GI Joe
TARDIS Construction


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My latest project has been a large Doctor Who story using GI Joes as my actors. Doctor Who - The Second Key is the result. A couple of years ago I created my first Doctor Who photo story called Redemption.

Of course for these stories, I'd need a TARDIS.

A decade or so ago I created a great TARDIS (the Doctor's time machine) from balsa wood. That TARDIS still sits proudly on my desk (or at times co-workers' desks) and while it has held up fairly well, it has seen better days. It's also rather small, and certainly not large enough to use in a GI Joe photo story.

So I had to create a 1:6 version. I chose to use foam-core board to create the new TARDIS, as I'm not so interested in spending a ton of money on wooden materials, and it wasn't necessary.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the construction, and progress of this project.


First, I needed plans. I had created the smaller Balsa TARDIS using a book a friend owned which was a cut-out printed book from which you could build your own TARDIS from its printed card pages.

For this one, that book was long gone, but I had the original Balsa model I had created for reference.

Also, I used the Doctor Who Technical Manual by Mark Harris, which contained dimensions for the TARDIS. Scans of those pages are now presented here (without permission by the author.)

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March 26, 2002

I cut four rectangular panels, then measured out where the inset bevelled panels should go. I cut those on an angle, and used the cut-out panel as the inset panel by gluing the edges in from behind. The top two panels must remain empty as they will eventually be windows.

This is the same sheet from the back. You can see how the panels were glued in over the holes left behind. I used simple glue stick which really adheres well after drying.

For the front, whereas my smaller balsa model has no functioning door, my story requires the Doctor entering and exiting the TARDIS in a shot or two, so I cut out a doorway that will function once I'm finished. It will swing inward on a masking tape hinge.

Then I taped the four identical panels together, with the door-panel being one of the middle two for a better alignment.

I cut a square for the roof, inverted the whole structure, and used masking tape to close the four walls into a nice, 90 degree angled box.

This is the basic box, just the four panels and the roof. At this point you can caulk the corner seams with white glue, a glue gun, or actual caulking if you like. It's not necessary but will shore up the box's stability.

This shot simply shows how the door will swing when it's finished.

The four reinforced corners are cut from a set of 5cm x 30cm strips. Then a 1cm culvert is removed from the center. I cut two scores .5cm from each side of center, bent the pieces back like shown, and cut away the central styrofoam.

In this picture, the strips are bent away from the central culvert. After this, I bend them the other way, leaving a triangular gap on the inside, but a relatively smooth post on the outside.

Each of the four reinforced corners are two of the above hot-glued on top of each other. This provides the appropriate thickness, as well as the moulding which connects these posts to the door panels. An elegant solution. The top, however, needs some work before painting, as they are really two layers of exposed styrofoam. I'll probably use wood glue or wood filler to smooth that out. Also, I applied the base.

The peaked roof is made up of four panels on an angle. I bevel-cut these, and hot-glued them along the seams, then caulked the inside seams for strength. As it is, I believe I peaked it too much, and may have to redo this piece.

This piece is capped off by a bevel-cut square that fits the gap left by the peaked pieces.

This is the near-finished model. Some things to note: The panel just below the window on the functioning door has a bevel-cut piece put back. This simulates the phone door in the original Police Box. This will have a sticker on it telling the public how to use the phone to call the police.

This is the 1:6 scale next to the old balsa model. Note that the peaked top may need to be redone, and I still have the top lintel-panels to add, with the words "POLICE BOX" added.

I'll do that with multiple-layered strips, the outer one being cut open to allow the sticker to be applied inside the bevel-cut.

Then the windows will have to be sorted out.

I have to add some kind of light to the top.

And then, once brush-painted blue, this one should be ready to go.

March 28, 2002

Next comes the four lintel signs that will read "POLICE BOX". I used 3 strips of foam-core built up from the wall panels to get the right thickness.

This was done in three layers. The first layer is 3cm tall, and fits between the two inside corner post edges. The second layer is 2.5cm tall and placed flush at the top, leaving .5cm at the bottom which will act as moulding. The third layer is also 2.5cm tall, but is wider than the other two, stretching out to about midway out the corner posts.

Later, after painting, I will apply stickers to these, and cover them with a bevelled panel so the stickers are inset.

So I decided to trash the first roof peak, and did one that is much smaller. The original roof was made up of segments that were 6cm tall, 15cm on the long side, and 6cm on the short side. The fact that the pieces were 6cm tall forced the peak to be too sharp when they were all joined at the edges.

