TARDIS Bookcase Cupboard - Goodhart Maker Den of Unequity Storage Cabinet




Introduction: TARDIS Bookcase Cupboard - Goodhart Maker Den of Unequity Storage Cabinet

My nephews are hooked on Dr. Who, the long-running British sci-fi series which seems to have a cult following. Their house is overrun with Dalek toys and models. Me, I have my Captain Kirk Chair and Stargate gong.

There also seems to be a culture of building a TARDIS. It is afterall, from the outside, a normal British Police Call box. Inside, it is bigger than it appears on the outside. And from the tales of Instructables member Goodhart, he can tell you how to fit a ton of stuff in small maker space. Yup, a small room is smaller on the inside.

I am relatively new to Dr. Who, really didn't watch it while growing up since it was on TV at odd times and I was still trying to figure out Monty Python. There are many versions of the TARDIS so some details may be mashed-up as I tried to adapt it for construction. I'm not really sure exactly which one this ended up looking the most like but feel free to comment on any authentic details you would like to expound on.

Anyway, you haven't really tried Making until you have done an Altoids project, LED project, duct tape project and some kind of IKEA hack. I started out thinking I could mod an IKEA blue foil/laminate Billy bookcase, hem the bottom/top, and applique a set of doors. Then I started to price out the project and that was way more than I should be spending on materials. So at Tarjay I found a smaller bookcase the right size that would do the trick.  This one made for college dorm life for $20US was just what I needed. Wally World should have an equivalent product. It's all about finding and using a premade shell that is proportionally correct for the dimensions.

As this is a sekret xmas gift, I shall post a video later of my nephews having fun with it and hopefully I get some video editing skillz to create that vanishing TARDIS special effect.

** Note that this instructable is written up for the contest deadlines, I still have to do some minor tweaks on installing the doors and figure out the best placement of the door handle and I will hot glue a metal disk or coin for the Yale lock. This instructable will be updated to reflect changes.

* full video coming soon *

teaser video, must be viewed with head tilted a lot or put your computer monitor on its side.

Step 1: Acquire the Necessary Materiels

You will need a small three shelf bookcase. 2 feet wide, 40 inches high. You can scale this up for a bigger bookshelf if you have the room. I picked the dark finish for the interior since you can also buy it in white.

A trip or two to the home center:

Lumber or Timber:
Approximate, since I had some leftover scraps I used from previous projects

1"x 3" stock (2 - six footers)
1"x 2" stock (8 - six footers)
2"x 3" stock (1 - 8 footer) for the base
pencils or 5/16" dowels

sheet of 1/4" thick hardboard, can use thin plywood or mdf

3/8" square stock for window frames
1/2" square stock to frame the POLICE BOX sign
shoe moulding to frame callbox sign

Many of the pieces were built up by just gluing edge to edge. They weren't structural parts so no need to dowel or biscuit the joints. You can never have enough clamps.

Woodworking tools:

I used pocket joinery for many of the structural elements.  A special jig is used to drill angled holes. The pocket hole screw reinforces the joint.

Since this was a late at night project, I tried to avoid using power tools. You know how I like my neighbors but I did need to use the router table.

I did most cuts with a handsaw,  backsaw/miterbox but a fine ryoba or japanese handsaw would have been nice. I did without my jigsaw and power sander.

I did use my Craftsman cordless drill/driver.  http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00917191000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2

And I broke out my router/router table.

Lamp housing:
They sell replacement wall lantern covers. This one for a jar lamp was made from plastic and looked right for the project.

paint in a nice shade of TARDIS blue - the can of navy blue seemed too dark and the deep blue seemed a richer color.

paint primer - always prime your bare wood to get a nice paint finish, I always have a 2-gallon bucket of the house paint primer around for various projects

4 sets of 2" hinges for the doors
two metal handles for the callbox and door

I found a callbox sign on the internet but it didn't look aged enough. I used GIMP to spray paint it with some gray pattern to make it look worn.

