Stuck on this one..

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I just found a 12 gauge guitar string (0.012 inches, a hair over 0.3mm) - it's really stiff over a length of 6mm and could do for the rungs. Should cost around the NZ equivalent of £1, or free if you can find a guitar player who is changing their strings.

These are nickel coated steel, and I have no idea if you can solder nickel. If not, you could drill holes in the tubes and use CA glue to hold the rungs in place.
I remember this kind of thing was one of the basic soldering exercises used for apprentices at British Aerospace - yes it's fiddly but they got to grips with it easy enough. Literal wire frame models of aircraft. Can't remember what wire was used, from the colour it may have been nickel silver which would probably be my top choice, easy to solder, fairly strong and not as good a conductor of heat as brass or copper.

Other suggestions that come to mind - 0.6mm is a common solid core equipment wire. Drawing it between two pairs of pliers or pliers and a vice straightens and stiffens it up. Solid copper coated steel is used in economy telephone cable, would be strong and about the right diameter, however it is (loosely) twisted pair and may be difficult to fully straighten out - it's not something I've ever tried. I'd avoid copper coated aluminium often used in networking.

What sort of scale are we looking at? As others have mentioned I wouldn't be surprised if the railway modellers have something ready made if the scale works out something close to a popular gauge.
I am in awe at the level of expertise on this forum that is evident by the number of helpful replies. The original post was prompted by the fact that I had no idea how to create a little ladder in miniature - a silly little thing but necessary I think to the appearance of the finished model.
From your replies I now know where to source the materials and also how to go about the assembly with a high degree of confidence in a successful outcome.
Thanks to all from me and on behalf of my customer awaiting his model.
Written befre reading the 2 pages as I've got stuff to do today and can't get sidetracked :) The answer is don't do it to exact scale. Model kits are like this all the time - scaling down things like undercarriage support bracing bars for the main struts for old planes would mean they are also 0.x of a millimeter and thus too flimsy for the task, so the model kit designers make them as slim as they can get away with, but in almost all cases they are not to scale at all.

Look inside any high quality model cockpit kit and you'll see knobs and levers etc, if they were scaled up to lifesize the lever handles would be the size of billard balls and the lever stems like broom handles.

Don't worry about using "too floppy" wire, once it's been glued in place straight under partial tension it'll be fine, just leave 2 small stubs to bend at 90deg to glue into small holes drilled (modellers pin drill bits go down to 0.2mm) into the main body, glue the top ones in place then gently apply downward pressure while setting the bottoms with CA and activator.

For REALLY thin wire you can strip the plastic off those wire tie things, it's still "floppy" but it;'s also STEEL so can be hardened more than copper - if you're very careful, takes practise or they just curl up. One way I've found is to get more wire and twist the ends together with the thinner wire so the thin wire can be put under moderate tension without coming undone, clamp that to a couple of bricks and heat the thin wire with a small burner like the creme brulee style one I have ALONG the length, so the flame is at a shallow angle and work quick, soon as you've got a moderate glow on the wire douse it, the tension, if correctly applied should keep it straight.

I guess you could also try suspension with a weight tied with wire to the end...which... now that I think about it.... lol I've been doing it wrong. HAHA.

I should also mention to get them initially flat and straight before hardening, roll them under a board against a flat desk or another flat board, you'll have to apply a bit of pressure to do it, but it's not hard to get them nice and straight.

Oh long syringe needles too.

