Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps - Page 3 - Dendroboard
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  #81 (permalink)  
Old 09-07-2009, 05:14 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Hi Guys,

Well, I've got good really great news this last week; just two weeks before I was scheduled to leave and move over 1000 miles down to Dallas, a job finally opened up for me here. This will allow me to stay here and be with my kids. On Wednesday I started working for Habitat for Humanity as a construction superintendent, working with, training and helping the volunteers and future home owners as they build the homes. When I told my kids about the job, they were all were dancing around here for the better part of an hour.

In many ways this job is close to perfect for me, I love teaching and working with folks, and Habitat is such a great organization. I built a home for habitat several years ago back when I was teaching construction. I guess I'm rambling on, but if you can't tell I'm kind of excited, I get to stay here with my kids ! ! ! !

I still have a bunch of things to finish up, but I should be able to get back to my tank / colored foam / and darts in general fairly soon.

Dave
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:40 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Hey great work detailing the build. Any more work being done with it? I see that it has been a while. I have a build that seem to be going slow as well.
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:55 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Dave,

I have played with the EpiWeb quite a bit myself trying to fine tune it. What I have found is that to get the even distribution of water I need something across the surface which will "wick" the water to the surface. I am using the moss mix also provided by the EpiWeb folks. I am sure any mosses would work but I like this moss as it doesn't go too crazy in terms of how thick it grows thus challenging the plants for light.

I have also noticed however that the moss mix doesn't like to be covered in water. So the EpiWeb works nice as the water doesn't run over the mix yet keeps it moist.

A great place to find the info on chemical leaching etc is on the Orchidboard forums. It was created for hard to grow orchids which are also extremely sensitive to any "contamination". The manufacturer has done extensive analysis and assures no breakdown or leaching.

Amazing job on this thread....hope you have the time to continue!
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:51 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Thanks Guys,

Yes I am planning on continuing the process. I purchased more foam about a week ago, to continue the process (finally). I have been continuing a long term water test where I have been soaking the foam in water constantly for about 1 1/2 years now. There has been no softening and no color leaching from the foam that I can tell.

Dave
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Old 02-24-2010, 01:33 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

A long while ago someone asked me what could be done with tempered glass. My answer was that you can do anything you want with a piece of tempered glass as long as you don't need to modify it, ie. cut, drill, etc. It is very strong and takes a great deal of punishment before breaking. When a piece of tempered glass does break, the resulting shards don't have nearly the sharp edges that regular glass would have. Last summer I made a short video about the strength of the glass which also demonstrates why it can not be drilled, cut, or modified in any way.

It also shows why if you even just scratch or chip a piece of tempered glass, it will start a cascading process that will eventually lead to a catastrophic failure of the glass.

Tempered Glass Demonstration

Dave
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Old 05-21-2010, 12:35 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Hi all,

It has been quite a while since I have posted about the tank I’ve been working on.

I kind of got stuck for a while as I figured out how to eliminate a few potential problems with regards to my desire to creating a refugia area. This whole change of direction started when I accidentally killed off my brand new dwarf striped isopods. I was so excited when the dwarf stripes got here. I immediately split the culture and started a new culture box. A problem occurred when I added lots of different types of vegetable matter into each of the isopod culture boxes. I wasn’t thinking real well. I added too much vegetative matter to the cultures which ended up creating a toxic environment. It produced a massive CO2 build up which killed off all of the isopods. It got me thinking about the potential for CO2 build up within the tank if I added a refugia area within the tank.

I started by trying to figure out how to modify the tank so that it would be able to eliminate any CO2 build up without the need for an air pump being feed into the tank.

This is what I came up with.
Notice anything different about the tank?
Click the image to open in full size.


I figured out how to incorporate a European style ventilation system into a typical aquarium tank setup.

My design also incorporates a door that opens from the front. The door is not a set of split bypass doors nor is it a hinged opening (which is just about every front opening tank that I have ever seen). I have always thought that the vertical lines that run through the center of most tanks looks kind of funny and very un-natural. For many months I have been planning and plotting, trying to figure out how to make a single sliding door work. But as I worked, I got stuck with on a problem that I just couldn’t figure out. I ended up putting the tank project on hold for quite a while until the proper set of solutions presented themselves. I now have a working system, which allows the door to slide open and closed. This is the final result of my planning.
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.



