Tardis Corset Technical Notes Part 2: The second version.

With a proof of concept, if not much more, in hand, I set about making a second version.  Nikki suggested printing the panels on paper and using the paper.  My printer was out of ink at the time (I have a fancy printer and the ink costs a mint.), so I borrowed a printer, and set about doing that.  What eventually appeared was a sandwich:

clear plastic

frosted plastic


clear plastic

This took a fair bit of time in photoshop, since I had to make the panels look exactly correct. So an hour or so per panel to make sure it all looked the way it was supposed to.  But I was having printing problems- the panels weren’t printing at the right size and it wasn’t my printer.  Concerns about ink usage arose. After several attempts I finally managed to get all the printed panels in my hands and make the sandwiches.

While this looked okay- certainly better than the previous attempt, it had a flaw- it was very hard to make the sandwich stay together.  I spent a lot of time gluing and gluing.  The glue has to go SOMEWHERE and there was nowhere to put it on the panel that it was well hidden.  I had lots of problems with the panels coming apart. I kept gluing them back together.  But I was rapidly running out of TIME.  I shipped the panels overnight to Philadelphia.  They were supposed to be there by noon the next day.  Nikki would then have one full day to get it all together.  This was the second round of panels:

In the mad rush I cut the door opening to the sign on the stomacher backwards. Oops.

The USPS lost the package.

They misrouted it and it didn’t arrive until a day later.  Then Nikki had the same problems I did with panel separation.  She’d had a really, really awful week (for various reasons) and in the end just couldn’t build the corset in time for Defcon.  We then were focused on a new deadline- Wicked Faire on August 13.

So we were getting there, but we weren’t quite there yet.

Tardis Corset: Of Sonic Screwdrivers and Doors

Nikki forwarded a question on to me asking if it would be technically possible to build a sonic screwdriver capable of opening the door on the corset.

This led me to ask what a sonic screwdriver WAS.

Once I got that explanation out of the way (and Nikki stopped laughing), I told her I’d post the answer here:


Yes, but there’s no real good reason to want to.

From a *technical* standpoint what you’re really looking to do is basically apply the same principles as a garage door opener, or the push button electronic lock on your car door.  You basically turn the sonic screwdriver into the remote control for the door.  It’s a pain in the ass, but technically doable.

However in this particular case it’s an awful lot of work (and added expense) to the garment for no really good reason.  if you’re using it on yourself, it’s really just almost silly when you could just, you know, open the door. 

If you give the controller to someone else it makes all kinds of sense from a fetish corset standpoint.  But it would really require the doors be placed far more strategically- which they’re simply not on this garment.

It’s just not worth the hassle or expense to do it for this particular design, but yeah it’s *technically* possible.



Tardis Corset Technical Notes 1: How I got here.

Before I forget all this, I’m writing it down.

As I’ve said previously, Nikki is a friend of mine. We had been speaking on Skype one night as she told me about her idea to make a tardis corset.  She had a client (Nicole) who had a credit with her and  Nikki wanted to get her in a tardis corset in time for Defcon.  While she had already built the pieces for the corset itself (since you know, that’s her actual job and all), she was stuck on how to turn it into a tardis (jokes about it being bigger on the inside notwithstanding.) and time was rapidly running out.

There’s two things you need to know about me:

1. I don’t sew.  In fact the only reason I own a sewing machine (I do own one, I have no idea how it works- it may as well be a nuclear reactor) is so my tailor/costume designer/all around saver of the day Jay Reeder from Knightly Endeavors doesn’t have to drag one to my house to do alterations from three hours away. So sewing issues are completely baffling to me.

2. Sorry for the heresy, gang, but I’ve never watched Dr. Who. Not ever. Not once. I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about it- it’s just not the direction my geekery goes in.  So understand that all this knowledge that others have about the show, and the tardis and all manner of other Whovian mystery is… well a mystery to me. The closest I get to Dr. Who generally is playing Rotersand: Exterminate Annihilate Destroy during a DJ set.

But Nikki was really worried about figuring this problem out. She knew what she *wanted* to do, but didn’t know how to get from point A to point B on it.  Not her skillset, as it were.

Luckily, it’s my skillset, so I offered to help out. What the hell, I like puzzles.

