100 Dollar TARDIS

As a long time Whovian who is into making cool stuff, I’ve always wanted my own TARDIS. For years I’ve planned on making one out of wood much like the many that are already out there. I had no specific design in mind, although I tend toward the Tom Baker one(s). But as often is the case, I find myself with more desire to complete the project than time and money to start it. Luckily for me, I have a creative mind and am always thinking of ways to build things out of new materials. So, with no further ado, I present my TARDIS, which is a PVC pipe frame with a tarp cover.

100 Dollar TARDIS

The frame is built using 1/2″ schedule 40 PVC pipe. It’s all dry fit so I can take it apart and carry it wherever I want to. I had to improvise a little because PVC joints are designed for plumbing and not weird projects. The only corners I could find had one of the three holes threaded, which is why I had to also grab some adapters. Other than that, everything on the frame was easy to find.

PVC Frame

The light is a solar walkway light. One of the things I found in the pipe section of my local hardware store was this weird thing that just happen to be perfect for the light. I zip-tied it to my cross piece and wrapped some tape around the bottom of the light so that it slips in easily, but doesn’t wriggle around.

Testing Light
Testing light fitting

To decorate the light, I just used tarp tape to cover the top, taking care not to cover the solar array.

Finished light

I originally planned to use ripstop nylon as the fabric, but after pricing out the 13 yards I would need, I happened upon the idea of using blue tarps, which are a pretty spot on color for the TARDIS. This also allowed me to use tarp tape instead of sewing, which lessened my build time.

Hanging Tarp
Temporarily hung walls and roof

The zipper for the doors was a lucky find. I didn’t even know they existed before I saw them at the hardware store. My original plan was to leave the flaps open, or perhaps use magnets, but I like this design much better.

Installed zipper

The windows are contact paper and black electrician’s tape. The instruction sheet was printed out on a laser printer and attached with clear contact paper and tarp tape.

Windows Sign
Detail of windows and sign

The Police Box sign was stenciled using a paint marker. I created the stencils from extra contact paper.

Painting complete

It took me about three weeks to complete the project, but two days should be sufficient, especially if you have help. And I strongly suggest you get help. Setting this up on a windy May day by myself was not the most pleasant of experiences.

As for the title, all of the items I used cost about 100 dollars at my local hardware store. I still have some leftover supplies and I plan on making a carrying bag for the parts when it’s broken down. And possibly even a TARDIS box kite. (Really, don’t try to set this up on a windy day.)

I’m including some of my hand written worksheets so that you get a sense of how the process went. To summarize it in one word: haphazardly. I had an idea of what I wanted to, but I planned each step as I went.

Initial Drawing
First drawing with size and material amounts
Pipe Cuts
Notes on cutting lengths for frame pipes
Tarp Pieces
Tarp cutting sizes
Panel Detail
Planning panel decorations locations

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Software Developer and autodidact whose main hobby is collecting hobbies.

3 thoughts on “100 Dollar TARDIS”

  1. I love this I need a tardis for my sons Minecraft Doctor Who birthday party.How many tarps did you end up buying? I was thinking of using 2 12’x16′ would that work?

    1. I only used two tarps, but I can’t remember was sizes. One was bigger than the other, I know that. Use the tarp cutting sizes image (the second to last one) to see how big they need to be. But make sure you look at the tarp packages carefully. The size they give is a starting size, not the finish size after they roll the edges and add the grommets.

      Good luck!

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