The entire front of the aquarium is able to slide open in either direction, to the right or to the left. The door can be removed entirely if need be. Personally, I wish that I had done this at the start of the build because it would have made working on the tank so much easier.

The door itself is supported and runs on top of a sliding channel track, which I created. Below the track is the bottom half of a European style ventilation system.

I am tickled to death with the way it came out.

After I developed the track / vent system, I then laid out begain to cut the glass front of the aquarium in three places with my wet saw / tile saw. It was pretty easy to cut with my tile wet saw, but I think that it would have been even easier with a handheld tile saw like this.

Click the image to open in full size.

Contractor Direct has this saw for $49.00.


I think that you could rent this type of saw from Home Depot if you didn’t want to purchase one. If you get a handheld saw, make sure that you get one with a water hose attachment so that the glass stays cool. Too much heat, ie. cutting without water, could cause the glass to crack.


I drew start and stop lines on the deck of the saw so that I could stop the cut without cutting into the glass on the sides of the tank. If you use a handheld tile you wouldn’t have to worry about into the side glass. All you would need to do is set the depth of the cut to the proper height so you are just cutting through the glass.

The first cut that I made was at the top of the tank. I set the saw so that the initial cut was about ¼ of an inch below the plastic lip of the top of the tank. This left about a quarter of an inch of glass exposed below the plastic lip.

Then second cut makes the overall height of the door so you will need to calculate and lay things out carefully. You need to take into account the height of the shelf that the glass door rests and slides on taking off about 3/16 of an inch extra for the space or gap which is at the top of the door.

The final cut is the cut aligns with the bottom or floor of the tank. I messed up this measurement and ended up cutting into the bottom of the tank by just a bit.

Click the image to open in full size.

A better way to get this measurement is to do a “story pole.” Place a stick / pole / tube into the tank and make a mark at the top of the tank.

Click the image to open in full size.

Then place the stick on the outside of the tank aligning the mark with the top of the tank. This then shows you the bottom of the tank. Make a mark on the outside of the tank.

Click the image to open in full size.

Then make sure that your cut is above or is at the very top edge of the mark.


All the cuts went fine, but then I ran into trouble when I tried to get the front glass to separate from side glass. I had envisioned using a piece of wire wrapped around a couple pieces of wood, using the wire to saw down through the silicone. I got a couple of different gauges of wire and began trying to saw through the silicone. I broke umpteen pieces of wire as it would bind up; I never did get more then a ¼ of an inch cut. Then I tried utility knives and X-Acto knives trying to make the cut and all I did was chip out pieces of glass from the edge. I got extremely discouraged and set it aside for many months. Finally in doing a search, I found a post from someone who had to replace a broken glass panel in their aquarium. They said that they were able to use a razorblade to easily cut the silicone to separate the pieces of glass. I tried it and it worked extremely well; it took me maybe 15 minutes to make the cuts. I had struggled for several hours with little success using the other methods. The key to the razorblade’s success is the fact that it is made of very thin spring steel. This allows the blade to flex and align itself between the edges of the glass. The other blades were either too hard so they wouldn’t flex or too thick and they couldn’t get into the crevice without chipping out pieces of glass.

Click the image to open in full size.
I would recommend using gloves, as it was still kind of hard on the fingers as I would grasp the blade while cutting. The method did work very well though and it allowed me to easily cut the glass door away from the tank.


Click the image to open in full size.
The door is now free from the tank and I am back in business.


Here is the tank with out the door / front glass in place.
Click the image to open in full size.



In the following photograph take note of the height of the second cut. The second cut corresponds to the new height of the bottom of the door where it will slide on the track with about an 1/8 inch to 3/16 of an inch clearance at the top of the door. I notched the plastic and then cut out the glass so that it is flush with the bottom.

Click the image to open in full size.


In retrospect I’m sure that it would have been a little easier for me to cut all the way through the plastic edge so that I could cut the entire section of glass out completely without the need for bringing in and using a second / different tool. The way I did it the outside edge of the door track is not exposed, it is covered with the plasic from the tank; it is therefore a neater, cleaner and more professional looking. But if you want the easiest way to do the cutting, you could just continue the cut through to the outside edge.

The second tool that I used was a Dremel MultiMax.
Click the image to open in full size.

I used the undercutting wood blade to make a nice straight cut at the corners which would allow the edges of the door track to slip inside the plastic edging of the tank.