Understand that design is a process. That’s hard for goal oriented people.

No one is more goal oriented than me.  I am very much on the J of that J/P divide.  But design– a process that largely takes place in your head, not in the outside world, is very much a thing of process and perception.  It’s a journey. The project completion is the goal.

It is frustrating for people on the outside who only care about the goal to see or care about the process. But the process exists whether you like it or not.  It has to- or you get really shitty design.  It is VERY rare for an idea to pounce out of someone’s head fully formed like Athena from Zeus, and when people cling to the first idea they have, they usually wind up with really lousy results overall.

So, I first told her I would help. I have experience with this sort of geekery- as previously mentioned I’m the lunatic who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit (and I promise I had NO IDEA it would become as famous as it did- I did it to help Jay, who is also an old friend, win a costume contest at Penguicon. I didn’t set out to help create an internet meme, and no one was more shocked than me when it happened.)

Nikki sent me a ton of photos and information about the this particular tardis(I didn’t realize there were different models.) and explained exactly what she was trying to do.  She also mailed me her original drafted pattern, that I copied onto bond paper on my lightbox. She explained to me that ultimately she also wanted the tardis to light up.  This meant the panels could not be fully opaque (otherwise, what’s the point?)  they had to be translucent in the places you wanted lighting- in this case, the windows. I saw clearly that two windows on each side were frosted, and the others were  not frosted but darker. The tardis itself being made of wood, ostensibly, is opaque and the police box sign needed to light up as well.  Nikki indicated that the front panel needed a little door where the “free for use of the public” sign was- that she wanted to paint some sort of swirly thing behind the door.  Later on I learned she also wanted the door to trigger a sound mechanism.  It was all a bit complex. Technically doable, but not all of it was going to get done in the time frame we had.

At first, my idea was to get custom plastic pieces cut at Canal Plastics. The night before I was going to do down there I realized I was an idiot- I didn’t need to go to Canal Plastics, all I really needed to do was go to Target.

Yes, Target.

Because what I really was after was vinyl, since it was flexible and very thin.  You know where you can get plain and frosted (for the frosted windows) vinyl sheets easily?  Target.

All I needed was a couple of shower curtain liners.

So I grabbed those, brought them home and set about cutting out colorforms, basically. Rerun was trying to be helpful.


Nikki’s original pattern was designed to draft the corset itself, and was rough on the details of the tardis parts(since that’s not what she was building).  So I made the window outlines clearer on my copies. You can see her original copy on the right.


Originally, I thought of painting behind the clear vinyl(so as to keep it safe if people touched it), and attaching the frosted bits to the back. So I used photoshop to create a painting guide.

This was a good idea in my head- it didn’t work out in practice.  Since the plastic isn’t porous, the paint wouldn’t dry, and it was really messy. There was no way to make the letters look good.  It was just a complete disaster.  But I did manage to get the basic idea going. Two windows were frosted, the others were not. I had glued the frosted vinyl to the back of the clear vinyl after it was painted.

Failures teach us things about how to proceed.

The first attempt:

So that was how I got to the very first prototype.  Understand that the panels that exist now were the third go round at solving the problem.

It’s about the process- how you get from an idea to a finished product.




So hey, about that Tardis Corset.

If you’re a Dr. Who fan, you’ve likely seen it by now- the Tardis Corset Nikki Cohen of Mayfaire Moon is in the middle of building. Nikki is a friend of mine.  She is a professional corset maker, and very good at what she does.  What she isn’t, is an engineer of wacky technical matters.  But she knows someone who does that sort of thing.


I seem to have a history of doing this(I’m also the same person who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit) but… I’m the one who made the panels. I’ve seen some comments not understanding a few things.  I’d like to clear those up, for the record.

1. The corset is nowhere near finished. The photo that’s now gone all around the internet was the shot of the practice placement of the stomach panels. It’s not nearly a finished product.  It’s barely even a partially finished product.  Please for the love of small fuzzy creatures stop judging it as if it were finished product. The photo in question is here:

Calm the hell down, people.

See the pins at the top of the panels? They were there to temporarily hold them in place.  It’s just a process shot, okay?

