Article Index


serial builder 





 John: 1960s Dalek

Main Photo


John is the Project Dalek administrator and this is his first Dalek build, based on the design from the 1960s.

The build was initially designed to be 'foot powered', running on casters and featuring a split skirt for ease of transport. A little while after the build was finished it was motorized using 24v wheelchair running gear. This conversion was relatively easy due to the accessibility of the space inside the skirt once it is split. The Dalek is on its second eye stalk and gun, the others being of a similar but subtly different design.



How it was done...

Dalek upper section still awaiting its final coat of paint
At this point the dome and neck are 'bare'. The dome has been given a good coating of spray putty to fill up any small defects. Evidence of the filler used around the neck struts is also evident. An eye and dome lights have been temporarily added for reference purposes.
Dalek eye-stalk under construction
The eye disc assembly was made from Perspex, using a hole saw set. A length of plastic tube (sprayed silver on the inside) was used to make the spacers between the discs. The central rod comprises of two lengths of threaded tube, used in the production of table lamps.
Assembling the Dalek eye-stalk. Here, the iris is fitted into position.
With the eyeball fixed in place, it's time to add the frontage. The iris was made from several layers of Perspex sandwiched together. This fits snugly into the front of the eyeball. A few tiny dabs of PVA glue were used to ensure that it was secure.
The primed skirt section is given an airing, prior to final painting.
All rough edges were removed from the holes in the skirt, both inside and out. The inside of the skirt was primed and then given a coat of white gloss paint. No areas of bare wood were left, this should make the Dalek extremely resistant to damp conditions.
The pressure formed hemispheres with their paint drying in the sunshine.
No, this isn't my entry for the Turner Prize, it's a display of exactly how many hemispheres you need to kit out one Dalek. Don't bother counting, I'll tell you, there are fifty six. Each one of these clear PETG plastic 'bowls' has been lovingly sprayed blue, on the inside.
Inside the skirt, showing the electric wheelchair running gear.
A little while after completing the Dalek I managed to purchase a secondhand electric wheelchair. This was stripped down and the motors, seat and controls were adapted to fit inside the Dalek's skirt and shoulders. The fact that the skirt could split in half made fitting quite easy.

Head section


The dome being test fitted to the neck section

At this point the dome and neck are 'bare'. The dome has been given a good coating of 'spray putty' to fill up any small defects. You can also see the filler used around the neck struts. The eye and domelights have been temporarily added for reference purposes.

More work needed to be done on the pivot mechanism for the eyestalk. The black paint on the eye pivot has rubbed away, because the piviot fits too tightly in the eye slot. Better to get this sort of thing fixed before the final painting takes place!



Dome after a good deal of finishing

The dome (gelcoat/fibreglass) was cast using a plaster mould, as per the Workshop Manual.

I managed to get two domes from the plaster mould before it was too damaged to use. The dome edge was trimmed with a sharp knife while the fibreglass was still 'green' (soft enough to cut). A great deal of time was spent getting a good finish.

Spray putty (see previous picture) was used to fill any defects, and then came lots and lots of wet-n-dry sandpaper (used wet). Note that I've opted for a 'rounded' bottom to the eye slot. This pays homage to one particular dome from the 1960s.



What have we here?

Well, it's the beginnings of an eyeball, made from a stainless-steel sugar bowl. These sugar bowls were available from branches of Wilkinsons and Matalan (in the UK) throughout 2002/2003. You might still come across one.

The first job was to 'wiggle' the three small feet off the main assembly and fill the slight indentations to achieve a smooth surface. Next, the top part of a baked bean tin was glued to the front using epoxy resin. A little filler has been added to the seam to finish the job. The inner lip of the bean tin makes a great 'flange' for holding the iris assembly in position.



Eye parts


Time to cut out some Perspex

Here you can see the rim of the iris and the opaque white disc that has been cut for the centre.

This is going to be a 1960s-style eyeball, so no pupil will be added. Using just these pieces, glued together, will give you a good-looking iris, but I wanted to go a stage further. I wanted to give the eye some 'depth', so I added a clear Perspex front and a spacer behind the rim. For details, continue to the next page.




As the picture shows, the 'white' of the iris is set back slightly, so the rim casts a shadow, giving a better illusion of it being a 'seeing device'.

