Introduction: Tardis Model

About: I make things so you can make things. Out of stuff.

Hi everyone -- this is a relatively easy build for all budding Time Lords and their companions, and it requires no power tools, so I thought I'd enter it into this Hand Tool contest.

This model build is absolutely from scratch, so all the materials are very raw. The list below doesn't have any links since I am not selling these kits, but every bit of this was available at WAL*MART, local craft stores, and in a few cases local Dollar stores.

Here is the bill of materials:

  • Xacto Knife/Craft Knife
  • Cutting board/Cutting table
  • Ruler with Metric scale
  • T-square or carpenter's corner square
  • Digital Caliper (optional, but desired)
  • Simple circle compass
  • Computer Printer or Office Label Maker
  • 2 sheets, light color (tan or eggshell) 24"x22" Mat Board
  • Super Glue or your prefered craft glue. I use Super Glue to avoid long drying times, but I also don;t mind having it all over my hands for a week during a project
  • Tesa Tape (clear) 0.5" wide x 50 ft, double-sided
  • Tesa Tape (clear or padded) 0.25" x 50 ft, double-sided
  • 2 cans, generic grey or black primer spray paint (grey primer will give your TARDIS a dusty look when finished; black primer will cause the blue paint to look scuffed and worn. Either is a good look for a TARDIS)
  • 2 cans, flat/matte finish navy blue spray paint (Flat paint gives the TARDIS a naturally worn look; however, the 11th Doctor's Tardis is rather shiny and new-looking. Choose the look you prefer)
  • 1 sheet frosted vinyl 8"x10", 1mm thick max (I used the cover of a report folder)
  • 1 roll flexible magnet tape (should come in a 36" roll; you won't need more than that)
  • 1 small electronics screw (I have buckets of them; anything you have with a 1-2mm head will be perfect)
  • 1 T50 6mm staple gun staple (any staple gun staple about 10mm wide)
  • 1 sheet 0.25" foam core craft board/backer board (you won't need more than 120mmx120mm, so a scrap piece will do)
  • 4 self-adhesive furniture feet, not larger than 0.25" diameter (cork or rubber) (I got a pack of 12 from a hardware store for $1.50)
  • a few sheets of plain white paper, pref. acid free (you will literally cut this into ribbons, so don't worry about color too much

Step 1: Cut the 4 Main Panels

The first step in this project is to cut out the panels you'll need to build the main 4 walls of the TARDIS. As I am sure you know, the walls of the TARDIS are fairly detailed in a life-sized model, but out model stands about 250mm when it's all done, so we're going to have to make some shortcuts for the very basic, very simple 1.0 version of this model.

The right way to plan to cut, however, is the old wood-workers' maxim: "Measure Twice, Cut Once." If you don't lay down your cut lines accurately before you start cutting, you are likely to get panels which are not square at the corners, and your TARDIS will look saggy. Also: as a shortcut, you might consider that to map the window cuts, it's easiest to cut one piece of scrap from your mat board which is 10mm wide as a guide because all the "slats" on the front panel wafer are exactly 10mm wide. It's a LOT easier to draw on the slats than it is to try to draw the windows one by one. First use the 10mm piece of scrap to draw the outer boarder of the panel, then draw the center slat left-to-right by aligning to the midpoint at the top and bottom of the panel. Then do the top-to-bottom center slat, and the the upper center and then the lower center slat.

You should cut 4 front panels, and 4 back panels.

When you are done, take a look at the assembly diagram. In order to assemble the 3 non-hinged sides, you will need to first cut the frosted window panes for these doors and also the window slats. If you want additional dimensionality in the window for the slats in the pane, use the same plastic the windows are made of for the slats. If the dimensionality is not a big deal for you, or you just aren't good at cutting 2mm-wide stripe of plastic, you can build the slats our of plain paper.

Once you have the slats assembled, measure the windows on the front wafer to get nice, straight lined for the slats, and glue the slats to the front wafer. Remember that only the top row of windows need the slats.

