Replacing front panel with low iron glass (starphire) 60 gallon - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Replacing front panel with low iron glass (starphire) 60 gallon

Hey everyone,


I'm in the middle of making a planted show tank with 2x 60 gallon breeders. One will be a sump and 1 will be the display. I would like to replace the front panel with starphire, low iron high clarity glass. And while I'm at it, I'd like to completely dismantle and reseal the entire tank as there are quite a few bubbles in the joints between glass. And it's a used tank and would help me to sleep at night haha. Anyone have any advice on completely dismantling a tank and then rebuilding it? Anyone on the site familiar with doing this? I'm wiling to put in the hours of hard labor cleaning off the silicone. Just need some guidance.


Most articles I've read tell me to just very slowly razor blade all reds around the trim and then very very slowly cut in between the panes of glass. And then once all glass is removed use lots of acetone and alcohol to clean off old silicone with razor blades. Sound like a good plan?
Thanks,
Joshua


Please refrain from the don't do its. And the it's not worth your time. I'm just looking for constructive advice and tips from anyone who has done this before.

Last edited by pianofish; 02-17-2014 at 09:51 PM. Reason: Title change
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 04:30 PM
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Don't do it!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Here's the best advice I can give you:

Acetone won't remove cured silicone. Use it as a final prep once you've got all the old silicone off.

Buy a pack of the highest grit sandpaper you can find. 320 or higher. Rub it gently over the surfaces you've removed silicone from. Anything you miss will become a hazy spot. Don't get carried away and scratch adjoining areas, it's just to show you what you missed with a razor blade.

Buy LOTS of razor blades and don't be stingy with them.

The silicone between the panels (the inner bead) on that tank should be thick enough to accept a razor blade. Push two blades down through the seam at a time. The razor blade above the one doing the cutting will simply keep the cut open just enough so that the bottom blade is only slicing through silicone under mild tension. So that as you progress, you'll need to keep the top blade no more than a few inches above the one slicing through the silicone.

The new panel, and the old ones will be heavier than you think. Plan to have helpers around to set the panels in place and hold them there. Only have enough beer around to keep their hands steady.

If you're planning on setting the 4 side panels on top of the bottom, be aware that the weight of the panels will squeeze out too much silicone at that size. You should think about embedding small spacers in the inner silicone beads around the bottoms of the panels. A few small bits of 6 lb test fishing line will keep the panel from squeezing out too much.

3M blue painter's masking tape will be your best friend here. If you're going to the extent of using starphire, you don't want sloppy outer beads visible.

If you want to overbuild a bit, get Momentive RTV from Grainger, and check for expiration dates on the tubes. On a 60G, I think it would be overkill, but that's your choice.

Lastly, I've never worked with Starphire and can only say that I've read low iron glass isn't as strong. So that if you're not replacing the top trim, you should at least consider eurobracing the top. The same goes for the bottom if you're not replacing the bottom trim.

I'm sure others will chime in with more things and their own preferances.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushkill View Post
Don't do it!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Here's the best advice I can give you:

Acetone won't remove cured silicone. Use it as a final prep once you've got all the old silicone off.

Buy a pack of the highest grit sandpaper you can find. 320 or higher. Rub it gently over the surfaces you've removed silicone from. Anything you miss will become a hazy spot. Don't get carried away and scratch adjoining areas, it's just to show you what you missed with a razor blade.

Buy LOTS of razor blades and don't be stingy with them.

The silicone between the panels (the inner bead) on that tank should be thick enough to accept a razor blade. Push two blades down through the seam at a time. The razor blade above the one doing the cutting will simply keep the cut open just enough so that the bottom blade is only slicing through silicone under mild tension. So that as you progress, you'll need to keep the top blade no more than a few inches above the one slicing through the silicone.

The new panel, and the old ones will be heavier than you think. Plan to have helpers around to set the panels in place and hold them there. Only have enough beer around to keep their hands steady.

If you're planning on setting the 4 side panels on top of the bottom, be aware that the weight of the panels will squeeze out too much silicone at that size. You should think about embedding small spacers in the inner silicone beads around the bottoms of the panels. A few small bits of 6 lb test fishing line will keep the panel from squeezing out too much.