From top to bottom, the parts are... Rim (black Perspex), eye cover (clear Perspex disc), bigger inner rim (black Perspex), spacer ring (hidden but in black Perspex) and finally the white Perspex backing disc.

All the rims and discs were cut using a holesaw set, mounted in a drill press. Where the correct size hole saw was not available, the part was made oversize and then sanded down by mounting and spinning it in the drill press.


Eye stalk parts


The eye-disc assembly...

This was also made from Perspex, using the holesaw set. A length of plastic tube (sprayed silver on the inside) has been used to make the spacers between the discs.

The central rod comprises of two lengths of 'threaded tube' (used in the production of table lamps). This tube is ideal for illuminated eyestalks, as it gives you the perfect way to run a cable through.

The plastic 'buffer' and bulbholder are detachable, to allow for future access to the bulb, which is going to be inside the eyeball.


Bulb detail...

This lamp assembly is made from various bits of plastic with the bulbholder glued to the end.
A brass retaining nut has been glued into a hole in the underside of the assembly.

The whole assembly can be unscrewed and then replaced, once the eyeball has been added.
The wire is channelled up the central threaded tube and then through the brass nut. 
A small notch has been cut in the bulbholder to allow the wires to connect to the terminals.



Fitting the lens


Fitting the lens...

With the eyeball fixed in place, it's time to add the 'lens'. This photo gives you a better insight into the "Perspex sandwitch" used to make the iris unit. This fits snugly into the front of the eyeball. A few tiny dabs of PVA glue have been used to ensure that it is secure.

If it ever needs to be removed to change the bulb, this will be a straightforward task. A small suction cup, like those used on a child's toy, will be used to pull the two sections apart.

My fingernails are clean on this occasion - they'd had time to recover after I'd built the shoulders!

Eye stalk pivot


Eye-stalk pivot...

The pivot is made from two pieces of MDF. This one is slightly thinner than it should be, but this is to allow for the addition of 1.5mm aluminium sheet facing.

The threaded tube runs all the way through the pivot. The two nuts in the foreground will be glued into the sides. They will be used to attach the pivot to the brackets inside the dome.

Although this is a 1960s-style eyestalk, I've given the pivot a flat front because I prefer this 'look' and it also allows the tube to mate up with the pivot more effectively. 




Aluminium Facing


Aluminium facing... 

The holesaw set has been used again, this time with the drill press on its slowest speed, to cut through 1.5mm aluminium! The aluminium facing gives the pivot a superb finish, making it look like a solid lump of metal. The edge is finished off with a strip of thinner metal glued into position with contact adhesive (not shown). 

Bolts and a washer are used to hold the whole eyestalk together. You can also see the other end of the wiring and the final resting place of the two captive nuts, which are now hidden behind the aluminium facing, in the pivot's centre.

Eye Stalk

The finished item...

This is the finished eyestalk with the baked-bean-tin/sugar-bowl combo at one end, followed by the plastic tube and eyedisc assembly. After that there is a length of aluminium tube, followed by the pivot.

The whole thing is held together under tension by the bolts at either end. Now all that is left is to attach the eyestalk to the dome...


I can see!

I can see!

The finished eyestalk fitted into the dome. Two bolts have been screwed into the captive nuts in the sides of the pivot. The bolts pass through a U-shaped bracket, mounted inside the dome. The nuts are left fairly loose so the pivot is free to move up and down.

neck rings


Neck rings...

Made from MDF and cut on a bandsaw. The entire bandsaw was angled to achieve the chamfered angle on the edge - not something I would recommend. Cutting neckings with a router is probably the best bet.

The holes around the inside edge were drilled before the inner circle was cut out. Each hole comprises of three small holes that run into each other. Pilot holes were drilled first to stop the drillbit from skipping into the adjacent holes.


Test fitting the struts


Test fitting the struts...

A60s-style neckcage needs eight trefoil struts. This kind of moulding is no longer available. Each one of these struts had to be made from individual pieces of dowel, glued together to make the 'cloverleaf' shape.

Here we see the struts being test fitted into the lower ring. Because the neck is slightly conical in shape, some adjustment often needs to be done to the angle of the holes through which the struts are fitted. The holes are easily modified with a round file and a bit of patience.

