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Volpone's TARDIS build...

Started by Volpone, Nov 18, 2011, 10:44 pm

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Actually, here's a better shot--a "Before & After" I did.  It also nicely shows how much the color changes, depending on lighting.  On a cloudy spring day it looks completely different than a sunny summer day--even with the "weathering":
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


The penultimate update.  (At least for now.) 

The major gripes with the TARDIS are cosmetic (not happy with the windows and the door plaque) and practical (for an outdoor TARDIS in the Pacific Northwest, I needed some kind of ventilation). 

The first bit is the windows (which, ironically, I don't have a photo of yet).  I cast about for a way to mitigate the fact that the door windows looked like a fluorescent light diffuser with aluminum foil behind it.  My first attempt, just really "dirtying" them up when I did my weathering, met with limited success.  I was also having no luck finding an inexpensive solution for the four hammered/pebbled glass panes.  I did look at getting a "frosted glass" film to apply to the other "panes" but didn't want to spend the money. 

For some reason it hit on me to try sanding the plastic.  If I'd read more of the forum, I wouldn't have had to figure this out myself, but such is life.  I sanded 8 of the door panes with 60 grit sandpaper and am happy enough with the result.  Pictures to come. 

The undersized door plaque bothered me as well.  My low budget solution was going to be just printing the plaque up on 11x17 paper and laminating it, but I was first stalled because my printer won't do 11x17.  This was a moot point anyway, since I actually needed something that was bigger than 11" on both sides. 

In spite of basing my plans on the Brachaki prop, somehow I wound up with a situation like the one with the 2005 prop.  It turned out my door panels were nearly square.  I schemed about some ways to remedy this, but somehow in the end I just embraced it and moved on. 

I wound up going to an office supply store that shall remain nameless and having them print and laminate me a door sign.  But for reasons that were partially my fault, it wound up being too large.  It had wound up costing around $5 more than I'd expected too.  When I came back with it and they redid it, they wound up charging me half price for the redo (instead of doing it for free).  This is why they shall remain nameless.  Still, I wound up paying around $20 for my door plaque.  I furiously rummaged about my garage for some scrap trim.  Then I dug out a pair of old cabinet hinges from my kitchen remodel and modified them enough that they would work on the TARDIS.  The phone panel is nonfunctional, but it turned out pretty well IMO. 

Aaaand, I've decided to talk about the lamp rework in the next post...
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


So.  The lamp. 

A concern with my build was ventilation.  In the Pacific Northwest it tends to get a bit wet outside.  And since the ostensible reason for building my TARDIS was to store stuff, I didn't want it all getting moldy and water damaged. 

This is part of the reason I didn't build the floor in when I built the TARDIS.  It is essentially a plywood pallet that rests inside the walls.  Under the pallet is a PVC sheet, serving as a vapor barrier to reduce the amount of moisture that comes up through the ground.  I wish I had a picture, because this is going to be a bit difficult to explain, but the danger of a vapor barrier is, if you don't do it right, rain falls onto the vapor barrier and then pools on it, creating the very problem you're trying to avoid.  To get around this I have the edges of the vapor barrier sandwiched between the walls and the floor.  Yes, a small amount of moisture could get between the vapor barrier and the walls, but I was also counting on this as a means of ventilating the interior. 

Still, I wanted some sort of roof vents.  But I was reluctant to be cutting holes in a structure with such a flat roof.  One thing I'd learned on my home renovation is how pervasive water can be when it is trying to find its way into a structure.  The way my TARDIS is built, there is a void under the sign lintels and I considered putting vents behind them.  Still might, actually.  But something that interested me was reading up on the actual MkII Gilbert MacKenzie Trench London Police Boxes.  At least one source said the vent for them was in the lamp. 

While it seemed counterintuitive to put a vent in the very top of the structure, in retrospect it makes perfect sense.  When rain hits a building, it runs down it until it either finds its way inside or is forced to drip off.  If you put your vent at the very top there is no running down.  Since my lamp was nonfunctional I could put the vent under the lens and the lens and the shade would keep out any rain. 

The problem was, my solution for a lamp shade was far smaller than I wanted for something that would be keeping out rain.  It also wasn't shaped to create drips as well as I'd have liked.  It was more likely that, as it got wet, rain would run down it and then down the supports and into the base.  Because of the way I'd built things, this probably would've worked, but I didn't want to chance it.  Besides, it gave me an excuse to try something. 

Lowe's had some pretty large solar landscape accent lights for just $5.  If you've ever taken one apart, the entire functional structure is in the "shade."  You've got the solar cell on top, a battery, and then a tiny LED that points down at the plexiglass "lamp", which has a reflector in the bottom.  What I wanted to do was find a small, cheap plastic plate or bowl, cut a hole in it, caulk the top of a solar lamp onto it and then use that as my "shade".  It took me weeks, but eventually I found a 7" blue plastic plate for 68 cents at Wal*Mart.  I cut a hole in it with my Dremel and did some minor jury-rigging to get it to work.  Then I took my deadbolt drill bit and zapped a hole in the roof, just under the light.  I shimmed the lamp so there was a gap for air and then put the whole shebang together.  The results are in the photo:


And the coolest thing is that when it gets dark enough, now the lamp on the TARDIS comes on (for a couple hours.  My TARDIS is under trees so it doesn't get as much sunlight as it should.  Also the days are getting pretty short and rainy, so it doesn't charge up that much). 