2. There are six panels in total, not just the two. Here, look, I’ll show you:

3. The reason they’re plastic and not an integral part of the corset body itself is they will be lit with EL wire. The corset body itself is silk and therefore, quite opaque and cannot be lit in the same way. Hence, the acetate.

4. The little door is clear because there will be something behind it. I had offered to paint it white as a temporary move, but Nikki declined.  It will be rigged with a little sound mechanism that will play whatever it is that’s supposed to play when you open the door. (I have personally never seen a single episode of Dr. Who.), and some kind of image on the inside of the door.

5.  These panels were the second round of prototype panels(you can see the first set at my flickr account).  Since my building them, I’ve figured out a way to solve the last remaining problem- the windowframes, which are too inexact for my taste.  However, the solution takes more time than we had to build *this particular* physical corset. It will be solved in the next one.  We know the windowframes are not perfect- really, I promise, no one knows better than we do.  However we were on a very tight time frame with this particular garment.  It will be fixed in version 3.0.  Look, it took 10 Tardises (Tardises? Tardii?) to get to this model. It’s only taking me three to perfect it. Give me a break, here. 🙂

I think it’s awesome that so many people like Nikki’s idea(and for the record it’s entirely her idea– Im just helping her engineer it.)  She’s a wonderful corset maker, and a lovely person.  I’m amazed(and so is she!) that this single image has traveled so far. But like a game of telephon(tardis phone box? I don’t know, run with it.), it’s sort of gotten distorted in the process. It’s a work in progress.  We will perfect it.

We promise.


Where have I been?

No, I don’t want to talk about that.

What happened to the cabinet?

Finished. Been finished since before Gothmas, but don’t have photos yet because there’e still Gothmas decorations sitting on it (I need another box.)

What else has happened?

My cats (specifically Rupert and Rerun, but mostly Rupert) destroyed my original, not reproduction, not reiussue from Herman Miller, ORIGINAL, with original glass, Noguchi coffee table.

What the hell do you mean, “destroyed”?

Does that help answer the question?

Can you fix it?

Sort of.  I can repair the base. I do have a degree in Restoration that might be worth something other than cheap paper. But the glass (which I’m still finding in my floor weeks later) is obviously gone (I saved one chunk for posterity.) I can get an authorized reissue piece of glass from Herman Miller but it ain’t cheap and you know, it will be precisely correct dimension wise( sorry but the knockoff pieces *aren’t.*  I’ve lived with an original for a long, long time- I can spot a knockoff Noguchi table every time), but it still won’t be the original glass. Yes, I know no one will know but me. But I’ll still know.  Not ready to tackle that one yet.

What are you working on now?

Apparently, carving eggs. I saw an article a few months ago about this. Figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s not easy and it does take practice.  You do have some spectacular failures before you get any success. Most people tend to use larger eggs. Goose, duck, Emu, and Ostrich, since all of them are a) larger than chicken eggs and b) more sturdy than chicken eggs. It ain’t easy to crack an ostrich egg, let me tell you.  My approach was the “New York, New York” method. I figured if I could manage to get a handle on how chicken eggs carved up, I could do any kind of egg I wanted.

Of course my *perfect for this application* box of micro drill bits, which is DEFINITELY in this house because I see it *every time I don’t need it* decided to disappear now that I *do* need it, my tools were limited.  More/different tools probably would have led to earlier successes. Fortunately, there’s no shortage on eggs. (and no, none of the eggs were wasted- they were all used)

So by now some people are wondering how in the hell one carves an eggshell.  Maybe. I mean, if I’m lucky. I suppose the answer is “carefully.” But as a step by step process? Not that complicated.

1. Choose an egg.

This sounds easy but after you’ve screwed this up a few times? You get a feel for which eggs will work better.  The thicker the shell the easier it will be to work with without destroying after you’ve sunk four hours into it.  With more practice of course, you can go for more delicate and fragile shells.  How can you tell? Easiest way I’ve found is to simply hold them up to the light and see which ones you can see through the least.   I found that brown eggs were easier to screw up than white eggs, though realistically this could just be a matter of practice. Also, I don’t like brown, so take that as you will.   But you start to notice that though eggs are in general, egg shaped (or we’d call them something else) that there’s a great variety within that and you’re right away having to make aesthetic decisions about “what shape will work best.”  I suggest that your criteria start with “not broken.”