The new roof sections are 5cm tall, which makes a nicer, gentler slope once put together in a square.

The central square insert is bevelled to fit into the naturally angled resulting square.

Then I hot-glued the bevelled assembly to a 15x15cm flat section to raise it a little.

I poked a pencil hole in the middle to insert a light.

The Coleman lantern keychain will be used as the Police Light on top.

I removed the base from the light. For now I put the Coleman keychain light into the small central hole, and put the casing on top of the box. Eventually, I'll replace the red LED with a blue light, and that will work better for the TARDIS.

The circular cap of the coleman lamp will have to be painted blue with the rest of the TARDIS, and I plan to put in four finishing nails as the metal bars that the TARDIS has reinforcing the light.

I cut a crude hole into the bottom flat panel of the roof cap. (Crude because I didn't plan ahead. I should have cut this more elegantly before applying the sloped roof. Anyway, this will be perfectly functional.)

Soon, I will have to cut a hole into the flat top of the TARDIS so I can have access to the light from inside via the opening door. Batteries and a switch will be installed up there.

Here the roof is put in place (though not glued yet) with the light in place as well, and the door opened.

I spent tons of time sealing the open styrofoam with white glue (not school glue). This smoothed out the rough styrofoam, and sealed it somewhat.

April 4, 2002

I cut a hole into the top so I could glue the cap piece on and still have access to the light for a switch, or battery replacement, etc. through the open door.

These strips are 1cm wide, cut from matte board on a slight bevel to place in the center of each panel running vertically. One for each side.

I cut four bevelled caps to go on the crossbeams over the stickers I printed.

I laid this page out in Corel Draw. Ariel (or Swiss) bold text says POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX.

The smaller rectangle says:







I begin to paint by covering the bevelled edges and other open styrofoam edges. Even after I coated them with white glue, the edges were still a bit rough.

I painted using acrylic matte Navy craft paint I bought at WalMart. I may have decided to go too dark, and I may have to repaint it Cobalt Blue instead. We'll see what the final results are.

Once I've covered all the bevelled and open edges, I painted the surfaces using vertical strokes to simulate wood grain wherever possible.

Here, I test-fitted the angled roof cap on. And I recall that I had intended to paint the entire inside black before I started this stage. Oh well, live and learn. I guess I do the black later.

Here's the painted TARDIS.

Another coat of paint will be required, as this coat leaves some white visible underneath.

April 5, 2002

Though these pictures don't show it well, with the bright flash, but I painted the TARDIS too dark, and had to lighten it. The problem is that coating the dark paint with the lighter color did not brighten it up as much as I had hoped.

But I re-coated the entire TARDIS with the lighter Cobalt Blue (as opposed to Navy) and it was an improvement

I painted the entire interior Navy, though, as I need it to be dark inside, and I thought it would suffice, rather than buying black paint.

The last stage for now was the stickers. I applied the printed stickers to the front phone panel and the four top banner signs.

Then I glued the four sign covers in place, and the result is pretty good.

I still have windows to apply.

Still to come are the windows. I need to get a pebbled translucent plastic sheet that I can cut into sections and glue in behind the panels.

Then I have to glue window frames in place over that, fitted into the bevels.

Then electronics must be added, and I'm done, and ready to shoot.

Here, one possible Doctor is about to step inside to see if I did the larger interior right.

April 10, 2002

In looking for translucent white plastic with slight pebbling, I looked at a bunch of plastic items, most of which cost $3-4, too much for this project.

I found this binder for $1.00 and it had all the properties I required, including the ability to be easily cut with a carpet-knife.

I cut out four rectangles that would cover the window openings, splitting one of them in half to accommodate the opening door.

I painted four finishing nails blue and stuck them into the roof cap. I used white glue on the heads, and white glue on the base of the light. Pushing the light into place pushed the nails down snugly as well.
I didn't have the camera home last night when I cut the window bars. This is just matte paper cut into thin strips and glued with white glue onto the window plastic.

Then the cross bars were glued into place, and believe it or not, except for the battery-operated light I plan to add, and the dowels I plan to use to hold the roof section on, this TARDIS is complete.

Here, the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS All in all, I'm very pleased with this project.

April 13, 2002

This is a blue light I found at Radio Shack. With some trimming, it fit into the mini Coleman lamp shade, and beneath the roof I hooked it up to a 9V battery.

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