The final instalment of our TARDIS build series a.k.a. TARDIS build bloopers
Behold the final instalment in my series of TARDIS build blog posts. Whether you’re considering building your very own TARDIS, or you’re simply interested in seeing where I went wrong when I built mine, I’m confident this article will be of use to you.
In case you haven’t seen it already, I’m going to start off with a little brag. Yes, I just built a TARDIS. And it feels great! If you’re interested, check out this video of how I did it, or read my build diary!
I’m incredibly proud of my TARDIS and unabashedly pleased with myself for having accomplished this feat of engineering. That said, there are plenty of things I would have done differently, factors I didn’t take into consideration when I first started, and things I wish I’d have known or thought of before it was too late. So this blog post isn’t so much going to focus on how to build a blue box to suit your garden-variety time travelling needs as it will be a list of build bloopers, if you will, so cue the canned laughter.
Before building, decide why you’re building it. Is it purely ornamental? Will it house anything in particular? What are the dimensions of the thing you’re planning to store inside it?
One reason to ask these questions pertains to the doors. As you well know, we rarely see the whole of the TARDIS front open. Normally, only the right half of the front opens, the actual door itself. For this reason, and to add some stability to my box, I made half of the front entirely static.
Then, halfway through the build I decided I’d quite like to install a small still in there, to turn it into a BARdis, so to speak. But now I’m going to have to take her apart again, because how else am I going to put things inside her? (uh-huh-huh)
This may be a good time to add that my TARDIS doesn’t yet have a floor.
The TARDIS has undergone many regenerations of her own over the years. As Tom Baker was my Doctor, when I was watching the show as a kid, I decided I really wanted to build the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS, specifically the 1976 Barry Newbery box.
However, slowly but surely I changed so many aspects of it I gradually came to the conclusion that while I love Tom Baker, I’m actually not that fond of his TARDISes. Not at all!
I changed the roof from stepped to sloping, the colour of the signs, the type of glass used for the windows, the general size of the box, the colour of it. Holy smokes! I’ve built an entirely different TARDIS! And I had to constantly change my plans to accommodate the changing design.
If you’re going your own route, how will it differ? Consider these things at the onset and you’ll be in a much better position than I was.
Oh, crap. It is with a pretty hefty dose of embarrassment that I tackle this point.
Let’s start with the base. You know how the TARDIS famously stands on a square base? Well, mine doesn’t. Because I didn’t have the means to attach the corner pillars at a 45° angle and thus create corners that were equally as wide as they were deep, I decided I’d add them at right angles to each other and thus add the thickness of the boards to the depth. That sounds overly complicated. Have a look at this diagram to get a clearer picture of it.
Alas, I made about a million mistakes here. Firstly, rather then just having the corner pillars slightly wider on two sides, I decided to overcompensate for it by making the base itself slightly wider on two sides. But I made it slightly too wide, and then had to remove a chunk of base from the middle of it. Think what they did to Ethan Hawke’s legs in Gattaca, but in reverse!
And even then, I didn’t remove enough and when I finally added the sides to the base I was suddenly faced with two sides that had slight gaps running up either side.
And as though that wasn’t enough, I got my plank thicknesses mixed up and the carefully calculated slots that I’d made in the base for the corner pillars to fit into turned out to be too narrow for the planks to slot into. Nothing a block plane and a lot of patience couldn’t fix, but still.
And then lastly, there was the slight matter of the windows. The main TARDIS section was to be 2m tall, with each side having five 10cm wide, evenly-spaced dividers running across them horizontally. That means 37.5cm of space in between them. Except it didn’t, because the boards that I got hadn’t been precisely cut, and varied with +/- 5mm. Doesn’t sound like much, but the end effect was that all my TARDIS windows are ever so slightly different in height, and I consequently had to build them individually and bespoke, rather than just creating all of them at once and to the same specifications, as I had originally planned, making it far more time-consuming than it needed to be.
Measure everything. Everything!
Only a shoddy craftsman blames his tools, but in this instance I’m actually going to go ahead and blame my lack of them. Working without a proper bench meant that many right angles were slightly wrong. See this pic of how I put together the roof, for example. There is no way on Earth that is going to be a perfect 90° angle.
In the grand scheme of things, this actually doesn’t matter too much. However, as soon as you look up close, you’ll realise the box is actually more of a rhombus.
If you plan for your TARDIS to take its rightful place in the formidable outdoors, then don’t forget that they can also sometimes be harsh and unforgiving. Weatherproofing and, depending on where you are in the world, even safeguarding her from creepy crawlies may be essential. Furthermore, if you’re building your box outdoors, then you’ll need ample shelter even before you get to that stage.
Starting with the latter, if you’ve read my build diary, you’ll already know that I put up a gazebo in order to work in the rain. But the Gods must have found it offensive in some regard, because I woke up one morning to find my operation sabotaged.
In addition to that, however, I clearly didn’t do a great job of shielding the actual wood. (uh-huh-huh) Avoid repeating my mistake and don’t wrap your planks in bin liners. I figured this would shield them from the rain while I went away for a couple of weeks, but by the time I got back, enough humidity had built up underneath the bin bags to fill a glass. And not just that, when I eventually removed the planks from that spot, I found to my surprise a single, solitary mushroom growing underneath them. I kid you not.
Wind is also a real sh*t. At a far more advanced stage in the build, when everything was constructed and painted, yet still awaiting assembly, an incredibly strong gust of wind literally picked up the roof of my TARDIS, that had been leaning against our outer wall, and flung it several meters. I found it the following morning, upside-down and halfway across the garden. It must have landed with a thud. Here’s the crack it left behind.
Well, some people on tardisbuilders.com were suggesting to put in some ventilation anyway.
Oh, my goodness, so much. If you’re considering building your own TARDIS, then definitely read and reread these points.
1. Extend the corner pillars to the height of the roof
This would have added some stability. Also, I just think it would have looked nicer.
2. Make the top signs thick enough to pop some lights into them
In retrospect, this would have been awesome. I’m not sure why I didn’t wire any lights into the sign boxes.
3. Get a lock that doesn’t say Yale on it
While I’m at it, don’t get a front sign that says Coca Cola.
That’s it. If I think of any more regrets or notice any other major kinks, I’ll plop a comment here below. In the meantime, I hope you found this interesting, entertaining and/or helpful.
And if you’ve built your own TARDIS, or you’re considering it, let the world know in the comment section below!
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Good Lord! I had no idea you had so many problems and ran into so many difficulties. I assumed from the video, and previous posts, that everything went more or less like clockwork. In any case, that makes the end result even more impressive IMHO. Great work!
You could still prob get some led strip lights and fit them in behind the sign. They’re MMS thick at best.
A dremel will remove that yale logo in mins. Although if you recall, I think the lock on Hartnell’s tardis in the sensorites had yale on it. Didnt you joke about that? So you’re actually MORE authentic.
While you’re nodding, you might want to camoflague some outdoor speakers into the panels
Thanks, amigo! Fitting LEDs behind the signs is an excellent idea. Sadly, Storm Chiara blew the signs and roof off the ol’ girl, so I’m currently in the process of repairing her. The perfect occasion to make some adjustments… Follow-up blog post coming up.
And, haha, I had totally forgotten about The First Doc’s Yale lock!