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DIY Aquarium Stand/Cabinet

Discussion in 'Articles' started by VaughnH, Jul 14, 2007.

  1. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The last time I did extensive maintenance on my tank I noticed that the stand is gradually deforming in several places. It is made of particle board, covered with plastic to look like oak. It is the original stand for the tank I have, a Jebo 45 gallon tank. When I had problems priming my filter I spilled water and soaked part of the stand sides, which caused me to begin worrying that some day that stand will give up and dump my tank onto the floor - a second story floor. So, that was all the excuse I needed to decide to build a replacement made from wood, not particle board.

    Here is the original stand:
    [​IMG]

    The stand has large corner radiused side pieces, a curved top, to match the tank front, and a nice door design - at least I like it. My first problem was to make the corner radiused pieces, so I started with them, figuring if I couldn't do that I wouldn't be out the cost of the rest of the wood. Here is the piece I made for that:
    [​IMG]

    It is just an oak 1 X 2 face glued to an oak 1 X 3, to make a rabbited 2 X 3, which I rounded the corner on with a router bit.
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The next hardest parts to make are the top and bottom, so I made those next. They are 3/4 " scrap plywood, with oak edging, wide enough that only oak will show on the outside. Because those pieces are about 1 1/4" thick on the existing stand, I made them from two thicknesses of 1 X 2 and 1 X 3 oak. I used a biscuit joiner to attach one thickness of oak to the edges of the plywood, then glued a second thickness on the bottom of that. Here they are, partly completed: The top
    [​IMG]

    The bottom: I glued two thicknesses of oak 1 X 2 on the bottom of the bottom piece to serve as feet to hold the weight. I still need to add a filler strip under the inner edge of the feet so the load is carried over a larger area. Here it is with the feet being glued on:
    [​IMG]

    Tomorrow, I will start making the sides and back and attaching them to the bottom. Those will be 3/4 oak veneered plywood.
     
  3. bobtail

    bobtail Prolific Poster

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    Nice work Vaughn its like an episode of this old house reading all those imperial measurements and biscuit joiners :).

    Will you be using the Binford 2800 gt hi torq varipitch all weather fastners?


    or just nails? :p
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    So far there isn't a single piece of metal involved! Modern yellow glue is so good, screws and nails are superfluous. And, biscuit joiners are the greatest thing since the discovery of fire!
     
  5. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The base and sides are done now. The base, upside down, has lots of area to be in contact with the floor, and it will not deform at all with the weight of 45 gallons of water:
    [​IMG]

    And, one of the sides, made of 3/4" oak veneered plywood, with the corner piece already made. I had to cut 1/16" thick shims to make up for the difference in thickness between the plywood and the oak 1 X 2 at the edge, using just a Skil Saw. By using a clamp on saw guide, and some ingenuity it worked out well.
    [​IMG]

    Next will be assembling the sides, back, base and top into a cabinet - tomorrow.
     
  6. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The body of the cabinet is together now, using a few drywall screws to hold the top and bottom to the sides, in addition to the glue.
    [​IMG]

    Next will be the plain slab of plywood doors, easy by comparison - very easy. The top ended up not flat enough, because plywood never seems to be flat anymore, especially after sitting in the garage for several months, as this did. So, I had to do a lot of belt sanding to get it flat enough, but I still will need a layer of sponge pastic between the tank and the top to account for the slight non flatness.
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Dang Vaughn, that's one nice stand if you ask me!
    Good job using the biscuit joiners!

    I use very little metal for mine as well.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thank you Tom!
    Not too bad for working with just hand tools and hand power tools, but not nearly as accurate as using a table saw. Now, a question: what is the best stuff to use under the tank to prevent the slightly uneven wood surface from overstressing the glass? Carpet padding?
     
  9. Kampi

    Kampi Lifetime Charter Member
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    Vaughn,
    I just built a stand with plywood as well. The 3/4 oak plywood had a warp to it, but I built the cabinet superstructure square and plumb, then I filled the 150 gallon tank slowly to see how the plywood flattened out. I had a few more layers of plywood on my 6' x 3' x 32"-deep cabinet. But I was happy to see that the plywood top followed the tank bottom quite well. I think when the cabinet is built well, the plywood top will follow.

    Nice series on your constriction techniques! I know how difficult it is to stop and take pictures, thanks.

