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55 Gallon w/Internal 10 Gallon
by Robert Rasco

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First step is to build the 3 main support rings. I will refer to these as the rings from here on out; 1st-Lowest, 2nd-Middle, 3rd-Top. Cut (4) 12" and (2) 46" lengths for each ring. Use the 45 degree corner clamp to square up each 2x4. Put together the outside 4 first, (2) 46" and (2) 12". Then measure the placement of the inside 2 support beams and mark with pen/pencil. Also use the corner clamp on the inside beams. Countersink holes and screw together. I did not use wood glue at this step, although you can if you want.

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Next you need to cut the vertical support beams. There are (16) total vertical beams. (6) 8", (6) 17 ½", and (4) 36". These are the last of the 2x4s to cut. Start mounting the beams one at a time, starting with a 36" beam, then placing the corresponding 8" length to support it. I screwed the 8" and 17 ½" supports into the 36" beams. I also applied glue. It is imperative that these beams be placed straight or you will run into alignment problems once you get to the 3rd ring. I actually had to adjust mine once I got to the 3rd ring. Trust me, you don't want this issue.

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When attaching the center vertical supports, instead of screwing at an angle, I used 'T' braces.

Prior to attaching the 2nd ring, I placed the 3rd ring on top to check alignment and make any necessary adjustments before it was too late. I also decided to add one more 12" 2x4 to the 2nd ring to add extra support for the 10 gallon. I was worried too much weight would rest on the ply itself, and that would have been disasterous. The extra beam is on the opposite side of the level.

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Before you assemble the entire frame, you must cut the shelves and install them prior to installing the next level ring. Install ring 1, install ring 1 shelving, install ring 2, install ring 2 shelving. Since the shelves are notched in the corners to allow for the framework, they must be slid on from the top to fit, this is why you cant install all the rings before the shelves. My original design called for 3 single piece shelves. However, in an effort to lessen the cost of the project, instead of buying 8' sheets of plywood, I opted for the 2x4 (Oak Ply) sheets which I cut into 3 pieces to accomodate for the shelves. This had to be done since the 1 piece shelves would require a sheet longer than 48", 49" to be exact. I cut (3) 15" sections to accomplish this. After these cuts I was left with (3) 15"x24" sections. The sheets are shown perpindiculer to their actual positions in this photo.

I then calculated the length that each board needed to be to fit. I cut and fit the two outer shelve sections first, and then the middle because it would be easier to align a flush edge where the sections would meet.

1st and 2nd ring notch patterns are identical. You must also attach the 17 ½" vertical supports before measuring the notch patterns. After you have the (3) shelf sections sizes correct; measure, mark and cut the notches for the 2x4 braces. You will also have to notch just a little to compensate for the 'T' braces. Once you have the shelves cut, apply glue to top of ring and nail down using finish nails.

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At this point, you are going to now attach the 3rd ring. If you encounter any alignment issues, they will be now. You want to make sure that the outside edges are flush to ensure the siding to fit flushly. Like I mentioned before, I had to remove 2 of my 36" vertical supports to correct this. I also believe I was very lucky to have accomplished correcting it, as I had glued the inner vertical supports to the outer 36" supports.

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In lieu of my efforts to make everything line up perfectly, I am beginning to believe when working with 2x4s that is impossible and it is undoubtable that as some point you will encounter stubbornly warped lumber. On 2 of my 36" vertical supports I had about ¼" over hang from the top ring. To counter this, I cut spacers from scrap 2x4s. I then glued and nailed them into place.

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Alas you should have a fully assembled frame and inner shelving.
I placed the frame on spare 2x4s to prevent the garage floor from damaging the wood and to also make it easier to stain.

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