3M blue painter's masking tape will be your best friend here. If you're going to the extent of using starphire, you don't want sloppy outer beads visible.

If you want to overbuild a bit, get Momentive RTV from Grainger, and check for expiration dates on the tubes. On a 60G, I think it would be overkill, but that's your choice.

Lastly, I've never worked with Starphire and can only say that I've read low iron glass isn't as strong. So that if you're not replacing the top trim, you should at least consider eurobracing the top. The same goes for the bottom if you're not replacing the bottom trim.

I'm sure others will chime in with more things and their own preferances.
Thank man for all the tips, especially the getting off the last bits of silicone. I would have never thought of that. I already bought the 100 pack of razor blades haha, don't worry. I also have SCS 1200 adhesive construction silicone (equivalent to RTV from Grainger).

Also I will be eurobracing the top, However I plan on leaving the bottom trim on. This tank was originally constructed by another hobbyist using mitered plastic trim. Do you think that reusing this trim would be advisable? Or should I Euro brace the bottom? I was planning on just eurobracing the front and back on the top with 2.5" strips of glass. Its only a 36" long tank.

How can I tell if the glass is currently resting on top of the bottom pane or if it surrounding it? What is more common? Do I need to take it apart to tell?

Thanks for the help man,
Joshua

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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 07:27 PM
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First of all, when deconstructing a tank you'll have to go VERY SLOW. I cannot stress how important that is. Glass is very unforgiving and easily breaks if you lose patience. I'm talking so slow you might fall asleep during the process. Rushing it will only cause you to lose a good panel (trust me, I've done it a few times).

The good thing is the bigger the tank and thicker the glass, the easier it is to deconstruct.

You'll most likely have to remove the bottom frame to tell if its a floating or flat bottom tank.

I've used a torch in the past to soften the silicone that is holding the panels together, but you must do this when the glass is warm (preferably in a very warm house or something similar). If the tank is cold, expansion will break the glass too. But if you do it right it really makes the job easier.

Another option is use a piano wire like they use when removing windshields. Again this is much easier to do on a larger tank.


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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pianofish View Post
Thank man for all the tips, especially the getting off the last bits of silicone. I would have never thought of that. I already bought the 100 pack of razor blades haha, don't worry. I also have SCS 1200 adhesive construction silicone (equivalent to RTV from Grainger).

Also I will be eurobracing the top, However I plan on leaving the bottom trim on. This tank was originally constructed by another hobbyist using mitered plastic trim. Do you think that reusing this trim would be advisable? Or should I Euro brace the bottom? I was planning on just eurobracing the front and back on the top with 2.5" strips of glass. Its only a 36" long tank.

How can I tell if the glass is currently resting on top of the bottom pane or if it surrounding it? What is more common? Do I need to take it apart to tell?

Thanks for the help man,
Joshua
I'm not familiar with SCS, so you know better than me on that one. At one point I had test data on a bunch of silicone adhesives, but haven't been able to find it for a while now. I'm sure there's been new ones developed since then.

It's easy to tell if they sit on top of the bottom pane or if the bottom pane is inset. Just turn the tank over and you'll have your answer. I've never been a fan of insetting the bottom pane. It depends on how the tank was constructed and where you're gonna set it. If it has supporting trim, I would build it with the sides resting on the bottom pane. If the trim pieces are in decent shape, I'd re-use them.
A much tougher call is whether or not the bottom is tempered. That's a much tougher call and you'll find tons of discussion on how to tell and be left with your head spinning in the end. Now knowing it was custom, it's the first thing that came to mind. To make this easier to read, if it isn't tempered and you can't figure it out, do NOT put the tank on a flat surface like a plywood base.

Since you're eurobracing the top I would do the same at the bottom. It's not totally overkill. If you do it correctly, it can actually make assembly a snap AND give you twice as much contact area for the silicone at the bottom of the viewing panes. So if you'ge gonna have two strips cut for the top, have 4 cut for the bottom(or at least two for front and back). If you set the bottom braces first (can't have any silicone squeeze-out), and let them cure, they form a neat little rest for the side panes that will keep them from sliding around while the four sides are set in place, joined and taped up. I think you can visualize what I mean, hopefully. But your measurements and placement have to be really good in allowing for the thickness of the glass. If your glass guy is really good, it may cost the same to just have a 1/4" panel cut for the bottom instead of strips.

