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Building stands

4174 Views 12 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  frogparty
Hi folks,

Its took me a little while to get round to this, but i wanted to honor a promise of a rough "how to build a stand" from my Mayan terrarium build thread

Leveller, how difficult is it to construct a decent looking stand and hood, and do you know of any good resources I could check out?
It was going to be a little while before i was due to start on a new viv, but i had set me heart on building a scorpion vivarium, so it was also a perfect opportunity to do a rough guide.

It must be said that i am not the best carpenter in the world, i just build strong practical stands.

Ok for the stand we will need a few bits namely the usual tools , hammer, screwdrivers, handsaw, electric drill + bits , measuring tape, instant grab adhesive ( no more nails , etc ) and the most impotant tool if you have one great! if not you really need to beg, borrow or buy one , is a Mitre saw ( this makes life so much easier :cool: )

Ok the , Part 1 : The Frame

Before we start we really need a tank to gauge the size of the stand, i was lucky enough to be given an old aquarium that had leaked on its previous owner, but was ideal for what i needed..

The tank was laid on its side and quick measure up gives us the critical dimensions ( Sorry, im a Brit, so its all metric , but im sure you understand the principle ) 460mm x 800mm , at this time i am not worried about the height of the tank..

The timber for the frame we are going to use is 2½ " x 1½ " , I normally cut the timber the length of the tank + a few mm over ( about 2 16ths oversize ) the side lengths are the same with the same overcut, we ill be assembling the frame with the thin edge of the timber upwards ( dont forget to deduct the width of your front and rear timbers from the length of your side timbers ), now you have your measurements,this where your mitre saw is indispensable , the ability to cut true square ends and angles will make the build so much easier.

We need to cut enough timber to make a top frame and a bottom frame, so eight pieces in total and if everything has gone to plan then you should have something like this..

Lay a frame's worth of wood over your tank as a dry fit and just make sure that it sizes up to the tank alright , it should hopefully be square and slightly oversize , now, assembling on a flat surface ( this is important to keep the frame square and true ) use a drill bit smaller than the diameter of the screws you inted to use and drill a pilot hole through the front timber and into the side timber, i used a 3" long posidrive headed screw for the assembly.

Screw the two ends of the timber together using a little instant grab adhesive , once you have screwed all the ends together then pilot another hole in the corners and add a second screw to the corners of the frame.

Once you have one frame finished then go ahead and build the second frame, which should give you this..

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Building the frame : continued

The next part of our build is totally down to personal preference and that is the height of your stand, in my case it was important that i could see down into the top of the tank so i made my estimations based on me standing and using a measuring tape to figure out the right height, in this case around 700mm ( 27½ " )

Although we have built two frames, the height of the stand is defined exactly by leg cut length as the legs sit inside our frames, it is also important that the ends of the legs are cut dead flat.

Ok, now we have our four legs cut, place a leg inside one frame and pull it in tight to the corner of the frame making sure that it is sitting flat to our building surface, it is a flat surface isnt it?

If you are happy that it is true , use a carpenters square ( or borrow the kids maths set square )if you are unsure, if you are happy then pilot a single hole with your drill and put in a screw, if all is good then repeat for the other three legs and you should have this...

Again, if you are happy then we can drill a pilot hole from the opposite edge and secure the leg again with another screw.

Ok heres a picture of a corner/leg joint showing the pair of screws holding the frame together and the leg to the frame...

Right, put your frame ( which looks like an upside down table ) to one side and put your other frame on your flat surface ( make sure that there is nothing under the frame ( sawdust etc ) and up end your partially complete frame/leg assembly into your other frame, like this...

Once again pull the legs in tight to the lower frame's corners and check and fix as previously described, this photo looks the same as the last, but you can actually see the screws going into the legs/frame at the bottom of the carcass

If you've made it this far, well done! , go and have a break :cool:

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Building the frame : Continued

What i want to show you next is some some additional cuts of timber , this if cut correctly can add extra strength to your stand, but i must stress that these pieces of timber's main job is to allow us to clad the stand and they are not structural.

Ok, measure the distance between the inner edges of your frames, this bit..

Now cut six lengths of timber to that measured length, we want to add these pieces to the areas around the legs , each piece should be secured by pilot drilling holes through the timber and into the legs of the stand and securing with 3 screws each , the next three photos should hopefully show the orientation of those pieces, The red rings show the position of screws, the red dots indcate the placement of the new pieces of timber...

After we have completed the carcass, we just need to add a couple of pieces of MDF sheet to the top and bottom of our carcass, i used 10mm thick MDF ( about 6 16ths ) a timber store worth its salt will normally have the facility to rip down pieces to your dimensions, its really worth getting them to cut the two sheets you need , they need cutting fairly exactly , but dont panic, as long as the sheet is not over the size of the top/bottom of the carcass, it will be fine.

Once you have your two sheets , sit one centrally on your carcass and drill a couple of pilot holes , you will only need small 1" wood screws to fix the MDF down , the MDF is quite soft so you can screw the heads of the screws just under flush, add four more screws and the MDF will be secure.

Flip the carcass over and secure the other sheet of MDF to the bottom of the carcass.

You should now have this..

You can at this stage put your tank on the stand to check its all flat ( hopefully it will be ) just make sure there are no screws sitting proud or any grit or sand on the MDF, or your tank can crack...

