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Camping Tardis

Started by Shwalamazula, Mar 23, 2019, 10:11 pm

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Mar 23, 2019, 10:11 pm Last Edit: Jul 10, 2019, 05:37 am by shwalamazula
I have been wanting to make a Tardis for a long time. I was originally going to knock out the wall behind my pantry and make the front of the pantry into a Tardis but I was told that permanent modifications to a home we are not sure how long we would be living at would not be good.

I finally decided I want to create a Tardis that I can disassemble and take with me camping. I generally camp in big groups for festivals and parties and I thought having a Tardis to mark my camp space would be the coolest thing. Also, I can just pop it up anywhere with little effort. I asked my brother-in-law if I could use some of his woodworking tools for the build and he said sure. So, I wont be building it in an itty bitty condo garage. Yay!

Looking around for different plan sets, I came across the WWMM plans ( This looks like a sturdy build that I can create with limited tools. I have seen some really cool steel and fiberglass and steel and wood builds, but I do not have the resources to do something like that. So, with that, I am going to do my build based largely on the WWMM plans. I do plan to modify the build along the way because I really want this to be an indoor/outdoor Tardis (so I will have to put in molding and the angled roof and a ton of waterproofing). I may end up making more modifications along the way to make it more camp friendly.

I just finished my initial material list:

8ft Lumber
1 x 4 - 27
1" x 2" - 4
1" x 6" - 12
2" x 4" - 6
1" x 1" - 3

6ft Lumber
1/2" x 1/2" - 6

Hardboard 1/8"
4' x 8' - 4

Some of the materials will be updated as I look around the hardware store. I may not be able to find long 1x1 planks but I can get a 1x2 and cut it in half. Same for the .5 x .5. Plexiglass is hard to pin down in the sizes I need so I think I will just wing it for that. I have a spreadsheet I will link to this in a bit; I made an initial material list for the base WWMM plans.



Mar 23, 2019, 10:57 pm #1 Last Edit: Mar 28, 2019, 10:59 pm by shwalamazula
I transfered my primary materials list to a google sheet:

First I went page by page to get dimensions of all the called-out parts. Then I figured out the dimensions and started making a build list. Finally, I looked for the type of material I would need (8ft lumber for most). I know the wood may not all be to the same dimension (tolerances and such) so I made sure that once I figured out how many planks I need, I added buffers. The largest buffer is for the 1x4x12 slats for the walls. I know that an 8ft piece of wood should be able to give me 8 12" pieces but realistically, I may get 7 12" pieces and 1 11.75" piece. So I just took the amount of raw pieces I needed and added 1 12" piece for every 8ft board and then added them up and made sure to add another plank for every 7 pieces.

I made a few other guesses like that to make sure I had plenty of wood. I had thought of drawing out an optimal cutlist but I am a bit lazy for that and it would really depend on precise measurements.


Mar 24, 2019, 04:39 pm #2 Last Edit: Mar 28, 2019, 11:01 pm by shwalamazula
La Casa del Depot

My brother-in-law does woodworking as a hobby and told me to check all of my wood to make sure it was straight before I purchased it. This had never crossed my mind. Going thru the wood at the store, there was a ton of it that was cupped, bowed, and twisted. I ended up bringing 2 lumber carts with me, so that I could keep a cart for the wood I was not going to use and a cart for the wood I was going to use. The staff at the store were really happy that I did this. I ended up getting pressure-treated wood for the base 2x4s (since that will be in contact with the ground) and pine for the rest.


After getting wood, I needed hardboard for the wall backings and plexiglass for the windows. I had not realized how damn heavy a 4x8 sheet of hardboard would be nor did I realize how expensive plexiglass was.

I ended up getting all of my supplies except the bits I needed to make the window frames and the sign frame. I figured I would hold off on those until I got the walls done. All in all, it wasn't a terrible trip and everything fit just fine in my little 6ft Ranger bed. Huzzah!



Mar 26, 2019, 03:03 am #3 Last Edit: Mar 28, 2019, 11:03 pm by shwalamazula
I started cutting the wood for the build on Sunday. I started out with the 40 12" pieces for the walls/doors. I got a little carried away cutting and ended up cutting 2 extra 1x4 planks. On the plus side, I had extras. I will most likely need to go to the store to get more 1x4 later in the build.