Note that each strut has already had its slanted top angle cut.

Bin and Dome


All together now...

Here we see the neckcage assembled 'dry'. Even without glue, it holds together very well. At this stage, it still needs a few small adjustments to get the struts sitting correctly.

Wood glue and filler needs to be added to fix the whole thing together securely and fill up the tiny gaps where the struts pass through the holes.


Bin and Dome


Dome, neckcage and neckbin...

Test fitting of the neckbin (without mesh) and dome - just to see how things go together. The dome pictured here is the second 'pull' from the mould. This one has the standard square-edged eye slot seen on most Daleks.

At this point, the turning mechanism for the dome has yet to be fitted, hence the way the dome is sitting on the neckcage.

Thrown together


Thrown together...  

This is the first test fitting of all the unfinished Dalek parts. The dome is still a little wonky on the neckcage. The neckbin has had a layer of tinted plastic film fitted.

This was eventually removed as it caused a terrible 'drumming' sound when the Dalek was wheeled over uneven surfaces!



Sprayed up


Sprayed up...

The finished neckcage, all shiny and gleaming in its new coat of silver. This topcoat followed several hours of priming and sanding, until the surfaces were glassy smooth. The neckcage is labour intensive and time consuming, but is well worth the effort.

Once assembled, the neckcage isn't the easiest part to sand and finish. Care must also be taken during spraying, because the shape of the cage makes it very easy for areas to be missed or runs to occur.

 Neck ring former


Alternative neckring method.....

Remember the dome former from the Workshop Manual (and Radio Times plans)? This gave me the idea of using something similar to create a set of fibreglass neckrings.

This method has never been used before (as far as I know) and the whole thing was fairly experimental. The photo shows one of the wooden 'formers' used to shape the plaster into a ring. This is bolted down to the centre of a board so that it can be rotated smoothly.



 Plaster ring


Rough guide...

The plaster needs to be at just the right consistency for this to work. Too wet and it runs everywhere.
Too dry and it 'pulls' as the former is rotated, causing rough areas and gaps.
Bhe easiest way of starting the ring semmed to be to form a rough circle of dollops of plaster, using the former over the top to consolidate the general shape. Small holes and 'thin' areas needed extra plaster adding in order to fill out to the correct profile.

Drying out

Drying out...

This is one of the three plaster neckrings drying out.
The final rings were quite strong and I was able to pick them up off the baseboards and stack them.
After a little 'finishing' with fine sandpaper, they were sealed with G4 sealer.

Care had to be taken with the sharp outer edge, as it was quite
fragile and could easily have been chipped at this stage.

Three rings

Three rings...

Here are all three plaster neckings - glossy with G4 sealer, which is the stuff that is used to seal concrete ponds to make them watertight.

The next stage involves giving the rings (and baseboards) a good coating of mould-release wax, ready for adding the gelcoat and fibreglass, in order to make the top halves of each two-part mould.

Lay up

Lay up...

A two-part mould was created from each plaster ring. This view shows the top part of the mould.

The spokes are corrugations made from strips of foam. These have been placed between the layers of fibreglass to add extra strength. The mould covers the entire ring, plus around two inches of 'flat' onto the baseboard.

Two inches are also added to the other half of the mould, so that the two mould halves can be bolted together.

Ring moulds

Three fibreglass ring moulds...

This photograph shows the three ring moulds. The idea is that the mould halves are bolted together and then the gelcoat and fibreglass are laid up into the small gap on the inner edge of the mould. This will produce a neckrings that are hollow and also have an open inner edge.

Each ring will then be filled with expanding foam, and filler used to finish off the inner surface. Result: an ultra-lightweight neckcage.



The shoulders were constructed from bendy MDF fitted to a wooden frame. The two sheets of bendy MDF were joined at the sides. In the photograph you can see the filler, used to conceal the join.

This position was chosen as it is less obtrusive on the finished shoulders than a 'front to back' seam.

Finished shoulders

Finished shoulders...

This is a moody view of the completed shoulders. As you can see, much of the surface has been hidden by the collars, mesh and slats.