I had to create the POLICE BOX sign since it had to fit the space for the sign. It was 1 1/2 x 18 inches. I couldn't figure out how to get the printer to print out larger on two pages so I just cut the graphic in half and printed it out on one page. I will glue it together when done.  It was just white text on a black background.

I also created a window texture. I box filled with ice pattern and gave it some shadows by spray painting with a galaxy texture.

I have a paper laminator so I will encase the graphics in plastic sheeting. You can use adhesive laminating paper or clear shelf liner with adhesive to simulate the glass covering.

Lotsa glue, I recommend yellow carpenter's glue, better tack and quicker drying than white

Hot glue gun to attach the various parts

CAUTION: Know your tools and use eye protection where needed. Hot glue is hot and can burn.  Having an immense amount of tools laying around is a danger in itself.  Operation of a TARDIS should be left to someone who knows which button to press.

Step 2: Get the Foundation Right.

Set up your bookcase exterior to base all of your measurements for the TARDIS. Just screw together the top, bottom and two sides. Do not add the extra inside shelves nor attach the backing board, which by the way, use a staple gun, far easier and better than trying to tack in tiny brads and cursing why they bend or when you hit your fingers holding the brads and trying to nail with a framing hammer.

Note that I will use the physical width or length of a board to be my measurement and tick it off from there. I will also find the center of things by drawing diagonals from the opposing corners of a square or rectangle.   The center is where the lines cross in the middle.  You will find that in woodworking, exact measurements are better when you do not use the tape measure.

I did print out from the internet one of the many blueprints of a TARDIS but only used it for a visual guide for where things are placed.

I added pieces as I went along if it didn't "look" right.

Step 3: Base Wrap-around

Create a 3/4 wrap-around base that goes on the front and sides of the bookcase.

The joints are mitered and connected with glue and pocket screws.

Start at one side and cut the back end square and the other end at a 45 degree angle.

Continue with the miter cuts to match.

On the underside, drill pocket holes to attach the corners.

Drill additional pocket holes to attach to the base to the bookcase.

Step 4: Top Sign Filler Plate

Cut out a piece of 1x3 to fit inside the width of the bookcase.  It should sit flush with the edge of the bookcase.

Cut out a similar piece and glue together forming a double height piece.

Use lots of clamps to align and hold the piece together till the glue dries.

I later found I needed to add a 1x2 to the stack so it would cover the door gap.

Drill some pocket holes in the back so you can attach this to the bookcase later.

Step 5: Upright Corner Rails

I wanted the bookcase to extend out above the rails so it could be part of the "roofline". I just used a 1x3 to mark the height it would drop to the top of the rails.

The side rail height is from the top of the baseboard wrap-around to that mark.

Cut a 1x3 to that length. Cut a corresponding 1x2 to that length.

Glue them up to form an "L" shaped channel.

Note that using the two different sized stock gives a symmetrical profile.

The siderails look pretty plain but on one TARDIS version, there was a corner detail. I had my router table set up with some kind of table edge beading bit so I ran it through that to give it some visual umph.

Somehow I ended up with a few routers - my first one was a small 3/4 hp. I wanted to use a fancy bit but that needed a 1/2" collet. Got another one with a 1/2" collet. Wanted to use that fancy bit but it should only be used in a router table setup. Got a router table - Craftsman better quality. Found the table only has mounting plates for Craftsman routers. Got a 2 hp Craftsman router. It is such a pain to unmount so I leave it set up, it does have a nice vacuum port which I attach to the shop-vac. So now I need to get a plunge router but it is so hard to just get the plunge base alone.  I wanted to try a set of panel raising bits but this table does not have a split fence...But I digress...

Route out a bead on the corner and two leading edges.

Step 6: Lighthouse Structure

This is essentially just a box framed from some of the cutoffs remaining from the other parts. I started out with thinking I would just go with a flat roof but it really didn't take too much more effort to build in that slightly sloped front and sides.

Layout the footprint of the roof tier extension. I just spaced it out with the width of the 1x2.