After getting the 12" pieces cut I used a Kreg jig to put pockets in the wood for joining later. I put 4 pockets in each piece (that's 160 holes). Once that was completed, I cut the vertical pieces for the walls/doors. 3 of these pieces needed pockets drilled in them for joining the walls. I put a pocket in .5" from the top and bottom of the piece and then approximately every 12" after.


Once all of the pockets were drilled, I started laying out the frames. I made sure that any wood with big chips or holes was on the same side as the pockets, so that they would be hidden. I also made sure to separate out the 3 vertical frame pieces so that I would not accidentally build a frame with the joining pockets. I also used the video example of cutting a spacer for the windows/panels and making sure to align the bottom of the frame without the spacer. Because of this, I made sure to mark the top of each frame as TOP so that I would have windows the same size. I also marked on the vertical pieces which ones were the mating edge so that I could quickly identify them in the future.

I made sure that I had the pieces butted up tight together and clamped down before I screwed in the pocket screws. I over-tightened a couple screws and they ended up spinning in the pocket. My brother-in-law noticed this and set the torque collar on the drill so that I would not ever-tighten any more screws. I eventually was able to remove my training wheels around the 4th frame.


The last couple frames were some of the most annoying. There was warping in the wood that made it a bit annoying to align my pieces. Fortunately, this is only pine, so it is easily clamped in place and you can force its shape pretty easily.



Mar 28, 2019, 04:43 pm #4 Last Edit: Mar 28, 2019, 11:03 pm by shwalamazula
Last night was sanding. I sanded all the interface points to make sure that everything was nice and flat. I also sanded the back of each frame to take the burrs out of the pockets (just to reduce potential future slivers). This took about 1.5 hours to get all of the frames sanded down. Before sanding, I checked the interfaces on the front and back of the frames to make sure there were no big gaps. Some of the pieces were gapped on the front but not the back (the side I was assembling). I went back and cranked down the loose screws to butt the ends up completely. I learned a thing here, apparently, any wood/wood interface should have wood glue applied. I did not apply wood glue to any of the frames when doing the cross pieces. I was not going to go back and do it. But it is something I will keep in mind for the rest of the build.


One of the things I have noticed that I really like on the actual Tardis images is the bevels. All of the exposed edges are beveled. I read on another post that the bevels are great for helping to weather-proof the Tardis. I was also informed by my brother-in-law that the bevels help to guard against damage. The hard edges chip and splinter very easily. By beveling the edges, you remove the chances of an impact splintering off a big chunk of wood.

We used a router to get the bevels in the frames. I didn't do the outside of the frames because they would be hidden by the corner supports. Same goes for the top and bottom of the frames (no beveling there). My first frame had a boo boo. We tested the router and I was instructed on how to use it. Somehow, even though we had perfect practice runs, the bit got loose on the first real run. This made the bit drop and gouge out a nasty groove in the first frame. On the plus side, this one is a base frame and the worst damage is on one of the 12" pieces. So I can either do sanding to try and correct it and hide it on the back panel, or I can swap out the piece with one of my many extras and re-route.


Once the bit got re-set, the routing went really quick. I made a big mess but it was oodles of fun.


Next, I will have to sand down the newly beveled bits and install the hardboard backing.


Would it be better to have the glossy side of the hardboard facing out or the matte side? The matt side seems like it will take in paint better.


Looking really good so far!
I used the glossy side outwards for my hardboard backing as I thought the back side was too rough. I did give it a light sanding over however before I painted it so it would hold the paint better.
Hope that helps.


How well did it hold paint? I am not as concerned about the texture, i am mainly concerned about the paint flaking after i seal it. Did the sanding make a big difference?


Looking at the WWMM video, the windows are just glued on and the frames just glued onto the acrylic. This would have been acceptable for flat edges but it's gonna look really off with the routing. I think I may need to cut channels in the main frame to put the little frame bits in so that they can better merge with the beveled edges. I will have to look into this a bit more.

