar

Cut a 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" foamcore square and glue it to the top.

You may notice in my picture that there are other pieces around the sides that I haven't told you about yet. This is a learn-from-my-mistakes thing. I put the tops on last, but then I realized that doing the top before the other pieces has a couple of advantages. First, you can more easily do any slight trimming needed to account for small discrepancies in sizes. Second, you can use the side pieces to cover up any small gaps between the top and sides. So do the top first.

Step 10: Build the Upper Works

Upper works pieces

Upper works pieces attached

I want the eye to concentrate on the bottom of the pillar, so that's where all the architectural detail is. But it's dull to just leave the upper parts blank. So here's what I did. For each side,

Glue the big hexagonal piece (#1) to each side, the bottom point touching the topmost decorative point on the side. Glue the larger remaining piece (#2) to the top of the pillar, long edge paralleling the top. Glue the last piece over piece #2, aligning the longest edge to the top of the pillar, too.

Step 11: Final Construction

Filling the gaps

Now fill the corners of the bottom with spackling compound. If you left your masking tape on, as I did, you'll need to cut off the parts showing above the bottom pieces before you do so. You should also fill in any small gaps (such as are visible on the ring in my picture), and cover up any edges where the styrofoam in the foamcore is showing.

Step 12: Painting, the Base Coat

Basecoat First Highlight Second Highlight Last Highlight

Basecoat the pillar heavily with FolkArt Dark Gray. You'll want to avoid all the little missed areas that only became obvious to me after I took the picture.

Next, give a very heavy drybrush with Apple Barrel Pewter Gray.

Then, a medium drybrush with Apple Barrel Country Gray.

Finally, a very light drybrush with Apple Barrel Dolphin Gray.

Notes and Tips

I'm reasonably happy with the results. If they look funny to you, try varying the number of layers or starting from a smaller (or larger) core.

I did not try to recess the corners of the columns, which I've seen in some efforts done by others. It looks cool, but with my hollow cores it seemed too difficult to get the cut depth right without cutting too deeply.

If you attempt this project, you're going to want more than one pillar. I suggest making a bunch concurrently, as you can see in the backgrounds of my pictures. While the glue for one pillar dries, cut pieces for the next.

You'll end up with a lot of partially-used strips of mattboard. Label each leftover strip with its width, so when you are looking for a 2-1/4" strip you can easily find it in your pile of leftovers, distinguishing it from the very-similar 2-1/8" and 2-3/8" strips also there.

Dave Townsend / townsend@patriot.net / 23 Mar 14