Tardis Puzzle Box Night Light




About: Hi, my name is Britt Michelsen, I'm a Chemical Engineer especially interested in Computational Fluid Dynamics. To balance all the theoretical work I like to make stuff in my free time.

In this instructable I am going to show you, how to build a Tardis puzzle box, which can only be opened by sliding the roof panels in a certain way. I love building puzzle boxes and decided making this one for a huge Dr. Who fan.

Thanks a lot to Ford and Instructables for sponsoring this instructable and allowing me to add a RGB light strip to the inside.

Find out how to open the Tardis by watching this video:

Step 1: Stuff You Need


  • 3 mm MDF or ply wood
  • 3 mm white acrylic (with 45% opacity)
  • Wood primer
  • Paint
  • Remote controlled RGB LED strip (e.g. from amazon.com)
  • Waterslide decal paper (for inkjet printers or laser printers)
  • Top coat
  • 3 mm thick wooden skewer
  • 15 mm thick acrylic rod
  • Acrylic glue
  • Wood glue
  • Small piece of aluminium foil
  • Hot glue


  • Clamps
  • Laser cutter (you can of course use a saw, but a laser cutter will make your life a whole lot easier)
  • Small hand saw
  • Hot glue gun

Step 2: Assembling the Roof

Start by cutting all the acrylic pieces and all the pieces from "Layer2.pdf" and "Layer3+4.pdf". Glue the small round acrylic piece to the big round acrylic piece, as shown in the pictures.

Now glue the wooden frame pieces from "Layer2.pdf" to the acrylic plate, as shown in the in the first picture. All the other pieces are slider pieces and should not be glued! Afterwards glue the two frames from the "Layer3+4.pdf" on top of the first wooden layer, as shown in the second image.

Cut four 9 mm long pieces from the 3 mm wooden skewer and glue them into the hole of the middle slider pieces, as shown in the fourth image. Then cut two 6 mm long pieces and glue them into the holes of the big round acrylic piece. Be careful that the final glued product looks as in the fifth picture (the wooden skewers have to face downwards and the skewers from the middle slider pieces have to fit into the indents of the acrylic piece).

Last cut four more 12 mm long pieces from the wooden and glue them to the holes of the left over piece from "Layer3+4.pdf".

Step 3: Assembling the Roof Part II

Next, glue the panels from "Layer5+6.pdf" together and glue them on top the pieces you have already assembled. The distance has to be the same at each side and the side with the holes has to be on top. Cut four 12 mm long pieces from the skewer and glue them to the holes.

Now glue the pieces from "Layer7+8.pdf" as well as the pieces from "Layer9+10.pdf" together. Be careful with layer 9 and ten, since there is a possibility to glue them on mirrored. The right way is shown in image number three.

Paint all the pieces, since later it will be trickier. Then glue the layers 7 and 8 to the skewers from layer 4 and the layers 9 and 10 to the skewers from layer 5 and 6.

Cut a 35 mm long piece from the 15 mm thick acrylic rod and glue it to the acrylic disc on the inside of the mechanism.

Next we are going to build the top of the light. Cut the three pieces from "Top.pdf" and glue the ring to the bigger disc. Afterwards glue the smaller to the bigger disc and paint it blue. Then glue a small piece of aluminium foil to the inside to better reflect the light.

Step 4: Assembly

Now we are going to build the Tardis. Everything that is red has to be engraved. I decided to engrave an area on the back of the side panels, to better fit the windows.

Glue the side panels together. Using the bottom plate from "TardisBottom.pdf" will help you to get an even result.

Then glue the smaller side pieces to the box and prime the whole thing.

Step 5: Add the Electornics

Take the electronics out of the case and glue them to them bottom of the Tardis as shown in the fist image. Then place the LED strip around the top of the box, but make sure that the mechanism still fits. Afterwards finish glueing the bottom of the Tardis together.

In order to get the light to better shine through the top I decided to glue a piece of the light strip to it and connect it with a clip.

Step 6: Painting

All there is left to do is to cut and engrave the signs (see "Signs.pdf") and add the decals as well as the windows. Simply follow the instructions on you decal paper. If you are using an inkjet printer you might have to use a clear coat.

Once I finished building the Tardis, I decided that it looked to boring. So I aged it with Vallejo pigments, which you can get here and pigment binder which you can get here. Afterwards you should apply a layer of clear coat.

Congratulations, you are done.



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    17 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I've taken the pdfs and converted them into color-coded SVG files using Inkscape. I minimized the number of cuts required by the laser. So its suitable for lasercutting directly at Ponoko. (document is in mm)

    You can use these free plans and get Ponoko to cut it for you in 3mm MDF and 3mm Clear acrylic. Its not cheap. Its all those dark raster areas.

    To make the windows white - put white baking paper up inside to diffuse the light.



    3 years ago on Introduction

    It looks like I need to lasercut 3 more of the doors in "Tardis_Doors.pdf" but the 8 cornerplates are all included. Is that right ?

    What about the ridge inside the top of the walls that the lid looks like it locks into. Are they in the patterns ? Are there any other pieces missing ?

    I want to lower costs of materials and only lasercut one sheet of acrylic. Do you think it would be better to:

    - Print the clear pieces and the windows in the 3mm white. Will enough light come through ?
    - Or I could print them all in clear and sand the windows to a frosted look ?

    midnight lightning

    3 years ago

    Now I need to find someone to make this for me. I don't trust myself to do this, I might accidentally blow up the house....... ????


    3 years ago on Introduction

    a tardis is where the doctor keeps his time machine, it is much bigger even infinite on the inside because it is in a separate realm, also the disguise for it is not a portapottie it is an old police phone box as a dr.who fan I am deeply offended by your comments


    4 years ago on Introduction


    When cutting this out, are you cutting inside, outside or on the line?

    Thanks, nice job!


    4 years ago

    Oh, I love it! Do you think it would be realistic to attempt this without a laser cutter?

    1 reply

    Yes, at least without the engraving, but it certainly would be a lot of
    work. Maybe you can talk to Kiteman. Sadly my laser cutter is to weak to go into production (it takes forever to cut the pieces).


    4 years ago

    Can we make it for the Bug?


    4 years ago

    The time lords will be impressed.


    4 years ago

    Your attention to detail is incredible. Super job on the instructable.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    are going to make a kit form of this by any chance? or at least consider making a few built for sale?