Light-Up Paper Tardis




About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

Loving and lusting after a Tardis is the norm for all fans of Dr. Who, and thus my go-to holiday present for my Dr. Who-loving mentor/friend was a papercraft Tardis. However, I didn't want to hand over a simple paper Tardis that anyone could merely print out; I wanted to make this paper Tardis unique and bedazzled. So I guess you could call my final idea and product bedazzLED? (sorry for the bad pun.. it's been a long week)

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Step 1: Materials

  • paper (I used thick cardstock and suggest using thicker paper because the thicker it its, the fewer layers you'll need overall.)
  • 5mm blue LED diode (I got mine from this package because I'm working on a project that requires lots more of them... you'll see...)
  • 3V lithium battery, CR2032
  • Mod Podge or similar glue + brush
  • Cricut Machine OR X-Acto knife and mat
  • printer
  • Sharpie
  • tape

Step 2: Files

Above are all of the layers that I created using Adobe Illsutrator. The process is depicted in the pictures of the last step of this project; feel free to take a gander at them ("gander".. I'm so fancy..) if you'd like.

Right click each to save them as files. While they are numbered layers 1-6, note that the numbers are arbitrary; you could have 2 of layer 4, etc. (so I had 7 of layer 2 in order to fit the battery, for example). I actually forgot about the handle and door knob pieces but they're up there for you anyway.

Step 3: Cricut

If you are just going to use the files for cutting with an x-acto knife, go ahead and cut as you see fit; I went for the Cricut route due to my access to a Cricut Explore combined with a lack of x-acto knife. Skip to step 6.

For those using Cricut, see the pictures above (and next two steps) and their notes for step-by-step instructions on uploading the saved files from the previous step.

Step 4: Editing

After uploading the files, you'll need to edit them to make them perfect for cutting. Again, see the pictures above and their notes for step-by-step instructions on doing that.

Step 5: Cutting Out Layers

Send your images to your Cricut machine to cut. See the pictures above for how many of each arbitrarily numbered layer I cut out.

Step 6: Adjustment Trimming

The circle I had at the top ended up being too small for the battery so I had to make them bigger with manual scissor work. Make sure you check this before gluing later on!

Step 7: Prepping the LED Diode

To prevent the anode (+) and cathode (-) ends of the LED diode from shifting around in the Tardis, I used a thin piece of printer paper to secure the anode end (by poking the anode through and bending the end to avoid movement. See the pictures' notes above for instructions.

Step 8: Tab Pocket

I wanted a tab to turn the light on and off by blocking the anode end from touching the battery's + terminal, but I figured that it should have a little pocket to slide in. I measured the distance from the farthest part of the circle to the farthest edge of the Tardis (about 7cm) and roughly cut out a rectangle with that length and height being about 2.5x the coin battery's diameter.

Once that's cut, fold the top and bottom down; it doesn't matter how far down as long as the middle section's height is approximately the coin battery's diameter. Glue the overlapping top and bottom edges together to stabilize everything before cutting about 0.5cm on the sides to separate the two layers a bit. (see fourth picture above); you'll see why soon.

Step 9: Tab

Using the distance from the farthest part of the circle to the farthest edge of the Tardis (about 7cm) and adding 2cm for good measure (which ended up being just enough, interestingly), cut out a rectangle (height = diameter of coin battery) from some stiff paper to be used as a tab. I started off with a rounded tip but realized that a diagonal worked better, so yes -- start with a diagonal tip. Cover the entire tab with tape to strengthen the paper and prevent peeling later on.

Step 10: Extra Details

Open a word document and find two pictures: one of the Police Box sign at the top and another for the "Free for use of Public" sign on the door. Insert them into the document, shrink them to the right sizes (depends on what you wanted your dimensions to be) and print the page out. Then cut them and keep them in a safe place for later.

Step 11: Gluing: Layers 1-3

Begin by gluing layer 1 to a layer two. Keep a needle (or similarly pointy object) poking out from the circle part; this will leave room for the cathode part of the LED to poke in later. Keep gluing all the layer 2's with the needle there.

When you've reached layer 3, make sure you glue each part, parts 1-3, at the correct place (tardis color on top, lighter blue on bottom, white in the middle).

Step 12: Gluing the Top Part

You'll want to add layer 4 next, but before doing so, you want the tube for the tab to be well-secured within the layers. Remember cutting 0.5cm down the sides? Well, fold the two layers back along those cuts and slip one of the folded back parts between layers 3 and 4 BEFORE gluing down layer 4. This will make it easier to slide the tab into this little pocket for it. Then glue the body of the pocket to the front of layer 4.

Step 13: Adding the LED

Remember the little hole left by the needle? Insert the cathode of the LED into that little gap (after taking the needle out, of course) and slip the battery in the coin hole simultaneously (make sure the cathode ends up BEHIND the batter, which should be facing + side UP). Press down on the LED + battery to make sure things are in working order (lights BETTER go on...).

Then just finish gluing on the next layers 4-6 and the extra printed-out signs (Police Box, etc.). Slide the tab in and out of its little pocket and test the light. My original idea was that the light would always be on because the glue would make the LED press against the battery constantly, but that was not the case so you actually have to press for the LED to touch the battery, making the tab mechanism pointless.. I kept it anyway to minimize the chance of accidentally squashing your Tardis under a book or something (*gasp*), leaving the light on too long and draining the battery.

Step 14: Finishing Up

Outline the different relief parts with a sharpie to make the details more apparent (turn the "wow" factor into a "WOW" factor...) and tie everything together. And there you have it -- a papercraft Tardis that's certainly bedazzLED (couldn't help myself..) and ready to surprise a deserving friend.

Step 15: Creating the Layers

I used Illustrator to create the layers (The pen tool is amazing. Just sayin'.) and above are pictures of my progress. Eventually I had so many screenshots and changes along the way that I knew explaining everything would take decades so I just have the beginning bits and a rushed version of the end for anyone who's interested. Click on the notes of the pictures to view step-by-step instructions.

The picture I used as a guide is from this link.

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    8 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks! This idea was originally supposed to be part of your gift, but then I figured everything was too Dr. Who themed (you'll see...) so once I made it I decided to gift it to my mentor. :3


    4 years ago

    My friend Ashley loves Doctor Who! I have to make this for her... This would make the perfect card for any occasion!

    3 replies

    Oh, I know she will. I'm surprised she hasn't seen this yet=) So glad that they're members like you on this site... So creative=P