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The update isn't at the bottom of this post like usual.
So I'm crazy. No, seriously I am, I'm going to complete - from 4x8 sheets of plywood to initial testing before adding frogs - six plywood 25 gallon tanks in less than a month. Ok, well that's the goal, but it'll be interesting to see if that becomes a reality. I'm loosely following this tutorial on how to make plywood aquariums (Link
The tanks are going to be [outside dimentions (inside dimentions)] 15" (14") wide, 20" (19.5") deep, and 24" (21") high. That works out to almost 25 gallons (24.8 to be a bit more exact). The bottom is 3/4" plywood, with the back and sides being 1/2" birch veneere plywood. The top and front will be 3/16" glass from the 20H tanks these are replacing. I'm going to attempt to be a glazier, this will be interesting. These tanks will be fited with individual drains with ball valves for shut off and at least two misting heads with a shut off for each tank. These will be acessable from the front via a removeable facade. Also to be included, will be two 60mm fans per tank with adjustable fan speed for each tank. I think this will give me the control over each tank I need to ensure the frogs I place in them are very happy.
Construction Phase I:
I offically started yesterday, the 29th, and got all of the major pieces of plywood cut. This included the back, sides and bottom. I don't have a table saw so I used a circular saw, a piece of angle iron, some clamps, and a 4' framing square to get good cuts. The cutting took all day, and being hot, it felt like it took an eternity, but I finished around eight and was glad it was finished.
My saw setup. It's ghetto, but it works and makes straight cuts.
The fence, the line to be cut, and the clamp that made it all possible.
I hadn't thought about what blade I was using at the time, but a 24 tooth framing blade wasn't the best idea to use on veneered plywood. Ripping tyeilded ok results, not the best edge, but not bad. Cross cuts on the other hand yeilded guigantic splinters. Because it was the holiday I wasn't able to get a new blade. If you decided to take on a similar project, save yourself some problems and get a 60+ tooth blade.
After alot of time in the sun and some profain words, this is the result: 32 pieces of wood and some scrap. Notice the lovely burs on the nice expensive plywood
I didn't have alot of time to work on the tanks today, but I did get the first one assembled. I did a dry assembly (no glue) to get an idea of how large these would be and to see if I needed to do anything different. This warrented going to the hardware store and buying some quick change bits because I was using four different bits per hole, predrill, counter bore, counter sink, and lastly a troques bit for the stainless steel screws I bought. The dry assembly went without any interesting events, just lots of holes.
305 stainless steel (SS) desck screws. These things were expensive, but are a dream to drive. The torques head makes things so much easier compaired to a phillips.
A counter sunk screw. I'm not sure if I'm going to cover these with wood puddy or not.
Ah, the shell. This went together pretty easily, took about 45 minutes. I hope to speed that up with my new bits and such, but it probably won't happen.
I got the marine epoxy today. I picked up 1.5 gallons of "Basic No-Blush Marine Epoxy". Basically two cans cost me like 75 bucks plus shipping. I'm itching to try this stuff out. I've never really used epoxy aside from the 5 dollar tubes you can pick up so this will be interesting. I've heard that it must be used outside. The lovely 90 degree temps we've been getting lately are going to kill my pot life, but curing is going to be easy.
I think that's about it for this installment. This write up is kind of a trial at writing articles for my site so if you have any suggestions to improve the article let me know either here or via pms. I'm a good sport abour criticism so don't be afraid.
Plywood Tank Tutorial
, Epoxy Store
(the site is a nightmare to navigate)
Layout and cut plywood: 4 hours
Assemble first tank: .75 hours
2 x 1/2" Birch Veneere plywood, $25 per sheet, $50 total
12 x 60mm fans, $4 per fan, $48 total
1 x 1.5 gallon epoxy, $75 per 1.5 gallon, $75 total
1 x 1lb #8, 2" SS deck screws, $17 per pound, $17 total
I think that's it as far as materials so far. My total project cost will be higher because of tools I needed to buy. I will not be including materials needed to furning the tanks, just to construct their shells for an accurate compairison to other tank options.
Too late and not enough pictures to do a full write up, but today included these two things:
Home made table saw:
And my first venture into fiberglass, repairing a mistake:
^Click on the image and check out the detail on that macro shot.
Finially, and opportunity to give a massive update. This will cover what I did over the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and what's planned to happen this weekend.
The first thing that had to be done was to assemble all six of the tanks. For assembly I decided to ditch the predrilling for any screws that were on the side of the tanks. For pieces that get mounted on the front or need precise placement, I kept the predrilling operations. This helped cut the time down massively, I was assembling tanks in 20 minutes which helped things alot.
Once assembled the next order of buisness was to get all of the trim pieces cut. This was cake now that my ghetto table saw had legs:
I used this to rip pieces to width and a miter saw with a make shift fence for the crosscuts. I made sure to buy a fine toothed blade this time...
The faces got fitted and the drains were drilled. I changed me drain design to just using a 3/4" to 1/2" slip reducer as the fitting that gets epoxied into the tank, then I'll use 1/2" PVC for the rest of the drain. The outer diameter (OD) of these fitting is the world's most annoying size 1.01". So I bought a 1" hole saw, cut the hole, then used my dremel with a sanding bit to reem the hole to the proper size. What a royal pain that was - dust everywhere, hot dremel, and of course LOUD! With that done, the PVC fit through the holes well... with some lovely gaps, so I used some Gurilla Glue to fille the gaps. This is so the epoxy wouldn't drain through the gaps because it's very thin.
I put the drains in front to minimize the length of PVC needed to mount the ball valve to the "control panel" under the tank.
