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Sorvan's TARDIS

Started by Sorvan, Nov 06, 2005, 04:30 am

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Nov 06, 2005, 04:30 am Last Edit: Apr 01, 2010, 09:06 am by Scarfwearer
I'm sure that I discovered Doctor Who a little differently from most of you.  I found the Doctor in the school library in around 1980.  It was only after telling one of my friends about the book "Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters" that I was informed there was actually a TV show.  I managed to find a few more books, but it wasn't until 1983 that I actually saw an episode thanks to a video rental place that had a pirated copy of The Five Doctors (I was living in Kenya at the time, all the videos in the stores were pirated).  A few years later (and living again in Canada) I discovered that Doctor Who was on TV where some of my relatives lived, and I managed to convince them to send me tapes.  I managed to infect quite a few people in Winnipeg before Doctor Who finally started showing on a local channel a few years later.

I remember thinking that it would be really cool to have a full size TARDIS when I was younger.  My first build was 1 foot tall (made out of card stock) with the specifications from the Doctor Who Technical Manual.  My next build was a computer model.  I don't remember what the program was called (back in 1989), but I do remember that it didn't have a graphical user interface, so I had to feed it a series of coordinates, and tell it which coordinates to use to build triangles.  Over the years my fanaticism faded, but with the new series I became interested again, and on one of my romps through the Internet discovered the people were building full size TARDISs, and that's really cool.

So here I am.  I've bought a fresnel lens, and have started planning my build.  I've been spending a lot of time working in Corel Draw to figure out exactly what I'd like to do.  I'm planning my build around the Trench plans and since I'll be putting the thing outside, I'm planning on making everything sloped so that it'll be able to stand up to the rain and snow a bit better.  I'll be building the thing out of dimensional lumber and plywood (no MDF), and have been thinking about fiberglassing the roof to give it a bit more protection (but since I've never used fiberglass before, we'll see).

I've been planning and doing research, but today I decided that I wanted to actually play with my tools (I got lots of tools), so I grabbed some scrap wood and made a window frame.

As you can probably see, I wasn't too concerned with measuring accurately.  I just wanted to see if building the windows this way would be a good idea and to get an impression if this was the right width of the bars for me (so now I'll know how large I need to get the glass).

I'd like to have windows that can open, but in an outdoor environment I need to build them a little differently than many of you.  I'll also need to build a frame to fit around the window (which will fit into the opening of the wall) which will need to be just right to be able to open properly yet still keep the weather out.  I just have to say that I'm thrilled with the detailed pictures that people have posted.  I can see how the windows in the real police boxes worked, so I'm going to try to emulate them.

I'm thinking that perhaps what I should do is to build one "perfect" set and then see about casting them in resin.  I've really got to pick up some resin to play with.  The only resin I've used so far has been to patch the crack at the bottom of the sewer stack in my basement (yay, fun!).

The next thing I want to do is find some really nice pebbled glass.  I love the stuff that Timegirl and mantawrays have, but the website Timegirl mentioned doesn't appear to exist anymore.  Hopefully I can find some of that stuff somewhere else.



Nov 06, 2005, 10:20 am #1 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:37 pm by scarfwearer
Hi Sorvan
It's great hearing how you discovered Doctor Who. I hadn't really thought about it having grown up with the TV series, my whole family just watched it religiously from when I was a kid.
But I too have longed for a life size TARDIS for many years.

I must say your window frames look great - you obviously know what you are doing with woodwork (always impresses me) :)
Those glass people are still around but they have put their prices up  >:( (UK based but they will send glass anywhere). They call the glass Hammered on their match page. I think the website is still there.
Have you seen how Mantawrays has cast the glass in the 'pebbled glass' thread? - it looks Fab.
Looking forward to seeing more of your build pictures! And I'd be interested to hear how you are going to make the TARDIS water tight  (something I'm worried about with mine)


Nov 06, 2005, 04:04 pm #2 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:37 pm by scarfwearer
Hi Timegirl,

I think the major way I'm planning on making the box waterproof is by designing it to be so, and then using fiberglass and epoxy to deal with the other bits.  The fiberglass probably isn't really necessary, I've just been looking at websites talking about boat building... and no, I don't intend to be paddling my box around a lake when I'm done.

If you want to learn more about epoxy, there's an online book that you can download from  You have to become a member (it's free, and they haven't sent me any spam yet).  The Epoxy Book is also available from a few other sites, but this one has the most current version of it (they wrote it).

For an example of how I'm trying to design it to be waterproof, here's a cross section for the stepped part of the roof:

The lighter bits are dimensional lumber (2x4s and 2x6s), and the darker bits are 3/4" plywood.  Since the reveals are 1 1/2" wide (which is the actual width of a 2x4) I could just cut the angle of the step and leave it at that - but this would leave a vertical join which I would very much like to avoid (for both strength and water issues).  To make all of this a bit easier to cut, I'm planning on assembling the three 2x6s with plywood bits together before cutting the 45 degree angles necessary to join them together (and trust me, when It comes to this, I'll really be making sure my mitre saw is at exactly 45 degrees).

