Building my own TARDIS had been a fantasy of mine for years. The thought just materialised in my brain one day and simply wouldn’t go away. I told my girlfriend and some other friends of mine that, yes, at some point in the future I’d get around to it, because that’s just the kind of guy I am, and my friends lauded me for being such an undeniably original, one-of-a-kind chap. I then naturally went online, stumbled across the forum and found that there were in fact tonnes of absolutely marvellous TARDIS builders out there. And everyone seemed so much better at it than I could ever be.

Years later, my girlfriend and I moved into a house with a garden. I had lived in flats my whole life, so the abundance of outdoor space was quite riveting. And suddenly that thought popped back into my mind. Over the course of a few months, I hinted to her that I really wanted a TARDIS in the garden. At first she seemed reluctant to indulge me, but almost a year later, on my birthday in June of 2017, she gave me a very special present. It was the front sign of a TARDIS and, she clarified, a blessing:

‘If I really wanted to, she said, ‘here, let me help you get started.’

She was due to spend a few months volunteering and studying abroad, and this was the optimal time for me to turn the house and garden into a workshop.

So I did. A few weeks later, the timber arrived.

The Fourth Doctor was my Doctor when I was growing up, so my aim was to fashion something akin to the Newbery box.

There were going to be some obvious discrepancies, however. To begin with, you’ve already seen the sign above. It’s not the same one as on Tom Baker’s TARDIS. Nor would the top signs be, for reasons of personal preference. In fact, while the Newbery box served as the inspiration, by the end of the process I’d opted to construct a different roof, fashioned a rather different-looking lantern, and not taken any original measurements into account. Thus, I was effectively building a TARDIS rather than the TARDIS that, nonetheless, would hopefully remind people of that TARDIS.

I had watched some videos on YouTube of people showing off their TARDIS builds, and allowed myself to be inspired by some of their approaches. If you’re curious, have a look around for yourself. There are some great ones out there!

There was now a relatively clear picture in my head of how I was going to assemble the thing. I also decided that I’d film the entire process and put together a few videos of my own to share online. If you’ll permit a quick time jump, I can tell you that I actually did this. All in all about 24 hours of raw footage were cut down and partially sped up to about 20 minutes. Here’s the clip, in case you’re interested:

I kept a build diary that you can actually read on (Mine’s the “Oxford TARDIS” found here.) What follows below is an edited version of that diary. I’ve added some extra detail and photos. Consequently, this is Part 1 of 3. Parts 2 and 3 will be posted here soon, and I’ll also add a separate post with lessons learned and advice for any prospective TARDIS builders out there to learn from my mistakes.

So let’s get to it…

Starting off

First I set about sawing the planks to size. 30​cm for side horizontals, 200​cm for side verticals, 210 for corner pieces, and so on. And pretty soon the garden was starting to look like a “proper” workshop.

Next up, drilling holes. I assembled all of the TARDIS sides, including the door, using a pocket hole jig, a device that I had never heard of before. What an amazing invention! (By now, I assume that you understand I’m pretty much a complete novice.) To me, it just sounded like a euphemism for surreptitiously playing with your junk through a hole in your pocket. Turns out, however, it was an irreplaceable tool. I got so much mileage out of it, you wouldn’t believe. In total, I used it to drill 298 pocket holes into the TARDIS, 190 of which went into the sides.

Another time-out while on the subject — here are the tools I used for the job:

  • Mitre saw
  • Jigsaw (electric)
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Sander (electric)
  • Block plane
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Pocket hole jig (cue giggles a la Beavis and Butthead)
  • Screwdriver (electric, not sonic)

The absence of a garage meant that I was at the mercy of Mother Nature. Working outdoors in a country whose default weather is rain puts an unfortunate limit on the evenings and weekends that you’re able to build a TARDIS. So at first, I raised a cheap gazebo to enable working in the rain, but after only a few days nature expressed her disapproval.

Next up, the base. This is where I made my first major mistakes. A characteristic of the TARDIS, I believe, is that it stands on a perfectly square base. Not the case with mine, I’m afraid. For lack of timber, tools, knowhow and, I’m ashamed to say, imagination, I eventually decided to just live with corner pieces that were slightly wider on one side. And to make up for this, I thought brilliantly, I’d just make the base and the TARDIS herself slightly deeper than she’d be wide, 4​cm deeper to be precise. Who would ever notice? And somewhere along the way, I made a miscalculation on top of poor choices and ended up with a bit of a wonky base. I’ve since learned that this was the case with at least one of the actual TARDISes used by the BBC during the filming of Classic Doctor Who as well, so I’ve learned to live with it.

Anyway, I made the base inspired by pretty much every TARDIS build I’d seen at the time, with slots to accommodate the corner pillars and the centre-bars of the sides.

Corner pillars next, as well as the second-biggest mistake I made during construction. Somehow I mixed up the depth measurements of the various planks I’d gotten and realised only too late that the corner pieces wouldn’t fit into the slots I’d made in the base. Nothing a block plane and a tonne of sanding couldn’t fix, though.

Here she is with sides and corner pillars in place:

Next up, sand down everything, so it’s all nice and smooth. Then on to the roof, plywood for the sides and door, the top signs, lantern and paint job. But I’ll save that for Part 2, coming soon.

This article was written by Leon
Hey there, I'm Leon, but I often go by 'Ponken'. I'm based in Oxford, the proud owner of my very own TARDIS and the founder of Who Back When. I'm also one of the hosts of the Who Back When podcast (or DocPast), so if you want to hear what I sound like, then subscribe! Kablammo! High-5 Leon on Twitter and say hi from us: @ponken