All these components are made from aluminium. The collars and slats were all cut from a single sheet of 1.5mm aluminium. Steel mesh should be avoided at all costs as it is extremely sharp and dangerous to handle.

The inner surface of the shoulder section has been lined with thin foam. This was done to form an acoustic buffer between the microphone and the speakers, reducing feedback through the voice mod - the 'ring modulator'.

Paint prep


Here is a photo of the Dalek in its 'primered' state. Coats of white primer were brushed on and then carefully sanded back with progressively finer grades of wet-n-dry paper.
After many hours, all the surfaces were brought to an extremely fine, glassy-smooth finish.


More primer

Another primer shot...

The edges of the holes in the skirt were sanded to remove any roughness. The inside of the skirt was primered and then given a coat of oil-based white gloss paint.

No areas of bare wood or MDF were left unpainted. This should make the Dalek fairly resistant to damp conditions. The same care was taken with the preparation of the skirt as with the shoulders. Many hours were spent smoothing the surface.

Spray time


Grey primer (spray paint) was used as the final undercoat, flatted back before the topcoat.All the main sections were sprayed: dome (not shown), neckcage, shoulders and skirt/base.


Silver base coat

Silver basecoat and two-pack lacquer...

A silver basecoat was sprayed over the primer. This basecoat gave good coverage but was lacking in gloss. It is customary in the automotive industry to apply a layer of clear lacquer over metallic basecoats to add extra shine. That is what we did here.Notice the other Dalek in the background. He was primed with yellow spray putty, then rubbed down before the grey primer coat was added. Eventually he was also sprayed up in silver and two-pack lacquer.



Silver basecoat and two-pack lacquer...

With the painting complete it was time to test fit everything. Domelights, eyestalk, gun, arm, neckmesh, base rubber and collars have all been fitted here.

Shoulder mesh and slats are still to be added as well as the hemispheres (blue ones for this 60s-style Dalek). An extra layer of neckmesh or voile also needs to be added to further obscure the neck, so the operator won't be seen.



Hemisphere former


Making hemispheres...

This is the mould I used to 'pressure form' PETG plastic into hemispheres. Each five-inch square of plastic was mounted in a frame and heated in the oven. Once it had begun to 'sag' it was pressed over the mould, pushing the plastic into the desired shape.

For more information on this process, please refer to the 'Dalek Builder's Workshop Manual'.


Pressure formed hemispheres


PETG hemispheres...

Newly pressed hemispheres, fresh from the oven. In the foreground you can see some flat squares of

PETG plastic, cut into five-inch squares, still covered in their blue backing paper. The gloves are an essential part of the kit - the wingnuts on the 'press frame' get very hot!



Finished 4" (101mm) hemispheres


Modern art?

No, this isn't my entry for the Turner prize. It's a display of exactly how many hemispheres you need to kit out one Dalek. Don't bother counting, I'll tell you. There are fifty six.

Each one of these PETG plastic bowls has been lovingly sprayed blue on the inside.

Stacked pile of finished 4" (101mm) hemispheres


Ready to fit...

Finished and sprayed, these hemispheres are ready to be fitted through the holes in the skirt section. Glue from a hot-glue gun is a good method of fixing these in place. They will stand a few knocks but will still 'pop' out, should you wish to swap to a different colour or need to repaint the skirt.For a more permanent and much tougher fit, use fibreglass to hold them in position. Fibreglass holds them so well that they will not pop out, no matter how much punishment they get!


Hemisphere mould


Fibreglass hemispheres...

If you want to go for 'authentic' 1960s-style Dalek hemispheres, you need to use fibreglass, laid up with the correct colour gelcoat, so that no painting is necessary. Here a mould has been prepared for making eight hemispheres at once. This mould was created by sinking eight four-inch balls into holes in a wooden frame, so that only the top half of them was exposed. A raised 'flange' ring was also added to make the finished hemis neater.r.

The whole frame was waxed and then this mould was created using fibreglass. This mould is a direct 'negative' copy of the original wooden 'ball frame'.


Finished fibreglass hemisphere


Fibreglass hemispheres...

Here are two fibreglass hemispheres pulled from the mould shown on the previous page. They have been laid up in blue gelcoat, so the colour is part of the fibreglass and will not scratch off. The flanged recess on the mould has created very neat edges. This looks nice now but won't be seen once the hemispheres are fixed into the skirt.