Cobble it together. It didn't look high enough so I added the 1x2 to the thickness. I guess I could have turned the base pieces on its side to build but it was an afterthought.

Step 7: Lamp Housing

With some scraps, make a lamp base and top cover.

I did not use my jigsaw and I couldn't find my coping saw so I just started drilling out the
outline of the base of the lamp cover. I couldn't find my round file and rasps either. So I cleaned it up with hand sanding.

Tape up the back of your piece of sandpaper with packaging tape and it will last a lot longer. I just tried that after having the piece of sandpaper fall apart wrapped around a block of wood and hand sanding. The tape gun was nearby.

The top plate had to be drilled out a bit to from a recess for the lamp cover which has a
center bump on top. I could not find my forstner bits. They are somewhere too.

I did not have dowels around so I used 4 pencils as the posts that go around the lamp. Pull off the metal part and eraser with a pair of pliers. If you are good at extracting the parts, you can make a double ended eraser pencil for April Fools Day.

Drill holes to fit the diameter of the pencil. I used a drill bit just a tad too large so I tried to fill it up with some Gorilla glue.  That stuff expands and cures when exposed to moisture.  I usually squeeze the bottle and cap it so there is no air bubble left inside to kick off the curing process. Polyurethane glues are no fun if you get that on your fingers or clothes.

Step 8: Hippy Roof

Create an upper base for the lamp housing.

Cut out pieces of hardboard to cover the front and sides of the roof. You will have to place the structure upside down on the hardboard to mark the exact cut lines and figure out where the diagonal joints of the roof will be.

Glue together. On the back, I also cut out a small sliver of hardboard to fill in an open gap in the roofline.

Use wood filler or glue to fill in the gaps on the diagonal if you can't roll a marble down it like on the seam on a fine German automobile.

Step 9: Don't Forget the Doors

I guess I could have done with traditional wood doors with inlaid panels but I will take the
faux inlaid door look.

Mock up the side upright rails to size the opening.

Figure out how big the doors will need to be. The overlay strip on one of the doors will cover a gap to allow for ease of use. You also need to account for a slight difference taken up by the thickness of your hinges.

Create a face frame with 1x2 stock.

Join by drilling pocket holes. Glue and screw together.

Cut out hardboard backers. Glue and clamp till dry.

Step 10: POLICE Sign, Window and Door Details

While the doors are mocked up, create a piece for the POLICE BOX sign. Miter cut moulding to frame around the POLICE BOX graphic. 

You will also need a filler plate that connects the two upright side rails under the POLICE BOX sign.  That evens out the surface going across the top front.  Glue that filler plate to the filler plate flush in the bookcase.  Attach to the side uprights later with pocket screws.

After I tested with the door handle I was going to attach, I found that not enough bearing
surface was available to mount the handle. I added a piece of square stock and shrunk the width a little.

I had it glued in but after thinking how I would add the sign, I decided to pry it off and build the frame separately so I could mount it over my callbox sign.

Glue together and put some pieces of reinforcing paper to hold it together at the joints.

Where the window frames will go, place a piece of plastic wrap in the opening. Cut pieces
for the window lattice and glue. Use pieces of paper to bridge the joints. I just eyeballed
how the window is divided.

You can pull out the latticework and flip it over to fill in the joints which will appear on the "good" side.

Step 11: Prime and Paint

Give everything a good sanding to knock off the super sharp edges. I used a medium rough
grit to sand since I wanted to impart a rougher worn look to the TARDIS.

I knew I didn't have time to do a weathered look with different shades of paint. I tried to stipple paint it a bit but the gloss paint smoothed itself out so you still end up with a nice paint job whether you want it or not.

The faux wood finish on the bookcase needed a good sanding to rough up the slick surface.  Prep, sand, clean, prime and paint the top and sides of the bookcase.

Step 12: Attach Graphics

Print out the graphics.

Laminate or use packaging tape or add a layer of sheet plastic to give it the glass covered look.

