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DIY 55 gallon furniture quality tank stand step-by-step

Postby jcollette3 » Wed Jan 02, 2008 12:19 am

After browsing endless DIY articles out there and coming up wanting for a more contemporary design that incorporated the clean lines and functionality that I was after, I decided to build one that would incorporate everything that I want in the stand. Since this is a finished piece of furniture that will be displayed in my living room, it also has to be just that - a finished piece of furniture. And, of course, it should not break the bank.

Luckily, I have a home depot about a mile from my house - which is fortuitous since they have a nice panel cutting saw, and I drive a Mini Cooper - it will take 2"x4"x8's, but panel stock is limited to 2'x4'. This stand is built entirely of plywood - and make no mistake about it, it is overengineered. Plywood is much stronger than dimensional lumber - I built my first house, and let me tell you, if it had not been for microlam beams I would have had much smaller rooms than I did.

So, I sketched the design out on the back of a piece of scrap, unused Christmas wrapping paper and off to Home Dumpster I drove in the Mini. Purchase #1: 1 - 4'x8' oak plywood, 1 roll of red oak iron-on edge banding - total $58.00.

First, some formalities: I make no guarantees regarding the quality, construction, fit, finish, durability or sturdiness of this project if the right materials and construction techniques are not used; always follow manufacturer guidelines and safe operating instructions on your power tools.

The Build

I started the carcass off by cutting the 2 end panels and 2 interior partitions out of 2 pieces of 24"x46" oak ply. When you get your oak 4x8 ripped at HD, get 2 panels cut in 24"x46" and 2 panels cut in 24"x50". You need longer stock for the top and back. First cut 4 blanks - 2 @ 24"tx20"w, and 2 @24"tx19.25"w - the side panels will be rabbited to receive the back.

In the front edge of each of the 4 panels, a 2"tx3/4"d notch in needed at the top edge, and a 4"tx3/4"d notch at the bottom edge have to be cut out. This photo shows the layout.

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After identical cutouts are made at the front edge of all 4 blanks, cut a 2"wx48"l strip from the ply, as well as a 4"wx48"l strip. Then, at the table saw, cut one of your 24"x50" panels down to 24"x47.25"w. Next, a rabbit must be milled on the inside back edge of the 2 end panels (slightly larger ones). This rabbit receives the back, and measures 3/8" deep by 3/4" wide. I set my table saw to 3/8 deep and make one pass at 3/4", then set it at 3/4 deep and make the second pass with the panel standing up to remove the material. I really have to get a dado blade set - lost the old one in moving. This picture shows the rabbit layout.

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Make sure you have 2 opposite panel ends, and you cut the rabbit on the inside rear edge of ONLY the 2 larger outside panels.

Next, sand everything with 220 grit and a random orbital sander. It is much easier to sand the inside portions of the carcass before assembly than after. This pic shows all the carcass parts (shelves excluded) sanded and ready for assembly.

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Now, some fun. I used a variety of sizes of drywall screws and yellow carpenters glue to assemble this phase of the stand. Be sure to wipe off excess glue with a wet paper towel before it sets - if you don't, the wood will not take stain evenly. Start with the outside panels - apply glue to the inside of the rabbit of one panel and slip the back blank into the rabbit. Secure with 2" drywall screws through the back. Repeat for the other outside panel.

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Decide on a spacing for the center compartment. I am using mine for my two Fluvals, my external heater and a powerstrip, so mine is 16" wide. Decide on you spacing and attach the 2 interior partitions. I would keep them around this dimension as it provides maximal support. Once the partitions are in, attach the top and bottom strips with glue and screws. Keep the screw holes toward the top in the upper piece and toward the bottom in the lower one. These will get covered up by molding later, so don't sweat the screw holes.

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At this stage I used a hole cutter to cut in the holes for my filter lines and an grounded plug head. Attach blocking as shown for the attachment of the top. I cut mine on a power miter saw at 45 degree angles. These are glued and screwed to the carcass about a 1/32" below the upper surface.

The top is your remaining blank. It should be cut to 21" wide and 50" long. If it is not exactly 50" long, no biggie, you overhangs will just be a bit shorter. Pre-sand this to 220 grit, and attach to the carcass through the corner blocking. The back of the top should be even with the back of the carcass, allowing a 1" overhang all the way around except for the back.

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Up to this point, this project has taken approximately 3 hours (excluding writing this up), and cost a total of $58.00. Tune in tomorrow evening for parte dos.[/img]

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Re: DIY 55 gallon furniture quality tank stand step-by-step

Postby kornphlake » Wed Jan 02, 2008 1:23 pm

jcollette3 wrote: This stand is built entirely of plywood - and make no mistake about it, it is overengineered.


