The TARDIS Door

 

Around seven years ago I became a fan of Doctor Who. "Became a fan" really doesn't accurately describe it. I was very anti-Doctor Who until my friend, Doug, dragged me kicking and screaming into the show by hounding me until I watched the first season of the new show. It was at that point that I became hooked on it.

If you're not familiar with the show, The Doctor travels around in a machine called the TARDIS, which is (for reasons I won't go into for fear of losing those who are only marginally interested), on the outside, a 1960s British police call box. (It's bigger on the inside. Again...no extraneous details.) Anyway, the TARDIS is pretty iconic and--as I found out as I looked for show-related stuff online--fans tend to build their own replicas of the TARDIS in their homes. The builds range from modest homages to prop-quality replicas. (Check out the TARDIS Builders site for lots and lots of pictures.)

Before we moved into a house with a basement, I began planning my own homage to the TARDIS. My ideal situation would have had the basement stairs opening into a small room with a fully-built TARDIS against the far wall. When you opened the door and walked in, the whole basement arcade would be on the "inside." (Again--a bigger on the inside joke. Look it up if you're curious.) Unfortunately, our basement layout didn't allow for this. I didn't want to abandon the idea entirely, though, so I came up with an alternative--painting the door to the garage area of the basement as the door to the TARDIS.

It was a fairly short-term project and not at all difficult to execute--but I'll bore you with the details just the same.

 


Materials

Because there wasn't much construction involved for my TARDIS homage, I didn't really need all that much:

Altogether, the project cost me around $150.

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The Signs

The most critical part of the TARDIS project was finding a proper sign for the top of the door. I've seen lots of different approaches on the TARDIS builders site, but the best of them were always custom signs printed on plastic so that they can be backlit. While surfing through the various fan TARDIS', I came across one that had beautiful signs that were the exact style I wanted. The builder said he got the signs from Speedy Signs in Silver Spring, MD. I e-mailed them and they still had the sign pattern on file. For $101 (shipped) I got my sign. It's printed on 1/8" white plexiglas and looks awesome when backlit. This was the biggest expense, but I'm glad I shelled out for a good sign.

The door sign was an easier (and cheaper--free, even) find. That one I got online at this web site. I printed it out on a full-page label sheet, cut it out, and stuck it on the door (after the door was painted, of course.)

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Taping, Painting, and Building the Sign Box

This was a three-day project, and the first day was spent taping, painting the door and trim, and building the sign box. I made the box so that the sign would sit on top, and left enough space so I could trim it out with the corner molding. (One who is skilled with a router would probably make a slot inside the box for the sign to sit in. I am not skilled with a router.) I made the sides deeper than the main part of the box because I was placing it over a door frame. Again--a skilled woodworker would have cut the box to fit the space. I had to improvise. And it worked for the most part.

Taping was pretty straightforward for the main paint job--just protecting the walls around the trim and outlining the windows. The TARDIS on the show has 8-panel doors and mine is a 6-panel door, so I cheated the windows a little bigger by extending them a bit below the top door panel.

I didn't prime the door (I probably should have). It took three coats of paint to cover it properly.

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The Window "Molding"

On the home improvement shows, they always show designers taping stripes and even elaborate patterns on the walls, painting, and then pulling off the tape to reveal razor-sharp lines. I'm here to tell you that it's all trickery. It's a lie. The lines are never razor-sharp. I did a decent job on the ceiling of my original garage arcade, but I'm convinced that was just a fluke.

The TARDIS windows have six panes. I started by taping off the vertical "molding" and painting it (again, three coats). I did the single horizontal stripe on each window the next day so as not to inadvertently rip off pieces of the vertical ones. The results were rather ragged. The main problem in this case was the panel on the door--it was hard to tape it tightly enough at the carved portions to keep the paint from seeping under the tape. I ended up doing some touch-up work with a small brush and a little white primer after all of the blue paint dried. The end result was adequate...but certainly not perfect.

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Installing the Light Fixture

I made this part easy on myself by choosing a small (12-inch) under-counter light fixture that could be simply plugged into a wall outlet. I mounted the light above the door using wood screws, and I drilled a hole large enough for the plug to fit through the wall to the left of the fixture. (The wall on the other side of the door is unfinished, so that was pretty easy. I then used nail-in wire holders to run the wire along the door frame and toward an outlet that is close to the door. I needed an extension cord to reach all the way, but that's no big deal--the light won't be on all the time. I finished by switching the light switch to the on position--once the sign was in place, there was no way to get to it. I'll be switching the sign on and off by plugging and unplugging the cord.

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Finishing and Mounting the Sign Box

I kind of fell down on the job photo-documentation-wise on this step--I was too absorbed in the nuances of molding cutting to remember to take pictures. I'll do my best to describe it, however.

My original plan was to place the front of the sign box and secure it in place with corner molding. This involved cutting 45-degree angles at each corner. If you followed my travails with the pinball coffee table molding, you know that I've got a mental block as to how these angles should be cut. This has not changed over time. Long story short, I completely ruined my first 8-foot section of molding trying to figure it out. I got another piece and said said screw it to the angles. I made straight cuts and secured the four pieces in place with my wife's trusty nail gun. Again--not an awesome solution, but it looks fairly decent.

Mounting the box to the wall was pretty easy apart from one miscalculation. As I said, the wall is unfinished on the other side of the door, so it was easy to simply screw through the wall and into the end pieces of the box above the door frame. (I should mention that whoever finished the basement of the house mounted the drywall onto plywood. Strange choice, but it makes hanging things on the wall a snap. You can screw through the drywall directly into the plywood without worrying about finding a stud.)

Speaking of studs...my miscalculation. One end of the box was located directly over one of the framing studs around the door, preventing me from getting a screw directly into it. I improvised and screwed through the end of the stud at an angle and into the sign box. Problem solved. The sign is mounted firmly to the wall.

One other thing I did was to tape some cardboard inside the sign box around the side and bottom edges to prevent the light from spilling out too much. My measurements weren't all that exact as far as conforming to the door frame was concerned. I took care of most of the light spillage problem, though. (There was none at the top because the sign is flush against the ceiling.)

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The Finished Product

I think the door turned out pretty well--certainly as well as I expected it to. The thing that sells it is the lighted sign--I'm glad I didn't skimp on that. I might add some blue pieces on either end of the box to continue the door molding to the ceiling and make it a little closer to the look of the "real" thing. Other than that...project complete!

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