You may be lucky like me and have a highly calibrated load bearing cat to confirm your final checks..

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Next part : Cladding ( also known as keeping the missus happy )

Now our basic stand is complete we want to make it look like a piece of furniture or something that matches the decor of wherever you plan on keeping your finished viv.

As far as finishing materials go pretty much your imagination is the limit, i guess even steel if you really wanted, i will show you how to clad the stand using wood as it is easy to stain/varnish to just about any colour.

The first material we will need is some plywood sheet i used 5mm thick ( 3 16ths ) be picky about the sheet you use it wants to have a nice grain to it with no knots or manufacturers printing on it.

We will need 3 panels ( unless you wish to clad the back, i tend not to bother ) so, the front and two sides the dimensions should be the full width of the stand, but again its ok if its a fraction undersize, just dont go oversize, the height needs to be the full height of our stand including the MDF top and bottom , plus 10mm ( 6/16ths ) we want to create a lip around the top of the stand, again this another job for the guys down at the timber store to cut down for you.

The height of the sheet should look like this...

Using a good amount of instant grab glue/wood glue around the front of your frame like this..

Place your front plywood sheet up against your stand and use panel pins/small wire nails ( 1" ) to secure the sheet in place, take note that the panel pins/nails need to be fairly close to the outside edge of the panel, but make sure that you dont go too high with your top row of panel pins , because we are 10mm ( 6/16ths ) above the frame , you can afford to come lower with your top row of nails, say 1 1/4" - 1 1/2" down from the very top edge of the ply...

A quick look at the side of the stand shows how all the pieces of the stand fit together ( Carcass, MDF top , plywood front panel ) including the relationship of the tank itself...

Finally add both plywood sides to the carcass using the method described above and you should have this...

Good job!

Isnt that wood grain nice? :cool:

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I like the highly calibrated load bearing cat. That is certainly one quality precision piece of equipment you can't do without. :D
Next part : Cladding, continued..

For the next part of our cladding stage , i need to make sure that we are talking about the same material, namely skirting boards , hopefully they are called the same thing in the US, if not i am talking about the wooden moulding that is at the bottom of your wall where it meets the floor.

Heres a link to an UK diy store with some skirting boards

Skirting boards

Skirting comes in lots of different profiles depending on the look you want, i went for a style called Ogee, here it is in profile...

When buying skirting always make sure that the piece is not warped or twisted as it will just cause you massive headaches.

Ok, what we need to do is measure the width of our now plywood clad stand and cut our skirting board with our mitre saw ( we have got one right? ) at 45 degrees on both ends, once its cut, then turn it upsidedown so that the thickest end of the skirting board is uppermost, then apply a line of instant grab adhesive to the ply about 2" down from the top edge and stick the skirting board to the ply keeping the top of the plywood flush with the top of the skirting board.

When you have done that , tap in a few panel pins through the skirting board into the ply wood, again, at least 2" down from the top edge, 3 is more than enough as the glue will hold the piece when it sets.

TIP: Using a hard point , eg. a small screwdriver or 6" nail , gently tap the head of the panel pin so that it is under the surface of the wood, we can come back later and hide the nails with a little wood filler ;)

Using your mitre saw again , cut the remaining pieces of skirting board for both the sides..

Heres a photo of mine with the front and right hand side on...

The next material we need is Architrave , again this may be called something different in the US, this is the decorative moulding that usually surrounds a door frame or window, heres a link to the UK DIY store showing Architrave


Using the same methods of cutting and fixing the skirting board, use the same method to prepare a front and two sides for the bottom of the stand , obviously use the Architrave with the thickest edge to the floor..

Still with me? awesome, not far to go now :)

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compound miter saw is probably the best tool you can get for building stands. its the most used tool in our shop by far.
Very nice job man! What lucky scorpion gets to live in this deluxe pad?
Very nice job man! What lucky scorpion gets to live in this deluxe pad?
Thanks, it gets better :cool:

It currently has a rather fat Arizona Desert hairy scorpion in it :)
Next part: Trim

Ok, so now we have our stand clad we need to finish off those rough edges to hopefully give us a good looking stand.

What we need to finish up is a material called pine angle and it looks something like this..

This particular type is called reeded , due to the pattern on it, it also comes in different sizes, we want two sizes , but initially the 27mm ( just over 1" ) type , we will use this on the corners of our stand between the skirting board and Architrave, this really is a simple measure and cut exercise , hopefully if you kept your panel pins that fixed the plywood in place close to the edge , this pine angle should now cover those panel pins, use a bead of instant grab adheasive to fix the four lengths in place..

Now you can measure and cut three pieces of the same pine angle to fit directly on the top of the skirting board edge , you should find that the pine angle will cover not only the top of the skirting board but also the rather unsightly plywood edge.

I would suggest using a hand saw and a small mitre block to cut the 45 degree cuts as the pine angle is not quite tough enough to take cutting with a power saw.

This next part is personal preference, but you get the same style pine angle in smaller sizes, so i bought a length of 18mm ( just under 3/4 " ) and using the same method , only fixing with silicone, cladded the corners of the aquarium, heres a photo of the skirting and aquarium partially clad..

And fully clad..

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Is there going to be a blacklight on this for night viewing? I love hairy scorpions. Very cool species.
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