    Joseph
     
  10. Barney

    Barney Junior Poster

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    Looking good! Wish I could make something that good but my DIY skills are crap. I might have a go at making a stand for the two nano tanks I'm planning (but will probably end up getting it made :) ).
     
  11. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Barney, you learn by doing. And, years ago I was complaining to a co-worker about not being able to afford good tools. He set me straight. He said, when you do a DIY project you are saving a lot of money, so take about half of that money and spend it on a good tool that will make your project turn out better. Then, the next time you do a DIY project, do the same thing, with a different tool. Eventually you collect the needed tools to do your best job, you learn to do good work, and you are still saving lots of money.

    I used that logic when I remodeled my house. I ended up with a fully equipped wood shop! Since then I have downsized by selling the house and buying a condo, so now I'm back to just hand power tools. But, I still remember what I learned.
     
  12. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I finally got the doors installed today, just plain rectangles of 3/4 oak veneered plywood, cut to fit inside the opening in the front. I used surface mounted hidden hinges, which are the greatest invention of all for those of us without the tools to install cup hinges.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now, I need to install a couple of small shelves inside to make it easier to store fish food and fertilizers, while still leaving room for the filter and CO2 reactor. The electric outlets will probably just be what I now use, chained short cord extension cords, with two timers controlling a couple of the extension cords.

    After that I will be staining it to match the existing hood, and clear finishing it. I think I will just use the same door knobs as on the present stand. And, I'm still not sure what kind of cushion to use between the glass and the stand.
     
  13. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm so pleased with the cabinet I decided not to short change myself on electrical hookups, so today I installed electric outlets flush with the back wall of the cabinet, using a GFCI to protect all of the outlets. I couldn't find a 5 slot junction box, so I used a 3 and a 2 slot box. This will allow me room to plug in two mechanical timers for the lights and the CO2 solenoid, plus room for all of the other electric stuff that goes with an aquarium. This is the nicest electrical hookup I have ever had in a stand, made possible by doing it before the tank is up and running, insead of a rush job after setting everything up.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  14. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    It is now stained and clear coated with water base urethane, glossy. The doors are not yet re-attached - that will wait until I move it to the final location. I also found a good cushion for between the tank and the stand. It is a sleeping bag mat made of closed cell polystyrene foam, for $7 from Big 5 Sporting Goods store. The other option was 6 mouse pads at $4 each from OfficeMax.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Today I made the change over to the new stand, and I am now totally exhausted! I forgot just how much work is involved in doing that. All I now have left to do to complete the switch is to install the light and the doors on the stand. One change I made from my last post - the blue sleeping bag mat was too thick and hard for what I wanted, so I found heavy duty cushioned shelf liner to use instead. It is little beads of rubber each attached to each other to make a mat of beads. It seems to work find, and doesn't look nearly as ugly as the blue stuff would have. I will post a photo tomorrow.
     
  16. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Here is the final product - final except for door knobs. Don't ask how I can open the doors without knobs for now!
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Sintei

    Sintei Lifetime Charter Member
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    well you did a very good job. On to the next project now ;)
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Vaughn,

    Nice job all the way around. Good advice on "learning by doing".

    Have you considered using an open top?
    I intended to use different wood and bleach the wood first, then do several coats of the poly but sand it down good in between.

    As you mention, doing it right from the start helps, and the finish is no different.
    I made cabinets for a Van Conversion company years ago and also made tank stands as a side business.

    I think it cost me about 50$ for A 240 GALLON tank hood and stand, and I sold it for 300$ back then.
    Took about 2 hours each if I made 3-4 at a time.
    But I had the shop and could use it after hours.

    You are really limited with hand tools though.
    The cut precision goes way down but if you are careful, sneaky etc, you can do quite well.

    I learned how to fill in mistakes very well in the Van place and got a lot of how to with all sorts of different materials.

    Great job

    Time to scape and then scape some more.

    Regards,
    Tom
     
  19. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thank you Sintei and Tom! I got the knobs on yesterday - I just removed the knobs from the old cabinet and installed them on this one. After I set it up Monday I increased my continuous water change flow rate to about 1.5 gallons per hour and ran it at that rate during daylight hours until this morning, when I left it at the more normal .5 gallon per hour, and I expect to reduce it again to the original .2 gallons per hour by tomorrow. The water is clear, no leaks, I like the looks of it, so my excuses for not trying to learn aquascaping are just about gone!
     
  20. gruffpuppy

    gruffpuppy Junior Poster

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    beautiful work!
     
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