Burr740: Thank you very much.
Bandit1200: That's a pretty sweet setup that guy did with his reef, but I'm not certain as to what you're trying pointing out with the link. Let me know.
Please check out anything written in bold, as that means I would like some advice or recommendations. Advice is always appreciated, as is criticism.
Some tips for folks who haven't done much DIYing, and a reminder for DIY veterans between the asterisks:
I haven't posted for a few days because I've been working like crazy on this thing, and have had a few other stresses which have slowed me down to crawl. Allow me to give a few points to others so they don't make these same mistakes:
1. Prior planning. I am normally VERY on top of my prior planning, but didn't take into account the fact that my brain was fried from finals, and I was therefore very unfocussed. Being unfocussed while planning is like precisely navigating a forest with a hand drawn map and home made compass, while carrying a beehive in your backpack. --It simply won't work.
1 a. Most DIYers are good at building things in their mind. That's great! But don't rely on your mind to remember multiple fractions down to 1/16th. That's silly. Why would anyone think they could remember every single tiny step of a big project?
1 b. Eat while you think. It literally makes you smarter (about 10 IQ point difference between being very hungry, and not hungry at all, IIRC)
2. If you're stressed about time, stop. Do whatever it is that needs your time and is distracting you. Don't assemble lights on fathers day. It's self centered. I didn't realize that until I went to bed last night, and I feel bad for not giving more of my time to my family.
3. Write down every single step of the process. If it takes two full hours to do, then you just wrote yourself an entire instruction manual, to the level of specificity which you desire.
---If I had done this, I would have realized I would first need to build the top, then the base, then the legs. I was originally planning on building the legs, then the base, then the top.
4. Sometimes you have a bad day. The more stressed you are, the slower you'll move. It's better to spend an hour hanging out and doing nothing, than an hour working and doing nothing.
And finally: Sometimes you hit snags. When you do, document them so you won't hit that snag again. Here's my biggest "Stop everything right now, and do not go another step" snag.
Part of the planning stage was deciding how my 6x6's will sit, and I realized that I turned a 6x6 which was meant to be the front 6 foot piece, and had cut it into the two 24 inch side pieces. This meant that a big knot was going to be nearly in the center of my wood, weakening it. Because of this, I had to do a bit of research which added a good hour or two to the whole process (I didn't want to work on a piece of wood which may fail, but I didn't have any other 6 seasoned
6x6's. Eventually I found a free manual on google books from the 1800s which gave me the info I needed. After all, how much have trees changed in 100 years?
Just so y'all know, there is a LOT that goes into grading lumber when figuring out it's ability to carry any sort of load whatsoever. Regardless, once I finished grading the wood by 120+ year old standards, I found that with a wedge placed in the center of my 6x6, providing it had a 7.5 foot span, it has a 1 ton breaking capacity. My 6x6 will have the load spread throughout it's length, is 6 feet long, and will hold ~1/3 of that weight. I spent a lot of time, but at least I won't ever have to worry about it again.
Now for the process/pictures!
First, notching out my 6x6's:
Starting from the outside in, cut a bunch of slots at an equal depth.
Chisel the remaining pieces away, then sand everything down smooth. I forgot to get good pictures of unsanded lap joints. Sorry.
Here's what the different stages look like.
Everything got a test fit, and some extra sanding and chiseling was done after this pic.
Everything was clamped together and squared, before drilling holes for the dowels. The dowels were inserted through the under lapping 6x6s so they won't be visible from above.
I figure if I ever get rid of this tank, then I will convert the stand into a table or work bench of some sort. There won't be a single nail, screw, or bolt in the entire stand. On top of that, there won't be any visible dowels. I wanted a really clean look.
The under side of all pieces were marked (not shown) because once dowels are drilled, placed, and glued, the pieces fit together like a puzzle. This is important to remember during the build process, as I accidentally ended up with two L shapes which went together the wrong way. So I drilled out the dowels, re-squared, and re-drilled. If anything is loose, then I'll do it one more time. The difference will be before re-drilling. I'll fill the holes up with some wood glue and saw dust mixture, and let it dry. It's a trick I learned a while ago for getting something that isn't quite wood putty, and isn't quite wood glue. It's good for pouring into places which need a less brittle spaced than store bought wood putty. Plus it will stain more evenly if you plan on staining.
Pictures of the completed lap joints for the top. So far everything is sanded to 80 grit. I still need to hit it with some 120, and I may get some 200 grit as well. This is the first time I've considered finish sanding less than 200. The finish is going to be unstained tongue oil (another first for me) What are your opinions?
Birds eye view of the lights so far.
Fish eye view of the lights so far.
Thank my wife for being willing to model in a bath robe.
My lights are about 70% complete. I still need to draw up the wire diagrams for it, string some moon lights, replace the thermal grease on all of them, and mount it. I think I'm going to order one of Hoppy's water proof PAR meters, so I can figure out the height I'll want my lights to be before I mount them to the wall.
A word on these LED flood lights:
On the Amazon reviews, people have had problems with the big LED lights going dead within a month or two. Allow me to explain why I got them anyway.
I have had the 10 watt (not pictured) and 20 watt lights in daily use for about three years now. Sometimes one light will dim for a few seconds, then pop right back to full brightness. Not sure what that's all about. Other than that, they have worked fine. However, upon reading the reviews, I realized that only people with lights larger than mine were having problems with them burning out.
I came across one review where the poster claims to be an electrical engineer. I don't really care whether he is or isn't, as he still uses pretty good logic. He said to simply tighten the emitter down and replace the thermal grease with better quality stuff. I already had some very high quality thermal grease which I've used on a couple macbooks, a PS3, and a tough book (which has no cooling fan, and MUST have very good heat transfer).
So I replaced the thermal grease on one of these big 50W LED lights last night. WOW! The grease which was on there was so thick that it absolutely must have worked against heat transfer rather than for it. Thermal grease goes from being great at transferring heat to an insulator VERY quickly. This stuff was so thick that the screws couldn't be tightened down all the way.
Unfortunately I didn't do a heat test on the light last night, but I will be doing a 60 minute before and after temperature check on a different light today.
In closing about the lights: They are pretty cheap at 32 bucks a piece. I get the driver, emitter, housing, heat sync, and shipping. The warranty is probably worthless, and that plays into the price I'm sure. My smaller lights have a great track record. Does anyone have any opinions on this?
All advice welcome, good advice preferred. Anything to add?