After all the windows have slats in them, take the panels to a clean, well-ventilated area and PRIME them, them PAINT them. You only need to paint the exterior side of the panel, but you must do it for both the front and back wafers. You should also make sure you paint the window slats at this time. It's urgent that you paint these 3 walls BEFORE you assembly them, otherwise you'll wind up painting the windows.Wait an hour for your paint to fully dry, and then bring the parts in for assembly. When I assembled my walls, I applied the Tesa tape to the back of the FRONT wafer on all the surface area, used a small pieve of tape to secure the window pane in the right place, and then closed the sandwich of layers up, making sure that all the edges were clean and straight.

Here you will have assembled 3 sides of the TARDIS. Next step is to assemble the 4th side, which is the side with the door.

Step 2: Front Door Assembly

Before we cut and assemble the door, you'll need the sign for the left-hand side. To help you, I have attached two versions of that sign which you can download and use. One is a color version that looks weathered; the other is black and white and perfectly good for a cleaner look. Both are based on a rendering by a user called "steelghost" at You should print the version you want and laminate it with either packing tape or self-sealing laminating paper, then cut it to size to apply it to the left-side back panel wafer (see assembly diagram).

What you should have left over from last time is one back panel wafer and one front panel wafer. Just cut them both in half top-to-bottom so you have something like the first assembly diagram to work with.

The window assemblies are just like the uncut panels. However, there are three important differences in these panels:

1. PAINT! Once you have the window slats installed and the glue is dry, PAINT THESE BEFORE MOVING FORWARD. Do not install the window panes before you paint; do not install the "FREE PUBLIC" sign before you paint. Prime and paint these pieces to save yourself a really hard time as you proceed.

2. SIGN! After the paint is dry, INSTALL THE "FREE PUBLIC" sign, and install the holes for the handle and lock BEFORE you assemble the wafer layers. (enlarge the diagram above to note the location).

3. DETAIL! Consider the second assembly diagram.

This is the back-side view of the panels. Notice the "Magnetic Strips" on the diagram. this assembly is what keeps your door closed when you pull it closed on the final model. you need to measure and cut 2 x 200mm strips of magnetic tape. Take one of those strips and cut it in half lengthswise so you get 2 x 200mm strips which are half as wide as the original strip. They should be approximately 5mm wide.

Before you continue, flatten the magnetic strips, which will tend to curl because they have been sold to you in a roll. Just let them sit under a heavy book overnight. Then: take the wide strip determine which half-strip is most attracted to it. That half-strip should be installed on the fixed-side inside edge.

Nerd note: I know, I know -- both halves should be equally attracted to the wide strip, just on opposite sides. They're magnets, not coy singles looking for a date. But practically, you'll find one of the half strips will better attracted than the other if you test them. You should simply obey your test results.

Also from your test results: given the attractive qualities of the half-strip to the wide strip, mark the strips so you know which end will point up and which end will point down. If you invert one of the strips, the magnets will repel, not attract.

Install the half-strip on the left-hand side using the adhesive and some Tesa tape; on the right-hand side, install the other half-strip as a spacer, and then install the full-width strip on top of that. Make sure the overlap is even on both sides.

After that, assemble the layers as we did last time so that you get two clean halves. Screw the machine screw representing the lock into place (a drop of glue never hurt anyone), and glue the staple gun staple in place as the door handle.

Step 3: Measurement, Cutting and Assembly

In the next step, I will give you a tip at the end of the post about completing this model which might need some clarification. After all, you'd think a measured drawing would give you very accurate results if you followed it to the letter.

Well: if you were using dimensional lumber as your building material, I'm certain this would be the case. I could set the scale of the pieces to the industrial standards for material thickness, and every joint could be accurate to 0.1mm, every edge could be perfect, and every inner diameter and every out diameter would be without any questions.

However: as I tested the materials I had on-hand at home after completing my prototype, it turns out that mat board is not the most consistent material for thickness on earth -- I found boards in my garage which were as thin as 0.8mm, and some as thick as 1.8mm, which is a huge variation at this scale. You also may find that you like something thinner than mat board to use for your building material.That's why I suggested, back in the Bill of Materials, that you have a digital caliper for measuring. The one I use is very inexpensive and easy to use -- I got it for less than $10 USD.