Poking around the site a bit, I really like the textured glass and other things people did for their window builds. I am not going to change my materials for the windows but I really don't want to just spray them (i want them semi-transparent). After some web surfing, I had a think, window film. I have seen it applied to bathroom windows and you can get it in nearly any color, tint, or pattern. I am going to do some hunting and see if I can get some with a pebbly texture and some with just a tint (like car window tint). I can then mark out the areas on the Plexiglas and apply the film and then attach the plexi to the frame. I think it is a good idea and I wanted to leave it somewhere where I would not forget it. This seems like a good place.



In answer to your question, the hardboard held the paint fine.
I used undercoat then exterior emulsion the 1st time round, then I repainted it with exterior gloss.
I had no problem with paint flaking, except for on the roof (& that was ply, not hardboard anyway.)

If you think about it, many exterior doors are made from hardboard & they hold their paint fine.

Finally, yes, I do think that the light sanding I gave the hardboard prior to painting helped the paint to "stick" better.

Hope this helps!




Apr 05, 2019, 04:13 am #9 Last Edit: Apr 05, 2019, 04:15 am by shwalamazula
I was getting really distracted by the damage that the falling router bit made on the frame. I went over it a few times and then we decided to repair the frame before cleaning up the sanding. I started by taking off the long board. This was useful because there was a big chunk of material missing on that piece.


The little cross beam came next.


I had cut way too many 12" pieces, so it was easy to just grab another one. I just had to put 4 pockets in that piece and make a new long board. Because the frame had pocket holes drilled into it, the replacement long board needed pocket holes like the original. I put a pocket 2 inches from the top and bottom and then a foot spacing in between. Once the pockets were drilled, I could re-assemble the frame.


I went back over the inner frame with the router to round out the edges. That cleaned it up very nice but stubbornness got the best of me and that darn groove had to be corrected.


With a combination of power sander and mechanical sander, I was able to erase the gouge. It turned out really nice.


After the repair, I got the sander and cleaned up the front and back of the frame with 150 grit and did most of the inner frames with the 150 grit. The sander will cause flat spots, so I found it easier to hold the sander steady while tilting the frame to keep the nice bevel. After that I hand sanded all of the corners. It was this moment that I found that I hate hand sanding. It is terrible. There are 4 corners on each inner frame, 4 inner frames on each frame, and 8 frames. That is 128 corners to sand and correct. Not a fan at all. The result was nice though, so I can only whine a little.



Apr 05, 2019, 04:57 am #10 Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 05:03 am by shwalamazula
Yup, more sanding. This time it's totally my own choice. I took russellsuthern's advice and decided to sand the smooth side of my hardboard so that future paint would hold better. Before I could sand, I had to cut these big 4' x 8' sheets into something more manageable.


The panels are not big enough to have 8 sections that cover 3 windows. There is enough room, however, for 6 full size panels, this covers the 3 walls. One of the front doors only needs 2 windows covered (because I will be making a phone door) and the main door will need 3 covered. These 2 4' x 8' pieces can be cut up to easily provide the pieces necessary. Here's the markup (A are the 3 window panels and B are the 2 window panels):


Buzz Buzz Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Now each hardboard piece gets sanded with the power sander. This stuff creates a very fine powder that gets up in the air like a cloud of baby powder. A box fan with a furnace filter attached to it helps clear the air. Wear your masks kids!


When the sanding was complete, we didn't have too much time left in the night but enough to do something. So we cut 8 1x6s to length for the outer corners of the Tardis. Once they were cut to length, they had to be cut to width. This wasn't too bad. It certainly helped to have someone pulling on the backside of the table saw to keep the board from moving around.

Before wrapping up for the night, I put pockets into the thinner boards, same as before, 2" from top and bottom and 12" in between.



Apr 05, 2019, 05:20 am #11 Last Edit: Apr 05, 2019, 05:22 am by shwalamazula
Today I started to put the frames together. I remembered to put glue on the wood/wood surfaces. We put paper down under the frames so that we didn't end up gluing the frames to the table. We had to use a lot of clamps to make sure that these pieces were tight and immobile for the pocket screws. Marking "TOP" on all of the frames helped a bunch to properly align the frames.

Tip: If you use a silicon basting brush to spread the wood glue, it easily peels off the silicon when the wood glue dries.


