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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 06-08-2005, 06:49 AM
 
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Default Tank construction photo journal, foam rock backdrop

I loved the look of s.ling's foam rock backdrop so much that I decided to try making one for my tank. Big thanks to s.ling's thorough instructions, they helped my out a ton!



here's where I am so far in the process. Check out my album for more construction photos.

Rock wall photos
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Old 06-08-2005, 12:15 PM
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looks cool. where did you get the blue foam board?
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Old 06-08-2005, 12:40 PM
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It looks really cool, do you have a pic of thw whole tank. Also what are you going to use to cove the foam, epoxy or what.
Brooks
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:44 PM
 
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the foam is insulation, bought at a hardware store. next step is to paint it, then epoxy it.

I dont have any other pics of the tank to show yet, other than silicone on the back.
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:45 PM
 
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I have considered using that same material, but was not sure what to coat the foam with. I long time ago I made a volcano that housed an ultra sonic humidifier for some tree frogs. I painted it, and never coated it with an epoxy or resin or silicone. The problem was that the crickets nibbled at it and I had a brown volcano with pink dots on it from the crickets!

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Old 06-09-2005, 01:32 AM
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I really want to figure out the epoxy\paint. The foam is easy to work with and cheap. I have a good chunk left and would like to try the epoxy. Could anyone explain the epoxy needed, and paint. Along with the process.
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Old 06-09-2005, 05:22 AM
 
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epoxy is epoxy, from what i've researched. its all 100% waterproof. as for paint, stay away from spray paint. most sprays will dissolve foam. Epoxy basically puts a thick coat or shell around whatever you're using it on. You could epoxy a loaf of bread if you wanted to and it would preserve it for years and years.

The biggest drawback to this method of making a backdrop compared to the greatstuff/coco fiber method, in my view, is that it takes a little more artistic effort. You have to sit there and carve out what you want, then paint it to look how you want. With greatstuff, you would squirt it on in the thickness you want in whatever area, but the final shape would be dictated by the GS, not you.
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Old 06-09-2005, 12:31 PM
 
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Auhsoj27, if you are successful in re-creating the rock from your inspiration photo, that will be a beautiful background indeed!
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Old 06-09-2005, 03:28 PM
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i used the same foam, and a 2 part epoxy (wets systems), to build a water fall in my paludarium. if you put a coat of epoxy on before painting you can use regular spray paint. this is what i did.

i also coated a portion of the last layer of epoxy with small stones. above the water line i have complete coverage with small stones. this gave a nice contrasting color, and broke the water up a bit. the best part was it created a perfet growing spot for java moss.

heres a pic after the tank has been set up almost 2 years. you can see to the right of the java, what the small stones look like.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v618/ ... 075_PB.jpg



here is a shot of it under the water line. you can see here how the foam looks with no stones glued to the outside. it looks just like real rock to me. i get people alway asking me how i found a perfect shaped piece, or how i carved real stone to look like that. i have to show them old pictures for them to believe i carved it myself. i dont even think i did as good of a job carving, as what is shown above.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v618/ ... 046_PB.jpg

heres a full tank shot, so you can see how it fits in to my paly.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v618/ ... 064_PB.jpg

all the land is supported by a styrofoam shelf also, but that was a different type of styro, and no panit just epoxy.
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Old 06-09-2005, 04:53 PM
 
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Its starting to look a little more like a back drop and less like foam insulation now.

I put a base coat of black onto the foam instead of white or whatever other color I'll end up using just in case I miss any spots. Instead of the bright blue showing through little holes and cracks, it will be the black. Much more natural looking.

I've been thinking pretty hard about what sort of rock I wanted to mimic with the final paint scheme. I decided against painting to look like sand stone, like the source photo, because the frogs I want would be pretty close to that color. Basically, I want to avoid light colored rock entirely. I'm thinking either black or grey granite, or even a dark jade color would look good.
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Old 06-09-2005, 05:49 PM
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it looks great! alot better than mine
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Old 06-09-2005, 06:02 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2mnytnx
it looks great! alot better than mine
Well thank you, but i wouldn't go so far as to say that one is better than the other. Yours and mine are two very different styles. Yours looks very natural, like a real river bank. I really like the embedded pebbles and the texture in your design. I'm going for a little more stylized design so I smoothed things out.