Up next was staining the inside. I decided on using Minwax semi-transparent stain (I think that's it, I'll have to check). Anyway, the color for the inside is "Early Spring", the color for the outside is "Onyx". Staining with this stuff was super easy. I didn't have to wipe it off and it's water based so cleanup was a breee. With the inside stained, I got to my big mile stone...
I decided doing the bottom first was the best course of action. This would allow me to find out how the epoxy flowed over large areas and handled when it was being laid on pretty thick. I mixed 3/4 of a quart at a time. There were no fumes and no heat to my suprise. I mixed it for around 3 minutes ensuring to get the epoxy from the bottom and sides into the mix and poured 1/4 of a quart into each of the tanks. This worked out to be a perfect amount to cover the bottom with about an 1/8" of epoxy. I did have a few goofs though:
^Notice the complete fillet between the bottom and side of the tank shown by the smooth transition.
^ This from not spreading the epoxy onto the sides of the tank. Notice the lack of a smooth fillet shown by the right angle joint between the two pieces of wood.
^This is from not making sure the epoxy was completely spread. The first three tanks I did look great, the last three have some of these discontinuities. That's what happens when you epoxy at two in the morning :wink:
I'll have to do another layer of epoxy because of these problems, but I could have avoided that if I had payed more attention to detail.
Isn't they purdy? This is what the rack will look like for the most part. There are still a few details that aren't finished in that picture.
So the tanks are built and the bottom is epoxied, now time to finish the trim pieces. I made a gluing fixture so I could get a 1/2" rabbit without having to think. I decided gluing would be better than getting the router out to do this - not the best idea. This is so painfully slow, but the results look better IMO. The 1/4" pieces came from Lowe's finished lumber area. They're Poplar, not my favorite wood, but they're going to be stained black so it's not a huge deal.
With the trim pieces glued together for the top, I decided to do the top facade piece next. This was a pretty important piece because it had to cover the fans but leave room for them. I screwed the front piece in place and used a scrap piece of plywood to hold the poplar piece into position while I clamped it for drying.
^In that image the tank is upside down, so you're looking at (from top to bottom) the trim piece that is mounted flat on top of the tanks, the scrap piece of wood, and the poplar piece for the rabbit. The top front trim piece got screwed over these and the poplar piece got glued to that.
Somewhere in there I stained (or actually my brother stained) the outside "Onyx", you can see the results in that last pic. I'm actually pretty fond of it.
-This coming up weekend:
-Finish the trim work and stain the outside.
-Drill holes for the fans and test mount them.
-Mount the control panel under the tank.
-Epoxy the whole inside of the tanks. Hopefully apply second coat to the sides once the first dries. Fix the blunders in the bottom's epoxy.
-Start assembling doors and hinges
-Polyurethane the outside of the tank
-Finish up odds and ends for Construction Phase I
Welp, that's the long and short of it. I burned about 16 hours of solid work on these this weekend and spent around 50 bucks on parts for the trim and the doors. I'll do a proper break down later. I've gotta go to sleep. This waking up at 5am crap is going to kill me.
Things are moving along - slowly. I got an internship at the same place my girlfriend's dad works, so I live with him during the week and go home on the weekend. This has put a huge damper on the time line of these tanks, but they're getting done even if it is a little slower than I had hoped.
Nothing super exciting in this update, just pics of the false bottoms and the control panel. Most of this past weekend was spent finishing the outside of the tanks. Talk about a pain in the ass. Had things been done properly in the first place it wouldn't have been so bad, but I've spent as much time making the outside stain job look good as I have everything else. This is largely because the onyx stain really looks bad if it isn't applied perfectly. A traditional stain wouldn't have been bad, but this stuff is more like painting than staining. Anyway, I wish I wouldn't have chosen to stain the outside like I did or at all for that matter.
Now that I'm done bitching, off to the pictures.
Solly might recognise those :wink: Close-up pics of my Ghetto Saw. Since it's a hit I figured I'd post them here. Basically I took the table and flipped it upside down, put the saw about where I wanted it, squared it up with one edge of the table (this being where my "rip fence" was going to be (a modified 4' framing square) and mounted it in place. The for the blade is about 1" wide and 7" long. I cut it with a jig saw. And in the last pic you're seeing the zip tie that holds the trigger down to turn the saw on. My assistant unplugs the saw when it needs turned off.
The water test. I had just siphoned out a few gallons from my 75g tank and had the plumbing hooked up so I figure what the hey, lets see if it actually holds water. I went to bed, woke up, and low and behold it did. And I got to test my drain to see how it would work, not spectacular happened, so I call that a sucess.
Pics of the plumbing system and the ball valve as it will appear on the control panel. The control panel will be hidden by a removeable piece that will be held in place by some magnets. This will make it easy to do adjustments while still keeping everything hidden.
False bottoms. The false bottoms are held up by ten 3/4" PVC couplers. I hot glued them to the egg crate and then layered from there with #7 craft mesh, window screen, and two layers of weed cloth. In retrospect, I should have reversed that order so it would act as a better filter, but this will work. The six false bottoms are all the same to speed things up a bit. I'm pretty sure only one will need any kind of modification, and that will be for a water feature, but we'll see.
This is the fan controler I picked up from NewEgg (the link is at the top of this post I think...) This controler will control the fans for the three tanks on each shelf of the rack. That will leave one control open, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that. The hole this sets in is just enough smaller that it has to be pressed in, so that will do the bulk of the holding with only something to keep it from tilting - I haven't gotten that far yet.
So that's what they look like right now. This weekend will see the installation of the infrastructure and the beginning of the Phase II. I'm off for the next two weeks so if finances allow I'll finish these.
Someone asked, I've been flipping back and forth between 1/8" and 3/16" glass. Since nothing has to be mounted on the glass, 1/8" will be fine, but I like the feel of 3/16". In the end, price will decide.
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