Introduction: Build a Bunch of Table Top Tardis

About: I started taking things apart when I was 6 started putting them back together at 8 and they actually worked again when I was 10 or 11...
I used to be in the Navy, where I learned that NAVY stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself... I keep forgetting that when a project comes up. Some neuron fires and I think “I can build that”. And it all starts over! Here is a good example:

A good friend of our sons was having a 13th Birthday and his parents wanted to do a Dr Who themed party. Somehow I got volunteered to make some Tardi (Plural of Tardis?) table center pieces.  For those of you who don't know what a Tardis is, check here: Tardis. My wife and I did a little brainstorming (she was the source of our volunteerism...) and decided that for a table center piece an 18” to 24” tall Tardis would be perfect. Any smaller and it would get lost on the table and any larger to big. We had two other design goals as there were going to be 20 of them. First minimize cost, second minimize assembly time. But, it still had to be cool and, did I mention we told our friends it would light up? Here is what we came up with, the Table Top Tardis!

I did a little research and I found a small cardboard cutout that you can bend and press a couple flaps into slots and you have a pop up Tardis. This would be great if we only needed small ones. You can find that here: Cutout Tardis  It could be redrawn and scaled but, if you are going to make 20 of these, it will get surprisingly expensive. If you want 1000 or more it is a good method. My wife found the perfect box at Uline. It is 6”X6”X18” tall. And, less than a dollar each.  To light the inside I had some one watt LED's left over from my kitchen under cabinet lighting project. Those, a nine volt battery, a  75Ohm resistor and you have light. OK, now on to the design.

I drew the sides of the Tardis in inkscape so I could be print them in color on 11X17 paper. I found the St Johns Ambulance side logo here: Logo

I was able to fit two sides and extra “Police Public Call Box” banners on one sheet. Thus two sheets for each Tardis.  I figured that if we cutout a rectangular hole for the window area, the light would show through the windows. I decided to cut out the “Police Public Call Box” and put that on a small piece of blue painted wood trim to add a “this isn't just a painted box” look. For the top we tried to come up with a top piece to match the Tardis from the show but couldn’t come up with anything simple. We went with a square of dark foam core from Hobby Lobby. This would make mounting the nine volt battery and LED with double sided tape a very easy process. To allow the battery and LED to fit we needed to make an opening in the top of the regular box. To simplify this I cut the top flaps down so that when they are folded over there is a gap. This worked out just right. I experimented on a couple of the boxes before we came up with our final method of assembly. We were stumped for a bit trying to find a simple way to make a base to mount the boxes on. If you tape the bottom like you would to package something, the box won't stand up straight. My wife came up with the idea of pushing the bottom flaps into the box and that worked great. Remember, we had to make 20 and anything that adds 5 minutes of labor will add over an hour and a half to the whole project.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Lets Build Them:

Parts List:

25 Boxes from Uline 

4-5 cans of Sail Blue color Rustoleum paint (Lowes or Home Depot). The color is close to Tardis blue and I found the color value on line to make a swatch from to use in inkscape. If you want to be true to the show, there is the BBC Authorized TARDIS Blue: Pantone 2295C

5 8' sections of 3/4”X1/4” screen molding 
This gets cut into 5” pieces and each Tardis uses 4. Make extra! They make great refrigerator magnets.

40 11X17 prints of the attached pdf.

20 1W LED's mounted on a star

20 75Ohm 1/2W Resistors buy 100 they are cheap

20 nine volt battery clips 

20 nine volt batteries (Alkaline!)

1 can spray glue 

Wood glue or white school glue for paper

Hot Glue and glue gun

Utility knife (with new blade)

Small piece of cardboard (to make cutout template)


Scrap wood to use as cutting surface

Paper shear (or scissors) I borrowed one.

Small hand saw and miter box.

Fine Sand Paper

Step 2: Print and Cutout

Print the pdf file at Office Max, Kinko's or similar. Yes you can print it at home if you can do 11X17 paper but my experience is that you want this laser printed and don’t need to mess around printing 40 of them at home. Oh, get a couple extra's printed. You will mess a couple of them up cutting them out. I did! That is the reason I have extra “Police Public Call Box” banners on the sheet

Cut out all the paper pieces. Set them aside in a safe place.

I attached my PhotoShop file in case you want to edit or tweak it.

Step 3: Make the Police Public Call Box Signs

Cut the wood trim pieces into 80 (with a couple extra!) 5” pieces. I used a small miter box I bought at Hobby Lobby and a hack saw with a new fine 28-32teeth per inch blade. Sand the edges to remove any rough spots.  I found the best method to paint them is to set them on some scrap wood so that they are slightly elevated and spaced about 2 inches apart. Paint them and let them dry over night.

Using wood glue or standard white glue put a thin line down the back of the Police Public Call Box strip then apply to the painted 5” wood trim strip. You will need four per Tardis.

Step 4: Build the Boxes

Before we assemble the boxes we need to prep them by shortening the top flaps and cutting the holes for the windows to show through. I made a template from a small piece of cardboard that I used to mark the windows cutouts. Because they are symmetrical, you can cut through the box while it is flat to make this go faster and easier. A sharp knife is crucial for this. 

Using a ruler and pencil, mark the top flaps with a line to shorten them to about an inch to inch and 1/4”. Then mark the window holes with the template. Cut the flaps shorter and then cutout the windows.

Now assemble the boxes by taping the flaps down, being careful to not tape over the hole in the middle which the battery and LED will fit through later

Push the bottom flaps into the interior to help hold the box shape.

Setup a painting area where you can paint each box and them move them to an area to dry. I ended up doing this in my garage and after 20 boxes, had a quite the blue tint to my garage floor!

Step 5: Make the Light

I already had 1 watt LED emitters left over from a previous project. You can buy these and they will work just fine

Cut the resistor leads so that each lead is about 3/8”. Form a loop with one end. Solder the Red lead of the battery clip to the loop end of the resistor. Solder the other end of the resistor to the “+” lead of the LED. Solder the black lead of the battery clip to the “-” lead of the LED. Very simple, no switch. Test with a 9 volt battery. Set these aside.

Step 6: Make the Top

The top of the Tardis is made from 6 1/4” squares of foam core. I cut the board into 6 1/4” strips and then into squares.

Cut four small squares of the double sided tape and put a piece in each corner of the square. Don't take off the paper covering the other sticky side yet. Put a one in piece of double sided tape in the middle of the foam core square. Stick the a nine volt battery to it. Using another small piece of the double sided tape, stick the LED to the battery.  Before use we will plug the battery in and stick the lid to the Tardis.

Step 7: Make Them

Now comes the fun part. Setup a work area where you can spray the back of the paper with the spray glue. After sparying a light coat of glue, carefully glue the paper to the box so that the window is aligned with the hole in the box. Set aside.

Using hot glue, run a small bead on the back of the “Police Public Call Box” signs and glue one to each side of the Tardis.

Right before you use them, connect the nine volt battery and remove the backing from the double sided tape and install the top. The battery will last about 6-7 hours.

Ours worked out great any everyone loved them. The same method could be used to make British Phone booths very easily by substituting red paint and redoing the top sign.

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