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When BBC rebooted the show in 2006, I became a fan of Doctor Who. Actually, my friend, Doug, dragged me into it kicking and screaming. Semantics. I'm a fan now. That's the important part.


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. extraneous details.) Anyway, the TARDIS is pretty iconic and--as I found out as I looked for show-related stuff online--lots of fans build replicas of the TARDIS in their homes. The builds range from modest homages to prop-quality replicas. Check out the TARDIS Builders site. Some of them are pretty great.)


Before we moved into a house with a basement, I began planning my own 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 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. 


Because there wasn't much building involved in my TARDIS "build", I didn't really need much:

  • A quart of blue semi-gloss interior paint. I took a picture of the TARDIS (above) to Lowes and matched it up with a stock Valspar color. I think I went a little bright, but it's close.

  • Wood for the sign box. I used .25" x 3" x 4' pine (two pieces).

  • Corner molding. I used this to hold the sign in place on the box. (Plus, it looks better trimmed-out.) 

  • A small florescent light fixture.

  • Painter's tape. 

  • Primer. 

  • Signs. I had the top sign custom-made and printed the door sign from a file on the Internet. 


Altogether, the project cost me around $150. 

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The Signs

The most critical part of the TARDIS project was finding the right police call box sign. I've seen lots of different approaches on the TARDIS builders site, but the best are all custom signs printed on plastic that can be backlit. While surfing through the various fan TARDIS' (TARDII?), 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. It cost me $101 (shipped). It's printed on 1/8" white plexiglas and looks awesome when backlit. This was the biggest expense, but totally worth it.


The door sign was easier and cheaper--free, actually. I found it in a Google image search, 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. 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 of the door frame, 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 top and bottom because so it would fit over the 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 has 6, so I cheated the windows a little bigger by extending them a bit below the top door panel.


I didn't prime the door, but 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 on the walls, painting, and  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 pretty ragged. The main problem in this case was the panel on the door--it was hard to tape it tightly enough to keep the paint from seeping under. I ended up doing some touch-up work with a small brush and a little white primer when the blue paint dried. The end result was adequate...but certainly not perfect.

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The Light Fixture

I made this part easy on myself by choosing a small (12-inch) under-counter light fixture that could be 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 used nail-in wire holders to run the wire along the door frame to an outlet that is close to the door. I left the light switch to the on position so I can turn the sign on and off by just plugging and unplugging the cord. 

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Finishing and Mounting the Sign Box

My original plan was to attach the sign on the front of the box with corner molding. This meant cutting 45-degree angles at each corner. If you read about the screwups with the pinball coffee table molding, you can probably guess how that went. I completely ruined my first 8-foot section of molding trying to figure it out. I got another piece and said screw it to 45-degree angles. I made straight cuts and attached the four pieces with a nail gun. Not a perfect solution, but it looks fairly decent.


Mounting the box to the wall was pretty easy apart from one miscalculation. Like I said, the wall is unfinished on the other side of the door, so it was easy to screw through the wall and into the end pieces of the box. I should mention that whoever finished the basement 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...minor 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 as exact as they could have been. The cardboard took care of most of the light spillage problem, though.

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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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