To Be Continued.
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  #87 (permalink)  
Old 05-21-2010, 03:27 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

I used the undercutting wood blade to make a nice straight cut at the corners which would allow the edges of the door track to slip inside the plastic edging of the tank.

Click the image to open in full size.

I then used a MultiMax grout-cutting blade to smoothly cut out the remaining pieces of glass back into the corner.

Click the image to open in full size.


Nice clean corners.
Click the image to open in full size.

Top Track
Front View of Top Track

Next I used a hacksaw to cut out the top track and tested it’s fit.
Click the image to open in full size.


Side View of Top Track
What you are seeing here is how the track slips up and over the remaining piece of glass. Friction holds it up and in place as it rests underneath the plastic rim.
Click the image to open in full size.

The previous couple of photos show a lot of sticky residue on the face of the plastic. I used Acetone and a clean rag to clean off the residue.


Bottom Track
Here is the bottom track that I developed for the tank.
Click the image to open in full size.


Next I test fitted the Bottom Track to make sure that everything fits properly.
Click the image to open in full size.


Attaching Screen
Using Silicone, I attached the screen to the back side of the bottom track. Originally I was going to run the screen along the top like was done in the Constructing a European type Vivarium Step by Step sticky, but the more that I got looking at the design, the more I liked the idea of having the screen on the bottom where it is out of visual range.


In the next image, I show the screen being installed so that I could have the screen both at the top of the door track and at the bottom.
Click the image to open in full size.

In the end, I trimmed the screen off of the top and will only be using the venting underneath the track. This will enable the tank to have a more natural look, ie no screen is showing.


Now that I know that the track fits properly, I will layout and cut the piece of glass that fits behind the door track. This way the tank will have the normal false bottom, but it will be hidden, all while allowing air to pass underneath the door and up across the front of the glass.

Cutting Glass
Click the image to open in full size.

End Cut / Straight Cut
First of all I prepped the tank for the glass by scraping and removing any high or bumpy areas of caulking with a razorblade. To lay out the glass for accurate cutting I butted the piece to be cut against the left side of the tank.
Click the image to open in full size.

Then with a felt tipped pen, I used the edge of the tank to mark where I needed to make the cut.
Click the image to open in full size.

I put a piece of cardboard under the piece of glass that is to be cut. This protected the countertop from being scratched or marred by the glass cutter’s carbide cutting wheel. Then using a speed square as a straight edge, I rolled the cutter over the glass, pressing hard, in order to score the glass. Only make one pass, do not attempt to make multiple scores as this will result in a very uneven break. You want only one scored line.
Click the image to open in full size.
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  #88 (permalink)  
Old 05-21-2010, 01:46 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Then using the heavy metal ball on the opposite end of the cutter, tap on the backside of the score mark, tapping the along the entire length of the score line. The shock wave that is sent through the glass from the tapping will cause the score line or crack in the glass to deepen. Lots of light taps are better then really smacking it. You are trying to weaken the glass uniformly over the entire length of the score / cut so that it will snap off easily with a light amount of pressure. You are not trying to break through the with the drumming.
Click the image to open in full size.



For small lengths like this one, you should slide the scoring tool over the edge of the glass, using the proper sized groove for the thickness of the glass. This allows you to snap the glass off along the weakened score line safely and efficiently. With larger pieces you can grip the glass with you glove covered fingers and snapping down and away from the score side of the glass.
Click the image to open in full size.


If you goof up and the break doesn’t snap completely to your score line (either because you scored the line two or more times, I know, I've done it, or because you scored the glass with too little downward pressure), you can tap some more and then use the snapping groove in the tool to nibble up back to your score line.


Irregular / Free Form Cutting
You can easily do free form cuts. I want the left side of the tank to be contoured or sloped, higher then the right side . The right side of the tank is where a small pool will be. With a sharpie I drew out on the glass where I wanted the cut to run. It is a good way of visualizing what the terrane will look like before you finalize the cut. It also gives me a focal point to help guide me as I make my cut.

Click the image to open in full size.


Now you get to play with the scoring tool; starting your cut at very edge of the glass you smoothly, quickly, and with a firm hand, score along my curving line. The key is to make one, and only one, scoring cut. In the area where I wanted the line to be straight, I dropped my gloved little finger down and slide it along the edge of the glass while I am making the score. This allows me to gauge by feel that I am running straight.