So that's the story of my build.  As you can see, the lintel signs are showing some wear and tear.  While I feel that this helps with "weathering" a bit, I may one day redo them.  Apart from that, unless I ever decide to redo the windows, it is pretty much done!
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.



Thanks.  In prop parlance it certainly isn't a "hero" build by any stretch of the imagination.  But it is arguably a better prop than the BBC had back in the '70s--which is my favorite era of Doctor Who.  ;D
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


I really appreciate your post, thanks. I think the final effect once weathered in your final picture is a real good example of the older tardis. I really like it, it's nostalgic.

Good job dude I can only hope mine comes out half as well.


Thanks. The photos hide some of the rough edges of my workmanship, but they also hide some of the detail of the weathering.  It really turned out quite nice if I say so myself. 

First disclaimer is that all the dirt spatters along the bottom edge are actual dirt spatters.  Sitting under trees, it has dirt around it and when it rains, that is the effect it creates. 

Since I'd been obsessing that I'd gotten the blue wrong--and the gloss level (I went with a semigloss)--when I found a can of satin Oxford blue Krylon I used it sparingly for detail work.  Adds just a hint of grime, dullness, and discoloration in the nooks and crannies (because one can of spraypaint won't remotely cover a full-sized TARDIS). 

Then I hit all the low spots with a tube of lamp black acrylic and a damp rag to create even more grime and neglect.  Finally I hit the high spots with an old light grey oil pastel and some chalk to make it look like the paint was washing away and then left some clumps of dried up white acrylic on top of the roof and corner posts so the rain could wash it down over everything a bit.  All in all, the effect turned out quite well. 
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


it's a great build. diffinately reminds me of the original tardis. all that matters is that your happy with it.  my tardis is nothing to brag about by far but i finally got it over to my appartment today and set it up. it's not done yet but it's gonna be out of the snow for now anyways. but i can't be happier that it's here and set up. be proud of your work thats for sure.


Nov 29, 2011, 11:06 pm #23 Last Edit: Nov 29, 2011, 11:09 pm by volpone
Finished.*  Today it was dry and I had some time to kill, so I broke out the rag and the black artist's acrylic and dirtied up the new lamp, the trim around the door sign, and the "windows."  I've decided that unless I come into some serious money, the windows are good enough.  So I added a bit of "grime" around the edges of the "frosted" ones and then thoroughly dirtied up the "pebbled" ones.  

Now that I'm "done," it's time to post some beauty shots over in the gallery, so here's a teaser:

Sadly, these are from my current phone camera so the picture quality is terrible.  As a sidenote, if you look at the pictures, I was off on my math when I made my cut list, so I ran out of 1x4 and had to buy more.  The actual width of the new 1x4 is maybe 1/16th inch thicker than the existing trim, so some of the crossbars on my door panels stand out noticeably.  I don't know, maybe some day I'll try to sand them enough to camouflage the difference, but for now that's a very low priority.  

Ugh. I know the back side isn't as true as I'd like, but I think some of the wobble on the artsy photo is a trick of the camera lens.  Incidentally, these photos were taken within about 2 minutes of each other on an evenly overcast day.  The difference in color is strictly due to the way shadow is hitting the box.

*Until I decide to rework the lintel signs.   Now that I think about it, I think the plywood that got trimmed down from the walls is the right size for a veneer.  I can cut out sign openings in them, trim them to the right size, and put them over the existing lintels (with slightly upgraded signage).  But that's a project for when I don't have anything else to do.  
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


I like it. Well done. You have yourself a Tardis! Like what you did with the interior.


You know what the problem is? 99% of people never build a TARDIS.  And if you DO build a TARDIS, 99% of the time you're only going to build one TARDIS.  There's a term in business, I forget it at the moment, about the efficiency gained the more times you do something.  As you build something, you figure out ways to build it faster, better, simpler, and less expensive.  All these improvements make you more profitable which, in turn, allows you to either have higher margins on your sales or lower prices to draw more customers.  The problem is, with TARDISes, what are you going to do once you've got one in your back yard?  Put another one in your front yard?  The guest bedroom?  The garage? 

Just to be clear, the forum rules point out that you can't discuss building TARDISes for profit here--at least you can't use the forum as a marketing tool.  That said, when I first built this thing--even before I got all the finish work done--I had a couple friends tell me I should build them for a living.  Now my actual carpentry skills notwithstanding, I rattled off a long list of reasons why this wouldn't be practical--particularly for me:  The fact that the image is owned by the BBC.  The fact that--at least for me--it would be a custom build each time, so you'd pretty much have to be in the city you're building.  The challenge that a customer would need:  enough money to buy a TARDIS (which, if I were making one, would be for more than I'd be willing to pay for one ;) ), having a place to put one, and having neighbors/roommates that would tolerate a 9' blue box standing around the house.  All told I just didn't think it would make any sense.  Buuut....

