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How to Build a Remote-Controlled Dalek

(or how to exterminate your parents!)

By Stephen Pritchard

As far as I can remember, since I first started to watch Doctor Who, the Daleks have always fascinated me. Their total disregard for humans and any other life forms that stood in their way; their unshakeable belief that they were the superior life form and that it was their destiny to conquer the Universe - there was nothing at the time to compare them with. They were the ultimate in bad guys.

The Kit

Many is the time when I would have liked to have exterminated the odd parent or teacher myself, and finally my chance came when I was able to locate and buy a Sevans Dalek kit last year. For those of you who are not familiar with this kit it was one of the first serious Dalek kits to be marketed and came out in the early eighties. Also added to this range later on were Davros, Cyberman, Cyber Controller kit and Ice Warrior kits, all in 1/5 scale.

The Dalek kit has gone though a few changes over the years, with the original kit featuring interior as well as exterior detail, but in an effort to lower the price and construction time this was deleted in later models. In its present form it is still one of the best and at 1/5 scale it is the largest Dalek kit available, being approximately 1 foot tall. As for its authenticity, after its release several of the kits were used as extras in Revelation of the Daleks. The only real problem with this kit is that it is also one of the most expensive Dalek kits, and it can be tricky to assemble.

The kit comprises several vac-formed pieces which go to make up the bulk of the Dalek, and some injection-moulded pieces for things like the gun and sink plunger. If you are unfamiliar with vac-form kits, they are made by heating up a piece of plastic sheet and then sucking it onto the surface of a mould as opposed to injecting molten plastic in to a mould (see Fig 1).

[vac-form diagram]


The kit is a bit tricky to build unless you have had some experience of vac-form kits before, but fortunately the instructions are very detailed and clear.

The instructions also have a very interesting history of the Daleks in the show and a detailed history of the prop Daleks themselves which is almost worth paying the price of the kit for.

Building the Kit

The following are some hints on building the kit.

Stage 1: After you have cut out the skirt pieces you should dry fit them before you glue them. To do this I found that it is best to use double-sided sticky tape.

As I was going to make mine remote controlled, I left the back panel loose so that I could get access to the radio gear and the motors. After the side panels on the skirt were assembled there were some gaps that needed to be filled. To do this I used standard Tamiya putty, as I wanted something that would be strong. The instructions recommend using Milliput which is very good but very difficult to get hold of in this country and doesn't bond to plastic very well as it is an epoxy-based clay filler; however it can be smoothed and moulded before it dries so does not needed as much sanding.

The skirt was then sanded smooth and spray painted with an undercoat of grey, then aluminium was sprayed over that. I use aluminium because it has a duller silver look to it. The domes were then painted with electric blue by hand and the base of the skirt was painted black. The whole thing was then varnished.

Stage 2: The eye stalk was added to the head dome, which was then painted black on the inside. The outside again was spray painted with an undercoat of grey and then spray-painted aluminium. After this had dried, the dome was varnished and the eye pieces were added to the eye stalk.

For the dome lights, I used a pair of clear red plastic covers which I got with some 9V bulbs; they are approximately the right shape and size. This also means that at a later date lights could be added inside the covers.

The neck pieces were also spray-painted before being assembled, and a micro-servo was placed in the bottom one to control the movement of the head. If you want to have a mesh look to the collars you could try covering them with black nylon stocking material or you could paint an undercoat of grey on them and then spray black through a mesh which will leave the impression of the mesh on them.

The plastic tube in the centre of the head was then extended down and fixed on to the top of the micro servo, but not permanently. This way the head will turn as the servo turns.

Stage 3: I built up the shoulder piece as per the instructions, but at 'step D' I put thin strips of plastic card over the side of the collar supports to make them look neater. The shoulder piece was then sprayed grey.

To make construction of the collar pieces easier they were cut out and then a sharp edge was run over them to make them curl in the right direction. The collar pieces were then sprayed aluminium and varnished. Care must be taken when gluing them on to the shoulder as it can get very messy. Use superglue and accelerator, and if you have them F-clamps are very useful for this kind of work. Note: some spray paint will not go over some superglue accelerators, so do a test first.

For the rods on the gun I used some thick copper wire which was bent to shape and then superglued into place. The gun was then sprayed with an undercoat of grey and then aluminium. The ball joint was left black.

Stage 4: The slats were cut out, spray-painted and varnished before being glued in place. Again, care must be taken when adding them to the mesh as it is very tricky getting them lined up straight. You should lightly mark out their position beforehand in pencil on the top of the shoulder to get them straight.

Step 5: As I would be adding radio control gear to my Dalek rather than gluing the stages together I attached them with Velcro for easy access.


The paints that I used were Prime Coat all-purpose primer, grey oxide colour, and Quick-Dry spray enamel, aluminium colour. Both of these come in spray cans which can be bought at most petrol stations.

To protect the aluminium paint, which smudges very easily with finger grease, Johnson Klear floor polish was used. This varnish is available at most supermarkets and is water based so can be washed out of brushes easily. If you are applying it with a brush, do several thin coats as thick coats will crack as they dry. Alternatively it can be spray painted without thinning; again it is best to do several thin coats.

For small pieces like the slats Tamiya clear lacquer can be used. This comes in a small spray can, but watch out as it will dissolve the aluminium paint slightly, so only use it on flat surfaces and don't spray over the Johnson Klear as they will react together.

Robotising the Kit

Figure 2 shows the general layout of the components inside my Dalek. The radio gear I used was a 4-channel Futaba radio control unit from a radio-controlled aircraft. I used two of the channels for steering and speed control, the third to move the head dome around, and the fourth will be used for the gun movement eventually.

[general layout diagram]


For the basic motors I needed a motor which could run at 7V and 1500 IDA without overheating, as I wanted to run them from a battery pack. I found that some 9V motors bought at Dick Smiths worked perfectly. Next I needed some gears to slow them down. Here I used the Tamiya worm gear box H.E. set and simply replaced the motors in them. For speed control I used a Tamiya speed-control unit, which also allowed me to reverse the motors.

The steering is achieved by differential control. This means that one of the motors is switched off while the other is left running. This is done by placing an arm on a servo with switches either side of the motors. The movement of a servo from side to side would then activate the switches and turn the motors off or on. When the bar on the switches is pressed in it cuts off power to the motor it is controlling; when the bar comes back out the motor is switched back on. This method of steering gives the Dalek the ability to make very sharp turns like a robot.

The front wheel is a castoring wheel made from the tail wheel of a model plane, which is allowed to turn in any direction so that the Dalek can turn smoothly. A small furniture castor wheel could easily be used here instead.

The head is moved by simply mounting it on to a servo so that the movement of the servo turns it around through about 120 degrees.

Figure 3 is a block diagram of the layout of the radio gear.

[radio gear diagram]


Future Plans

I would like to use the fourth channel to 'fire' the gun, and will possibly use a wireless microphone combined with a voice distortion box to make the Dalek speak. The speaker could also trigger lights in the ear pieces.

Alternatively, some select comments could be digitised and burnt into EPROMs so that when the fourth channel is operated a comment is made and the gun fires.

In Conclusion

This was a fun model to make, but I would only suggest it to people who have had experience at making kits before. For those of you want something a little bit simpler, there is a Comet Miniatures kit of the Dalek which was released last year; this is injection-moulded and is 1/8th scale. It should retail for about $70.

My next project is to buy a Davros kit and recast the figure in latex so that I can make the arm move up and down.

Happy exterminations to you all.

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).