Lastly, I think you can judge I tend to overbuild, but I would install a center glass strip, joining the front and back braces. I think the tank ends up be almost 2 feet tall unless it was customed to an odd dimension. Once you go past 16-18 inches, bowing becomes a concern. And a PITA:

I just bought a couple of 29G's at Petco. and put them on a rack so that the short end is the viewing pane. I cut glass tops for them from scraps. Stoopid me cut them to the width of the tank at the corners of the short end. Tetra tanks have a really small ledge in the top trim. When I put the tops on they fit perfect at the corners, but fell right into the tank at the middle because of the bowing. A little over 1/4" spread at the middle. And that's just a 29G.

Lastly, I have a stock 65G. The top trim has a center brace. It's there for a reason.

Angelo

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-07-2014, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelub View Post
First of all, when deconstructing a tank you'll have to go VERY SLOW. I cannot stress how important that is. Glass is very unforgiving and easily breaks if you lose patience. I'm talking so slow you might fall asleep during the process. Rushing it will only cause you to lose a good panel (trust me, I've done it a few times).

The good thing is the bigger the tank and thicker the glass, the easier it is to deconstruct.

You'll most likely have to remove the bottom frame to tell if its a floating or flat bottom tank.

I've used a torch in the past to soften the silicone that is holding the panels together, but you must do this when the glass is warm (preferably in a very warm house or something similar). If the tank is cold, expansion will break the glass too. But if you do it right it really makes the job easier.

Another option is use a piano wire like they use when removing windshields. Again this is much easier to do on a larger tank.
Well the tank is 3/8" thick glass, so its not small by any means. I'm an engineering major in college, so meticulous is my middle name. I'll go very slow haha. I've also read some articles of people deconstructing tanks using organic silicone removers that can be found at lowes. I'll cross that bridge when i get there, but again I'll go very slow haha. It'll be at least a year if not more before I can afford all the parts I want for this tank. I'm going all out now before I get married, to make sure it lasts me for a good long while. Hence the resealling of the tank now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushkill View Post
I'm not familiar with SCS, so you know better than me on that one. At one point I had test data on a bunch of silicone adhesives, but haven't been able to find it for a while now. I'm sure there's been new ones developed since then.

It's easy to tell if they sit on top of the bottom pane or if the bottom pane is inset. Just turn the tank over and you'll have your answer. I've never been a fan of insetting the bottom pane. It depends on how the tank was constructed and where you're gonna set it. If it has supporting trim, I would build it with the sides resting on the bottom pane. If the trim pieces are in decent shape, I'd re-use them.
A much tougher call is whether or not the bottom is tempered. That's a much tougher call and you'll find tons of discussion on how to tell and be left with your head spinning in the end. Now knowing it was custom, it's the first thing that came to mind. To make this easier to read, if it isn't tempered and you can't figure it out, do NOT put the tank on a flat surface like a plywood base.

Since you're eurobracing the top I would do the same at the bottom. It's not totally overkill. If you do it correctly, it can actually make assembly a snap AND give you twice as much contact area for the silicone at the bottom of the viewing panes. So if you'ge gonna have two strips cut for the top, have 4 cut for the bottom(or at least two for front and back). If you set the bottom braces first (can't have any silicone squeeze-out), and let them cure, they form a neat little rest for the side panes that will keep them from sliding around while the four sides are set in place, joined and taped up. I think you can visualize what I mean, hopefully. But your measurements and placement have to be really good in allowing for the thickness of the glass. If your glass guy is really good, it may cost the same to just have a 1/4" panel cut for the bottom instead of strips.

Lastly, I think you can judge I tend to overbuild, but I would install a center glass strip, joining the front and back braces. I think the tank ends up be almost 2 feet tall unless it was customed to an odd dimension. Once you go past 16-18 inches, bowing becomes a concern. And a PITA:

I just bought a couple of 29G's at Petco. and put them on a rack so that the short end is the viewing pane. I cut glass tops for them from scraps. Stoopid me cut them to the width of the tank at the corners of the short end. Tetra tanks have a really small ledge in the top trim. When I put the tops on they fit perfect at the corners, but fell right into the tank at the middle because of the bowing. A little over 1/4" spread at the middle. And that's just a 29G.

