banner LOTR BalrogMinasMorgulBalrog

Places to visit
in Middle-earth:


The Shire:

The Green Dragon

A Short Cut
to Mushrooms

Bucklebury Ferry

Ted Sandyman's Mill




The Trollshaws


Gilraen's Memorial

The Mines of Moria:

The Watcher in the Water

The Westgate

The Chamber of

Durin's Causeway

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm



Dol Guldur

The Anduin

The Argonath

Parth Galen


Helm's Deep

The Paths of the Dead

Morgul Vale:

Minas Morgul

The Stairs of Cirith Ungol


The Tower of Cirith Ungol

The Black Gate


The Sawdust of the Past

Khazad-dûm Revisited

The Making of...

The Wooded Road

The Watcher in the Water

Saruman's Stronghold

The Argonath

The Tower of Cirith Ungol

The Black Gate

Barad-dûr Part 1

Barad-dûr Part 2

Barad-dûr Part 3

Barad-dûr Part 4

Scenery Workshop:

Constructing "Durin's Causeway"

The Black Gate 1

The Black Gate 2

The Black Gate 3

The Land of Shadow


Gaming in Middle-earth

More Middle-earth:

Contact Us





Saruman's Stronghold

The Making of Orthanc

© Lotrscenerybuilder 2010

VII. For all those arts and subtle devices…


During the rebuilding of Orthanc we considered the possibility of writing another extended DIY programme à la Black Gate. We decided against it mainly because there isn't really the need for it as our pictures speak for themselves. However, as Thrain told Gandalf in the dungeons of the Necromancer, a map of the tower's layout might come in useful. So we made a full-sized digital blueprint of our 2.2feet / 67cm high model instead. It's coming in three stages; you'll find them at the 'downloads' section of this site.


We used MDF with a thickness of 4mm for all faces and for the four horns of the pinnacle. Some of the smaller horns near the summit were cut from 2mm MDF.


Ornamental strips of 0.1cm, 0.2cm, 0.3cm or 0.4cm were cut from sheets of 1mm and 2mm cardboard. In places, matches and toothpicks were added for variety's sake.


A small balcony - "To War!" - and an 8mm MDF stairway completed the building.


A layer of texture paint was applied to the tower and the environment…


… whereupon the lot was sprayed flat with our beloved ColorWorks Anthracite High Temp Barbeque and Stovespray (it's about time someone's going to compensate us for all this advertising!).


More colours were added to brighten up the scenery: a lot of Black, a bit of Green, some Chocolate Brown… and puffs of dusty White virtually everywhere.


There was a little discussion going on at the Shadow and Flame forum whether a new Sideshow model of Orthanc should be painted in a different tone of black, or in the trusted 'glossy' black. Somebody suggested that a little bit of white could possibly enhance the tower's features. Others argued that such accents might look great in a 2D rendering, but probably wouldn't work on a 3D sculpt. Now in our humble opinion, a pitch-black layer of enamel wouldn't have done much good to our tower, however true to the book that might have been. It works brilliantly for the original movie tower but that's probably because a) it stands fifteen feet high and shows an infinite amount of details at every level, and b) there's still a lot of dirt and stuff covering its features anyway (surely Treebeard and the Ents must have kicked up a good deal of dust!). We wanted to give our model the same worn look as the Orthanc shown at page 56 in Sibley's book, and a white drybrushing is just the way to do that.


Orthanc was built during the end of the Second Age by the Númenóreans in the early days of Gondor. It seems that the remnants of an ancient volcanic cone or, more precise, the "dense black basalts" from its central vent, were fashioned into the four many sided columns of the tower by an unknown process, making it appear like: "… a peak and isle of rock […] riven from the bones of the earth, in the ancient torment of the hills." The tower rose up to more than 500feet (150m) above the plain of Isengard.

Orthanc housed one of the palantíri of the South Kingdom, and was guarded by a special warden. In the days of the early Stewards of Gondor the tower was locked and became deserted. After T.A. 2758, when Rohan was overrun and Isengard seized by the Dunledings, Saruman was given the keys to Orthanc, and the great valley surrounding Isengard was named Nan Curunír, the Wizard's Vale. (Karen Wynn-Fonstad, 'The Atlas of Middle-earth', page 134)

Today, we frankly admit that our poor opinion of Saruman's stronghold was totally misplaced. As one of the Two Towers, its dramatic history, its key role in the War of the Ring and its unique, exotic design (thanks to Tolkien, Alan Lee and Weta!) makes that Orthanc ranks first among the monuments of Middle-earth. We're very happy with the improved version of the tower, which required the assembling of no fewer than 2,563 separate components. In that respect, Doug's job was substantially less laborious, with only 2,355 pieces to get through. Twice over, that is.


Im Morloth hain echant

[First Page] [Prev] Showing page 11 of 11 pages