2. Great, so I have an egg. Now what?

Well now, we have to get the inside of the egg outside without crushing the shell.  My first attempts were seriously low-fi.  I used a safety pin.  While it’s possible to actually do this? Far more often? This is the result:

Again, you *CAN* get the egg out, but seriously, it’s a pain in the ass and unless you’re secretly Dizzy Gillespie, your cheeks get tired too.  So, screw the low fi method.  I broke out the machinery. In particular, my trusty flexible shaft machine (which as you will recall from many previous posts, is not a sex toy.)  As mentioned previously, my wonderful and fantastic array of micro drill bits has gone missing. However all was not lost, as I do have some tools to play with. In this case, a box of #52 carbide micro drill bits. ( For those who like engineering porn, the bits are .0635s)In short, they are wee. How wee?

Punch a hole in the top and bottom of the egg. FINDING the precise top and bottom is not unlike finding the north and south pole. I suggest “wing it, it’s close enough.”   I then went back in and made the hole on the bottom slightly larger using a micro cone diamond point file(if you follow this link it’s the one on the far left.). Then you go back and blow the inside of the egg out into a bowl.  It helps if you shake the egg every so often to break the yolk.    I then rinse the inside of the egg, but don’t make yourself nuts- it’s hard to get in there yet.    Let it dry.

3.  Then mostly it’s about going to town with micro sized tools, a flex shaft (or dremel) and lots of practice. I just sketched on the egg in pencil and went to town.  There were lots of failures. (eight, to be exact, at various stages.)

yet another failure.

Accidentally profound.

that was short lived.

4. But what about that icky membrane on the inside?

As you can see in the last photo, there isn’t one, but you can see it on all the others. Where did it go? How did I remove it? HOW SMALL WERE THE TWEEZERS?

Nope. No tweezers(I tried that. Doesn’t work well, btw.).  ORGANIC CHEMISTRY! SCIENCE!  CUE THOMAS DOLBY!

*boo doo doododo boo do doodoodo doo doo. boodoo. doo.* (this makes perfect sense if you’ve cued the Thomas Dolby properly.)

No, what you need is the exact opposite of what you need to color Easter eggs.  Easter eggs take color because the dye is combined with acid- generally vinegar. This makes eggshells softer and increases their porosity.  Color goes in, color stays in.   But egg *SHELLS* are not the same thing as the membrane on the inside of the egg. That’s just pure protein.  And what eats protein? Not acids, but bases.

Screw the science lesson- get a glass jar with a tight fitting lid(I used one of Stacy’s former jam jars) pour some bleach into it and carefully place the egg in.  Put the cap back on and watch science go to work.  20 minutes, half hour later? Carefully remove the eggshell and rinse in a water bath til it stops smelling like your white wash.


5. But how did you get those circles so ROUND?

They aren’t. But if you’re asking how I did the touch up work to make them MORE round, I sketched out where they needed to be fixed, and used my cone file on a low speed.  If I were using a thicker egg, like emu or ostrich, high speeds are better because they produce more power and more torque.  But chicken eggs disintegrate under that kind of pressure, so low speed, very slowly, being careful and patient.  I’d mark off each hole that I’d “fixed” with a pencil.  After that, I just used plain soap and water (dish soap) and cleaned the pencil marks off.   Finally,  I let the whole thing dry.  Once it sits overnight you can clearly see the proteins the bleach didn’t get the first time because they will have oxidized and turned golden brown against the otherwise white shell.  Back into the bleach for you!  Just let it sit there for a couple hours to remove any remaining residue, and then rinse carefully.

6. So why did you do all of this?

Honestly? Cause spring is coming and some people collect eggs. If anyone wants to buy one, let me know. I’ve already been asked about black ones(doable).  I can also do gilded ones (silver and gold) as well.  I was thinking of trying squares, too.  But I  can only make like… Three, before I run out of places to put them(and Rupert destroys them) here so it’s mostly going to be a “by commission” thing.  However if you want one, let me know! I can certainly do larger ones as well.

Got it? Eggcellent.