Search My Blog!

Use the Search box below to find keywords that you're looking for quickly and easily!

Search Feature

Monday, October 26, 2015

Relearning Math: How To Make Dollhouse Stairs

As part of making the entry deck for the barn, I needed to figure out the stairs. I'll be so glad when mini folks can fly! Casey, it must be nice that Tessie can.

I started by wondering... Shall I use what's left of the string of steps I cut for the landing in the barn? Or shall I use the stringer and treads that I purchased on an optimistic impulse?? Hmmm........... I think the open type construction of the stringer and treads will look more like what a realistic deck would have. Now........ How do I get the right measurements and how do I cut the correct angle?

For this, I turn to YouTube. I am a visual kind of learner, and things just make more sense if I see them in action. I'd really like to understand the concept and math behind basic stair making. This way, I won't be intimidated by them anymore. I came to this conclusion after staring endlessly at the stair parts. I waited for the epiphany of instantly "getting it". It was not happening. I gave it 15 minutes. Did I mention that I am a little impatient?

After resigning myself to the fact that I'd just need to learn the math, I watched some YouTube tutorials on real life sized stairs. They were not all that helpful. While I did need a refresher on Pythagorean theorem, a How To on Miniature Dollhouse Stairs would have been much more helpful! Specifically? How do you convert this math to scale miniatures? After absorbing the basic concept, I just started working on my stairs and figured it out myself.

In the interest of sharing and making us all better, this is what I ended up doing to figure out how to measure and make them work in scale. Hopefully, it will help you too.


These are basic stair making instructions. Using the principals behind them, you'll be able to adapt your stairs for your particular circumstances, in any scale. 

First, here is a diagram of standard stairs and what the parts are referred to as:

1. First, you are going to make a template from paper. It must be the height and length of the room they will go in, so you may need to tape several pieces together.

2. Measure the height (rise) of your room. Convert it to decimal. Write it on your template paper. Mine happens to be 4-5/16", or 4.3125".

3. Measure the length of the room you have designated for the stairs (run). Convert it to decimal. Write that on your template paper. Mine happens to be 5" or 5.0".

4. On your template paper, transfer the measurements using a straight edge ruler. Try to keep the angles at 90 degrees. Connect the measurements. It should end up looking like this:

5. A standard real life stair riser height is 8". That equals .75" in 1:12 scale. The riser height of the stringer I purchased at HBS is only 5/8", or .6250. That is the number I will use. You can choose either in your design if you are starting from scratch and don't have a pre-cut stringer.

6. Divide the Room Height decimal (4.3125) by the riser height (.625"), That is how many steps or stringer triangles you will need. Mine happens to be 6.9. I'll just round up to 7 stairs.

7. For those without a pre-cut stringer, transfer your measurements onto your template. I would have to mark every .625 if I did not have a pre-made stringer.
NOTE: If you happen to have a CAD program, you can also draw your design there and print the template when finished. If you have a drafting compass, you probably don't need this tutorial so God speed!

8. Divide the stair length (5.0) by the number of stringers you need (rounded from 6.9" to 7"). Mine happens to be .715". Since I have a pre-made stringer, I can essentially skip this part.

9. For you true Do-It_Yourselfers, transfer your measurements onto your template. Remember, this is only a dollhouse and there are no building codes, so you are allowed to lengthen or shorten the overall length to make the treads in equal measure. In my case, I probably would have rounded up to .75".

10. Using your straight edge ruler, connect all lines to form a grid.

11. Using the piece of basswood that you are going to cut the stringer from (I would use 3/4" x 1/8", draw your stringer line.

12. Cut out pattern. It should look like this:

13. Affix pattern to your basswood strips. I might use Zots to hold the pattern in place, but a touch of white glue in several spots works well, too. It will sand right off when you're finished. If using a scroll saw, you can tape the basswood strips together and cut them all at once. If not, use the newly cut stringer as a pattern for the second stringer. Remember that you will need at least 2 stringers for your staircase. More if the staircase you are making is very wide.

14. With both stringers cut, you'll now just need to cut the treads and risers. Since I am doing an outside staircase, I get to skip the risers, Measure the width of your staircase opening, and use this as the width for your treads and risers. If you'd like your treads to have a little overhang (nosing), calculate this into the width of the basswood you are using.

NOTE: Remember that your landing is essentially a stair. I needed 7 steps, but after taking one away for the deck platform (my landing), I really only needed 6.

15. Glue treads and risers to your stairs - do all of the risers first, then glue the treads. If you glue the top and then the bottom riser first and let the glue dry, this will help to stabilize the stringers and make it easier to glue.

I am happy with how the deck platform and stairs turned out. More importantly, I no longer feel intimidated!

Now, on to the deck railing! See how I have learned to plan better?


I hope this at least gets you started. I found a lot of great info while I was searching, so if you're willing to learn the info is out there!

Pepper from MitchyMooMiniatures has an excellent Back To Basics tutorial about wood and the characteristics and cutting of it. Thank you Pepper!

And if you've ever wondered why a speed square is the shape of a triangle? Learn the basics of a speed square here. It will really help if you ever decide to take on a roof and for cutting roof trim.

Good luck, learn something, have fun!


  1. Looking great. I can hardly wait to see the completed project! - Marilyn D.