Again its time to practice your morse code messaging by tapping the backside of the score / cut line with the heavy little ball. Tap back and forth along the entire length of the score line so that your score / fracture line is uniform. The more that you tap along the score line, the better your chance that you will have a good break. Listen to the sound of the tapping as you rap the glass. You should be able to detect a change in the sound of the tapping when you are ready to attempt to snap the piece off. Then lay the piece down along the score line, score side up, with the side you are attempting to break off being hung over the edge of the countertop. Then with one hand holding the piece down, gently snap down on the piece. If the glass does not break or snap off easily, do some more tapping.

Click the image to open in full size.

Free Glass
You may have noticed the “Left Over” note on the glass, I got this piece of glass for free. I went to Lowes to purchase the glass for the lid of one of my tanks (Lowes will cut glass to size, Home Depot will not.) I had the sales person cut the lid down to size and then do an extra cut it where I wanted the lid to hinge. While we were talking, I noticed several long, narrow pieces of glass that were in the scrap / recycle bin. I asked the sales person if I could have one or two of the scrap pieces and he said sure. I got this piece of glass and another for nothing. If you get a couple pieces of scrap, you could do some practice cuts to get comfortable with the process.

The Completed Snap
It is not apparent due to the angle of the photo, but the drop in elevation is about 1 to 1 ½ inches until it gets to the pond area. At the pool, I attempted to run straight across so that the water level and the glass level run parallel.
Click the image to open in full size.

Sand the Edges
With a sponge sanding pad, I sanded the entire length of the cut line to remove any sharp cutting edges. I still wear gloves to keep from accidentally cutting myself. A belt sander or palm sander with a very coarse grit of sand paper, 40 - 60 grit, will smooth up a rough cut nicely. One time when I was replacing a broken window pane, I cut the piece a tad too large. I used a belt sander to sand down the glass so that it fit properly within the opening. If you use a belt sander on glass, make sure that you run the sander in line with the edge of the glass and not across the edge. Also, don't hit the face of the glass because it will scratch the dickens out of it.
Click the image to open in full size.


Installing the Bottom Track

Surface Prep.

Acetone

I am planning on installing the bottom track with silicone. One of the major reasons that Silicone fails to bond to glass, which is the biggest reason leaks develop, is that the surface is oily or dirty. Oil from your skin, hand lotion, etc.can all interfere and prevent silicone from bonding. Acetone works very well in removing oil and grime. Acetone also easily removes the sharpie marks from the glass. Use a clean rag with Acetone on it to remove any grim. You can't always see the contaminate, so it is a good practice to get into if you want to insure a leak proof joint. Acetone then evaporates without leaving a residue so it won't interfere with the silicone being able to bond to the glass either.

I have rubbed down the entire area with Acetone to aid in the bonding.
Click the image to open in full size.


Masking Tape
Next I laid out the location of where the vent screening will end. At this point I installed masking tape on the inside and outside of the joint.. The tape will allow me to slather in a good amount of silicone and still be able to have a clean straight line when I am done.
Click the image to open in full size.

Needed to clean out the glass dust in order to have the silicone stick properly and fix my goofed up cut.
Click the image to open in full size.


Silicone / Track Installation
Now I installed a layer of brown silicone, squeegeeing it out with cardboard. Then I squirted some silicone under the track supports, which will allow the track to bond well to the deck. Next the track is set into place and the screen is bedded down into the silicone. Then I smoothed the silicone, patting it lightly with wet fingers. I've found that spit works well to keep the silicone from sticking to my fingers as I am smoothing things out. Spit into a bowl and dip your fingers to keep them wet. That way you aren't ingesting the silicone. Water with a little dish soap will work as well. When I work with silicone I like to have a roll of toilet paper around to that I can regularly clean my fingers. On the interior or screen side of the tank I sloped the silicone towards the back and on a downward angle so that any mist or spray that gets down here will be held in a pool so that it can evaporate rather than run out the front.
Click the image to open in full size.

Next I removed the tape. At this point, I realized that I goofed up a bit. I should have covered the front surface of the track with tape as well. It took a bit of time cleaning the silicone from the face of the track. I also tipped the tank back and installed the door in order to weigh down the track and hold it in place while the silicone sets up. Tipping the door back also enables the door to rest tightly against the other glass. With everything set up, there is less than a 1/16 of an inch gap between the door and the tank sides. I tested the size of the gap with playing cards and the maximum size gap is about 2 playing cards deep. Don’t really have to worry about escapees.
Click the image to open in full size.
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Last edited by davecalk; 05-21-2010 at 01:51 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:22 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Cleaned up and Curing
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.


