I am a couple weeks into the stand build at this point. The stand is quite a bit larger (~18"x24") than the aquarium footprint as it is meant to be both for the aquarium as well as provide some additional space as I think this will go next to my bed. Also allows me to put a larger aquarium on it at some point in the future if I feel like it.
We start off with a pretty standard backbone for DIY stands using 2x4s. Cut with miter saw, 2" long wood screws and wood glue to put everything together. It is important to make sure before you put your top in place that everything is nice and level.
To this went ahead and added the inside of the stand base from cheap 3/4" plywood. Cut with a circular saw and nailed/glued in place. Nails are recessed and filled with wood filler.
Next we add the sides of the stand. I am using shop grade cherry plywood for this. Shop grade is usually a little thinner (1/2"), often time contains manufacturing defects, and the solid wood veneer is a little on the thin side. If you are picky you can usually find some pieces that work for you and it is a significantly cheaper than furniture grade hardwood plywood. Cut to dimension with circular saw and bonded in place with nails and wood glue. Not worried about the nail holes, they will all be covered up with trim
Next comes the front. Cut with circular saw from cherry plywood. Cut in 4 pieces (the better way is a single piece and cut out the hole in the middle, but do not have the tools to do that correctly). Cherry colored wood filler used to fill in any minor gaps.
Now we add the top. The top is 4/4 Maple. I do not use ply here just because top is most likely to have water spills and while all wood does poorly with water, plywood is particularly bad. So basically taking about 4-5" width boards and gluing them together and adding some nails. To get a good bond and a good looking piece it is important to heavily clamp both to the stand itself as well as to the adjacent board.
Wood filler to fill in any gaps (an advance wood-worker with proper tools wouldn't have these issues, but sometimes you just do the best you can with what you got).
Cut the top square and slightly undersized using a circular saw. Then added a thin strip of cherry on all sides as a cherry inset at the top. This is followed by a maple trim piece that mates flush with the sides of the stand. Woodglue only with clamping on these final pieces. Lots of careful measurement and cutting is required to get everything to mate flush.
Followed by a whole lot of sanding to make everything flush and level.
Adding in maple trim to the rest of the stand
This is a good stopping point for now, not quite caught up to current progress though, will continue on a later post.