Tardis Tree Topper for Xmass 2010

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

UPDATE! The Tardis has been featured on HackAday!


Introduction: This xmass i was looking at my tree and thinking that it was lacking anything really geeky or hackish. This just would not do, I forumlated a plan to fix this rather unfortunate mess by adding a little bit of time traveler charm to my xmass tree. Below is a basic project log of building my Tardis Tree Topper.

For the impatent:

You can see the photo album here:


You can see a youtube video here:



  • Balsa wood
  • Assorted hobbie paints (Blue, Black, white, Silver)
  • Parchment paper (wax paper for cooking)
  • Super Glue (Krazy glue in this case)
  • Graphing Paper
  • 1x small cooking funnle
  • BreadBoard arduino type setup.
  • Minimum of 1x RGB LEDs (Suggested 2x but you can get by with Dedicated red, green, blue LEDs)
  • A small piece of protoboard.
  • About a foot of CAT5 (Makes good jumper wire when soldering)


  • Xacto Knife
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Roller/straight edge
  • Soldering Pen with Solder
  • 120 Grit SandPaper

The Project:

 The first steap I took was to locate some pictures on the internet of the Tardis from Dr. Who, google image search was just great from this.

 Once I had a basic idea of the scale of the Tardis I used the graphing paper to draw out the main parts of the Tardis, this should allow you to play with height/width/etc. From here we can get measurements to transfer to the balsa wood planks.

 We will end up with 4x identical sides for the basic design of the Tardis. Here is an image of two of the sides assembled and with two sides still sitting on the table waiting to be assembled.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

 Once each side has been cut out you can glue the pieces together. I also used small hobbie tacks in pre-drilled holes to make sure I would get the pieces lined up properly. Once that is finished you can use your Xacto knife to trim off any overlay you might have along with some 120 grit sandpaper to smooth the whole thing over and to remove any birs. Here is a picture of my result before trimming the edges.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

 Next you can make a base for the topper. You will need a good solid base because this is what the funnel is going to be mounted to later so the tree can support the topper.

I did this the simple way. Put the "finished" 4 wall topper on a piece of balsa and traced the inside of the topper. Cut the topper out (just slightly larger than the trace out.. this way you can trim it to fit). Then use the super glue to attach it as your base. Once it drys, make sure to lightly sand the base so it is level/even. Below is the piece I used, I know there is random drawing on it.. This was a piece of scrap wood.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

 Next you will need to build the roof to the Tardis. We know that the overhang is just slightly larger than the base. I measured out just large enough that the overhang would cover the tops of the "sign" piece of the face of the tardis. You can see the example below.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

 From here we need to chop out the sloped roof pieces. This gets a little tricky but you need to make a 4 sided pyramid, measure off the top few MM of the pyramid and "chop it off" Then make a square piece to fit in the space cut off. This will serve is the platform for the RGB led that will be in the top light of the Tardis. Carve down the sides of the roof as needed to make them fit well together. You can use Hot glue here if you would like, i still used super glue.Example below.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

You can see that ive already afixed my RGB led to the top center of the roof. You will need to drill/poke 4 holes in the top (and base) for the leads from the LED. You can use hot glue around the base of the LED so it wont conduct (not sure if the super glue would either...the hot glue can be trimmed where needed though).

 Once this is all complete. We PAINT!

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

This is a long process. I painted, then lightly sanded and painted again. Next the black piece for the top sign was painted black.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

We want to mount the funnle in the center of the Tardis. The easy way is to use hot glue. Make sure to drill a bunch of large holes around the base of the funnle that will allow us to snake in the power plug.

 You will also want to take your RGB LED's or RGB board (as you can see in the below photo) and drill a hole in the center of it that is just slightly smaller than the funnels nossle. This will allow you to push the breadboard onto the top of the funnel to use it to mount your LED's. This will keep them from moving around much while still making it easy to remove/tweak them.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

 You can affix some strong magnets to the bottom side of the Tardis roof and the inside sides of the Tardis. This will make it easy to hold the roof on while not restricting access to the electronics inside.

You can see some such magnets on the roof in this photo where I am messing with the LED's

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

On to the electronics!

Im not going to go into this in depth here but may in another tutorial if this proves to be popular. Basically, this is a super stripped down arduino that has pin headers on each side so i can have access to the digital/analog/ground pins.

From Tardis_Tree_Topper

Once everything is hooked up and running... Simply place it at the top of your tree and let it glow =)

I will note that this took me about a week and a half to build. This could be done in about 2 days if you have the free time. I work full time and go to school so it takes a little longer to finish these projects.

If you have not already.. I highly suggest checking out the album for the cool night shots.


As Always. Happy hacking and Happy Holdays from Hack Theory.