Once the two sides were mated, I flipped the frame over and sanded down the middle seam. I then flipped the frame back over and pre-aligned the hardboard panels. To help align the panels after the glue is put on the frame, I marked the 4 corners on the hardboard so that they could be used to align the panels.


Once the boards were aligned, we used a Brad Nailer to nail down the boards.


It was at this point that I learned a valuable lesson, if you are nailing into a blind space, draw the outline of the hidden bits so you do not eyeball wrong. Unfortunately, I eyeballed wrong and nails came out the other side. Fortunately, it was on the top portion of one of the bottom panels, so nobody would notice unless they were laying on the ground.


That was an easy fix, I just had to tap the nails back out and sand a bit to get rid of the evidence. We may use some sawdust and urethane to fill the little spot holes. On the next frame, we remembered to properly draw the cross bits so we didn't have to guess where we were shooting nails.


The second frame went much more smoothly. During this bit, I found that even though the nailer makes little holes in the wood that look like a nail has been fired, the nailer has no way of telling you it is empty and you are just making blank holes. I felt a bit dumb here. But we re-loaded the nailer, and found out where the nailer stopped nailing (one of the first corner nails) and I was able to just re-nail all of the holes. I decided to wait to sand the front on this one till the panels were attached. It was just less flipping. Now I am 2 walls down and one to go.



I am thinking about ideas for the windows and how I eventually will light the box. The plans call for acrylic for the windows, which I am totally on board with. This thing is going to be popped up and moved around a lot, so whatever I can do to lower weight and breaking bits is a good idea. I am debating how I am going to treat the acrylic. I found textured window film that has that pebbled glass look that the lower windows have and I found straight up white privacy film. The thing is, if I put the white privacy film on all of the windows, I will not be able to see out of it (which may not be a big issue). If I decide not to put the white privacy film on the non-textured windows, I'll be able to see out of it but I will not get that cool lighting. I could offset this with little white curtains, but that will be another part I will need to travel with. I know I'll figure something out.

I was really inspired by pmc's Tardis build ( I love the lighting and the Arduino control is just cool. I think I want to do something like this. I am going to have to make it a bit more take-apart friendly. I will most likely have weatherproofed connectors for the various parts and then a central control/power box that will have some sort of mount point. I think the fun part will be figuring out how to hang the signs on the outside and have a power connector for them that is weather proof and fairly rugged.


Best of luck on the windows and lighting.  It sounds enough like you're asking for advice that I'll throw in my 2 cents.  For the lighting, I'm a big believer in keeping it simple and "if it ain't broke..."  The way, as I understand it, the actual London police boxes were lit was nothing more than a bare bulb, at the height of the POLICE BOX signs.  This lit the signs.  It lit the windows.  It lit the phone panel.  It lit the interior if a Bobby needed to pop in after dark for something.  Simple.  Effective. 

The most common (and easiest and probably cheapest) solution on windows is to use "crackle" pattern fluorescent light diffuser.  This won't let you see out.  And it isn't terribly accurate.  But 99.99999% of people won't notice.  It's what I used--until I decided to get fancy.  I've still got the crackle diffusers for the backbone, but for the bottom center one, I planned to add a dark blue theater lighting "gel".  Turned out it was harder to get one of these than I'd expected so, while casting about for one, I found a document binder that was the right color in the stationary section at the supermarket that I used for that.  For the pebbled glass, I eventually found clear acrylic beads at a craft store.  I made molds of my window panes from tinfoil--just went out and pressed it into all the nooks and crannies to get the shape.  Then I filled my forms with the beads and baked them in my electric oven at a fairly low setting until they melted together.  I wound up baking them, checking them and baking them again.  It seemed to work better.  A chemist might be able to tell you a scientific reason for this.  I am not a chemist. 

I had a theory that, if I cleaned up the top, crackle panes well, mixed up some fiberglass resin and skimmed that over them, they'd clear up enough to see through.  I've never gotten around to testing this theory.  While it might be another piece, I think your curtain option is a valid choice. 
"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 the diffuser idea. Since my windows arent going to be real windows, I have some flexibility with them. Because the frame will be glued to the windows, I will have a flat back. I can simply get the plastic diffuser and create some lips around the windows for the diffuser to slide in. This will give me my nighttime lighting effect, let me see out during the day, and keep the entire thing fairly well contained.