I realize that I'm probably overdoing it, but if I've learned anything from my father, it's if you're going to build something, overbuild it.

I swear, when I tried going to a few days ago it didn't work.  It's there now!



Nov 08, 2005, 04:03 pm #3 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:37 pm by scarfwearer
Thanks for the link to the Epoxy book - very interesting and all the stuff about fiberglassing is new to me. I've now been looking at some UK sites for boat building to see their waterproofing options.

Your roof design looks neat - they way the ply is set into in the wood looks nice but probably requires routing/saw table skills - a bit beyond me :(. Will the roof be quite heavy using that lumber?

I've been trying out a bitumen backed flashing strip over the wood on my roof but it is difficult to get it smooth and to hide the joints so I'm looking at other options for weatherproofing.

Looks like the glass studio have changed their website - probably why they disappeared for a bit.



Nov 08, 2005, 07:15 pm #4 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:38 pm by scarfwearer
Hi Timegirl,

Yeah, I will be making extensive use of my table saw.  I don't think of it as being terribly difficult.  It just requires a bit of planning to make sure that when I set up an angle, to actually cut all the pieces that need that angle (that way if my  angle is slightly off, everything will still match up).  It is the sort of thing I'll need help from my fiancee with though - it's best to have someone feeding the wood into the saw while someone else is supporting it on the other side.

Will it be heavy?  Well, that all depends what you consider heavy.  It'll be lighter than concrete. ;D  Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if it would be lighter than some of the MDF roofs out there - MDF is really heavy stuff.  I'm expecting that I'll wind up with a heavy box in general, but since I intend it to sit in my back yard and don't intend to move it around, I don' t think that'll be a problem.  My primary concern is making something that will withstand the elements.  In Winnipeg the temperature ranges from around -40C to +40C and I can get 3 to 4 foot snow drifts in my back yard.

So I sent the glass studio an email on the weekend, but haven't heard back from them yet. :P  <impatience>  Once I do get the glass I'll be casting like Mantawrays did, but I think I'll try to get one larger piece of glass and cut apart the cast resin afterward.



Nov 08, 2005, 11:09 pm #5 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:38 pm by scarfwearer
The old Season 18 style roof of my box weighs 60lbs (27kg). Not too heavy (no MDF), but you have to carry this up a step ladder and put it on top of the box about 7' from the ground without damaging the paintwork, which is no joke. My newer roof is heavier... Perhaps with 2 step ladders and an assistant it might not be so hard. I put a blanket over the top of the box last time I put the roof on to protect the paint, and slipped it out once the roof was in place.

Would love to see a picture of your finished box buried 3' deep in snow some day :o

I imagine you'll still need some sealant on the outside - water can travel uphill through narrow gaps by capilliary action... when it isn't frozen, that is.



Nov 09, 2005, 01:01 am #6 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:38 pm by scarfwearer
Since my box will be outside, I'd better have a sturdy coat of paint on it that can stand up to abuse.  If it would have a paint job that could be damaged by me setting it up, I doubt it'd be able to handle rain, snow, hail, small animals etc.   I don't think I'll go as crazy as LPU paint (US$120/gallon), a good exterior house paint would seem more likely.

Seeing it in 3' of snow would be cool.  My fiancee suggested that at the rate many of my projects progress, this may happen in 9 years or so. :P

Water is certainly a huge concern.  While several feet of snow wouldn't be a concern as long as it's snow, I would imagine that on a sunny day a dark blue box might absorb some of the sun's rays and heat up the interior - melting a little of the snow that's touching the box.  It'll be important to make sure to protect both inside and outside from water I think.  I suspect I don't want a solid floor just in case any water does get in (I wonder how much it would cost for a metal grate?).



Nov 27, 2005, 02:15 am #7 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:39 pm by scarfwearer
After investigating the possibility of casting my window frames out of resin, I've come to the conclusion that it it's just too expensive.

I started making windows out of Western Red Cedar, but after a while I determined that this wasn't a good choice for all the small pieces (a bit too brittle), and after exchanging emails with Ironageman I've decided to do 6 opening windows instead of just the 4 that I had purchased wood for.  I decided to complete a whole frame though so I could see if my concept would work.  So here's what I've done:

I decided to give my dad a call and ask him what I should use.  Of course his response was "I've got the perfect wood right here"... if only he weren't half a continent away.  So now I've got to decide if I'll just purchase more expensive wood, or wait for someone to head this way from the coast that can bring the wood with them...  I suppose I could start working on another aspect of the project.

If I've accomplished nothing else by this "test", I have a great smelling basement now.



Nov 27, 2005, 04:56 am #8 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:39 pm by scarfwearer
Those look like really nicely made frames. They should stand up to the elements pretty well, I imagine. From the sound of it you have harsher exterior weather than many of us. I'd be interested to hear your recommendation for the perfect wood - is there something better than cedar for this?