The base coat of paint is almost dry... I'll start with the fake-stone surface paint in a few hours... then epoxy... then sand the epoxy so it isn't too shiny or slippery (so the plants and moss can attach if they want to)... oy, thats a lot of steps... and its just for the background!
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Old 06-09-2005, 06:56 PM
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well thanks, but i like your a lot.

what did you use to carve it? i was thinking of buying some wood carving basics to try, but ended up just using an exacto and a sharp serrated knife.
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Old 06-09-2005, 08:39 PM
 
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though some trial and error, i found what worked best for me was to use a serrated steak knife. I tried several different kinds (i have some old ones laying around) and the one with the smallest teeth made the cleanest cut. the trick i found was short saw strokes worked better than long stokes. after i sliced it up with the knife, taking chunks out, i went in with a very coarse sand paper. in the end, the sand paper really did most of the work. with a coarse enough paper and some hard pressure, you can really take a bite into the foam, and its a little more controlled than a knife.

about your exacto idea... i tried a utility knife, a non-serrated extra sharp blade, and this didn't work too well. i'd recommend sticking with the steak knife and sand paper.
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:17 PM
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thanks for the sand paper idea. i didint even think of that. the serrated knife i was using was definatly much better than the exacto. ill try and get a little more detailed next time.
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:36 PM
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wow looks fabulous. can't wait to see it in the tank.
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:31 PM
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Ok so you are painting it before the epoxy, and then after again? You can color the epoxy right?

I am looking for some steps or order of events. I really want to try this...
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:57 PM
 
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the steps really depend on the paint you use... i'll out line my steps and point out what i'm talking about with the paint...

1. fine a source image. nature got it right, and it's ok to copy.

2. glue two or three thick foam boards together. the denser the foam the better.

3. use a projector to transfer your concept onto the foam, or freehand draw it on there.

4. using a fine tooth knife, slice out the major chunks. this doesn't have to look incredibly neat, just make sure you don't tear out too much at one time. its a lot easier to go back and shave off more than it is to glue it back on.

5. at this point, you can use sand paper to fine tune the design if you want a smooth rock surface like the one i made. if you want a more angular, geometric rock, you'll need to go back in with the knife and perform more surgery on the foam.

6-a. paint... this is where things get tricky. if you intend to hand paint the foam, standard acrylic paint will be fine. just grab a couple bottles and go to it. finish your painting and put away your stuff. you're done painting. proceed to step 7.

6-b. if you intend to use a spray paint, like i do, you need to lay down a base coat of latex paint before you proceed. the aerosols in the spray paints will eat through the foam. a thick coat or two of latex will protect the foam. i'm going to use a rock texture spray paint which should look pretty neat. at least, it will look a lot neater than anything i could hand paint.

7. epoxy. whatever you do up to this point, this should always be the last construction step. which epoxy you use is up to you. some people on here seem to swear by 'west systems marine epoxy.' this epoxy is designed specifically for water craft (sail boats etc). personally, i don't see a huge advantage to using it since my backdrop won't be thrashing through waves at however many knots 60 miles per hour equates to. the epoxy needs to cover the entire foam backdrop: front, back, top, bottom, sides. the epoxy is your water-proofer. let the epoxy cure for however long the manufacturer indicates. i'm going to wait twice the length just to be sure. after its cured, i'm going to sand the surface of the epoxy with a fine paper to give it a less slick surface, so moss has a chance to cling.

8. slather some silicone onto the back, slap it into the tank. silicone around the edges. step back, admire, enjoy.



an earlier poster said he coated the foam with epoxy before painting and then again after. while this is certainly ok to do, i don't think its entirely necessary when a latex base coat will serve the same function and is much less of a hassle. the first layer of epoxy is especially not necessary if you aren't using spray paint.
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Old 06-10-2005, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle1745
Ok so you are painting it before the epoxy, and then after again? You can color the epoxy right?

I am looking for some steps or order of events. I really want to try this...
i was worried about the paint having some effect on the foam (ive read some say that it will eat away, so to speak, the foam). i coated the foam to ensure the paint and it would not react. then not knowing weather or not the paint i used was safe, i coated it again after painting it.

Aushoj27 has a good idea about scuffing/sanding the epoxy finish so it doesnt look so glossy. im interested to see how his comes out, as mine was really wet looking even before water ever touched it. i am using it as a water fall, so the look is fine with me

so next time i do this my order of events will be:
1.) carve foam to desired size and shape, keeping in mind fitting it into the viv and the addition of the epoxy adding a small amount of thickness.

2.) coat entire foam with apoxy, including side not being painted or exposed to water. i like coating the entire thing to make sure my misting water or feature water does not get contaminated.

3.) paint - this could include many steps like base coat, brushing in details, sanding/ roughing up certain areas, adding different colors (to mimic moss or shade), more layers etc....

4.) another later of epoxy to seal in the paint.

5.) one more total epoxy layer for peace of mind.

6.) (possibly/optional ) scuff areas that are not to be glossy.

7.) place in viv (silicone into place if needed).

8.) enjoy
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Old 06-10-2005, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Auhsoj27
since my backdrop won't be thrashing through waves at however many knots 60 miles per hour equates to.
:lol:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auhsoj27
an earlier poster said he coated the foam with epoxy before painting and then again after. while this is certainly ok to do, i don't think its entirely necessary when a latex base coat will serve the same function and is much less of a hassle. the first layer of epoxy is especially not necessary if you aren't using spray paint.
i used spray paint and didnt know the scientifics about the latex layer. i like that though. its a lot easier (and cheaper) than an extra layer of epoxy. i will be using a latex base coat (provided i can find it) to refine my projected series of events in my next construction venture :P


Aushoj27, sorry for basically repeating your steps (in much less detail). i must have been (slowly) typing when you posted yours
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Old 06-10-2005, 12:19 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2mnytnx
Aushoj27, sorry for basically repeating your steps (in much less detail). i must have been (slowly) typing when you posted yours
no troubles mate.

great minds think alike. sometimes they just type at different speeds.
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Old 06-10-2005, 12:37 AM
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So let me make sure I got this:

1. make background
2. Paint
3. epoxy (this drys clear?)

