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Re: Wooden canopy to be built (if I'm lucky)

Sylvia wrote:

Do any of you use acrylic or plexiglass as opposed to glass (or nothing at
all) to shield the fixtures from the water?

Are there any hard and fast rules on what wood to use or not use? A local
lumberyard suggested I use basswood, as they claim it's lighter even than
pine. I've never even heard of it.

Also, are there any taboos on finishing type products (shellac,
polyurethanes, stains, etc.) that should not be used?

Any general tips, shortcuts, errors to be avoided, etc. would be appreciated
as well.

I reply:

Your choice of materials sort of depends on what sort of style you want to
build. Basswood or clear pine with a plywood top sounds like a pretty good
choice for a painted hood. They are both pretty pretty stable but don't have
a pleasing grain and they are rather soft. For a natural finish you would
probably want something that looks a little better. If you intend on having
a glass cover over your tank then pretty much any hardwood with a matching
particle core veneer plywood would do. If you do not have a glass cover you
have to be very careful how you construct the hood. The moisture inside an
unprotected canopy is very hostile to finishes and wood. The finishes peel
and the wood warps big time. In that case, I would highly recomend marine
grade epoxy for the finish on your hood. You won't have to be nearly as
careful with your material selection if you use an epoxy finish. Epoxy can
also add a great deal of strength to your construction.

Since you are looking for an easy project, I would take a close look at the
hood Hoa Nguyen has on his website. His design is very standard and easy to
make. If I were looking to make something quick and easy, I would use
dimensional hardwood for the frame, a standard piece of moulding of the same
material for around the rim of the lid and a piece of particle core plywood
with a matching veneer for the lid. (if you don't use epoxy and have no
glass cover don't use particle core plywood) It would help to have access to
a miter saw to cut the moldings and if you do that then the might as well
mitre the frame pieces as well so you don't get any exposed endgrain. Order
an appropriate non-blushing marine epoxy online and paint the inside of the
hood with 3 coats of epoxy. Do the outside with whatever finish you like. If
you sand the epoxy with 100 grit sandpaper you can paint over epoxy if you
want a white finish on the inside. It won't last indefinately if you don't
have a glass cover but no damage will come to your hood. For the fishes
sake, I would avoid the use of alkyd paints on the inside of the hood.

Have fun and remember to count your fingers after you are done, having the
same number before and after the project always gives me an overwhelming
sense of satisfaction ;-)