DIY stand for a multi-tank setup (56k)
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:12 AM   #1
p.lewis
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DIY stand for a multi-tank setup (56k)


Here's a thread to share pictures of my cabinet build for a unique setup (I haven't seen it before, but I haven't looked that hard either). I built this whole thing using only a few tools that I think most folks have. It only took a few hours to do.








Materials: part of a 4'x8' sheet of 1/2" thick oak veneer plywood. Four 1"x4"x8' premium SPF boards. A fistful of 1" and 1-5/8" screws. Two scraps of plywood triangles.

I intend to place a 20L tank on top and a 29 tank on the bottom. I have two 20Ls in the picture for reference. Also, I will have a sump or refugium inside the cabinet to add volume for a healthy system. This third tank will probably be a bucket or plastic tub -- something cheap since it is hidden. All these tanks will cascade from one to the next, and a sump will lift water back to the top.

I said I only used some basic tools, so I'll list them here: circular saw for the plywood, straight edge with the circular saw, hand saw, hand miter saw, miter block, cordless screwdriver, carpenter's square, tape measure, and a pencil. When I picked up the plywood at the Home Depot, I had them make a few cuts to the major dimensions I needed. This saved me a lot of time. Lining up the straight edge and making the cuts with the circular saw took about an hour and a half to do since I was being very careful to make my cuts accurately. Despite my extra care, I still screwed up a couple cuts a little. You'd never know if I didn't tell you. I used the miter block and hand tools to cut the 1x4 because I live in an apartment and don't want to disturb the neighbors too much with the noise of the circular saw. Plus, I don't have to to to my garage to use a handsaw.

I'm disappointed by the exposed edge of the plywood; it detracts a lot from the oak veneer. I knew it was going to happen, but I was limited by the tools I had. I'll come back later and redo the edges when I get access to a router and other tools to add a solid oak edge band. I didn't use any glue during the assembly because I expected to take it apart later for this rework job. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but I think it is OK as it is. Have you been to a Chipotle and seen all the exposed edges on their birch veneer plywood designs?

One thing I notice with folks' DIY stands is that they overbuild them. Just peek inside the commercial stands and realize that you need a lot less structure than you think. My design depends on the strength of the plywood and 1x4s. Although a stand built with 4x4s and other big members will be more rigid, it would be heavier and cost more for materials. This wooden structure only weighs 30 lbs or so. I can stand on it, so it is plenty strong and rigid.

I have zero access to the inside of this stand from the front or side, but the back is open. I'm going to have to think hard about how I expect to service any of the equipment inside if I place it against the wall...

I'll start a tank journal for this project also. I'll post a link in a while, so head on over there for more info on what I'm doing.

Last edited by p.lewis; 03-12-2013 at 03:53 AM.. Reason: updates
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:16 AM   #2
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Quote:
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One thing I notice with folks' DIY stands is that they overbuild them. Just peek inside the commercial stands and realize that you need a lot less structure than you think. My design depends on the strength of the plywood and 1x4s. Although a stand built with 4x4s and other big members will be more rigid, it would be heavier and cost more for materials. This wooden structure only weighs 30 lbs or so. I can stand on it, so it is plenty strong and rigid.

I have zero access to the inside of this stand from the front or side, but the back is open. I'm going to have to think hard about how I expect to service any of the equipment inside if I place it against the wall...

I'm guilty of drastically over-building stands myself. That said, I'm a little concerned that most of your stand doesn't have direct vertical support - It looks like the back of the top tank has direct wood-on-top-of-wood support all the way from the tank to the floor, but from your pics it doesn't look like the front of the top tank, or any of the lower tank enjoy this. As it's presented in the pics, it looks like a lot of the weight of the tanks is going to be supported solely by the shear strength of the screws, and that's not something I'd be comfortable supporting possibly dozens of gallons of potential water damage on.

As to access to the inside, once you provide suitable supporting, you could use something like a sabre saw to cut panels out of the plywood twixt the supports, and then reattach them as doors.
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:34 AM   #3
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I am not an expert on building stands either. But from the looks of it I have to agree that it needs some more vertical support. At least a vertical support on the upper front edge of the tank. At the moment only the rear is supported.

I am a little cautious of the tanks held on soley by screws (assuming its the right type of screw), but I am now a fan of wood glue. The bottom tank can use some support as well. Especially because the main wait isnt on the side plywood, its just inside of them that isnt that strong.

Perhaps if some of your upper support braces that connect to the vertical support brraces were interconnected it would help with strength.
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Old 03-03-2013, 12:42 PM   #4
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I agree. Cosmetically it looks great but you need more supports. I would frame out the base and add verticals to both tank platforms BOLTED on. Screws only worries me. Just my .02.
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Old 03-03-2013, 01:34 PM   #5
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If I were to build my stand, I'd over build it for piece of mind.

But I think people are way under estimating the vertical strength of plywood and for such a small weight, it shouldn't have a problem that people think it does.
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Old 03-03-2013, 02:26 PM   #6
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that's... going to end in failure
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Old 03-03-2013, 03:39 PM   #7
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Definitely add more vertical support. Then you can buy oak veneer and cover it your self. That top tank will weigh close to 200 lbs. Maybe more. Not worth the risk IMHO.
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Old 03-03-2013, 04:30 PM   #8
p.lewis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lochaber View Post
It looks like the back of the top tank has direct wood-on-top-of-wood support all the way from the tank to the floor, but from your pics it doesn't look like the front of the top tank, or any of the lower tank enjoy this. As it's presented in the pics, it looks like a lot of the weight of the tanks is going to be supported solely by the shear strength of the screws, and that's not something I'd be comfortable supporting possibly dozens of gallons of potential water damage on.
Yea! I know what you guys mean!