Finally someone who actually understands what this means, it was overengineered, not just thrown together to be as strong as possible. Nice write up, I'm designing a wall unit my 55g will go into, I'm taking a different approach than you as far as construction. I'm anxious to see how you finish and trim the stand, I'm still looking for ideas.
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Postby jcollette3 » Thu Jan 03, 2008 1:17 am

Parte Dos.

So... I began todays build by venturing forth to Home dumpster once again in search of a few additional sundries. Today's tab - $38.00, but I spent $18 bucks on a large container of tung oil which I will use for additional projects, along with ~10 bucks on finish and another 10 on the piece of oak.

I purchased an 8 foot length of 3"w oak to make my moldings from. You could use readily available moldings of any type that you want, but I want a nice clean modern look, so I am going with a flat beveled design. This is the piece of lumber raw sitting on my table saw...

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What I did is rip the piece in half at a 13 degree angle. This gives two pieces of stock with the following profile...

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I then trimmed one edge of this piece of stock to 4 inches wide for the bottom trim. I then fit this piece to the carcass, mitering the corners to hide my less carpenterish construction techniques (carpenters scoff at drywall screws). I milled a strip of oak ply to fill the gap while leaving about a quarter inch gap at the bottom for a shadow line - to make the piece appear to float on the floor - a lightening technique. A pic in progress... I then cut the other piece to 2" wide to cover the top areas.

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Now, get out your iron. You will recall that last trip to HD I purchased some edge banding. This is where you use it. On every raw plywood edge, a piece of red oak banding must be cut and applied via iron to the ply. I use scissors to cut the banding, making one edge as perpendicular to the the edge that it is applied against as possible. This is the stuff to look for...

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...and here is a shot of my hands in action... Who says that men can't do the ironing?

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All of the banding took about 45 minutes. Do not hesitate to crank up the temperature setting on your iron - if you use too cool a setting you will be there for days. This is where we sit right now. I am still not sure exactly what I am going to do for a door. I have another piece in the living room that I used frosted glass in the door panels for, so I may do something like that with this one. Will let you know tomorrow.

Total $$$ spent thus far $96. I worked for about another 4 hours today, for a total of 7 hours. Tune in tomorrow for parte tres.
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Postby jcollette3 » Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:12 pm

Parte Tres

I completely forgot to post a picture of the project as it stood last night with all of the moldings on and nail head holes filled in with putty, so here it was as of last night. I use a stainable wood filler made by elmer's - it is lightweight and dries in about 10 minutes.

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This afternoon, I started by sanding the entire case by hand with a foam backed 320 grit sanding pad. After this I went over the entire carcass with a very slightly damp clean cloth to remove as much dust as possible, and then I began the finishing process.

The finish that I am going with is a 2 part one: a base coat of oil stain (Minwax English Chestnut), and a multiple application of tung oil as a top coat. I chose the color to try and get as close as possible to the wooden base on my Ekorness chair which is a stain color called teak. The chestnut may be a bit redder, but the color is close enough for me, and I don't like pale oak anywhere but on the floor. Do one small area at a time, and wipe off the excess. I tried to leave the stain on for no more than 10 minutes on any one area before removing it. Don't overlap areas that you have already stained and wiped and areas that you are currently staining, the overlap will be darker than either area and may look odd. I really liked the color with just one coat, so that's all she's getting.

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Here is a photo of the stained cabinet.

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I let the stain dry for about 8 hours, which is the recommended drying time. I then did the first application of tung oil. This is one of the easiest, fool-proof and best looking finishes that you can put on a piece of furniture. When you go to a gallery and look at high-quality artisan-produced furniture that uses exceptional expensive wood species, this is the finish that you will find on these pieces.

The process is simple. You brush the tung oil on fairly liberally for the first coat. Let it work into the food for about 15 minutes, and then wipe off the excess with paper towels. Get as much of the excess oil off the surface as you can - you'll go through quite a few paper towels. That's it. Oh, the stuff doesn't smell all that pleasant, you'll either need good ventilation, or a good canister respirator. This is where I am as of 20 minutes ago - 1 coat of tung applied.

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I am going to put on probably at least another 3 coats. You can apply another coat about every four hours, so it will be a few days until it is finished. For the remaining coats, I will just dampen a rag with the tung, and apply it to the stand. The excess will be immediately removed. Between coats I will buff with 4/0 steel wool, and tack cloth. When the finish is finished, I will go glass shopping. Each of the 2 end 'bays' will get a frosted glass shelf, and the door for the center compartment is also going to be frosted glass. Home dumpster has stereo-cabinet type glass hinges as well as the magnetic latches. It will probably be about another $30 for glass and $10 or so for hardware.

