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Re: home made stands

Tony Minneboo wisely advised:
> To build a stand for larger tanks, it's very simple. First build a load
> bearing frame out of kiln dried 2 x 4's. Bolt the joints with a minimum of
> 3/8" better would be 1/2" bolts and nuts.
> Cover this with any of the plywood or sheet materials already discussed in
> other posts. Now, you can use thinner, cheaper sheets. Maybe get a better
> grade of plywood. it won't warp because it is attached to the rigid 2 x 4
> skeleton in many places. Finish edges like many people have all suggested.
> Point here is. Please don't put a 100 gallon plus size tank on any material
> only 3/4" wide, be it plywood, particle board, whatever. Build a strong
> frame and go from there. be safe. Water is over 8lbs per gallon. The tank,
> rocks and a couple of hundred pounds of gravel, all adds up to the weight of
> a Volkswagen bug (old one not new one) You could get killed by a weak stand.
> Be careful out there.....
> Tony Minneboo

I agree. Do the math. Aquariums are VERY heavy.

I worked as carpenter for awhile and built the stand I've been using for
my 75 gal. for four years.

Some general recommendations:

1) Build a strong frame. Tony is exactly right. After the frame is made
you can attach plywood, molding, trim or whatever to make it look good.
That is the way modern buildings are designed and built.

2) Overbuild it. Use more lumber than you think you need. Commercially
available stands for 75's use one 2X4 at each corner. So my stand has
two 2X4s as legs at each corner. Each pair is butted together like an
angle iron. A tank over 4 ft. in length should probably have six legs.

3) Screw and glue. Don't even think about using nails for any part that
bears the load. Use large wood screws or bolts as Tony recommends along
with glue for any important joint. Multiple screws at a joint are a good

4) Use lots of glue. If glue does not squirt out when you put the parts
together, you don't have enough. Also be aware that end grain soaks up
glue. They will literally suck the glue out of the joint before it sets.
The way I was taught to deal with this is to smear some glue on the end
grain before putting the joint together. Let this sit for about 10-15
minutes. Then reapply glue as normal and put the thing together (with
screws or bolts.)

5) A good cordless drill (with a clutch) will make drilling all those
pilot holes and screwing in all those screws a whole lot easier. The
structural part of my stand has about 70 screws in it. Imagine doing
that by hand.

6) Buy good lumber. If you talk to older carpenters, they will loudly
lament the quality of lumber available today. You can find good stuff if
you look around. Sight along each piece and evaluate how strait it is.
Look at the grain. It should be relatively strait and travel the length
of the board. Lumber breaks along the grain. So pieces with grain
cutting across them are not nearly as strong. Large, loose knots are
also bad. Small tight knots are OK. Go to several lumber yards and dig
through the whole pile of lumber if you have to. 

7) Build it right and it will be level. Making the stand level (and
flat) really should not be that tricky. Having straight lumber is
important. Make certain that every piece is cut to exactly the right
length and that the cuts are square. Then assemble it carefully on a
flat surface. You can check that the corners of a rectangle are square
(90 degrees) by measuring the diagonals. They should be equal. Also
realize that no matter how strong you build your stand it will have some
flexibility. If it is very close to being flat, the weight of the tank
and water will make it flat. Also, you'll hear stuff about using
styrofoam under the tank to compensate for a stand that is not flat.
That makes me feel queasy. Do that weight calculation again. All of that
weight should be sitting firmly on the stand. If the stand is not flat,
maybe you need a new stand.

8) Buy, borrow or rent a power miter saw. You really can rent this kind
of equipment. It will make things much easier, faster and precise. There
use to be carpenters that could cut a board square with a hand saw.
They're all pretty much dead by now. Also, the guy at the Mega Hardware
Depot isn't going to cut the wood as exactly as you should want it.
Practice cutting on the same SIDE of your pencil mark. Yeah, it should
be that exact. Remember what we said about getting the thing level?
Please be very careful with power tools and wear protective goggles.

9) Don't be afraid to start over. If it isn't going well, use what you
have learned on the next try. Wood isn't that expensive. Think about
that weight.

10) You absolutely can build a stronger, better looking stand than the
ones they sell at the local pet store!

Now, if I only knew as much about keeping aquatic plants... :-)

Kevin O. Hicks