Lastly, I have a stock 65G. The top trim has a center brace. It's there for a reason.
SCS is just as good as RTV, they both have the highest ratings I've heard of for adhesive silicone used in aquariums.

So to start with, I guess I should have posted this earlier. The dimensions are very oddball lol (36" H X 19" W X 20" H) Weird right? but I've measured and remeasured that is the actual dimensions. That being said, I'm one for overbuilding things as well, (just wait till you see my stand hehe ) And I will probably have this tank in a high traffic area of the house when I have kids, so it needs to be as rock solid as possible, hence the overkill silicone on a 60 gallon. I'd also like this tank to last for the next 10-15+ years so thats why I'm going to personally redo it. I am not positive that the bottom of the tank is not tempered. I'll check it out though to make sure.

Are you saying tempered is better or worse for letting it sit on a sheet of plywood with foam? A little confused. If it is tempered and it breaks should I replace with standard sheet glass or get tempered glass?

Also, are you saying that even if I reuse the plastic trim, I should still eurobrace the bottom? For the top I was planning on using 3/8" thick strips each 2.5" wide. What thickness of glass would I use for the bottom, and how wide should they be? 2.5" as well?

I already did a bowing test and at maximum in the very middle of the tank without the top trim on, it bowed 1/32" on each side. For a total of 1/16" combined. I would imagine with eurobracing it will stop this small amount of bowing sufficiently.

Thanks again fellas,
Joshua

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 11:22 AM
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If the bottom isn't tempered (if you're DIY'ing in most cases it isn't) and the stand is a flat surface think about the downward pressure the water exerts on something that has limits on how much it wants to flex. About 5 or 6 years ago, I re-built a stand to accommodate a tank with a 30" X 24" footprint. I'm pretty sure it was only 16" or so high. The bottom panel was one of the viewing panes of a 45G I trimmed. 3/8" I believe. Eurobraced, and built sides to rest on the bottom. I'm telling you that stand had no imperfections, except for the one corner being less than 1/16" lower than the others. Thick-headed me was sure the 3/8" would be fine. Well, let's just say the crack ran far and long and I was really lucky to be home when it happened. That should've been a floating bottom panel, and that 1/16" should've been eliminated. A sheet of foam insulation under it would in theory only have "absorbed" any imperfections in the plywood surface and wouldn't have corrected that 1/16", but I learned a lot with that experience.

Like I said, the decision to keep the old trim depends on two factors: the condition it's in now and after you remove it and the type of surface the tank will rest on. If it's a standard perimeter-support stand, I would try to re-use the trim and build it sides resting on the bottom panel. I'd also go the extra yard and eurobrace the bottom.

If you PM me your mailing address, I'll send you a few feet of some wire I acquired many many moons ago. It's extremely thin and has incredible tensile strength; but won't stand up to abrasion like running against the sharp edge of the glass. So that of you stretch some between two short lengths of wooden dowel rod, it zips right down through most inner silicone beads. It works better than razor blades on the slightly thicker beads that the bigger tanks are built with. Although, this being a custom tank, I can't be sure of much. The caution is obvious: it can cut you like worse than a knife if you slip up.

Angelo

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Man, that sure does suck about the old tank man. I'm sorry that happened my friend. So I've been doing tons of research, hours upon hours of scouring fish forums for info on the best ways to build tanks. And most people are pretty even on the whole debate on whether or not to use the floating bottom with trim or go trimless. However, very few if any people reccomend having the sides sitting ontop of the bottom pane and adding a trim. This defeats the purpose of the trim. Correct me if I'm wrong, but trim is better suited towards floating bottom tanks (bottom pane sandwiched in between the side panes) because with this method, the tank will naturally rest on the perimeter of the tank aka the sides hence the supportive trim.

Is there really any 1 way better to build the tank floating or not floating? I've read several articles stating answers from big tank manufacturing companies saying that they use both methods with much success.

