This weekend, I tried some addons for spiral staircase construction, rather than my old method of trial, error, attempting math, eyeballing it rather than doing math, and swearing.
You are jealous of my super mega spiral of doom.
General Tips and Cautions
Don’t worry about WHERE you are building the staircase. You will likely need to adjust regardless. Build the staircase in an open area of the room and, when you’re done, link all the steps together and drag the thing into position, rotate, place.
With any of these methods, you could probably build from the top down instead of the bottom up. It would make my brain explode to try, but it is an option, and might be appropriate in certain situations. However, remember, you can move the whole damn thing after the fact, so you don’t HAVE to build your staircase backwards to make sure you get your top step lined up with your staircase landing.
If your staircase is too steep, it will be hard to climb unless you really hug the outer edge. If your staircase is not steep enough, you will bump your head on the stairs above when the thing comes around again. If you’re only doing a 180 degree curve, it’s not a problem.
If you are like me and cannot stand things FLOATING, make sure your boards are all touching each other in the center before building too high. This may involve sliding over any central pillar to do a spot check if the pillar obscures the center. I have yet to find a pillar or other suitable item that is completely round, and a square pillar in the middle of a round staircase does NOT do it for me. Until there is a round pillar, there is no way to hide any central stair gaps.
Some decor items do not pivot directly from the center and this can screw up the calculations. Medium metal-edged rectangle blocks, for example, are a pain in the ass. Columns pivot from the “bottom” end. I know that 2x4s and metal-edged 2×4′s work fine. For items with shifted pivot points, you need to pay attention to angles. 90 degrees and -90 degrees usually produce the same angle-result for a rectangular board, and I tend to play fast and loose with those equivalencies, but those angles produce very different positions for pieces where the pivot center is off.
Adjusting sizing or angle (other than moving and rotating it as a unit) after the fact is a terrible idea, because it will screw up the positioning of… well everything. Decreasing board size board-by-board will create a hole in the middle of the spiral and possibly floating gaps between the boards. Changing the angle on boards will not pivot them evenly from the center of the stairwell but rather from the center of the board, and they will have the wrong X and Z values and look horribly crooked. Even if everything is linked together, and you can stretch or shrink without creating these problems, you may run into other problems, such as a decrease in necessary head room or the need to add or remove steps (removing steps isn’t *hard*, but will change the entry and exit angles for your spiral).
Spiral stairs will eat up your item decor budget quickly, especially if you are outdoors. If you love spiral stairs but cannot afford the 30-50 boards it will require, consider a hybrid approach. Spiral up to a staircase landing and then normal-stairs up from there.
Access by typing /spiralstairs.
First, you set up a pillar as the central axis. Don’t worry, the pillar can be replaced or even removed later. Then you place the bottom step. If you want there to be a “hole” in the middle, adjust the distance of your bottom step out from the central pillar. Make sure you have the size and angle the way you want it.
I now realize that I input 25 as the change in height instead of .25. If I had actually tried to place this stairwell, it would have been ridiculous.
Then you set the angle (roll) and height increments, step-to-step. I usually set this somewhere between 8-15 degrees, depending. The height is based on how big the boards are to make sure they are touching and not floating. Again, there are always the head-bumping and steepness concerns, so I’d test it out after about 5 steps.
You can set the number of stairs, and as far as I know, the number is unlimited. I usually set for more than I think I’ll need because, why not.
The addon will not handle board size or the pitch and yaw angles so you will have to copy paste your boards for the size and those 2 angles. Usually pitch and yaw are just the 0 and 0 necessary to make the stairs flat, unless you’re doing something fancy.
The fun part begins: inputting the 4 values for each step (X, Y, Z positions and roll angle). Even if you start out with nice even numbers, you’ll still be inputting decimals and swearing. After inputting every value, you have to hit enter, or it will not register. Annoying, right?
Unless you’ve done the math yourself, the angle you come out on the topside can be a (nasty) surprise. I found that to make it work I had to go counterclockwise rather than clockwise and had to dismantle my first attempt.
One neat thing you can do with this calculator is use it to place railings. If you think about it, you’re simply inputting the first item location (not necessarily a step) and then the interval for the next item. There’s no reason why you can’t use the addon to place the posts and railings in orbit around the central pillar.
