30 Gallon Aquarium Stand Project
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:09 PM   #1
CAM6467
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30 Gallon Aquarium Stand Project


I have been really putting this project off for quite a while, but I think that it's time to start the thing up. I'm planning on putting together a nice little aquarium stand for my 30 gallon aquarium. This won't be a planted tank to the extent that most of us are used to on this site. It'll be the new home of a few cichlids, and I'm only planning on having some plants attached to driftwood (Perhaps java fern or some other rhizome based plant). A little help would be nice as to what plants I could have with Texas cichlids.

This stand is going to be constructed in a similar manner to various other stands found through google and site like TPT. Here's a good sample of my inspiration. I'll be creating the frame in a very basic yet strong manner. 2x4s will be used for the entire frame, and they will be attached to one another by 2.5" decking screws. I'll be using a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig to help me attach the 2x4s to one another. Here's a quick shot of what I'm going to make:


As you can see, this is going to be pretty structurally sound. I plan on making the top and bottom frames first, then attach them together via the "legs" created from two 2x4s put together with a 90 degree lap-joint. I'll have horizontal and vertical center support 2x4s to help strengthen the stand.

Next, I'll take 1/4" plywood and skin the frame with it. I'm using standard pine 2x4s for the frame, but I haven't decided on the 1/4" plywood. I'm leaning more towards birch or oak. It just depends on the money I have to spend and the availability at Lowe's or Home Depot. I'm going to cut the sides and back as one large panel, but the front will be made of four smaller strips so that I leave the door openings exposed. I'll use wood glue, clamps, and very few brad nails to hold the plywood in place. I'm sure that the wood glue will hold just find once it's set. Here's the frame skinned with 1/4" plywood:


After applying the skin to the frame, I'll begin creating the doors and top for the stand. The top will be made of one sheet of 1/2" plywood (Probably birch). That will be attached with decking screws straight down into the frame. I'll drill recessed pilot holes to ensure a smooth surface once it's attached. I wouldn't want any screw heads causing uneven load on the aquarium's bottom pane of glass. That could prove disastrous. As for the doors, I'm planning on making them a little more fancy than most DIY aquarium stand doors. I've been working with a router table more frequently, and I'm going to test my new skill by attempting to create raised panel doors. I've already got the router, router table, and raised panel door router bits. All I need is a little patience and confidence to get the job done. I'll be making the doors out of the same wood that I'll use for the 1/4" skin plywood (That way everything looks uniform once I'm done). This guy's site is the major inspiration for my decison to make these doors. Here's a shot of the raised panel doors and 1/2" plywood top added:


The next task to be completed will be to add trim all around the stand in order to cover all the corners and edges. Keep in mind, the raised panel doors will have a nice edge to them thanks to my router and some of the bits that I've accumulated. However, the corners of the stand where the 1/4" skin meets need to be covered with 1/2"x1/2" corner trim to hide the ugly edges. Also, I'm going to add some baseboard trim around the bottom of the stand as well as a lip around the top of the stand that will serve the purpose of hiding the plastic trim of the aquarium. The top lip trim will be created from 1x4 stock shaped on my router table to give it a nice profile. This is a nice example of what the trim of my stand will look like. Here's a shot of the trim added to the stand:


This picture is one of the aquarium sitting on top of the newly constructed stand. This particular stand will allow 3/4" of space all around the aquarium (Between the base of the aquarium and the lip of the stand). I may change my measurements to make this space a little smaller, but I don't want to go too small. This space will also give me room to clean up any water spills that will occur during routine aquarium maintenance. Here's the picture:


The very last piece of construction will be the canopy. I haven't ever made a canopy before, so it will be a new experience for me. I just want something that will cover the top plastic trim of the aquarium and finish the project nicely. It will be created out of 1x4s in order to limit its weight. I plan on creating my own lighting system within the canopy as well. It will be fluorescent bulbs for daytime viewing, but it will also have blue LED lights for the night. My wife and I love that faint blue glow at night. I'm thinking that I'll probably have the entire top of the canopy hinged at the back with a long piano hinge for easy access. I'll have to research a little more in order to determine exactly how I want the canopy to be made. Here is an example of the basic canopy construction I may use. Here's another example of a DIY canopy. This is a good example of how I am going to make my lighting system without having to buy it already completed. Here's an example of the moonlight setup. Here's a picture of the concept:



The actual aquarium is 12.5"W x 30.5"L x 19.25"T.
The stand will be 14"W x 32"L x 30"T once finished.

I'm planning on finishing the stand and canopy with some mid-dark stain and several coats of poly. I'll get a bunch of actual pictures up as soon as I begin the build project. Hopefully that won't be too much longer.

Thanks for looking.

Charlie Mims
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:36 PM   #2
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If you use birch for the stand, and want a really easy to use, splotch free way of coloring the wood, try this: http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?familyid=760 I have used these dyes several times and have always been totally satisfied with them. You can mix colors until you get exactly the color you want, and best of all, it doesn't give you splotchy areas that can make regular wood stain jobs look so bad.
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Old 06-05-2009, 04:28 PM   #3
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Interesting. I haven't ever used a dye before, but I have heard so much about them. Do you simply mix the dye with water and then rub it into the wood? Can you still apply poly without messing up the dye? I am definately going to look into these dyes. I hate having to stain large surface areas....You always seem to end up with darker/splotchy areas. Thank a bunch Hoppy!

EDIT: Hoppy, by the way that you worded your statement I get the idea that this dye is best for use on birch. Is that so?
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:20 PM   #4
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That dye is a powder which dissolves in either water or alcohol. You swab it on generously, wait a few seconds and wipe the excess off, to even it out better. Then wait for it to dry thoroughly, usually overnight is all it takes, and apply whatever clear finish you want. If you use alcohol it dries a lot faster, but, I found it dried too fast and I sometimes got streaky results. The dye is suitable for any wood, but birch is so light it really works well on that wood. Birch also has a wavy grain that causes stains to absorb heavily in some areas right adjacent to areas where it absorbs poorly, leaving a splotchy appearance. The dye doesn't do that nearly as much.

When you use stain you can use a pre-stain conditioner that stops a lot of the blotchiness, but, my experience was that the conditioner also greatly limited the darkness you could get with the stain.

My wife used to insist that I match the color of some existing piece of furniture, and dyes let me do it. I would take a long strip of the same plywood used for the furniture and apply various mixes of colors in 6 inch long areas, then let it dry, apply a clear coat, and compare the result with the existing furniture. After 2 or 3 of those attempts I could usually get a good match. And, I only used 3 dye colors, as I recall.

Also, any stain/dyed finish does better if the first coat of clear finish is a shellac based sanding sealer. That isolates the dye/stain from the acrylic finish, if that is what you use.
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:43 PM   #5
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what exactly did you use lap joints on. On what part of the aquarium? I'm pretty sure it wasn't the table legs was it being that they are attached 90 degrees together...
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:52 PM   #6
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did you use the lap Joints on the frames? even that I could see being difficult being that the boards don't overlap at all they are flush to onE another. I could see the kreg pocket screws on all of it, however but not the lap but not the lap joints
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Old 04-25-2015, 01:30 AM   #7
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Since it's getting skinned pocket holes are unnecessary. Especially on your legs. You have a simple butt joint there. Edge to face. Glue it and screw it right through the 2 x 4. The glue will do most of the job screws will act as the clamp.
Personally I like a 1/2" plywood for a skin. 1/4" just rattles when you tap it and that makes me think cheesy.
The raised panels should all be in the same plane as the rails and stiles and not protrude above when done right. I've seen too many doors where the panel sticks above the frame.

If you're more familiar with stain over dyes you can use a wood conditioner to minimize any blotching. While pine and softwoods are notorious for blotching so is cherry and a few other hardwoods. Blotching is more apparent on a light stain. Maple is a tough wood to stain dark.
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Old 04-25-2015, 03:52 AM   #8
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Gotcha. Thanks. I think the 90% 2 x 4 leg connections were just optionally referred to above in the original post as a lap joint even though there are actual LAP JOINTS and half lap joints which are different as opposed to a basic butt joint.
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