Cut out to size and hot glue to the callbox sign frame and the windows. 

The POLICE BOX sign is glued or double-sided taped on after you mount the POLICE BOX sign frame to the header panel in order to cover the screwholes.

Step 13: Assembly Time

Screw down the uprights to the base.

Push up against the bookcase and secure with pocket holes and screws underneath.

Complete the assembly of the light and roof fixture.  I'll figure out how to secure it later, maybe some screws from underneath or some bracket blocks attached to the top. Or a hinge to use it as a secret compartment. 

I did put a piece of white paper in the lamp housing to act as a diffuser for the LED bicycle blinker I will put in there to light it up.

Clamp on the side upright rails.

Position the top flush filler plate.  Secure with pocket hole screws in the back of the filler plate to the bookcase.

In the front, secure with pocket hole screws to the two upright side rails.

Attach the POLICE BOX sign with screws.

Cover the screw holes with the POLICE BOX laminated graphic.

Attach the doors with the hinges..

And there you go, a TARDIS bookcase.

Attach the back of the bookcase and add the shelves.

Stuff with cra junk.

Grab a book from the bookcase.

Pull up an Fn stool and have a cup of tea.  Enjoy!

Random thoughts:

You could make the POLICE BOX sign light up by building it up as an empty box.  You would then need an acrylic or rigid front sign.

You could put in real windows by providing a cutout in the doors.

You could put in a real lock if you needed to turn this into a liquor cabinet.

You could have the call box panel cut out and have it swing open to reveal a phone, or ipod/iphone charging station.

Holiday Gifts Contest

Runner Up in the
Holiday Gifts Contest

Craftsman Tools Contest

Finalist in the
Craftsman Tools Contest

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Participated in the
Epilog Challenge

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Participated in the
Halloween Decorations Challenge

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    6 years ago

    This is an amazing idea and doesn’t seem that hard to build. I have just the right tools up in my storage unit which have not been in operation for quite some time now so I guess it is the perfect time to gear them up with this cool project. However, I am not entirely a huge fan of Doctor Who so I might just tweak the design a little and come up with something else.


    Reply 6 years ago

    Thanks. It's really an exercise in making something that suits your needs and tastes. It could have turned out like the entrance to a Mayan temple, bank or bomb shelter vault...just make something, Instructables has a make a box contest going on that you could enter. Good luck.


    6 years ago



    7 years ago

    ok this really is awesome and I may give it a go. however the first rule of doctor who is to never abbreviate doctor ?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Oh no, I may be exterminated for that. Thanks for pointing that out. I cannot go back in time to correct that though but it may be corrected in the future.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    If You ever are in Cardiff they have a Dr. Who exhibit at the museum. I was EXTERMINATED.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Are you referring to the Doctor Who Experience or is there something else in a museum there that I have missed?!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    OMG, that sounds brilliant. Too bad I don't live there...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This. This is amazing. Normally I'd think I could never do something like this, but after putting together all the furniture for my bedroom, I think I can actually do it. Plus I have an uncle who's handy with this kind of thing if I'd need help. Back to Home Depot!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome :) My friend is a big Dr. Who fan, so I'm tempted to try to make this for her. Even though I have no experience with building things out of wood.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    There are no fancy cuts and really you could do everything with a handsaw. You could do without the pocket hole joinery but you can even make a pocket hole jig and then you will find other projects to make. Good luck.

    This is a really great instructable! I love Doctor Who, and I will most definitely be forcing my dad to make me one for christmas. :D He'll so go for it if I knit him a dalek, lol


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I think that the length and width are equal of the overall rectangular prism "shape" of the tardis


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Oh be careful with the hot glue gun, guess how I know? If you can make the inside of your home beautiful, then you can make the outdoors just as beautiful especially with summer coming. Check out where I bought my outdoor swing at http://www.foreverpatiofurniture.com


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    But a hot glue gun is as good for outdoor use as it is for putting together blocks of S P A M !