That extra element was in my sketch, but I bought one 1x4 too few at the HD. Just for kicks, I did sit on top. I weigh about the same as a 20L full of water and gravel. It did survive, but that's just a short-term test.

Actually, right now I'm debating putting this additional jack stud (if I can use framing terminology) perpendicular to the plane of the plywood to get more stiffness against the thing racking. To do that, I'd want to use a Kreg joint system, but I loaned mine out and won't get it back for a couple months. Actually, there were a lot of parts on this cabinet I would have loved to use my Kreg kit on. I am not paid for advertising Kreg.

Quote:
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As to access to the inside, once you provide suitable supporting, you could use something like a sabre saw to cut panels out of the plywood twixt the supports, and then reattach them as doors.
Good idea. It's pretty narrow (12.5" and 25", top section and bottom respectively), and working from a small hole will be challenging.

Another idea I'm having is removing the front plywood sheet and building it onto a deep drawer that slides out from underneath the 29. I'd put my sump container and all the equipment in this drawer. All the cords and tubes would need plenty of slack and flexibility to move in and out. This would be tricky.

Ultimately, I think I'm going to put this cabinet perpendicular to a wall and keep access to the back. Maybe I'll use my plywood scraps to put some doors on it.

The reason I was sharing this build was because I thought it was something new, and a demonstration that you could put something together without master woodworking tools. I can't pay good money for furniture any more. The materials and construction quality are no better than this stuff I throw together in my garage. And you can too!
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Old 03-03-2013, 04:30 PM   #9
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That stand is fine... most pet shop stands are 3/8 particle board. You didn't mention what grade the plywood is, but it doesn't really matter since even the lowest grades of plywood are more than sufficient to support those tanks. I would only be concerned with buckling of the tall sides, and the 1" x 4"s take care of that issue.

Here's some specifications on typical laminated woods, it's a bit technical but has everything necessary to do your own calculations if wanted.

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fp...chapter_12.pdf
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Old 03-03-2013, 05:07 PM   #10
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I would put 1/4 or even 1/8 plywood across the back to stiffen the stand from racking - rocking side to side. And, I would, for sure, use yellow wood glue at every joint. Then I think it should work fine.
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Old 03-03-2013, 05:30 PM   #11
p.lewis
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Quote:
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That stand is fine... most pet shop stands are 3/8 particle board.
When I built my first cabinet (a lot nicer than this one), I surveyed all the cabinets the LFSs had, and quickly came to the realization that it doesn't take much structure to make a stand that is strong enough. In fact, I saw many stands that used plywood for the entire structure. That made me scratch my head a while until I had to admit that it ought to work as well as dimensional lumber. Of course it does! Just look at all your furniture from Ikea!

Why I think people end up building stronger stands is because they want rigidity. I think the human mind perceives rigidity as strength, when in fact, flexible structures can be as strong or stronger. Maybe this goes back to the development of our monkey brains to test if tree branches can hold our weight. The difference is that rigid things are typically 10-100 times stronger than what is required to prevent structural failure. Rigidity >> Strength.

Also, Indychus, I can definitely use that reference on composites. It looks like a good read for a technical guy like me.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer. I could talk about the merits of overbuilding a cabinet to make it more rigid compared to how little material you need to make it strong enough for the load, but it would take a while to write something that would be useful to a general audience.

I won't argue with anybody who wants me to beef up this stand. There's nothing wrong with that perspective. However, I plan on moving one or two more times and don't want to make this thing too heavy.
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Old 03-03-2013, 05:45 PM   #12
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Nice, I'm an ME also, although no real-world experience yet. Just finished my BS in ME and am working on my Masters in Aerospace. Seems like there are a lot of engineers on here
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:44 PM   #13
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Sounds like it should work.

As to the sump on a drawer bit, I don't think the cords/hoses should be much of a problem. Might help if you use some sort of clip or something to hold them to the frame where they enter/exit the sump/aquarium, so that way all the flex/slack stays out of the tank/sump, and just hangs out in the inside of the stand.

I really like the kreg pockethole jig. I borrowed one from the local tool-lending library a couple times, and then went and bought my own. pretty easy to use, and really useful for some otherwise difficult joints.
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indychus View Post
That stand is fine... most pet shop stands are 3/8 particle board. You didn't mention what grade the plywood is, but it doesn't really matter since even the lowest grades of plywood are more than sufficient to support those tanks. I would only be concerned with buckling of the tall sides, and the 1" x 4"s take care of that issue.

Here's some specifications on typical laminated woods, it's a bit technical but has everything necessary to do your own calculations if wanted.

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fp...chapter_12.pdf
While you are right, if you look his tank sits on the inner portion of the plywood. So its not supported by the sides, its supported by the inner support and the screws. All the cheaply LFS ones are supported right in the sides and they can get away with it.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:32 PM   #15
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While you are right, if you look his tank sits on the inner portion of the plywood. So its not supported by the sides, its supported by the inner support and the screws. All the cheaply LFS ones are supported right in the sides and they can get away with it.
this precisely. there is no wood support in the front of that 20, only screws.

Now, I'm sure the combined shear strength of the 12 screws is enough to support 200lbs. but I wouldnt trust them.

you'd have a lot more support for this stand if the tank was placed on the end of the plywood. there is nothing wrong with the materials used, you're just not using the most efficient parts for the most important parts.

and you want rigidity; you could support a tank with 4 2x2's at each corner, but good luck not having it come crashing down. tanks aren't soft squishy things that can handle impact or flexing, like a monkey.
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