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DIY stand/hood materials

I know its been said, but hogwash on the don't do it yourself message.  
On to the materials discussion.  I've built two stands, and three light 
hoods.  Of the two stands, one was mdf(medium density fibreboard, 3/4 
inch thick covered with a water based polyurethane(sp).  

The stand holds a 27 high tank very well, is ox like strong, has never 
warped, discolored or anything negative.  In short its perfect, requires 
less sanding and is easier to finish to a high quality(w/paint).  
However, caution should be exercised with design using this material.  
You must make sure you've got a good design, there is nothing but mdf 
and a 17 inch section of angle iron in my stand.  The angle iron is 
bolted to the bottom of the 3/4 top sheet for the stand to prevent any 

I've also built a hood out of mdf using the 5/8 sheets and the same 
flecto plyurethane finish.  This I've been very happy with as well, 
however, I wouldn't repeat this attempt, at least not with this finish.  
I'd go oil based(I know, but its way better than water based) to achieve 
a better seal.  On one occasion I left my glass top off for three days, 
as has been stated, one joint swelled slightly, it did however go down, 
and with a little patch would be just fine.  Most people would not EVER 
notice the place where it swelled, all you can see is a crack in the 
finish about 1 inch long.

For my 135, with a metal stand, I constructed a front face and sides 
that attach to the metal stand and make it look like a normal wooden 
stand.  For this I used plywood exclusively.  The results have been 
good, but with a lower finish quality than the mdf or that discussed 
below.  Since it bears no weight we won't talk about plywood as a stand 
material, although I can't see any problems whatsoever.  

For the hood on the 135, I've built it out of 5/8 inch fir plywood for 
the top, and 3/4 spruce for the canopy base.  The fir plywood against 
all odds has managed to warp in a quite dry hood, I attempted to seal it 
with plyurethane, but to no avail.  Note, that the fir only warped on a 
long, 6 inch door that opens the front of the canopy, and could easily 
be rectified if I replaced that section with guess what-MDF that was 
properly sealed with an oil based product.  And the spruce was a little 
harder to get a perfect finish with than the below referenced pine.  
Also, on this canopy, I used some wood filler to replace a little 
boo-boo and fill screw holes, it swelled and has in general been a 
mistake.  I reccommed the little wood plugs for the 2 buck they're 

My latest project is the 6w/gal hood for a 10 gal. that people are 
scoffing at, I believe it is the best choice of material, laminate pine 
'shelving'.  The laminate should be less prone to warpage than plywood 
and is very nice to work with.  I paid 18 dollars(cdn) for a 8 ft by 16 
inch section.  Cheaper than plywood and with no need for mouldings on 
the cut edges to cover the plywood ends.  I've finished the hood with a 
deep red oil-based stain and an oil based semi-gloss varithane.  Very 
nice to work with, produces better results than water based products, I 
venture to say EVERY time.

My material preference to this point:

1) Laminate pine - paint or stain, no need for moldings, least warpage 

2) MDF - only for small stands and any canopy, make absolutely sure it 
is well sealed in the hood (ie 3 or 4 coates good oil based sealant)

3) Plywood - you can always tell when something is made of plywood, not 
that its bad, good results can be had.  Requires the use of moldings for 
the edges to look professionally done.  On the flipside, many nice 
plywoods are available, cherrywood, birch and aspen being my favorites.  
If they match you're houses woodwork, they may still be the best choice.

I'm sorry, I work for an environmental company and am conscious of the 
ramifications of not disposing of oil based products properly.  But, its 
the only way to go for professional looking results, just make sure you 
dispose of it properly.

And use screws, no nail, especially in load bearing joints.  They are so 
much better to work with than nails.

Any questions?

Sorry for the long post, but I hope my exp. is valuable.

Colin Anderson

In reasonably dry, cool Calgary, where mdf doesn't often swell, but 
along with wood filler, will if neglected.

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