Introduction: Life-size Almost 6ft Dalek.
Disclaimer; This is my first ever instructable and the whole process is done by memory and a few old notes from back in 2008. It is not an all encompassing guide you will need to do your homework to make it yourself.
Video Disclaimer; Okay so the video is bad. The voicing of it and script was done by my uncle (uploaded by him) and I take no responsibility for the bad jokes but NinjaHunter20 wanted to see a video so here it is.
This Instructable will explain the process that took place while building a Life-size almost 6ft Dalek from the long running TV show Doctor Who. The Dalek since its building with the help of my family and me has raised around £2000 for charity selling photo opportunities.
Though the Dalek is the main focus of this build, the process involves a number of techniques which can be applied to a wide variety of projects, such as blueprint making, construction, mould making, casting, using fiberglass, painting and basic electronics. While I would place this build in the highly skilled range (the skills of a very talented Grandad were put to use in this project),do not let that deter you from using these techniques in your own builds or building it yourself (it will take months), and since there is more than one method to tackle any build, do not feel as though you have to adhere to these methods. For example the domes were made using fiberglass however you can use a vacuum forming machine or buy balls like the prize ones in machines.
(The shopping list for each part is listed as a picture.)
Step 1: The Flavour of Dalek...
First step is deciding what flavour of Dalek to build. We went for the Gold design from the reboot first shown in 2005. Dalek have changed throughout their history. Some of the obvious changes are the bases and antenna dishes. the different Daleks have small and large changes like the number of disks on the eyestalk, you will need to do your homework if doing a different type.
Step 2: The Dalek Dome/head
From there we're going to start with the head or dome. The main method behind the dome shape is to create a flat half profile former from plywood or a similar sturdy material. This is then attached to a wooden base using a threaded bar, nuts and washers. The former can then be rotated through 360 degrees, when plaster is placed under the former it is moulded into the shape of the dome.
You can use anything you have to hand to build up the basic shape of the dome, we use different size diameter plywood circles as seen in image 1, then move on to plaster the outer surface, you may have to build the plaster up multiple times allowing each layer to dry. Don't use clay as the dome will shrink as the clay dries out leaving you with a dome that will catch and not rotate.
Allow the plaster to dry and at that point it is worth marking out the position for the area the eye extrudes.
After around a week for the plaster to have fully dried seal it with at least 2 coats of G4 sealer. This covers approximately 200gms per square yard. Leave this to dry for at least 12 hours. Once the plaster dome is sealed it can be lightly sanded using a fine grade sandpaper to remove any minor spots or imperfections. Use over the top amounts of wax polish to ensure that the plaster negative will part from the dome once it has dried.
From here you need to start building up the fibreglass mould around the plaster mould the outside (see picture 3) doesn't need to be smooth it will be used as a negative only the inside will be smooth. There is good tutorials on here and YouTube. At that point you can use wooden blocks that will act as "feet" on the top of the mould to hold the mould in place when used as a mould. After 24 hours the fibreglass mould can be removed.
Here you now need to build the indented lines from the 2005 series Dalek, You will have to do these in negative and attach them on the inside, you could use plastic or a water proofed wood.
That's the tricky bit done now. At this point it is time to make the mechanism that will allow the head to turn plus the support for the eye-stalk.
Measure the diameter of the inside of the dome where the angle changes. This is the point where the eye slot finishes. Make a circular cardboard template to this diameter and check that it sits perfectly on the inner lip. When you are happy with the size make one from plywood and test fit, It should sit levelly on the inner lip within even amount of dome depth all around.
It is essential that it is level or the dome will appear to wobble when it turns. Cut out four sections from the plywood disk so you have four spokes left holding the inner hub in position. Alternatively use a hole cutter to cut out four circles of unwanted wood. This will cut down on weight and allow access for the dome light wiring and eye-stalk controls. These spokes must be at least 18mm wider than your eye-stalk pivot because the eye support brackets fix to it.
Eye-stalk brackets, cut two pieces of 18mm plywood to a shape that follows the inner contour of the dome. (You can use the dome former to get this shape.) Use steel angle brackets to fix these to the plywood disk on the spoke just below the eye slot. Leave enough clearance between the supports to allow the eye-stalk pivot to move freely. When you have made the eye-stalk you can mark a position for the pivot bolt and then drill two adjacent holes.
The eye-stalk will then slide between these two brackets and can be fixed by bolts, allowing it to move up and down.
Use bolts or machine screws to attach four right angled steel brackets to the edges of the disk. Position these away from the spokes so that they do not interfere with the eye-stalk fixing assembly which attaches to one of the four spokes later on. The flat surfaces of the brackets need to be attached to the inner surface of the disk so that it rests on them and is removable. Fix the brackets in such a way as to allow the bolts to be easily removed when the disk is fixed into the dome.
Bend the brackets outward until they follow the inner contour of the dome and then use fibre glass to fix them into position. When the fibreglass has hardened the bolts/ screws can be removed from the disk leaving the brackets fixed into the inner sides of the dome. The disk can now can now be removed and refitted for maintenance purposes.
Step 3: The Neck.
To make up the neck you need to parts, a neck cage and a neck bin (see image 1). The cage part is the bit that you see, it slides over the bin which supports the dome and is hidden by the mesh that's wrapped around it. The mesh also hides your head from view during use while still allowing you to see who you are targeting. It is a very important part of the Dalek as it can make or break the whole project. The dimensions can be found online or by contacting the right people.
The 45 degree angle for the outer edges is the hardest part of the necks production. Cut the corners off the squares before you begin, this will make the boards easier to rotate. There are three ways you could approach this. Using a jigsaw, band saw or router. For our project we used a jigsaw mounted at 45 degrees through a workbench.
To make the neck rings draw onto a square board the diagonal lines and the x/y axis to produce a square with 8 equal areas. Now using the centre point found by this draw a circle around 1inch from the outside and then another circle around 4 inches shorter in diameter and make on the points where the eight lines cross through.
But out the circles inner and there outer section to produce a ring then repeat 3 times.
The neck bin is constructed from two of the centre off-cuts from the neck rings. The off-cuts may have to be reduced by sanding if thick-mesh is used. The centre is cut out of the lower ring but a bracket is left on the upper ring which extends as far as the central hole. Only four legs are required for a neck bin. These are made from lengths of 1"x1.5" timber. Fixing slots are cut in the top and bottom bin sections. Pin/screw the legs into position and then glue and allow to dry.
Mesh should be added to the neck bin in four sections with an overlap on the four legs. Wire mesh is the most authentic for most Daleks but for the 2005 series Dalek plastic floor/pool matting is used.
Using drawing pins to temporarily fit the mesh until a nice fit is achieved and then staple into position. The joins in the mesh will be hidden by the neck struts when the neck is assembled. Fix flat steel brackets to the underside to join the neck cage and bin together. You may wish to counter sink these into the MDF. A long bolt should be fixed through the top centre hole, this locates the dome in a central position.
Four small wheels or captive bearings should be added to the top of the neck bin, these support the underside of the dome and allow it to turn. Suitable wheels are often tricky to track down so keep an eye out in shops or charity stores. Wheels for large model aircraft are quite good.
Step 4: The Shoulders.
Make up a frame from plywood using templates found on-line, Reddit has a lot. This will have a lower part that follows a smoothed out shape of the skirt and the top part which is round. Make the top section with an internal hole at least 2cm larger than the internal hole at the bottom of the neck bin.
join together the two parts with four vertical legs who's outer angles follow the line of the Dalek. Make sure they are central as the front one is used to mount the gun and plunger box and the side ones have the outer skin tacked to them.
If you are building the same Dalek as me the frame requires cutting a back section of each strut so that the middle recess can be created. Use plastic screw joins and plenty of glue. Once there is the outside is fitted the structure will be very strong.
The gun box is best made as one unit and then attached to the front strut prior to the shoulders being covered. It is effectively a backless rectangular box with two round holes cut into the front for the gun and plunger arm to fit through. Use fixing blocks and glue to assemble the various box sections. Some gun boxes have top/side angles which are slightly different but not for this design.
Before you assemble your gun box use a router to put a 45 degree angle on the internal edges of both gun box holes, these allow the ball joints to fit snugly. Alternatively you can attach sand paper in a cone shaped object. This can then be used to sand the angles without the need for a router, this is how we did it. We then attached felt around the joints to restrict damage to the paint.
You should now have six pieces of thin, bendy MDF cut into the shape so the frame can be skinned. The front piece should have a pair of holes for the gun box corners to poke out of.
Using an assistant, panel pins, wood glue and a whole lot of clamps (Picture 2) attach the sections to the frame. At that point you should use fibreglass matting for the outside to start building the skin of the Dalek. When the whole shoulders are clad, use glass mat and resin to re-enforce the inside. Run strips of fibreglass around the gun box seams and also the points where the sections of the skin meet if desired add extra sturdiness to the construction by running strips around the points where the top and bottom frame panels meet the sides.
Step 5: Hemisphere Domes.
There is multiple methods when it comes to making the hemispheres for the Daleks bottom. This is the method we went through first make a negative cast using MDF (Picture 1). The next step it to make a frame out of two pieces of MDF with bolts and wing nuts to create a clamping mechanism that will hold a sheet of PETG plastic.
This is then put into the oven for a few minutes to heat up and make it mouldable. (See Picture 3). This is then pressed over the negative mould and left to cool down and set (see Picture 2). Then remove the hemisphere from the mould and trim down. (See picture 4) The last step then is to spray paint them the colour needed and if wanted using insulating spray foam to fill and strengthen the design.
Step 6: Starting of Base.
Your chosen Dalek determines the dimensions for the upper and lower frames these will produce 3 different sized layers that lay on top of each other (picture 2) and then get the centre circle cut out to provide foot room. If you are building directly onto a pre-made base for positioning, (which is what we did however you could add the base after) you need to only mark the where the skirt should follow the perimeter of the base for the positioning of the vertical struts and panels.
The frame's vertical struts should be made from 12mm plywood as it is strong and light however if you are making the base as an integral part to the frame (no mobility scooter) like we did then you should use MDF.
Vertical struts can now be test fitted to the base shape (picture 1) as shown in one of the only remaining diagrams I have (picture 3). This is a smaller middle layer from picture 2 which is then cut to provide a split-able lower part while allowing the skirt to remain in one piece with the wheels still attached.
The vertical struts go between the middle layer and top layer from picture 2 to match the diagram in picture 3.)
This brings us to the next problem unless your house is designed with widened doorways and a French patio doors or double door at every entrance it turns out that for the more modern 2005 service Dalek's worst enemy much the same as its predecessors was stairs.
Step 7: Sitting While You Exterminate the Masses.
No shopping list on this one it just some scrap MDF. This step is about adding a seat/bench/ This works by using a panel off wood which sits on a t shape that connects to the bottom of the base not much to say on this step so onto the next one.
Step 8: The Bottom Section.
Skirt panels should be made from thin wood sheet, 4mm MDF is ideal Dalekanium is the best if you can get your hand on it. Working one panel at a time cur out a slightly over sized rectangle then lie it against the skirt frame so that it covers the whole area that the final panel will cover. Clamp it into place then using a pencil and ruler draw lines on the back of the rectangle starting at the top corners of the frame and ending at the lower corners. Repeat this for the horizontal lines so the final shape of the panel is marked out on its rear. Cut the panel and test fit it.
Remember the sides of each panel will need to be cut with or sanded to an angle or cut in order for the next panel to butt up to it snugly. I would recommend that you only fit a panel when you can offer up the each adjacent panel to check the way they fit together. The front 2 panels have a distinct twist according to most plans this is normal.
Secure the panel with wood glue and panel pins punch in the heads so they can be hidden with filler it should then product a frame that looks like picture 1. Once all the panels are attached drill out the holes for the hemispheres to fit in as seen in picture 2.
Step 9: The Base.
You have a choice of how to make the base. You can either make it as a separate unit or build the skirt up onto it. If you intend to do this you may wish to consider splitting the base/skirt for ease of transportation. In either case, the base should first be made up as one section and then cut if necessary we didn't. First start by using the large sheet of MDF and cutting it as seen in picture 1.
The next step is to build up an elevation this will provide space for the wheels this is made up by using a larger outline of the base and then have a large number of shaped MDF struts that hold it up and form an angle. (see picture 2)
The next step is to add wheels to the Dalek to assist movement ones with brakes are a must. This can be seen in picture 3.
From then you can start to add a cladding around the base to create a solid frame as seen in picture 4. That base then allows you to add the rubber skirt which gives it its hover ability.
Step 10: Talking.
With being a Dalek you do end up talking a lot and with that having your ears light up. This is where one of the most important part of the Dalek comes into play... the electronics. Now as much as I would love to say I created the voice modular and know exactly how it works I'm sad to say I didn't you will need to buy one online there are some tutorials to make one but you can pick one up already made for a reasonable price just look around. You want to buy a unit that has a speaker and light output as seen in picture 1. Above the modular you want to place a microphone or you can use a headset.
The next step is to add the speakers see picture 2 from that point you then add lights or ears, these are connect to the voice modular and light up when there is sound (this included feedback so be careful.) Picture 3 is of when the Dalek starting arguing with a Dyson hover.
Okay so to the creation of the actual ear that surround the light. The size and style of these depends on what type of Dalek you are making. The bare bulb globes of the first Daleks are overly easy but the new 2005 series are harder, surprisingly you can buy them or at least something like them. The 2005 series had dome lights made from an industrial beacon lenses produced by a company called Moflash. These polycarbonate lenses were surrounded by a 'cage' giving a chunky industrial look.