Where did you get the epoxy?

Kyle
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Old 06-10-2005, 12:46 AM
 
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epoxy will dry to a THICK glossy covering. you can get it in pretty much any hardware store in the paint section. you can also get it in craft stores. it is sometimes used to preserve flowers or other crafts that would otherwise decay or rot. in the hardware store it is used to put a heavy protective coating on woods. its used on bar tops a lot. the stuff i got from the hardware store is less expensive than the craft store brand, and personally i trust the hardware store brand to be a little more durable.

your 3 step process is correct
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Old 06-10-2005, 03:05 AM
 
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black granite spray paint applied


detail view


after this has dried, i'll tackle the biggest burden of the process; the epoxy!

i believe a troop of terribilis would look quite dashing set against this black backdrop, if i do say so myself.
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Old 06-10-2005, 03:35 PM
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You are one tallented peep my freind, those rocks look too good, and im sure the frogs will love the grooves in it, truly impressed, very nicely done indeed.

Could be something ill try out for my snakes, but id be too proud to cover that in plants, amazing.
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:19 AM
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I can see this making a big splash at the next IAD... thinking of selling these??
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Keane
thinking of selling these??
you dont want to know how much money i've sunk into this project already... add onto that a 'labor charge' and i don't think anyone would buy it!

you really have to enjoy a hands-on challenging project to tackle this one. i just finished the first coat of epoxy not too long ago, so i'm finally in the home stretch.
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:58 AM
 
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wet epoxy...

the 1 quart kit will definitely be enough for this project. my background is roughly 16x19x3 inches. i think i'll have a quarter of the total volume of the kit left when its done, so you can figure from that what you'll need. i mixed up half the kit and covered the front, top, bottom and sides with the first coat. there was enough left over in the cup and dripping onto the drop cloth that i could have coated it a second time, but the epoxy was too runny to do that.

this isn't going to be fully cured until 72 hours have passed

*groan*

can i speed this up in the microwave? scratch that thought... too big to stuff into there in one piece. i guess i'll go finish putting the partial false bottom together.
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Old 06-11-2005, 03:36 PM
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Default my 2 cents

i have seen polyurethane to coat wood but never epoxy. but of course i never looked too hard. will have to do it next time at a shop.
about craving the foam just get a wood rasp/file. you can carve with a knife and sort of fine tune it with the files. they come in different coursness.
walt
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Old 06-20-2005, 01:01 AM
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Well I had look at Home Depot and Lowes online with no luck finding any epoxy other than small amounts.

Any ideas? Also how hard does it dry? I am thinking about building some planters into a background.

So you put on a base coat of paint, then the granite paint, then the epoxy? Looks really good...
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Old 03-12-2006, 02:39 AM
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Any updates on this project? I would love to see how that background looks in place in your viv. It really is nice looking.

I'm going to be doing the same basic project coming up for a 90 tall, and I would love some more inspiration!
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Old 08-13-2006, 06:06 AM
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Im pretty interested in updates as well. I checked his site, and although I didnt go through it 100%, I didnt find anything on this viv.

Its good to see another from the Omaha area though :D. And BTW, thanks for the inspiration, Im definately trying this out on my next viv.


EDIT
Woah, I had not quite realised how old this topic was. Sorry for bringing it back from so long, I found it while using the search feature...
Sorry again.
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Old 04-11-2007, 10:45 PM
 
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Any updates? I would like to know where can get the (rock type) paint.
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Old 04-11-2007, 11:21 PM
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The "granite" spray paint and other textures are available at your local Home Depot etc...
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Old 04-12-2007, 12:38 AM
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Not to hijack, but I ended up doing the same thing, though a bit bigger. Here are a few pics as well as a brief description of the process I followed a few posts down: http://www.dendroboard.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=26214
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Old 04-15-2007, 09:41 PM
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has anyone thought about using a fiberglass resin kinda like how a surfboard is made using foam and then coated w/ fiberglass and resin I think the same type of thing could be done for backgrounds
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Old 04-15-2007, 11:43 PM
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Yes, Stephen Bonheim on this board has some beautiful tree stumps that he makes from resin. I've never had the pleasure of seeing them in person, but from pictures they look absolutely great.
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Old 07-15-2007, 10:17 PM
 
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i'm just bumping this because I just found it when I was searching for ways to use spray paint and fell in love with this procedure. I already decided to use solid foam rather GS but wasn't sure how to paint it. this rocks, I wish we got an update on the final result.
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