October 27, 2014

Miniature Steampunk Pipe Tutorial in 1:12 scale

Today I've been trying to make some 1:12 scale pipes. I saw a wonderful tutorial using styrene rods. Since I didn't have any at home I decided to try making them with things I already had. After finishing the first few pipes I was amazed by how good they looked and so I decided to share my technique with you.

So without further ado....

Miniature Steampunk Pipe Tutorial

I would just like to point out here that this is only one way of making pipes and I certainly didn't discover anything new. I'm sure there are a lot of other great tutorials out there but this is the way I made the pipes you see on the picture and for anyone else who wants to try this I decided to share my technique. The reason I like these technique so much is that you can make them from items most of us have at home.

You will need: 
- straws
- glue
- scissors
- scalpel
- brush
- an old rag
- 4 mm wide strips of paper (I printed mine out but you can easily just mark them with a ruler)
- black acrylic paint
- copper patina *optional* (I decided I wanted copper pipes but if you want them to look different just pick the desired colour)

These are the colours I used - plain acrylic colour in black and copper patina.

First decide what kind of pipe you would like to make. Cut your straws to the desired length. Unless you wish to make a broken pipe you will need at least two bends which means two straws.

Bend the straws.

You have to play around with the corner to get it at a 90 degree angle. Next cut a strip of paper. It doesn't really matter how wide the strip will be. We need this to help keep both straws together.

Roll the strip together just wide enough to fit into the straws. If you're having trouble rolling the paper use a toothpick and roll the paper around the toothpick. Try not to glue it together at the end so that when you insert it in the straw it will expand a bit and stick to the walls.

Put some glue in both ends of the straws where you want them to connect. Insert the roll first on one side of the straw and connect the other straw. Like I said, it's better not to glue the roll together to allow it to expand. It doesn't matter if it looks messy since it won't even be seen. You can still see how the pieces are connected, but not for long. Leave to dry.

Now cut the 4 mm wide strips of paper. For this particular pipe you will need four. You can always make these strips a different width for different designs.

Start wrapping the paper strips around the pipes. Pipes usually have rings where they are connected, which is at every bend. Decide where you want to put the rings and start gluing. I suggest coating about 2 cm of your paper strip with glue and start wrapping. Then put a dot of glue half way through and then again at the end. I don't think you would need to glue the entire strip but it would work just the same.

My pipe has all the rings and is ready for painting. Notice that I put a ring where we connected the two straws. It's a nice way to cover the gap. If you don't want the ring as low you could always just cut the straw closer to the bend.

Paint the entire surface with black acrylic paint. You could probably use spray paint instead but I just used regular acrylic paint and a brush. Leave it to dry completely.

Next add a coat of your choice of colour. As I said I wanted copper pipes. I didn't have any acrylic paint in copper but I did have some patina so I just used that. Now is the time to decide what kind of look you want for your pipes. If you want them shiny and new then just paint the desired colour and you're done. As it turns out I wanted old dirty pipes. I applied the patina quite heavily but the black paint still showed through. Since I wanted dirty pipes it wasn't a problem.

A close-up of the pipes. Now it's time to make them dirty. Fun!

After adding two washes of black acrylic paint this is how they look. Dilute a bit of black paint in water and start painting. Have a rag ready and blot off most of the paint. Leave it to dry completely and repeat the process until you get the desired look. I did two washes but didn't blot off the second one quite as heavily.

If looks quite different from the other close-up, right? I love that it looks dirty and used but you can always finish it any way you like.

One thing I still want to try is adding rust to pipes. You could try adding verdigris to copper pipes (since they don't rust) or make other types of pipes and add rust. Jane over at Minifanaticus has a great tutorial on rust. I will definitely be making more pipes and trying out Jane's tutorial.

This is how they look in my corner setting. Who would have thought that a little while ago they were just straws? For making the pipes stick to the walls better make another paper roll for each side and glue it in. This way there will be a little more surface to stick to the walls. 

You can use these in a variety of settings. If you leave them shiny and new they would be great for a more modern house. You could use them in a warehouse or for exteriors. I think the copper ones would work great for steampunk projects or fantasy settings. 

Well, this is it. You have made your pipes, now all you have to do is add them to your setting.

If any questions arise I will be more than happy to answer them. Also if anyone will try this I'd love to see the results!

Happy crafting!



  1. The pipes look fabulous. Thank you for sharing your technique with us.

    1. Thank you :) I hope this will inspire other to try this fun project!

  2. WONDERFUL!!!!
    These look just like old copper pipes and the way you have them displayed in the upper corner makes me wish that I had the space to do the same. Truly you have made a silk purse from a sow's ear by turning common plastic into some serious metal. Well Done!!! :D


    1. Thank you for the lovely compliment Elizabeth! If you don't have the space in your dollhouse you can always just make a corner scene like I did. I will eventually add them to the house too but I wanted to try it out first and used a corner setting. It's a fun and easier way to experiment with new techniques :)

  3. es fantastico ,ya conocia la utilizacion de las pajitas para simular tuberias ,pero no se me habia ocurrido lo de las tiras de papel para simular los anillos de union, ni para unirlos por dentro , es una idea fantastica, gracias por compartirlo , te ha quedado genial



    1. Thank you Mari! I've seen a lot of people use straws before, but adding a few things and painting them a different way gives you a completely different effect :) That's what I love about miniatures, you can make something great from items you find around your house :)

  4. Amazing. Great idea and looks totally real. X

  5. Thanks for this tutorial - using plastic straws is brilliant and your method very clever.


  6. Genial, una idea fantástica, gracias por compartirla:-)

  7. Love the tutorial Jana! Oh the pipes look amazing and your roombox is looking great also, I am assuming you will spring it on us at some point???


  8. Thank you for sharing, your pipes are wonderful!! Hannah

  9. Thanks for such a great tutorial! I have honestly never thought of or seen this one before. I have always used the edge of those disposable aluminum pans... but this is a lot easier and more cost effective! I pinned your tutorial on my mini board!

  10. Es una maravilla, precioso. Me lo apunto. Un saludo.

  11. Great pipes! I love your tip with the rolled paper inside to join straws to each other and to make it easier to glue to the wall.

  12. That was fun! Thanks for great instructions and no advertising bogging the page down. Yeah!