A Puzzle About Lego Stairs and Pillars

NALUG members John K. and Chris G. decided they wanted to make some stairs. Now, decent stairs can be done in a number of ways with Lego pieces. One simple form uses a stair width of 1 stud and a stair height of 2 plates (or usually a plate with a tile on top). Steep stairs can have a width of 1 stud and a height of 3 plates (a full brick). Low stairs can have a width of 2 studs.

John and Chris wanted something different however. A couple of years ago (its currently early 2014) they started trying things. This web page shows some results. However, we think it is more fun to present this as a sort of Lego builder exam. Your challenge is to build what is shown here. Well, you don't have to build the whole thing - just build enough of it that you are certain you could build the whole thing with enough parts and enough time.

This isn't really a contest, but there *might* be a small prize for the first person to convince us they know how this is done. Don't post any solutions you find - just email one of us - we'll see if we can find a problem with it, and whether it is the same as our solution. NALUG member Andrew F. has been here and seen some of our stairs stuff, and can verify what we say here.

Our apologies for the picture of the bottom stairs - Chris doesn't have enough light grey pieces (especially tile) to build those stairs in that colour. He does have lots of black 2x2 tile, bought from a special Shop@Home sale a few years ago. Unfortunately, shiny black Lego doesn't photograph very well.

To start with, here is a picture of the entire model that shows 4 of the ideas we have developed. Wyldstyle of course knows all of the building secrets!

Distant View

Here is a picture of the bottom, black, section of stairs. Notice that the stairs are two plates high, and 1-1/2 studs wide. This is the simplest of our kinds of stairs to build. Many good Lego builders will know immediately what has been done here.

Bottom Stairs

Next is a closeup shot of the middle stairs. You will notice that the stairs are 1 stud wide, but are 1-1/2 plates high.

Middle Stairs

Unfortunately, we can't show you a good picture of the top stairs without giving their secret away. They are 1-1/2 plates high and 1-1/2 studs wide.

Here is a top view of the model, showing the width of all of the stairs.

Top View

What is also visible in the pictures are the 4 corner pillars. If you look closely at these, you will see that the two "inner" walls on them are straight, but the two "outer" walls step in twice. They are built from 3 different square levels. The bottom level is 8 studs by 8 studs. The top level is 7 studs by 7 studs. The middle level is 7-1/2 studs by 7-1/2 studs. The inner walls are straight all the way down - there are no holes, gaps, etc. hidden by the middle stairs.

There are no extra gaps or things sticking out anywhere on the model. There are the usual horizontal lines between rows of pieces, etc. and vertical lines between neighbouring pieces. There are the slightly rounded spots where tile tops are seen. There are no other gaps, certainly not any large gaps. The exact location of the existing lines is part of the secret - that's why some of the pictures are low resolution.

If you look at the middle stairs, you may notice that the vertical cracks between the tiles are matched by cracks in the parts under the tiles. This is deliberate. We think it better models real stone stairs this way. This can also be done with the bottom stairs, but was not done on this model because it takes too many of the same piece. It cannot, in general, be done on the top stairs, and if done would result in very weak construction.

One other thing we did, which is not shown in this model, is that of having stairs like the lowest level ones end at a straight wall, again with no holes in the wall. For this one, remember that every second stair is offset in both horizontal directions.

We will give some hints. There are Technic pieces used. There are jumper plates used. There are no "exotic" pieces used - the fish on top are the most exotic. There may be more than one way to do some of the things. There are some new pieces used, e.g. 2x2 jumper plate and 3x3 plate, but it is likely possible to do everything without those. One new piece is needed, however.

Some questions we can answer here. We might even be able to add some pictures, although that is unlikely. There is no LDraw of the model, and unless John gets a lot more free time than he currently has, there likely never will be. No, you cannot come and look at the model - that would give too much away! NALUG member Michel M. has now seen how the stairs are built (he does some tricky building techniques too!) and can verify that they work.

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