Access by typing /spiral.
Spiral Decor Calculator takes a different approach. Instead of focusing on the intervals between steps, it has a big-picture calculation. Tell the addon where you want your stairs to begin, where you want them to end (for example, the full 360 degrees, and at what Y-value), how many you have, and blammo staircase. I find that this can lead to ridiculous results and I tend to pre-math to make sure the thing will work.
You can only calculate up to 32 stairs, so I ended up doing my stairs in multiple 180-degree segments. It’s not terribly difficult to make your last step your new “first” step, change your Y-values (keeping the total interval the same) and repeat the process.
The board sizing is built in and you will not need to copy transform for each step. Generally “1″ is the default size of the item (when you place it from your crate) and everything else is a multiple of that. It may take a few tries to get the sizing how you want it. The “radius” is also a multiple of the size of your board. You can create a middle “gap” if you want one by making your radius bigger than the size of your board.
Once you’ve done the complicated inputting (and making sure that you don’t make your top half of your stairwell totally mismatched to the bottom half), you’re ready to go. You don’t need a pillar. Just pick a spot on the floor as the central point and the boards will assemble around it. Remember, you’re going to drag these little buggers around when you’re done anyway.
Here’s the fun part: you click on a board, you click on a stair number, and the board resizes and drops into place. You just have to click “place” and it’s THERE. Repeat.
The one thing I do not think it does is allow pitch and yaw angles other than 0 (flat boards) for the slats. So railings would be more difficult. However, you could always position posts/railings as flat items and then manually adjust the pitch/yaw angle for each after the fact. Or use spiral staircase helper/DIY instructions with the railings.
Although the initial math is a huge pain in the ass, this addon does allow for easier correction of fuckups, like if you’re 10 stairs in and realize that you’ve made a huge error. The quick placing of the stairs is a godsend. Just adjust the calculation and re-click the stair, click the number, and place.
The weirdest thing about this addon is that while it is available at curse (as you can see from the link above) it doesn’t show up when you do a search on curse. It also cannot be downloaded via the curse downloader. It doesn’t show up in the curse downloader as existing even after you manually install it. Stealth addon?
I stumbled across these directions on the forums, and it was such a simple and elegant solution that I kind of slapped my head and said DOH.
Essentially, you are exploiting the move-everything-together feature to do the calculations for you and orbit your stairs around a central point. You add the stair in the same place every time, then you rotate and move up by a uniform amount. The stair that you just added is now stair 2, and you place a new stair in the stair 1 spot that was just vacated. Eventually you get perfect stairs and there was no need to know or input the X or Z values of any of it. You will still have to manually input the roll angle when you rotate as well as the Y-value to scoot it up a uniform amount.
At the end, you have everything already attached to your central pillar, as a convenient way to drag it around. I’d say, knowing you were going to be scooting everything up, make sure you start the pillar so that most of it is below the floor line. It will come all the way up as you go, and likely be floating by the end.
Comparison In Chart Form
||Spiral Staircase Helper
||Spiral Decor Calculator
|Setting Calculation Values
||Set degree and height difference between individual steps
||Set degree and height difference between step 1 and the final step.
||Set degree and height difference between individual steps
|Number of Boards
||Do via addon setting. Sizing happens when the board goes into position
||Scoot over from central pillar
||Do via addon setting
||Scoot over from central pillar
||Input 4 values manually after Copy/Pasting size/angles.
||Click stair number in the addon. Then place.
||Input 2 values manually (DIY addition/subtraction) while turning the central pillar. Copy/paste position and angle values for new board.
My method of choice is Spiral Decor Calculator, by the way. I tend to get persnickity and rip things down and redo them. Redoing a spiral with this addon is at least fast.
I thought I had my little chua-sized spiral staircase perfect, but thehusband ran up at full speed and just pitched right over the side. Railings could not solve the problem (if a railing isn’t JUST the right height, your character will just walk right over it like a step.) So I had to rip it all down and make it with bigger boards so the average visitor would not go flying off after taking the corner too fast. Also the bigger boards gave me more room for a more substantial (cough idiot proof) railing.