Don't drill light fitting holes in your dome until you have the lights in your hand. Fittings vary greatly, some requiring a large hole, others needing one or two small holes for self tapping screws. It's better to wait and get it right than have to rectify mistakes.
At that point you want to include a power source a 12V battery will run the Dalek for a long time but you will need a rechargeable one. Our battery was sourced from an old golf cart. The system will need to be wired with connections that can unclip as the item separates and it will also need to include a fuse and power switch (one with a bright light provides enough light for you without making the Dalek glow from the inside.)
Step 11: Eye Stalk.
The eye-stalk is made using the 'threaded bar' method which makes assembling it much easier trust me. All components of the eye-stalk are threaded onto a piece of threaded bar or tube (rod from lamp) and then tightened into position. Threaded tube is desirable if you intend to make your Dalek's eye illuminated which you will. The wires which power the bulb in the eyeball can be run through the tube and all the way back without a fuss.
Before you can start on the eye-stalk properly you need to make the pivot section which slots into the dome. Cut out an appropriately thick piece of MDF to the correct diameter if you have difficulty finding board thick enough just glue two pieces together.
When you have an assembled pivot drill a hole through the centre where the pivot will turn. This should be large enough to get an 8mm bolt through. Counter bore the holes enough to allow a nut to sit on either side, flush with the surface of the pivot then glue nuts into position using glue or epoxy resin.
Next asses the gauge of threaded steel bar or tube that you have purchased. You now need to drill a hole (which will accept the bar) in the front of the eye pivot all the way through and out the back. Use a vice and/or a table drill while doing this. Using a smaller pilot drill may make it easier in retrospect. Thread the bar/tube through the eye pivot and add a washer and a bolt at the back. Leave plenty of length on the back of the pivot as you will need this to make the eye go up and down when fitted.
Select the piece of tube which you intend to use for the eye-stalk main shaft. You now need to cut this into several sections. The first section is the longest and runs between the pivot and the first eye disk and finally the eye itself. The length and number of these pieces will vary depending on which Dalek you build. (See picture 1)
Now you need to cut the eye stalk disks. For the 2005 series Dalek has disks which are curved. These can be made in a similar way to the hemispheres detailed earlier. Cut out the disks from a flat, white acrylic sheet, making sure they are slightly over size. These disks can then be heated and pushed firmly over a suitable former, just like the hemispheres. Fortunately the curvature of each disk is exactly the same, so only on former is required.
Step 12: The Actual Eye.
We then come to the eye itself. This is in effect a 4 inch ball, through the front detail changes. The 2005 series Dalek has an eye-ball which is slightly elongated and has extra detailing along its chamfered edge and also inside the front iris recess. In order to create a 4 inch ball use the same technique as when building the former for the hemispheres. Alternately you could use a CNC or 3d printer. Make two hemispheres from P40 car body filler using this method. Now cut the front face off the P40 ball at the desired point.
Add a circle of MDF to the front and add the chamfered edge by sanding. Make a hole in the centre of the disk quite large so that fingers can get inside to tighten the nut later on. A second thin layer of MDF or similar can now be added to the front to act as a frame for the lens. The hole in the centre of this piece should be even wider than the last so that a piece of Perspex can be added. The extra detailing can be added by using more MDF.
Drill a hole in the back of the eyeball large enough to allow the threaded bar or tube to pass through and then assemble all the eyeball components using epoxy resin. Fill sand and paint, now each part can be threaded onto the bar or tube to pass through and then assemble all the eyeball components using epoxy resin. Fill it then sand and paint. From that point you can then add in led and run the cable back along the eye stalk to provide the light for it.
Step 13: Adding the First Movement.
The eye control doubles up as a dome turning control. It is simply two aluminium or plastic pipes, one fixed to the dome inner frame and the other running freely around it. A piece of dowel inside holds a locating bolt in position and attaches to the eye-stalk by means of a cord. The locating bolt passes through a pre-drilled hole in the outer tube. This allows the outer tube to move up and down as the bolt follows the slot, then passes through a predrilled hole in the outer tube. This allows the outer tube to move up and down as the bolt follows the slot. A small notch can be can be cut out of the half way point to allow the eye-stalk to be locked in a horizontal position when the Dalek is not in use. The size of this unit is dependent on the operator, who must be comfortable operating it.
Step 14: The Gun.
As good as your Dalek will look it's not very good without have any way to defend itself. (see picture 2) So now it's time to add some weapons.
