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Building the Black Gate

Part one: The Gateway

© Lotrscenerybuilder 2008

The Great Battles of Our Time…

It's hammering on an open door to say that it's the scenery of Middle-earth that makes the heroes of Gondor and Mordor shine on the battlefield. When Viggo Mortensen is riding towards the Morannon he's actually galloping into the emptiness of some New Zealand desert plain. However, thanks to the magic of the filmmakers we have a vision of King Elessar riding to his doom with the Black Gate looming in front of him. It is the presence of this monstrous Orcish structure that gives the final battle against the forces of Sauron its dramatic setting.


Aragorn and his friends won their glory against the mighty decor of Weta's miniatures. Most of us are not so lucky; our armies and heroes often have to be content with a less imaginative game board… if not with an empty table.

The Great Battles of Our Time are best fought in a grand environment. Helm's Deep, the Pelennor Fields, the Gates of Mordor… But it is not given to everyone to build a complete City of Minas Tirith. The Black Gate, however, should be a makeable model for any LOTR-fan with only average hobby-skills. So, if our version is to your liking, there's no excuse really to grab your hobby tools and start building! We will show you the gateway to Mordor.

All you have to decide is what to do with your time…


"The Gateway" is the first in a series of three articles which will tell you step by step how to construct this miniature by yourself. We will start with the doors. The second article will deal with the gatehouse, the third with the towers. We will add a supplement about the making of a fitting Mordor environment.

At the Downloads you will find over forty pages stuffed with templates, arranged according to the different elements of the Gate. Moreover, there's an extra "Making of the Black Gate" story in case you're interested in the psychological complications backstage.

There's an "Elements-Checklist" added to the Downloads. It tells you, for example, that you have to cut a total of 276 so called "A-Spikes" on behalf of the model. We guess that will take you little more than an hour. Some elements are more labour-intensive to produce but you will need fewer of them. Now you can start off by producing all these elements in advance; get yourself a collection of trays filled with Gimlis, Merrys, Nazgűls and A-spikes, all ready made… It will speed up things considerably once the proper construction is under way!

Now in all fairness we have to warn you about the boredom that is going to afflict you during the actual building process. You're going to spend more than a few afternoons cutting out these endless rows of identical elements. You might want to spend a few thoughts on your 'line of action'. Since the Black Gate is a symmetrical structure, you will have to double all the different elements. Now you can choose to work on the left & right elements simultaneously, or you can choose to finish the left wing first before starting on the right wing. In the first case, you're sure that you never have to endure the same ordeal again. In the second case, construction work might become slightly more exciting but at the end you'll find yourself only halfway down the road… gate… quest. Either way, we do hope that at the end of every stage the results make up for all your suffering!

Materials used: Cardboard (1mm thickness & 2 mm thickness)
MDF (4mm thickness)
Cocktail-sticks (party pack)
Matches (one or two)
Wood glue
Painter's tape
Texture paint (for us: "Decofit-P")
Black paint (for us: ColorWorks "Anthracite" spray can)
Tools used: Fretsaw (for us: "Skandia", saw blade no. 6)
Hobby knife
Sand paper (fine grain)
Set square
Ruler (for drawing and cutting)
Work table (optional)
Filling-knife (optional)

Concerning Materials


To produce the model as described in this article, you're going to need a plate of MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard): 9.4cm x 30.0cm, with a thickness of 4mm. It's possible that you have little or no experience with working with this material. Don't bother, you've got two articles ahead to gain practice. MDF is a fibreboard that is easy to work on; you can buy it in most DIY-shops at little cost (if you tell the shopkeeper how little you need and if you ask nicely, he might even give it to you for free - but of course you will need more MDF at the next stages). It's up to you to use other materials: this shouldn't be a problem for the gateway and the gatehouse for which the MDF is only used to construct a supporting frame. As for the towers, however, we cannot guarantee that our instructions will work as well for, let's say, foam board or balsa wood.

We would like to inform you about the possible health risks involved in the use of MDF. Sawing, filing or polishing MDF produces a lot of dust which can cause irritation to your throat and nose, as well as to your skin. The presence of formaldehyde inside MDF can affect your respiration system in different ways. To avoid these effects, we prefer to do our sawing in the open where most of the dust is blown away by the wind. Inside our garage we use an old Hoover to carry off the dust. Also, it is wise to wear a mask to prevent inhalation of the fibres.

The 1mm cardboard you need is the kind that is used for the back of a notepad. It should be available in sheets at a stationer's shop. The same goes probably for 2mm cardboard; you're definitely going to need some of this board for certain details that won't work with 1mm board.

All measurements are going to be metrical.

Concerning Tools


After two years of messing about with a bad file we finally decided to spend a few coins on a decent one. Now, every year in March, we commemorate that happy day, when our life was changed forever. Do not economize on your tools. As for sawing: long, straight stretches are best done with an ordinary handsaw. But remember that they do make a 'wide' cut, which might ruin your meticulously executed measurements. You need the smaller fretsaw to separate two adjoining elements. A set square becomes handy to check right angles (the Orcs wouldn't have bothered, though…).

Right!... Where are we going?

No further delays, let's get started. If you haven't already obtained the necessary templates, copy them from   HERE.

(Attention: all templates were produced at the correct scale, i.e. according to the given dimensions. Now it's possible that your prints do show a deviation of more than 2 mm approx. In that case we recommend you make the drawings yourself by using the given measurements. You can also use a copier to enlarge or reduce your prints. There's some room for margin, but not much).

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