If you've never used a caliper before, it's like a ruler -- except that it measures using its jaw rather than your eyes and the hashmarks on a ruler. If you are measuring the outer distance of an object -- say, the real thickness of the body of the model -- you close the caliper all the way, press the "ZERO" button to calibrate the tool to true zero, open it to clamp in the object, and close the inner-facing jaw (which is called the "outside jaw" since it measure the outside diameter) to get an accurate reading. If you need to measure the inner diameter of an object -- say, the inside of the mouth of a jar, of the distance inside the corner joints of the main panels of this model -- you close and zero the tool, insert the outer-facing jaws (which, you have already guessed, are called the "inside jaw") and open until the jaw is touching the inner wall of the object.This tool is probably more accurate than you can cut to with hand tools -- but it is way better to have excessive accuracy than it is to have deficient accuracy.

Step 4: First Round of Assembly

Consider the first diagram, above. It shows how to overlap the corners for assembly for the best strength for this model. In this assembly, in order to keep the body actually square, you have to mind the thickness of the panels we have built. With that in mind, the right way to assemble the parts are with the corners overlapped as in the diagram -- so that on the front side, the fixed panel is glued in front of the left side panel, and the door is assembled with its outside edge touching the inside of the right side panel.

The other thing which is critical as you assemble this step is that all the bottom edges are on the same plane. If your bottom line is uneven, the box won't stand up straight, or worse: your door won't open and close.

The right thing to do, I think, is to assemble the hinge joint first -- which is essentially a piece of Tesa tape covered on the inside by fabric, flexible plastic, or simple white paper. Join the corner as noted in the diagram.

As you assemble the fixed corners, super glue will be useful, but to maintain the structure, I found that using some scrap pieces cut as corner braces worked very well. (see second diagram, above)

Simply assemble the box and stand it up, and test the door. It should open easily, and when you close it the magnetic tape should pull gently in the last 5-6mm and draw the door closed.

After you have the walls assembled, this is the right time to add the corner details to the box. (see third diagram, above) You need to cut 8 strips of mat board 10mm x 220mm, and join them in an "L" shape using super glue. This operation is a little tricky, but not impossible. The key is to make the joint fully square and as tight to the edge of the vertical piece as possible. If you simply can't join the pieces in corners, you can cheat by cutting 4 pieces at 20mm x 220 mm and scoring the wide pieces down the center so that they will fold but not separate. When you have them formed in an "L" shape, PRIME and PAINT them before adding them to the box.

Be extremely careful when adding the corner where the door hinge is that you only glue the side on the FIXED wall and not the side where the door swings -- otherwise all your hard work to have a door which really swings in will be lost.

Last thing for this step, which is an important note going forward: because the dimensions of the main body of the TARDIS are going to be variable based on the thickness of the materials you have used (even some mat boards are thicker than others; if you used balsa or some other material, there's no telling what you'll get for final dimensions). Because of that it will be critical for you to MEASURE THE MODEL YOU HAVE instead of using my dimensions by rote to complete the upper section of the TARDIS. My dimensions are based on the thicknesses I have planned into the drawing, but yours will vary. Measure twice, cut once, and assembly carefully the first time, and you'll find your final product will turn out best.

Step 5: Building an Angled Roof

This step in the build for Tardis 1.0 serves a double purpose: it will help your TARDIS to look more like the real thing, and it will be an example to your children when they ask you, "but Dad/Mom: when will I ever use this in real life?"

The great thing about this is that it's all triangles, and triangles all behave in a very orderly way. Here's what we know:

  • The square which is the roof of the TARDIS is 84mm square, therefore the base of the triangle that makes up any one side of the roof is 84mm.
  • We need the peak of the roof to be a certain height. I think, in our scale, 10mm rise looks very good, so we will work with that in the measured drawings
  • The distance from the base to the center of the box is 42mm -- half the distance of the base. We know this because the roof is square, right?
  • With all of this word-problem in place, how do we figure out the length of the two equal sides of the triangle if we want to build a roof with a 10mm rise? For those of you who want to skip the maths, just jump ahead to the answer, below.