Making fibreglass hemis takes a lot of time and effort, but the results are worth it. Remember to purchase and mix enough pigment to do a whole set of fifty six, otherwise colour variations may occur.





No more foot power...

A little while after completing the Dalek, I managed to purchase a secondhand electric (24-volt) wheelchair. This was stripped down and the motors, seat and controls were adapted to fit inside the Dalek's skirt and shoulders. The fact that the skirt could split in half made fitting quite easy.

The photo shows the motors and battery boxes in position below the seat. The control unit is resting on the top of the battery boxes, awaiting the construction of a shelf.

Inside the skirt


From the top...

A view from above, showing the seat and the joystick unit. I couldn't make my mind up which side to fit the controls on, so I ended up fitting them in the centre. The motors can be controlled with either hand, leaving the other hand free to work the plunger, eye or gun.

The makeshift golfball knob was eventually replaced with a nice shiny black one!



Voice Modulator


Shoulder electrics...

Aview of the various electronics housed in the shoulder section. The big grey box is the 'ring modulator' that gives the operator's voice that familiar Dalek sound. To its right is a small fusebox for the lights, ring modulator and water gun.

The red switch controls the power to the lamp in the eyeball. The white cable on the bottom connects to the pump for the water gun, which is housed in the front of the skirt. The gun is activated by pushing the black gun handle forwards. This makes the gun's internal metal strips poke out (as per the TV originals), while water shoots out of the central pipe.




Correctly sized and shaped plungers are very difficult to find. Most plungers these days are bell-shaped or flattish. This one was found while on holiday in Tenerife.

It has the correct hemispherical profile and is a rather pleasing five-plus inches in diameter. Unfortunately it has an inner 'lip' that the originals didn't have. It's not perfect but it's much better than a lot of plungers out there...



The finished article


Finished Dalek...

This is the result of all the hard work.

He's big, silver and glides easily across grass using his powerful 24-volt motors and big pneumatic tyres.


John: 1970s Dalek

mainpic johngenesis

This Dalek was built in 2012 and based on the props featured in 'Genesis Of The Daleks'. 

All the major sections of this Dalek are made from fibreglass. This includes the dome, neck rings, neck bin, shoulders, skirt, hemisheres, slats, collars and (outer) base. The only wooden component is the inner base support, which holds the weight of the wheels and the operator.


 How it was done...

The under construction in the mould
Here we see the fibreglass dome, still in the mould. The rough edges have been trimmed away, leaving a smooth edge which only requires a light sanding to finish off. The dome was removed from the mould by using a single plastic wedge to make a gap wide enough to get the end of an air gun into, in order to add compressed air.
All fibreglass neck cage
This neck bin is made entirely from fibreglass. The top and bottom sections were made in MDF and then moulds were made. The struts were cast from moulds made from plastic angle. All parts were bonded together using fibreglass chopped strands. This assembly is much, much lighter than a wooden equivalent.
Fibreglass neck rings
The neck rings were also made from fibreglas. As with all the other major sections, they were made using grey pigmented gel coat, so no paint was required to finish them. The struts which are inserted to make the neck cage were made from carbon fibre tubing.
The fibreglass shoulders, partially de-moulded
This is the shoulders, partially out of the mould. Because of their strong fibreglass construction, no internal frame was required. This gives the operator a little extra elbow room when operating the Dalek. Later, fibreglass collars and fibreglass slats were added. All these items were though-pigmented grey and therefore, did not require painting.
The skirt, under construction, in the mould
This is the skirt, freshly laid-up and still in the mould. Later, once the composite was dry, the top and bottom mould returns were removed and the mould's three side sections were separated in order to extract the skirt from the mould. Fifty six holes were then cut, one for each hemisphere. These were then added, through the holes, from the inside and fibreglassed into position. Like the rest of the Dalek, the hemispheres were made from pigmented (black) fibreglass and required no painting.
Fibreglass base section with wooden insert
The base section was also made from fibreglass. The original mould was made so that the edges looked as though they were made from rubber, while in reality, they are tough and very scuff resistant. A wooden insert was added into the base to help support the wheels. This is the only wooden component on the entire Dalek.