Cut a length of aluminium tube to the length of the gun, plus enough to pass through the ball joint and also act as a control handle when the gun is fitted. Tidy up any rough cut edges with a file. You now need a pair of small metal sleeves that will just fix/slide over the tube. Don't worry if the fit is a little loose you can always pack that with epoxy putty later. These sleeves are used to locate the rods later on. Copper plumbing joints come in many different sizes and one can usually be found that will fit over the tube. One plumbing joint can often be used to make both sleeves. Once you have cut the sleeves and tidies them up, mark out eight equally spaced holes which will be used to relocate the rods. This can be a little tricky so take your time and make sure that both sleeves are as accurately marked as possible. Now drill out the holes using a bench mounted drill. Make sure the sleeves are firmly fixed use a length of wooden pole through them to help with positioning. Drill small pilot hole first and then enlarge them so that each one is large enough to hold the end of the rod. The end of this then has a pivot ball attached and a handle is attached at the opposite side. This part can then finally be fitted into the Daleks gun box and is held in place by using a pair of wooden squares with a smaller hole cut out that glue on the front and back of the gun box.
Step 15: The Plunger Arm.
The plunger arm is made from two or three lengths of aluminium tube. The design works by having tube of different diameters and are therefore able to slide together creating the desired telescopic effect.
First you need to cut the tubes to the correct lengths and then tidy up the cut surfaces. You now need to bush the tube so that they don't rattle or fall apart when extended. This is done by adding layers of PVC insulating tape to the inner or outer surfaces, depending on the tube. When the tubes are assembled a plastic cap should be added to the end of the large tube cut a hole in its centre for the pole to pass through. Any suitably sized bottle cap will do (a good tight seal is desirable) this stops the inner tubes from pulling out backwards. Further bushing may be required where the tubes connect, depending on the style of Dalek.
The inner most tube needs a wooden dowel threading through it, which extends a little further than the back of the outer tube. (I saw a wooden dowel but we used a metal broom with the end removed so the design could be hooked on the inside of the Dalek) The outer end of the wooden pole provides a good surface for the arms head be it plunger or claw to be attached. This also stops the Daleks arm from retracting too far and leaving a Dalek with a shorter than normal arm.
To make the ball joint, do the same as with the gun arm but this time drill a large hole through the ball and line it with a large metal tube with a little hang out on both sides. Run the telescoping arm through the tube installed in the ball and attack a cap the tube closest to the Dalek. This will give some more security to stop the arm from falling out.
Step 16: Plunger or Claw?
At this stage you need to add some attachment to the end of the arm, when it comes to the plunger the 2005 series is a far more complicated design. In order to create it you will need to create a negative mould for the design out of clay or MDF and then build up a fibreglass mould around it. Alternatively you can build a claw using house hold items, there is design I found online for a claw see picture 1.
Step 17: Painting.
The key to a good paint job is in the preparation. An excellent finish can be achieved even on the MDF. First sand off any ragged edges then seal with a PVA based MDF sealer add around 3 coats, then paint by hand with a brush a good 3 coats of universal wood primer. Sand out the brush marks using 400 then 800 grit sand paper and an electric sander. Add another thin coat of primer and sand back again at 800 grit. Fill up any major holes with car body filler and minor holes/scratches with more wood primer applied with a small brush. Sand by hand using 1200 wet and dry sand paper (used wet) until the surface starts to shine.
Wipe away dust with a cloth and soapy water asses the surface for any imperfection and use more primer to fill in any scratches. Once dry use 1200 wet and dry to flat it back. Repeat this process till its where your happy. Wash away all dust and burnish by vigorously rubbing with a clean dry cloth. Use tack rags to remove any further dust before spraying. Spray top surface with a neutral primer which is sympathetic to the Daleks top coat and is also chemically neutral and therefore unlikely to react with the wood primer below. Spray on top coat colour then add a coat of clear lacquer for an ultra-shiny finish.
From there its up to you do painting and the other detail work. (PS fog machines are your friend see pictures at very top of this page.
Step 18: What to Do When Done.
The last thing to do is to give the Dalek a name and put the Dalek to use. Our Dalek is called Raid and has his name is Dalek under the eyestalk. For the first 2 year from age 9 to 11 I spent the time as the driver helping to raise money for schools and charities with my family. For the last few years it's been under my control with me planning events and bringing it to my high school. In its life so far it has raised over £2000 and we hope to still continue using it however it is in need of a new skirt.
Runner Up in the
HEARTH ROBOTICS TEAM made it!
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.
Hi, could I get some specifics on the voice modulator such as a BRAND name and PRICE? Thank You!
Hi Emily, The voice modulator can be seen in picture 1 stage 10. It was custom made and cost over £50. You can now find apps/websites which can replace the job of the modulator and likely do a better job.