------------------------- START MATHS -------------------------

Look at the first diagram, above

The base of the roofline is "A", and the distance to the center of the plane of the roofline from the center of the base is 42 mm, or "B" in this diagram. The rise from the endpoint of "B" to the peak of the roof is 10mm, or "C". "B" and "C" form the legs of a right triangle, and the Hypotenuse of that triangle equals 43.174mm. That means the side of the roof panel has two legs, one which is 42mm (half the baseline of the roof) and the other equals 43.174mm (the hypotenuse to the roof's peak). Therefore: "D" equals 62.232 mm -- which, for the sake of the accuracy of our tools, we will round to 60.2mm.

------------------------- END MATHS -------------------------

So you need to draw and cut 4 triangles on your mat board with a base edge of 84mm, and two equal sides at 60.2mm. While you may have escaped the math required to figure this out, you can't escape the math it will take to draw these triangles -- because if they are not precise, you will not get an even roof with the slope we are looking for.

What you need is your caliper, a ruler, and your pencil compass. (see second diagram, above)

First, draw a line with your ruler abut 90mm long. Then, with your caliper, measure a length 84mm long. when your caliper measures 84mm, set your compass width to the caliper to ensure accuracy.

Now: set your compass on one end of the like and draw a half-circle which crosses you 90mm line. That will be your 84mm length. Now use the same method to set your compass to 60.2mm -- and be sure to be as accurate as possible as you will be unsatisfied with legs that are 60mm or 60.5mm long. They won't fit right. Once your compass is locked in, draw half-circles as in the diagram above, putting your center point of the compass on each end of your baseline. The place where the circles intersect will be the peak of your roof, and will give you two line which each equal 60.2mm in length.

Repeat this 4 times so you get 4 equal triangles, and then cut them out so that you have identical pieces.

When you have 4 identical pieces, you can assemble the roof. (see third diagram, above) To do this, assemble the roof topside-down, and secure one section to the next using tape. Assemble in a clockwise fashion, making sure you have good alignment on each piece from the base corner to the peak/center corner. When you have attached 3 of the 4 edges, your roof should still lay flat on your assembly table; when you tape the 4th edge together, the roof should "pop up" to reveal the sloping roof line. In the third diagram (above), I have colored each panel a different color so you can see how the edges connect, and what the last step of the assembly should look like.

It may appear a little uneven at this point because it's not actually very well supported, but that's OK. Once you have the roofline taped in a satisfactory way -- something that looks like the baseline is even all around -- apply superglue to the edges and set the assembly aside to dry. If you're a more-daring modeler, you should tape the edges on the outside, pop the roofline, and then glue the edges with hot glue generously to give the roof line a very solid support.

Step 6: The "Police Box" Marquee

Let me admit that this part of the build was the most vexing for me because what I wanted was for all the bits which ought to light up to actually light up. That dream got smashed by what turns out to be the real lack of space in this scale for the model, but my hopes for a real light-up version with real TARDIS noises are going to get worked into a version 2.0. For you, you'll have to settle for a merely-pretty replica in version 1.0 which, sadly, will not serve as a night light or as a beacon when youre running away from the Silence or the Cybermen or whatever.

The first warning label I want to put on this as we go forward, however, is this: mind the instructions regarding your specific parts and pieces I made in this post about accurate measurements. My dimensions in this step are accurate for my drawing, but they will not be accurate for your model because the thickness of your materials will be different than mine. Measure twice, cut and assembly once, and you will be much happier and less frustrated.

OK: to start the process for building the marquee where the sign "POLICE (public call) BOX" resides on all 4 sides, we have to build a base for the upper structure. Some models I have seen build this header into the side panels, but I found that the easiest way to install a working door was to get this header piece out of the construction of the main side panels. My technique also gives you a flat plane by which to level the marquees as we fix them to each side. Cut the header backing pieces as in the first diagram, above, and assemble them into you model.