Nov 27, 2005, 06:30 am #9 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:39 pm by scarfwearer
Well, one thing you have to realize is that "Western Red Cedar" isn't actually a cedar, it's a softwood that probably got the name because it's aromatic.  I bought some because I know it is resistant to decay and it's fairly cheap.

My father's "perfect wood" is yellow cedar (which I believe isn't a real cedar either), is also resistant to decay and is harder.  I think the thing that makes it "perfect" is that my dad has a pile of it in his shed.

He also suggested western hemlock if I couldn't wait, but stressed that it needs to be painted as it's not as resistant to decay.

I found a website which deals with these and other woods from British Columbia, Canada:
Different types of trees are listed on the left side.

Of course, since this board is global, you may have other options in your local market which are better than these.



Nov 27, 2005, 05:43 pm #10 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:40 pm by scarfwearer
Those frames are looking excellent Sorvan! In fact, if they are just the test ones - can I have them?  ;)
I hadn't actually thought of looking for types of wood for the build - I was just happy when I found the right size.

You are certainly building it for "900 years of phone box travel"



Nov 27, 2005, 07:04 pm #11 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:40 pm by scarfwearer
Timegirl, no problem - how about I trade you for some pebbled glass  ;D  I recently got a quote from the place you got your glass from... eek!

My big fear is that I'll spend countless hours making a box, only to have it rot away in a few years.  I don't know what it's like around you, but there are a lot of lumber yards where I live, so it was only time before I started wondering if I should just make it out of spruce (the cheapest wood locally), or something else.  In addition, it's an extra excuse to sit in front of my computer doing research instead of actually building the thing.  ;)

In truth, most of my box will be built out of spruce - I don't have an unlimited budget.  I figure that most of the box can be heavily coated in paint without causing any problems, so any kind of wood I use can be fairly protected by that method.  For the window frame (and probably the doors), if I put too much paint on them they won't open and close any more so I'll use a better wood.



Nov 28, 2005, 08:33 pm #12 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:40 pm by scarfwearer
I wondered how you were going to make convincing opening windows in wood.
That's how.
leonard cohen  1934-2016  standing by the window where the light is strong


Nov 29, 2005, 04:28 am #13 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:41 pm by scarfwearer
I guess I've decided to wait for my father to send me some wood for the windows, because I picked up up wood for the roof last night.  I'd already figured out all the angles that I need to use, so I got the lumber yard to cut the 4'x8' sheet into the two pieces I needed, but I still needed to cut the triangles of the roof myself.

My initial thought was that I could use my portable circular saw, but even with using the fence (I have a fence that clamps to the piece of wood you're cutting), I wasn't thrilled with the idea, since I also wanted to have the blade cutting at an angle (so the pieces will theoretically butt together nicely), and I wasn't sure how easily it would be to adjust this angle properly on the saw.

After thinking about it for a while, I came to the realization that I should use the table saw, and that I could align the wood properly by using the mitre slots in the table.

To make sure this would work, I cut down a strip of wood that would fit in the slot (making sure that it wasn't too tight or too loose), and screwed this to a board.

I set the angle of the saw blade (just under 79.5°), dropped the strip of wood in the slot and ran the board through the saw.

It worked great, and flipping it upside-down, I can see exactly how far away I'll have to mount the strip of wood for the blade to cut exactly on my cutting line.

This will leave me with little screw holes on my plywood, but the way I'm planning to cut this, they'll all be on the inside of the roof, where it doesn't really matter.  Tomorrow I'll cut the plywood apart, and will find out if I have indeed remembered my trigonometry from high school.



Nov 29, 2005, 10:10 am #14 Last Edit: Mar 12, 2010, 02:41 pm by scarfwearer
Hi Sorvan,

Took me a while to stumble across your build thread  and I must say I'm very impressed with your window frame design. I  recently made up some more window frames a la KiwiDoc's build guide ( a big improvement on my original frame design) and even that amount of mental juggling (making sure not to cut the grooves on the wrong side) was challenging enough( being a bear with little brain).

I really like the way you have built the rear of the frames so that the glass fits up against the frames nicely. From the pictures I've seen of Crich this looks the same.

I've just finished my third window frame replete with cast pebbled glass and while they look fine must confess that I probably made a bit of a mistake ordering the glass panes so that they would fit exactly in the holes of the frames. It means that fixing them in place requires the use of pins and putty and although the panes won't fall out, it's not as well designed as it could have been. You clearly won't have this problem with your design. I hope you manage to source the glass more cheaply than antique studio. I certainly couldn't afford any more than 4 panes after they put their prices up.

It looks like the rest of your build is going to be of the same quality. Especially excited that you are building a Mackenzie Trench Police Box, like Mark. It'll be the first one in history  that side of the pond! Looking forward to lots of pictures.