Cardboard Dalek

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I built the cardboard Dalek as a costume for my six-year old son to wear at DragonCon, 2014.

Project Dalek

I based my design on plans and build diaries at Project Dalek.

Project Dalek consists of three main things:

  • Website with Dalek plans
  • Builders Workshop Manual This is only available in hardcopy by mail because of too many re-postings. The ordering process isn't apparent when you first register with the site, but it's worth every minute and every penny (on the order of $30).
  • Forum This consists mainly of build diaries and discussions. There's a lot of information, but it's scattered over so many dairies, it can be hard to find what you need. Once you find a good diary though, you can follow it and get some good discussions going.

Main modifications

  • Scale: 75%
  • Extended skirt "prism" up through top of shoulders, so I wouldn't have to build a separate section. The skirt isn't a true prism, which meant it warped a little. Further, the shoulders on a real Dalek don't follow these prism lines, so my shoulders are aren't the right shape. The front tip of the base curled up off the ground a bit, but with the Dalek standing on 3 wheels, it wasn't an issue.
  • The rings are spaced way further apart than would be true to scale. I wanted the top of the shoulders to be at my son's shoulders. Once that was built, I realized we needed more head clearance for comfort. So that part is way off.
  • For the bottom bumper, I just added strips of cardboard (carefully measured and cut mind you), and covered it with gold duck tape. The gold didn't match my gold paint, but it was so low down it wasn't noticeable.

If I do it again

  • I'll build the shoulders and skirt as separate sections, as they're not similar shapes.
  • I'll make the supports for the rings and head more sturdy. Some of the sidewalks were paved with rough pavers, and I thought the dome was going to shimmy right off!
  • I'll make a stronger one! The parade was crowded and the sidewalks were rough. I spent half the time worrying it was going to get crushed. My current plan is to build another Dalek, this time with foam and fiberglass. As Roger B. pointed out, it's similar to a car body. My goal is to make the next one full size, lightweight, and able to fit in my car (which may be a stretch).
  • Instead of watching the parade, we'll try to be in it. We got such a good response, we would have liked to share it with more people. But little guy tired out and didn't make it to the costume/character show-off area.


Dalek Part Materials Source Comments
Bumper Cardboard
Gold duct tape
This section didn't follow the design plans. It is more of a trim, whereas the plan calls for a structural bumper section. This shortened the Dalek quite a bit. If I had included it, I probably could have made the neck/screen section closer to scale.
Skirt Cardboard Reused + Dollar Tree I used cardboard from my kids' old science fair displays. You could still see the writing on the inside!
Hemispheres Dessert cup lids
Rustoleum gold spray paint & primer
Foam core board circles
Online restaurant supply The edge of the dessert cup lids was too thin to glue down. For each hemi, I cut two equal sized circles from foam core board, glued them into the lid (resting the way the top of a cup would under the lid), and glued the circles to the painted skirt.
Shoulders Cardstock
Foam core board
Dollar Tree I wrapped cardstock around the top of the extended prism, and trimmed it to size. I glued rectangles of foam core board down to build out the bumper sections, and glued cardstock to the tops and outer edge of the foam core.
Shoulder slats Carstock
Rustoleum spray paint for plastic
Dollar Tree
Home Depot
I was getting pretty tired at this point. I did cut the slats to the scale size, but had to fudge a little around the gunbox.
Plunger FunnelDollar Tree
Dowel rod
Gold spray paint
Gun Gold floral wire
Dowel rod
Gold spray paint
Dollar Tree
Home Depot
Gunbox Cardboard Scraps The sticks for the plunger and gun extended into the interior, so my son could swivel them around.
Neck/rings Meter sticks
Foam core board
Binder clips
Home Depot
This section wasn't nearly sturdy enough. The plans call for an actual structure inside, which I didn't do. In the house it looked fine, but when it was wobbling down the street, I was sure this section was going to crumble under weight of the dome.
Dome Punch bowl Party City</t> The punch bowl was a little small for the given scale, but I strayed from scale from the shoulders on up. I used a dremel to cut off the bottom support and the outer lip, and to cut the hole for the eye stalk.
Dome Lights Puck lights
Small plastic jars from Michaels
White spray paint
Dollar Tree
Home Depot
I lightly sprayed the inside of the jars with white spray paint.
I glued a thin circle of plastic to the opening of the jar, with an X cut into the plastic. This allowed the thin plastic to fit the contour of the top of the puck light.
Painted the puck light with gold craft paint (was silver)
Eye Stalk Flashlight Dollar Tree Hot glued the flashlight into a hole in the dome.
Painted the flashlight with gold craft paint (was silver).

Skirt Build Pictures

Dalek1a.jpg Dalek1b.jpg Dalek1c.jpg Dalekld.jpg Dalekle.jpg Daleklf.jpg Daleklg.jpg

Shoulder Build Pictures

To define the shoulders, I wrapped top portion of prism in carstock and measured out the height for each skirt panel. I trimmed the cardstock down to the right size, and used layers of foam core to build out the bumper-like surfaces. These were then covered in cardstock also.

Dalek1h.jpg Dalek1i.jpg Dalek1j.jpg Dalek1k.jpg Dalek1L.jpg Dalek1m.jpg

Neck Bin Build Pictures

The supports started as strips of foam core board, scored to curve with the shape of the inner rings. This alone was too flimsy, so I glued trimmed-down meter sticks to the inside surface of each support.

Dalek1n.jpg Dalek1o.jpg Dalek1p.jpg Dalek1q.jpg