I have used some odd coloring in the first and second diagrams above so you can see all the parts and pieces clearly. The basic piece you have to cut is a panel roughly 90mm x 25mm (mind the measurements), and you will cut 8 of them so that you will install 2 pieces sandwiched together on each side. The thickness adds strength, but ultimately: it adds thickness, and part of the process here is to try to add as much thickness as we can without having to build too many boxy layers up to the roofline. If you are especially clever and careful, you can simply glue the corners with super glue. If you need to add corner braces (as I did in my 1.0 prototype), add then to the BOTTOM of your corners, not the top -- you want to be able to slide the final roof assembly (which we will build in the next step) into this assembly without gluing it closed.

Next (as in the second diagram), on each side you want to add a "backer board" which runs behind each marquee. The purpose of this part (mind the measurements) is to give the marquee something to attach to and keep from sagging or warping over time.

Next, to make the actual marquee, you will need the decal for the marquee. For my prototype, I used an office label maker that uses 12mm white tape. The benefit of this was that I therefore had ready-made stickers for the marquees, and it made assembly very easy. However, I think one basic improvement for this project is a more-faithful marquee, to so help you with that I have mocked up a decal for the marquee which is in 600 DPI format and prints out very clearly on any modern printer (that's the third image, above).

My advice is to print the decal on very bright-white paper, laminate it with archive-quality tape or self-adhesive lamination. Then cut the two wafers for each of the 4 marquees your model will require. Before attaching the decal to the marquee back panel, PRIME AND PAINT THE MAT BOARD PARTS. Allow them to dry, then attach the decal to the back panel with clear Tesa tape (diagram 4, above). I had the best success attaching the front panel by applying Tesa tape to the back side, trimming the part out of the center opening, and then peeling off the backer and sticking it to the back panel. At that point, simply mount the marquee to the side panels with an eye to centering the signs on each side. (diagram 5, above)

Step 7: Final Roof Assembly

So we have something that looks really good right now, but it lets the rain in -- is doesn't have that fancy angled roof we build installed.The roof assembly is fairly simple.

Take a look at the first diagram, above. Note that the colors I used here are to make each piece stand out, and that after you assemble this part you should prime and paint it to the correct shade of TARDIS blue. There are measurements in this assembly drawing which are correct for the virtual model, but keep in mind the standing warning I have already given about your real-world project. Mind the measurements. Measure to your real model and real materials to get an accurate and well-formed final assembly.

When you collapse the pieces to make one piece of them, you'll get something like the second diagram. What you should note is that this assembly inserts loosely into the main body assembly you already have. The top section should stick upward about 10mm from the lower asection, and the lower section should be thick enough to consume some of the space you will have in the crown of the mail body, but it will still have about 1mm gap to allow the top to easily come off.

Before you insert the roof assembly into the main body, you'll have to build a small ledge inside the crown of the main assembly. The "ledge" is really just 4 small corner shelves sunk in the crown of the main body at 15mm, (see third diagram). This is to support the roof, but to leave the body open and accessible. This may seem sort of unnecessary since the 1.0 version of this model has no internal "stuff" (lights, wires, batteries, etc.), but this also allows us to build this model with the opportunity to upgrade it if you see fit. You can glue it closed if you just want it to sit there with no lights or anything.

When you have built the support shelves, the roof inserts as in the 4th diagram, above.

Finally, cut a square of material from the foam core board in the Bill of Materials to 10mm, prime and paint it, and attach it to the base of your model's main body. I used hot glue for this, but be careful with hot glue (see diagram 5, above). If you apply hot glue in the corner where your door hinge is, you'll most certainly ruin your door's ability to open. Apply the hot glue to the bottom of your model like this to get the best hold, and also to avoid any interference for the hinge: And finally, attach the self-adhesive furniture feet from the Bill of Materials to the underside of the base.

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