It is frustrating, because I know I could do so much better a job now.  I could radically simplify my design while actually making it stronger and better looking.  The other thing that would be fun is purpose-building TARDISes.  If I were making a TARDIS to be a garden shed, I'd build it differently than if I were making one for a fan to take to conventions or make fan films with.  Heck, just living in Portland and the whole mantra of "keep Portland weird", it would be tremendously fun to build a takedown model to just set up around town to make people's days more interesting.  And if I ever get a million dollars, maybe I'd have the time and money to do that.  But for now, I'll content myself with my cool little garden shed. 

And in the next post, I'll share a couple of my lessons learned.  Because while I can't prevent myself from making the mistakes I made (sadly my TARDIS is more like the 3rd Doctor's--stranded where it is), at least some other people can learn how I'd have done things differently. 
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


Nov 30, 2011, 07:14 pm #26 Last Edit: Nov 30, 2011, 11:39 pm by rassilonsrod
Don't overbuild. I decided 4x4s would be the best way to do the corner posts.  I figured it would be strong, simple, and affordable.  Truth be told, I could've used 1x4s with 1/4 round(s) and it would've been about as simple, nearly as strong, and not much more expensive.  I think if I were doing it again, I'd use 2x4s.  I think 2x4s (with a 1/4 round) would be the simplest, strongest, least expensive way to do the corners.  

Because I used 4x4s, I had the posts attached to the side walls and then the door and the back wall were tied into them by the base, sign lintels, glue, a decent amount of caulk, and (to a degree) the roof.  With 2x4s, I could build 3 identical sides and a 4th side that was nearly identical with the addition of a door cutout, get it all in position and use blocks on the inside to attach the 2x4s to each other.  (If I were doing a portable version and money was no object, I'd consider 1x corner posts, but I think the 2x4 is the happy medium for most solutions which brings me to...

Keep it simple, stupid.  I actually tried to do this, but the irony is some of my simplifying steps impacted other steps.  I based my plans on dimensions for the Brachacki that I found online.  That design used 1x4s for the crossbars on the walls and 1x3s for the rails.  But it doesn't use solid 4x4s for the corner posts.  So my posts are close to 2" narrower than Brachaki's (a nominal 4x4 will be more like 3.5x3.5, but 1x4s butted up against each other and trimmed with 1/4 round(s) will be more like 4.5 wide, depending on how you build them).  Because my corner posts are narrower, my doors wind up wider.  So when I used 1x3 rails, my panels wound out being much more square than I'd have liked.  If I'd kept it simple and just used 1x4s across the build, the dimensions would've come out better.  

Remember, you're doing everything 4 times.  Maybe more.  I came up short on my initial cut list because I hadn't counted all the pieces I needed.  Some of it was pieces I didn't realize I needed--things that were out of sight but where I needed a spacer to keep the dimensions right, and waste, where I got a cut wrong and had to redo it, but some of it was just forgetting how many times I'd be doing something.  This was most common on multiples within multiples.  You've got four sides.  Each side has two windows.  Each window has trim on four sides and then six panes within.  I wound up going back about three times before I finally had enough trim for the windows.  

Try to plan everything.  Understand that you won't get everything right, but at least have an idea how you're going to do things--especially if you're need to have a TARDIS you can take apart and move.  I really had no idea how my roof was going to go together, but I figured it would work out.  It did.  But the result was less elegant, integrated, and sturdy than it would've been if I'd thought it through first.  (Or course if I'd tried to think it through, maybe I'd have never gotten around to doing it, so there you go.)  

Oh, and here's what I wound up using for my Fresnel lamp:  Click Here

Actually, they used to sell just the glass for around $3, but the last couple times I've been in they haven't had that in stock and I couldn't find it on the Website.
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


Fantastic advice. The thought did occur to me like you said, and like so many things in life, that the second one will be so much easier having gained the experience of the first...


Whoops! Turns out I found some more photos from early in the build.  Since mine is more of a 3rd Doctor's TARDIS (in that it doesn't actually travel in time and space) I'm stuck inserting them here.  Sorry if they turn out small.  Had to use the "thumbnail" version or edit down my phone's snapshots.

Framing up the sides:
Another shot.  The lintel signs and base are structural elements, as you can see:
One side built (couldn't resist laying out some of the hardware on it to check the look), starting on the other:
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


Some great advice there, and an impressive build.

I havn't got a full sized build (yet!) for much the same reasons that originally prevented you having one, but I love seeing other people make theirs although this does have the effect of making me want one even more.

You are right with the old "next time I would...." thinking about box building. I have made a few TARDIS/police box models and everytime I always think this, and of course everytime I make a new one I think this one will be the best!

How is your weather proofing doing? On that point, how well is the door keeping the elements out?