(Now I'm rooting around trying to find my super thin wire for a picture)
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Do let us know how you eventually do it.
Been experimenting.
The plan was to buy some lengths of 0.5mm brass rod to fabricate the ladders but this would involve some expense, 99 cents weekly over 6 weeks plus postage which is not to be sneezed at. As it turns out, I have a lot of lengths of 0.8mm plated steel rods, other known as paper clips. Following advice received in this post I ground the point of my 80 watt iron down to a fine point and am pleased to find that the steel rod solders well. Adapting the 'sticking the bits down on blue tack whilst soldering' suggestion, I substituted the blue tack for masking tape and it worked better than expected. The masking tape was just laid on the bench for the trial but for the ladder assembly I will glue it down on a piece of MDF. Still learning, trying to master the technique with the iron but here's what it looks like.
Looking good, now just got however many more to do :) I suspect you would find it easier using brass wire, but hey if you haven't got any then I am a big fan of improvising with what you have.
Exactly what I need and I can afford it at 6 interest free weekly payments of 99 cents.
The next trick will be how to solder on the rungs without the heat making the already soldered on adjoining rung fall off.
Use small croc clips or pliers as heat sinks, like you would when soldering delicate components in electronics.
Two potential tips for reducing the web formed by the solder where the two parts join. First try and ensure there is no solder from tinning on the sides of the rung. Difficult at these sizes, but I find rolling on a piece of wet and dry does the trick, so you only have solder on the very end. Likewise you can use wet and dry to remove any excess solder anywhere, you want to aim for just an even very thin plating of it.The other thing that occurred to me is you could flatten the uprights by holding your wire on a flat surface and using a hammer to flatten the sides so it is a more rectangular section, with flat sides, that would also make it easier to get a really clean joint with the rung. If you have, or can get hold of, some plumbers flux paste that will also help. It is very much stronger than the flux in your flux cored solder, the tiniest smear of it will ensure that the solder flows much better. Can make a big difference when soldering very small stuff like this, particularly as you are using steel. Just make sure you wash the residue off afterwards with warm water and detergent. Indirect heat is probably the thing here, so if you can butt your tinned rung up tight against the side rail then apply the iron to as it were the back of the rail, the heat will pass through and melt the join, the solder always seems to want to move in the direction where the heat is coming from, so this should reduce the tendency for a web to form at the join. If you use the flux only smear it on the upright, no flux on the rung will help ensure it doesn't climb up the sides of the rung and form a web. With a really hot iron on stuff this small the join melts almost instantaneously, so the heat doesn't have a chance to spread too far and melt neighbouring joints. Watching with interest and, as always with your models, can't wait to see the finished article.
Rather late, but thought I'd mention piano wire, stiffer than other thin wire, on eBay comes from 0.2mm diameter in short straight lengths. I remember using pliers to bend some for a plane undercarriage some 60+years ago. I think it soldered.
Not read through this but the first thing that came to mind is a 3d printer.
Either print and use it as it is, or use the prints to do a lost wax style casting.

Looking good, now just got however many more to do :) I suspect you would find it easier using brass wire, but hey if you haven't got any then I am a big fan of improvising with what you have.
One thing that's becoming obvious from the many helpful replies is that there is a bit more to soldering than meets the eye.
Firstly, I've have taken Fergie 307's advice and spent my 6 bucks on the 0.5mm brass rod and damn the expense.
Secondly, beginning to doubt the solder and flux that I have as to their suitability for this delicate work. I found the two reels of solder in a second hand store, the black reel is 2.3mm dia solder and has 'Capalloy' on it. The red reel is 1.6mm dia solder and is unnamed. The bottle is just some hardware store generic flux. Do I need something more specific for what I'm trying to do?
Try it with that flux. The size of the solder doesn't really matter. Just tin the end of the rung and the upright. Smear a tiny bit of flux on the upright. Hold them together, tape blu tax whatever works for you but they must be in contact. Apply heat to the upright on the opposite side to the rung and watch closely to see when the solder melts, you shouldn't need to add anymore solder, the tinning should do it at this scale. If the solder doesn't flow that well then get some plumbers paste flux. Soldering very small curb pins I use blu tac. Blu tac or tape your upright down. Now roll a little bit into a sausage and stick the rung in one end. Stick the other end to the bench or whatever so it holds the rung in the position you want against the upright. If both parts have been tinned then just apply your iron to the upright close to the rung and watch the two tinned areas flow together. Remove the heat immediately when this happens. You might get the neatest joint if the rung is held vertically.


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To give you an idea of what you can do with a little practice the, not very good, image is of a regulator I put new pins on last week. The big hole in the middle is 4mm, the pins 0.15, done with rodico which is essentialy watchmakers blu tac, as per the earlier illustration.


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