The total cost for this cabinet will be $136. I spent about 2 hours on the prep and finish today for a total of about 9 hours. I anticipate about another 2 hours before it is completely finished. If you have any questions regarding this build, or have any carpentry questions in general, you can pm me. This was a pretty straight forward and enjoyable project to build, is easily strong enough to support an elephant, and will look great with my eclectic mix of contemporary and antique furniture in the living room. I'll post another photo when it is upstairs and completely done.
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Postby cholile » Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:12 pm

awesome. just awesome. threads like this with a clear, thorough yet not unnecessarily verbose, explanation, coupled with the right pictures to illustrate help people like me who would otherwise never even try something like this at least give it a shot.
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Postby jcollette3 » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:31 am

Go for it. The only really necessary tools are a table saw, a miter saw (power or hand), a drill and a sander (which you could also do by hand). I always like purpose building something myself if the piece is either too expensive, or not exactly what I want.
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Postby bulldogg7 » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:59 am

IT'll never work, where's the wood on wood? The 4X4's the 20X60's???
Total cost, $130! you coulda built it for $50 in 2X4's!!!
:lol: Sorry just kidding. I love it.
I'll bet if you placed it beside these 2X wood on wood, triple braced, tomato garden/bean vine reinforced stands you'd beat them in a crash test! Bought time someone demonstrated plywood! Both are good designs but you hear nothing of screws stressing when it's full perimeter support!

Only one complaint, it would look better with a tank :thumb:
I love it!
Can't wait to see the doors.
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Postby jcollette3 » Sun Jan 06, 2008 10:54 pm

I should do the strength calculations sometime just to show everyone the benefits of plywood construction. I bet this stand would easily support more than half a ton.
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Postby bulldogg7 » Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:09 pm

I want to see it with a car on it!
It would hold. Half a ton? Don't be so modest :D
Would love to hear some results! It looks like it easily could hold about 4 55's stacked up.
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Postby jcollette3 » Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:31 pm

Wait until you see the radius curved-top oak light that I'm working on! No diy on that one though - camera ran out of batteries half way through. I will do a short add-on to the end of this post with some images and a bit of how-to-type-stuff though.
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Postby Charlutz » Mon Jan 07, 2008 9:13 pm

How does the tung oil compare with a polyurethane finish? I've always used poly, but looking for other finishes. Well done! :thumb:

bulldogg7 wrote:IT'll never work, where's the wood on wood?


:-? This design is wood on wood. Note the notches in the vertical panels to support the rails.
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Postby bulldogg7 » Mon Jan 07, 2008 9:34 pm

I was joking when I said it wouldn't work, sorry.
Isn't tung oil what gunstocks are finished with?
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Postby kornphlake » Mon Jan 07, 2008 9:47 pm

Charlutz wrote:How does the tung oil compare with a polyurethane finish? I've always used poly, but looking for other finishes. Well done! :thumb:

bulldogg7 wrote:IT'll never work, where's the wood on wood?


:-? This design is wood on wood. Note the notches in the vertical panels to support the rails.


Actually it's not really wood on wood like most people use in 2x4 construction, it's plywood on edge. There aren't any fasteners between the bottom of the tank and the floor, unlike a 2x4 stand with wood on wood there isn't really a joint at all between the tank and the floor, no fasteners are needed. Appropriately braced as it is here plywood on edge is sufficiently strong to hold any tank.
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Postby P & B Customs » Mon Jan 07, 2008 10:08 pm

VERY nice work!

Looks very professional! :)

Like that table saw too..what brand is that?
Your negatives fuel my positives!
I appreciate the motivations!

http://www.pbcustoms.com
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Postby jcollette3 » Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:51 pm

P & B Customs wrote:VERY nice work!

Looks very professional! :)

Like that table saw too..what brand is that?


Thanks. It is a Rigid with a cast iron top. It'll cut a panel up to something like 40" wide. Very accurate and extremely parallel rip fence as well. I highly recommend buying one so you can build your own furniture! Here is a link to Home Dumpster's page on this fabulous table saw...
http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&productId=100007962

As far as all of this talk of 'wood on wood' and 'fastener sheer'... these concepts are unimportant as long as you 1) either brace or set important bearing partitions into rabbits/dados; and 2) use a good high quality wood glue. I use titebond waterproof carpenters glue and gorilla glue. The gorilla glue is an expanding polyurathane glue that is just about impossible to break. I am fairly confident tath you could build a stand with NO fasteners at all using gorilla glue. wood surfaces bonded with this stuff never break along the bond, but somewhere else along the wood. Can't recommend the stuff enough.

Tung oil is definitely not as hard as poly, but is just as waterproof. The upside to a tung finish is that whenever your furniture needs a touch up, you just put a bit of tung on a lint free rag and buff it in. Try that with poly.
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