In retrospect, I might change one thing about the bottom track as I do this with other tanks in the future. I think I might install a piece of bronze screen metal underneath the track. Bronze screen metal is what I used for the vent at the top of the tank (discussed later). Doing this might do two things.
  1. It would form a deeper pocket for misting drainage. I won’t know for a while how much water will eventually end up down there. I do have a way worked out if I need to install drainage to the area behind the track. We will see if I need it.
  2. Installing a metal bronze aluminum strip under the track would dress up the track so that no silicone is visible from the front. It would make the whole installation look like a manufacturer had installed it. As it is right now with the silicone looks really good. The only thing that I notice is that the silicone is a bit glossy. In the right light, it will reflect light and is just a slightly noticeable if the light catches it just right.


Installing the Top Track.
I made a couple of minor adjustments to the location of the top track, shifting it down for a bit tighter fit before I siliconed it into place. This is an inside view of top of the tank after it has been siliconed in.
Click the image to open in full size.

Front View
Click the image to open in full size.

Side View
Notice how tight the glass fits together. I am betting that I won't even need to install a silicone gasket.
Click the image to open in full size.

Door Slides Open Bi-Directionally
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

It looks good and works extremely well ! ! !


Installing Top Vent
I purchased some window screen frame material. This is the material that aluminum window screens are made from. I used a hacksaw to cut it to length and then to cut a notch in the end of each side. The notch will allow me to slide it over and hang it from the plastic lip or flange at the top of the tank. Here is where I am sliding the screen frame down onto the lip of the tank, adjusting, and testing the fit.
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.


Notice how the glass lid sits nice, tight and flush. There are no gaps as it spans over and sits on the screen metal. The glass top will be supported all the way across the front of the tank because of this. Plus, no escapee frogs or flies.
Click the image to open in full size.

Here I am installing the screen onto the groove in the frame using black spline material. They sell black and light gray. I thought that black would blend and hide better.
Click the image to open in full size.
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Last edited by davecalk; 05-21-2010 at 04:28 PM. Reason: Added Info.
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  #90 (permalink)  
Old 05-21-2010, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

This tool is a couple of dollars, but you could use a butter knife or screw driver to push the sline down into place if you don’t want to spurge on the tool.

I installed the screen so that it came out on the backside of the metal. That way I could roll it over the top of the spline towards the front of the tank, thus hiding the spline.
Click the image to open in full size.

Cutting The Screen
Click the image to open in full size.

I used a ½ inch piece of plywood to keep vent spacing even rather than measuring. It was faster, easier, and more accurate.
Click the image to open in full size.

Next I siliconed the screen material to the front flange of tank. I liked the nice crisp line that was created by installing the screen toward the backside of the tank. I then rolled it over the top of the spline towards the front of the tank, hiding the spline and hopefully making the joint little stronger in the process. I also liked how narrow the vent is. It leaves me with a much wider viewing area from the top.
Click the image to open in full size.

Notice how the glass lid snuggles in and sits nice and tight on both the screen metal and on the plastic rim of the tank.
Click the image to open in full size.

New Design for a Handle on the Glass Lid
The white item in the middle of the glass is a new handle that I created which slides onto your standard window glass. I got tired of using tape or siliconing knobs to the top of the glass and having them break off after a few months because they stick up too high in the air and catch on things as you go by. The handle slides onto the glass and sits nice and low and flat. I also don’t have to worry about escapees because of how tight it fits to the tank.

Here it is on a different tank. I like how it just sits just a bit proud of the lip of the tank. I can open the tank with a just flick of my thumb.
Click the image to open in full size.

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What do you all think?
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Last edited by davecalk; 05-21-2010 at 05:10 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Very interesting journal you have going here. It is incredibly detail-specific, which I think will definitely help out anyone who is trying to perform the same tasks as you. Keep it up, please!

As for your getting a job with Habitat for Humanity, congratulations (a little late, I know). My family and I went down to Mississippi to do work on a home through your organization and it is very gratifying work.

