22 November 2016

DIY: River Song's TARDIS journal

At the suggestion of some friends, I've decided to start posting some of my DIY projects here. The first is River Song's TARDIS journal.

The journal, as left for River by the Tenth Doctor.
I made mine a photo album, in which to store signed cast photos from Gallifrey One. You can substitute a normal journal/notebook if that's more to your liking. Once I figured out what I was doing, it was actually pretty simple. If the instructions look complicated, that's only because I wrote them in excruciating detail.


  • photo album (or whatever album/notebook you are covering)
  • dark blue leather (thinner is better)
  • contact adhesive
  • glue brush
  • glue stick
  • paper cutter
  • photo mat
  • TARDIS template (I used the one posted here by Nerdfighteria@UCSD)
  • Q-tips
  • inside cover lining paper (thicker is better)
  • pencil
  • metal ruler
  • disposable gloves
  • dark permanent marker (specific color doesn't matter)
  • super glue

Step 1 - Preparing the template

Print out the the TARDIS template at an appropriate scale for the photo album. For mine, I got lucky and the "Scale to fit" option sized the template perfectly.

Glue the pattern onto the paper mat using the glue stick. You don't want it stuck on particularly well, just long enough to cut out the pieces.

Step 2 - Cutting out the template

Using the paper cutter, cut out the pieces of the template. Label all the keep pieces before you start cutting. Ignore the curved corners unless you want to drive yourself crazy.

Cutting out the template pieces. And feet.
It is much easier to just cut through the keep pieces along the fancy pink lines shown here.

My Photoshop skills are totally 133t h4xx0r.
Once they are glued onto the album and covered with leather, no one will know. Well, you'll still know. But no one else will if you don't tell them.

Arrange all of the pieces according to the template to make sure everything fits together nicely.

The cut out template pieces. I messed up a few times, hence the random lines through some pieces.

Step 3 - Preparing the cover

Using pencil, mark the center of the front cover. Draw vertical and horizontal lines through the center. Place one of the vertical keep pieces centered along the vertical line. Mark the top and bottom, and draw horizontal lines there. Finally, find the center between the first horizontal lines and the top and bottom horizontal lines. Draw horizontal lines there.

The first few pencil lines.
I realized it was annoying to draw lines with the cover at a funny angle, so I shoved a book of appropriate height between the covers. It may have been Matt's new book that he happened to have left on the coffee table.

Step 4 - Attaching the template pieces

Remove all of the glued on pattern pieces from the keep pieces. You don't want a weak glue stick bond in between the leather and the mat.

Don your haute couture disposable gloves. Using the glue brush (not your finger - just trust me on this), apply contact adhesive to the back of the center vertical piece and along the center vertical line on the cover. Wait about 45-60 seconds for both pieces to become tacky and carefully put the vertical piece in place. Press down for a good bond. You can safely ignore any adhesive that oozes out the sides, just use less adhesive for the remaining pieces.

The first vertical piece and a book to keep the cover flat. Note the increasing number of empty cider bottles.
Repeat the gluing processes for the two vertical pieces that go on either side of the center piece, being sure the leave a small gap approximately the size of the one in the pattern.

Two more vertical pieces. I use empty toilet paper tubes as disposable brush supports.
The eight small horizontal pieces come next. All should directly abut the vertical pieces. The top and bottom pieces should form a continuous line with the top and bottom edges of the vertical pieces. The middle pieces merely need to be centered over the horizontal pencil lines.

The eight horizontal pieces.
Glue on the next pair of vertical pieces, making sure they abut all of the horizontal pieces. If there is a tiny gap, it's not a problem since the leather will cover it.

Add the final vertical pieces, leaving a gap approximately the same size as the ones between the first three vertical pieces.

Glue on the top and bottom horizontal pieces. Use the same amount of gap as used elsewhere.
All pieces but the squares.
Finally, the eight squares need to be mounted in the center of the square holes.
All the template pieces glued on.
Whew! All the template pieces should be attached at this point. Celebrate with a well-earned pint of beer. Assuming you don't chug like a heathen, this will provide enough drying time.

Step 5 - Attaching the leather

Cut a piece of leather big enough to cover the entire album, both front and back, with at least a few inches of margin on all sides. Remember, margin is your friend.

Place the leather nappy side up with the album on the right half. Apply contact adhesive to the left side of the leather in the area that will be the front cover. While that dries to a tacky finish, apply adhesive to the entire front cover of the album. Make sure to get the glue in all the little nooks and crannies. Don't get glue on the curved spine area of album or on the corresponding leather.

Glue on the leather and front cover.
Carefully cover the front of the album with the leather, starting from the spine and working towards the edge. Press as you go. Ideally, the glue area on the leather will correspond well with the glue area on the front cover. Working quickly, use Q-tips to press the leather into the details on the cover.

Pressing the leather into the gaps between the template pieces.
Flip everything over, and repeat the process on the back cover. Since there needs to be room for the spine to open, make sure you glue and smooth out the leather while the album is closed. Don't put any glue on the spine. There will be some give when the album lies open.

Lie the album flat open. Trace a 1 1/4" inch border around the entire album. Conveniently, this is approximately the width of a ruler, so you can just place the ruler flat against the album edge and trace it.

Tracing the ruler around the edges.
Cut along the border to remove the excess. Use it make a hat for your pet that's been staring at you the entire time. Check the size of the remaining margin by folding over the top and bottom. If the part over the spine hits the binder rings, remove more leather until it doesn't.

The leather cut to size.
Cover a two inch square with glue at all four corners.

Glue in a corner.
Once tacky, fold the leather in each corner into a triangle and press down so it stays in position.

Triangle of leather.
Along the right and left edge, cover an elongated hexagon with glue.

Side glue.
Fold the leather side over onto the plastic album cover and press down. The double thick parts will require extra pressing down.

The top and bottom should have similar hexagon shapes, except with a gap over the spine. The gap is necessary to provide room to open and close.

Glue along the bottom edge.
Fold the leather onto the album cover just like on the other sides.

Step 6 - Attaching the lining paper

Measure the inside dimensions of the cover. Include the leather, but none of the spine. Subtract an inch from both dimensions, and cut two pieces of the lining paper to that size.

Cutting the lining paper.

Use super glue to firmly attach the paper to the center of each inside cover.

Super glue on the back of the lining paper.
Depending on the leather thickness, it may not perfectly attach where there are multiple layers of leather.

Lining paper glued in place.
To create a real book-like feel, cut two pieces of lining paper to the maximum size that fits in each photo sleeve. Put one in the very front and one in the very back.

Photo sleeve inside covers.
Put the rest of the album pages in the middle.

I could be a hand model.
Let everything dry for at least a few hours.

Finished album

Ta da!
Fill with photos, journal entries, or whatever you want.

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