I just really want to do this right. At first glance, it seems quite daunting, but the more research, learning, and first hand experience it seems to get better. I will be partnering with a couple locals who build stands and tanks and be feeding off of advice from them as well, so I'm definitely not going into this blind.


Some things to note:
1. I will eurobrace the top and bottom now, I don't care that its overkill.

2. I will be using adheisve sillicone to put it all together.

3. I am undecided on which design to use for the bottom. Although it seems like for diy, it would be easier to put the sides on top of a bottom pane.

4. If I do go with the not floating bottom, with the sides on top of the tank, and I added eurobracing, wouldn't that add both shear strength from the bottom and tensile strength from the eurobracing?


QUESTION:
How thick does silicone need to be in the actual joints, and where do the "spacers" need to go?

Pm sent Bush.
Joshua

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 05:41 PM
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As for the whole floating bottom VS sides on the bottom debate, I've dismantled a bunch of tanks. Somebody's broken tank / leaker makes great glass covers when you have a lot of tanks of your own to cover, lol! I've seen exactly one tank manufactured with a floating bottom. You'll know how that one was built as soon as you remove the first piece of trim whether or not you re-use it. The choice is ultimately yours. I've never built a tank with a floating bottom, so I can't lend any advice there. To answer # 4, yes it does; and as I noted earlier, has the added bonus of making assembly much easier.

I can't give you a scientific answer to the thickness question. In a nutshell, if you have trouble forcing a razor blade between the panels, you couldn't possibly measure it. The spacers only apply if you build sides on top of bottom. With no assembly jigs available to you, the weight of the panel will leave the silicone bead between the bottom panel and the bottoms of the viewing panes starved.

Angelo

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
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So I've decided on just resealing the internal seal and possibly adding a eurobrace to the bottom of the display tank. Just noticed that one tank is built with 9mm an one is built with 10mm glass. Same exact size and shape. The display unfortunately is the 9mm, which is why I'm considering doing a eurobrace on the bottom. Either way. I've got a rock solid sump haha. Reason for these decisions involve talking to local tank builders and coming down to reality.

Thanks for the help and advice guys! Appreciate it.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-09-2014, 07:45 AM
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Just flipping the tank over and looking at the bottom won't tell you if its floating or not. I have torn apart a few 10g with bottom frames and its been about 50/50 on if it was a floating or true flat bottom.

If you want some insight into floating vs. flat bottom tanks, look up Scolly's old "Kahuna" tanks. He experimented with the 2 and found that sides on bottom were better. Personally, when I build a tank thats the route I go. It just feels 'safer' to me that way.


SCS is the way to go when building larger tanks. The tensile strength is much higher than GE1 and you can easily get it in black which looks nice in aquariums.


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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 08:03 PM Thread Starter
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Decided that I will replace just the front panel with starphire glass. So looks like I'll be taking off the bottom trim cutting out the front panel and then resiliconing a replacement starphire glass panel. Then I will put the bottom trim back on and eurobrace the top and bottom of the tank.

My reason is that my local glass shop quoted me $30 for a low iron high clarity glass piece of 3/8" thick for my front panel. Not bad at all. Then I can use the existing front panel to make my external overflow box


Anyone ever replaced just a front pane before? I've talked to a few people about and feel confident, however I wanted to see what you guys thought?

Thanks,
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-17-2014, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
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I will be attemptin the disassemble this weekend. Basically I think I will start trying to remove the trim first and loosen as much as possible, and only if it won't budge will I attempt to take off the front panel first. That way the tank will receive the least manhandling possible during its torn down state. I will be uberly careful not to stress the other silicone joints. Is it okay to leave the tank with the front panel off for a few weeks while the new panel is being manufactured? I want to take off the current front panel in order to get the perfect dimensions to replicate it. It's hard to measure with the bottom trim.


Also question: after I resilicone te new front panel back on, would it be wise to wait for it to cure and then take off the back panel and resilicone? That way I have all new joints with fresh silicone? I feel like that would make the tank 100% bullet proof

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 12:04 AM
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Getting the panel separated from the aquarium will be your first challenge. Assembly is cake.


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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 12:15 AM
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This video helped me tons when I had to do a reseal I'm sure most of that stuff will apply to changing a pane

Making videos about fish stuff, and fixing things:
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