Forgive me if I had missed it in an earlier posting, but what kind of frogs were you planning on tossing in here?
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Old 05-21-2010, 05:37 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

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Originally Posted by zcasc View Post
Very interesting journal you have going here. It is incredibly detail-specific, which I think will definitely help out anyone who is trying to perform the same tasks as you. Keep it up, please!
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Quote:
As for your getting a job with Habitat for Humanity, congratulations ... very gratifying work.
Yes, it is a lot of fun too. Happen to be home sick today.

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Forgive me if I had missed it in an earlier posting, but what kind of frogs were you planning on tossing in here?
Man Creeks
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Old 05-22-2010, 04:06 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

Looks pretty labor intensive. How much time did the transformation take?
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Old 05-23-2010, 08:16 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

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Looks pretty labor intensive. How much time did the transformation take?
Actually Dane, it really isn't all that labor intensive.
  • It took maybe a half an hour to set up and make the initial cuts in the glass.

  • The actual installation of the track system took a couple of hours of messing over a couple of evenings. Most of the time was spent as i was trying to figure out the process and photograph the various things that I have outlined. There was also some time involving just letting the silicone dry before I could go on to the next step, but that is kind of like watching paint dry, boring, so I just went and watched TV one night and I plotted and planned out the next steps of the process. I also spent some time just sitting back and giggled like a school girl at how cool this all was really turning out.

  • The actual track installation took me a total of two evenings to do as I was was figuring out the entire process and steps that I have outlined for you here. That also involved me milling the bottom vent portion of the track as I didn't see the need to pay for something that I could easily do myself.

  • The top vent took maybe an hour total to make the cuts with a hacksaw, install the screen, and then cut and silicone everything in place.

  • I did have a bit of store time going and getting the silicone, tape, screen, screen metal material, spline material, etc., but as a guy, Home Depot is like a candy store for a kid.

  • The things that took me the most time and a bit of money involved coming up with a manufacturer that could make me the track material as I designed it. After I did this, it was extremely discouraging when I thought that I was going to have to scrap the whole tank because I couldn't figure out how to get the glass off after I had already made the cuts in the glass. The tank literally sat for 6 - 7 months after I failed to figure out how to get the glass door separated from the tank. Once I got on the right track with the razorblades, it took me maybe 15 -20 minutes to get the glass off. And there is no telling how much more time that process took because of the chips and pits that I had generated in the edge of the glass as a result of my using the wrong tools initially.This allowed the razor blade to catch and hang up in a lot of areas.

No Dane, the process really isn't all that labor intensive. Heck, documenting and photographing the processes took much more time than it actually took doing the installation. I guess that I'm doing this all of this documentation because I am a teacher at heart. I've taught in High School, College, in Youth Departments at Church, and I do it on a daily basis at Habitat. I'm also darn creative. I'm really good at figuring out how to make things work as I think you can see.

Once I envisioned how to make this work, I put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I found a company that made the initial track material for me. I have an agreement with them that they will make me more at a better price now that the initial design work is done. I spent the time and money because I envisioned the tremendous potential that this could have for so many people. After all, most people build their the vast majority of their tanks out of some form of your standard aquarium. If there is an interest, I could see possibly putting together some kits which would have the top and bottom track, top vent metal, as well as the screen, and spline material that folks would need to do this installation in their own tanks. All one would really need would be a hacksaw to trim the pieces to fit their tanks. I might even be interested in putting together a few of the aquariums if folks didn't want to invest in or rent the saw that would be needed.

Maybe I'm dreaming, but as you can see, I'm pretty good at making my dreams a reality. Maybe I'm dreaming because it is 1:07 in the morning. Who knows.


Well, let me know what you think.
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Old 05-28-2010, 12:47 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

I knew that I had taken some photos of the process that was involved with cutting the aquarium glass.

I started the process by laying out from the bottom glass upward the locations of the three cuts needed to make the door and track height. The bottom cut is just above the glass in the bottom of the tank. The top cut is made about ¼ of an inch below the plastic rim of the tank. The bottom of the door once it is cut out, when it is sitting on the track it will have about 3/16 of an inch clearance from the installed top track.

Because I used a tile wet saw to make my cuts, I needed to draw both start and stop lines on the deck of the saw which correlates to the top and bottom cuts of the glass’ thickness. This is needed because the wet saw blade is at a fixed height (As you will see in a later photo). The lines are needed so that I could make a blind start and stop cut without cutting into the glass on the sides of the tank.
Click the image to open in full size.

