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RE: DIY Aquarium Stands

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a nice holiday season - my hangover is almost gone now,
so I think I'll add my two cents to the topic of DIY construction projects.
As I write this, my keyboard and computer rest on a home-made desk I built
using a piece of Oak plywood and some stock moulding from a Home Improvement
store. Beside me there are four aquariums on a similar table, all home
built. My aquarium books and magazines rest on shelving I built and
installed myself, lining the walls of my study.

I do admit to having taken one year of "Shop" while in High School, but that
was almost 30 years ago. I have a good hammer, a screwdriver and a couple of
drills and a power sander. Nothing fancy, nothing overly complicated.

To put something together which will both support the weight of an aquarium
and look good can be challenging but most of the challenge is in the design,
not the construction. Fancy woodworking joints are NOT needed - you are not
trying to impress anyone, you just want to support the tank securely.
Accurate butt joints will more than serve the purpose, and exposed plywood
edges can be attractively covered with mouldings.

Several people have given suggestions for possible designs and links to
URL's with plans and pictures. But one thing I'd like to stress is that I
really don't think that Particle Board is a suitable material for an
aquarium stand. Particle board is nothing more than wood chips, sawdust and
glue, moulded and compressed under pressure into sheet form. Get it too wet
and it turns to mush. For all of my projects I generally use a type of
plywood called "Baltic Birch", which is sold (at least in the Toronto area)
in 5' X 5' sheets. It is 3/4" thick and composed of solid plys with no voids
in the internal plys (regular plywood can have voids and cracks in the
internal plys which sometimes can have an effect on the strength of the
finished panel). This product is a bit more expensive than regular plywood
but is REALLY strong and stable.

To ensure accurate cuts, I don't try to do them myself - I take my design
drawings to the lumber yard and pay them $1.00 a cut to do them for me. Most
lumber yards have VERY accurate and heavy duty table saws and the staff know
how to use them properly. They will be more than happy to do the cutting
required for you and you can usually be assured of accuracy. For glue, I use
yellow aliphatic glue, not white glue. It is more water resistant and forms
a stronger bond. As extra reinforcement for the joints, I also use
countersunk screws, and cover the holes with either plugs or wood filler. It
is also important, when working with plywood, especially in situations where
water is around, to ensure that you finish BOTH sides of the piece - i.e.,
put polyureathane on both the top and the underside of the finished stand.
Because plywood is a laminated material, if only one side (the outside) is
finished with varnish and the other side is left as bare wood, moisture can
penetrate into the central plys and might lead to warping of the piece over
time. Putting a surface finish on ALL surfaces prevents moisture from
causing any damage.

Don't let anyone tell you that this is a difficult skill to master, it just
takes patience and some pre-planning.

Happy 1999!

James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario