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New Series TARDIS: Raised Wood Grain Texture

Started by purpleblancmange, May 28, 2009, 10:55 am

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May 28, 2009, 10:55 am Last Edit: Dec 20, 2009, 03:29 pm by scarfwearer
Okay, some of you may remember that back in 2008 I did a very quick guide on how to do this elsewhere, but since that thread no longer exists, let's retread this old ground again and have it as our first tutorial here.  It's quite apt as many builders seem to like this particular prop.

So, you've finished your TARDIS's main construction and quite rightly, you're rather proud of your efforts, but hold on there little fella, something's not quite right yet - the finish is far too clean and tidy to start on that magical blue paint session.

Let's have a look at what we want to recreate then.

A full shot of one of the TARDIS props back in 2005.  You can just make out that the surface is quite rough looking, it adds a bit of character to the build and lends to the notion of this battered old Police Box that traverses the striations of time and space.

And here is a close up where you can clearly see the raised wood grain texture, but how is this done?  It's a very simple job, but let's first understand the material we will be working with; the timber stock that you've built your TARDIS out of.

The surface of wood is made up of dried and collapsed cell walls from the living tree.  A normal living tree cell is mostly water, which is removed during the drying process after the tree has been harvested.

To get our raised grain effect, we will be using a loose interpretation of the burnishing process (you may want to look that up) where you scrape a hard object along the grain to create a highly polished finish - however, although we will be following the same process, the end result will be quite the opposite.

As you "burnish" the timber stock, the softer material of the cell walls will be removed and worn away, leaving the harder cellulose fibre structure behind and it is this that we will be exaggerating using a utensil of your choice, be it a stiff wire brush, coarse wire wool or a power drill with a wire brush attachment.  We will cover more on this later.

The process is deceptively easy to do and there are a few ways in which to achieve the desired effect, one that I would not recommend - even though it's quick and a couple of other ways that take a bit longer to do.  Either way, the end result is the same.

The one thing that you have to be very clear on at this stage is that after all the weeks or months of hard work in creating your piece of art, you're now going to totally vandalise it.  Are you really sure that you want to go through with this, because if you suddenly get cold feet part way through the job, there's absolutely no way to undo what you've started!

Let's get on with it then...


May 28, 2009, 11:39 am #1 Last Edit: Dec 20, 2009, 03:30 pm by scarfwearer

This first method is how the BBC props were done and I highly advise that you don't go down this route, but for the sake of completeness, I will go through the process here.

The idea of how to raise the grain in this way will go completely against the grain (see what I did there?) of your natural instincts with your precious build.  You're going to have to burn it!  You really have to have balls of steel to take this risk.

Now if you're going to travel down this road, then please for the love of your God, take every safety precaution going - just use your common sense.  I don't want to read posts where you've accidentally burnt your TARDIS to the ground or worse still, incinerated your garage or house or caused yourself injury.  Make sure you have a fire extinguisher to hand and any other safety equipment, plus, it is imperative that someone knows what you are up to and can lend a hand if things go wrong.  Once again, I stress that I would not advise that anyone use this method.

If you're crazy enough to do it this way, then this is how.  Use a blow torch and burn the entire surface of your TARDIS until it goes a dark brown, almost black in colour, rather like burnt toast.  The image above doesn't illustrate this terribly well as it has already been rubbed down, but you'll get the idea from it.

The softer cellulose fibres within the timber stock has been decimated and it's now time to remove it, leaving the harder wearing cellulose intact - this is your raised grain.

One thing to be mindful at this point is that you should be wearing protective gear, in particular eye-wear.  Your timber stock will no doubt have many knots along the surface and as you burn over these, the residual tree sap will boil and can (and usually does) potentially explode outward.  Be careful when you come to the knots, observe their behaviour and if they begin to fizz, stop and move on - it is advisable to only lightly scorch them, if at all.

Chappy here is using a wire disk brush attachment in a power drill to remove the soft cellulose.  It is a very harsh method and I wouldn't use it as doing it this way, you can accidentally take more away than you intended.  To get a better control, use a stiff wire brush or coarse wire wool - the latter is my preferred utensil of choice and you can always stop and check the results as you go along, going over the area again if you want more texture or moving along to the next spot if the finish is to your liking.

It is imperative that you follow the direction of the grain, do not cross it or you really will make a right royal hash of it.

Once you have covered every square inch or milimetre of your TARDIS, then you can get happy with the primer, undercoat and blue paint.

Next Up:  A much safer method and one that I do recommend!


May 28, 2009, 01:13 pm #2 Last Edit: Dec 20, 2009, 03:32 pm by scarfwearer

This is much safer than using a blow torch because we're going to be using water and it uses much the same principles of softening the softer cellulose in the timber, but it just does it in a completely different way.  We're going to make things soggy!

For illustrational purposes, I've used a scrap of wood here, but let's just pretend it's a wall or corner post.  This is untreated, before the process begins.  You'll notice within the grain the two types of cellulose, the lighter of the two is the soft stuff we're going to be removing, the darker stuff is what gets left behind.

Now, you can apply the water either really hot or straight from the cold tap, the only difference is that the hotter the water, the quicker the soft cellulose becomes more supple to work with.  I've even tried this with a steamer and that gives the best results in this fashion.

Lay your TARDIS section flat and totally drench a workable area with the water (or steam) until it all goes a bit soggy, like it's been left out in the rain - you want the water to soak in to the fibre.  Once this is done, you can take your prefered scraping utensil and start rubbing it along the grain, just like in method one.  When you're happy with the effect, repeat the process further along the item you're working on.

It's this approach that takes the time, with the burn method, you can do it all in one go, but there are huge risks involved.  All you have to worry about with the water method is splashing yourself and making it look like you've wet yourself.

As you follow the grain, the lighter material will kind of peel off in shavings.  You can just see in this image how the darker areas are raised with the paler areas standing at a slightly lower level having been worn away.  Just carry on repeating the damp down and rub over action until you get the effect you're looking for. 

As I previously mentioned, this way is much safer and far more controlled... I also said it was a dead simple thing to do which is why this section will be very short.

In this image, I'd reached the texture level that I liked, but I realised that it didn't show so well in the photo that I originally took, so I daubed a load of blue over it to bring out the grain in the image.

So there you are, a cheap and cheerful way of recreating the New Series TARDIS texture in a safe way.  It can be quite boring to do, so why not do this on a sunny day, get a few mates round and have a TARDIS texturing BBQ party.  There's not many people who can say, "We went to this party yesterday - it was blinding.  We all got wet and rubbed down a Police Box!"

Now you can start to paint the beastie.