This cut would be a bit easier to do using a wet cutting circular saw like the one in the photo I posted earlier. If you use a handheld tile saw you wouldn’t have to worry start and stop marks or about cutting into the side glass. All you would need to do is set the depth of the saw’s cut to the proper height so you are just barely cutting through the thickness of the glass.


To lay out these marks, I used a speed square.

Click the image to open in full size.

I hooked the speed square into one miter grooves, the slots that run from the front to the back of the table top which are parallel to the cutting plane of the blade, and slid the speed square toward the blade until it just touches the blade. Then I marked that location with a sharpie on the top of the saw.

Next I hot glued a piece of wood to the top or deck of the saw to support the tank in a level position. The plastic lip on the top of the tank raises the glass off of the deck. The other plastic rim extends off the edge of the saw so without the spacer which the glass rests on, my cuts would have a bevel, and the door would not sit flat on the track. I used a painters stirring stick, which is approximately 1/8 inch thick, in order to hold the aquarium tank up. Doing this also protected the glass from sliding and potentially being scratched by the saw’s metal top. Again, this would not be needed if you used the hand held wet saw.

Now I covered the interior walls and foam rock with plastic grocery bags to protect the features from the water slurry of glass dust that is created while making the cuts.
Click the image to open in full size.


The first cut that I made was at the top of the tank. With a tape measure, I adjusted the fence to make this first cut. I set the saw so that the initial cut was about ¼ of an inch below the plastic rim at the top of the tank. This left about a quarter of an inch of glass exposed below the plastic lip.

Then second cut makes the overall height of the door so you will need to calculate and lay things out carefully. You need to take into account the height of the shelf that the glass door rests and slides on taking off about 3/16 of an inch extra for the space or gap which is at the top of the door.

The final cut is the cut should align or be just above with the bottom or floor of the tank. I messed up this measurement and ended up cutting into the bottom of the tank by just a bit.


To make the cuts, I aligned the tank top tight to the fence. Also align the edge of the glass with the start marks that were marked on the deck. Tip the saw back so that the blade was not touching the glass, before turning on the saw.
Click the image to open in full size.

Also make sure that you have water in the tub, or if you are using a handle held tile saw make sure that the water is turned on, before you start the cut. Then turn on the saw and slowly lower the tank onto the spinning blade. Each cut will take maybe a minute to make.


Cut One Complete
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Click the image to open in full size.


Cuts Two & Three Complete
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Cut Three / Floor Cut
When making the floor cut, I shut the saw off after I made the plunge cut. I did this to check to make sure that my cut alignment with relation to the floor was correct.
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I’m glad that I checked because my cut was not aligned quite right. I actually cut into the floor a bit on the first plunge. I just needed to shift the fence over and restart my cut. The second time around the cut was just right.

Now it's time to clean up the glass slurry. Use gloves and care, because there may be sharp little slivers of glass in the slurry mix. Not many, but they are there and they can cut fingers. Then unbag the covered back. I then used a utility knife to cut down and remove / clean up the plastic lip at the bottom of the tank.

Next I attempted to cut the silicone that was holding the door in place using a wire saw, made by threading stainless steel wire through the cut in the glass and wrapping it around a couple pieces of wood. This forms a wire pull saw. I used a sawing / floss your teeth like motion to try and make the cut.
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.
This actually didn’t work very well. As I would attempt to cut the silicone the wire would bind up which would then snap the wire in two. I went through a dozen pieces of wire in five – ten minutes and had only produced maybe a ¼ inch cut. I was sorely frustrated.


Everything worked out in the end once I figured out how to separate the glass using a razorblade.
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  #96 (permalink)  
Old 12-28-2010, 03:19 AM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

I remember seeing this but forgot to mark it, it's marked now. Thanks Dave for taking the time to share.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: Detailed Journal / Colored Foam / Tank Rear Access / Artificial Vines & Stumps

I just ran across this thread a couple weeks ago, and I can't believe I haven't seen it before. First of all, thank you Dave for the detailed journal! I'd love to know what happened with this setup, and how it turned out.

Dave mentions using tempera powdered paint. I was wondering whether anyone knows about the safety of using those colours for the inhabitants of a tropical vivarium. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that certain colours are toxic to amphibians because of their metal content.
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