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Two-Tier Aquarium Stand Build (with storage!)


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This project has been in the works for months and I'm so excited to share it with everyone!

I've done a lot of research on stand building and my husband took a one-on-one class from a master furniture maker in the area. So hopefully between those two things, this stand will turn out looking decent.

First things first--the plan. I used SketchUp to render the plan in 3D. This was *immensely* helpful and I highly recommend anyone do this who's thinking of building a stand. You can get a 30 day free trial, which is plenty of time to do what you need.

Front view:

2067043147_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_16_17PM.png.bc0be723120247690230640da70cb040.png

Back view:

1084799656_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_18_05PM.png.5d4e50d7c0725133f17740217697d024.png

(No don't worry it won't be these colors--I'll explain the colors later.)

My goal was for this stand to hold a 75 gallon on top and some 10 gallons length-wise on the bottom (with room above them to do maintenance), have a storage cabinet big enough for a 5 gallon bucket, and a middle shelf for storage. I also wanted it to look vaguely like a piece of furniture. Here's a sketch-up with a 55 on top and two 10 gallons and one 5 gallon on the bottom.

1174657050_ScreenShot2021-04-20at10_07_51PM.png.2505b3cb5419e5e5940225b613a3f5b8.png

There will be a door on the cabinet eventually, but that's something I can add later.

I followed the basic strategy that the King of DIY outlines in his youtube videos. The weight of the aquariums must be supported directly on the stand's legs. So each of the six legs has two parts--an outer, solid piece that directly supports the weight of the top, and inner pieces that stack around the middle shelf, directly supporting the weight of the top frame.

The top and bottom shelf have a frame underneath (edges in pink) with joists (brown) running front-to-back.

788860268_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_17_05PM.png.9ee02c6dc3ab14d2cada519556d62805.png1558654327_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_17_45PM.png.bb3badfac9cf8814d0f7176eced44a85.png

The different colors represent different sizes of wood. We (read: my husband) used our neighbor's planer to plane 2x4's down in order to get rid of the rounded edge. We're hoping it makes the piece look more legit.

Fuchsia is 3.5" by 1.125"
Green is 2.75" by 1.5"
Brown is a regular 2x4 (3.5" by 1.5")
White is flat board--3/4" thick on the shelves, and 1/4" thick on the sides of the cabinet

One reason we planed 2x4s instead of buying nicer wood without the curved edges is that we already had a ton of 2x4s lying around. Plus wood is really expensive right now! So using what we had made sense in a lot of ways. 

Today was a beautiful day so I cut all the pieces I'll need. I've never done all my cuts before starting assembly before, and there's no way I would have done it without the SketchUp plans. But I cut the pieces for the frame and then realized I didn't have the right screws, so I decided to keep cutting while I had energy and everything was set up.

My work station:

216467174_ezGSUJQwTHWpDormE7Mqg.jpg.21006900986e004ef4fe0ec142c847b2.jpg

My work buddies:

949503797_uQR86qfTyWnPneS21sg.jpg.c04cd398d9a13c7f39f22ce4bb39ee16.jpg

(In the background you can see the project that led to us having a ton of 2x4s: the chicken coop!)

Here's all the wood that's going to go into the stand.

IMG_2764.jpg.5e70a730fba2241d9de129de162f2142.jpg

It's a lot.

This thing is going to be soooooo heavy.

Screen Shot 2021-04-20 at 9.17.25 PM.png

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23 minutes ago, Hobbit said:

This project has been in the works for months and I'm so excited to share it with everyone!

I've done a lot of research on stand building and my husband took a one-on-one class from a master furniture maker in the area. So hopefully between those two things, this stand will turn out looking decent.

First things first--the plan. I used SketchUp to render the plan in 3D. This was *immensely* helpful and I highly recommend anyone do this who's thinking of building a stand. You can get a 30 day free trial, which is plenty of time to do what you need.

Front view:

2067043147_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_16_17PM.png.bc0be723120247690230640da70cb040.png

Back view:

1084799656_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_18_05PM.png.5d4e50d7c0725133f17740217697d024.png

(No don't worry it won't be these colors--I'll explain the colors later.)

My goal was for this stand to hold a 75 gallon on top and some 10 gallons length-wise on the bottom (with room above them to do maintenance), have a storage cabinet big enough for a 5 gallon bucket, and a middle shelf for storage. I also wanted it to look vaguely like a piece of furniture. Here's a sketch-up with a 55 on top and two 10 gallons and one 5 gallon on the bottom.

1174657050_ScreenShot2021-04-20at10_07_51PM.png.2505b3cb5419e5e5940225b613a3f5b8.png

There will be a door on the cabinet eventually, but that's something I can add later.

I followed the basic strategy that the King of DIY outlines in his youtube videos. The weight of the aquariums must be supported directly on the stand's legs. So each of the six legs has two parts--an outer, solid piece that directly supports the weight of the top, and inner pieces that stack around the middle shelf, directly supporting the weight of the top frame.

The top and bottom shelf have a frame underneath (edges in pink) with joists (brown) running front-to-back.

788860268_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_17_05PM.png.9ee02c6dc3ab14d2cada519556d62805.png1558654327_ScreenShot2021-04-20at9_17_45PM.png.bb3badfac9cf8814d0f7176eced44a85.png

The different colors represent different sizes of wood. We (read: my husband) used our neighbor's planer to plane 2x4's down in order to get rid of the rounded edge. We're hoping it makes the piece look more legit.

Fuchsia is 3.5" by 1.125"
Green is 2.75" by 1.5"
Brown is a regular 2x4 (3.5" by 1.5")
White is flat board--3/4" thick on the shelves, and 1/4" thick on the sides of the cabinet

One reason we planed 2x4s instead of buying nicer wood without the curved edges is that we already had a ton of 2x4s lying around. Plus wood is really expensive right now! So using what we had made sense in a lot of ways. 

Today was a beautiful day so I cut all the pieces I'll need. I've never done all my cuts before starting assembly before, and there's no way I would have done it without the SketchUp plans. But I cut the pieces for the frame and then realized I didn't have the right screws, so I decided to keep cutting while I had energy and everything was set up.

My work station:

216467174_ezGSUJQwTHWpDormE7Mqg.jpg.21006900986e004ef4fe0ec142c847b2.jpg

My work buddies:

949503797_uQR86qfTyWnPneS21sg.jpg.c04cd398d9a13c7f39f22ce4bb39ee16.jpg

(In the background you can see the project that led to us having a ton of 2x4s: the chicken coop!)

Here's all the wood that's going to go into the stand.

IMG_2764.jpg.5e70a730fba2241d9de129de162f2142.jpg

It's a lot.

This thing is going to be soooooo heavy.

Screen Shot 2021-04-20 at 9.17.25 PM.png

Builds are so satisfying! Nice schematics. Best to you. Can't wait to see the final product. Do share.

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One MISC thought . . .maybe too late to apply . . . but we _always_ leave 8-inches minimum from top of tank to bottom of shelf above to allow for a Lee's Large Specimen Container to fit in at the longest angle. Don't know if you've left enough room above your 10 gal tanks and the shelf above. IT's hard to get a net in effectively when the space is too short. Can't even fit a net breeder in on the side if it's too close. Just a thought if these are breeding set ups.

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Posted (edited)

@Fish Folk very fair! I only have 5.5" of space, which is not great. HOWEVER. @H20CultureLabs has revealed to us the ingenious solution of putting tanks on cabinet sliders. So I think that's where I'm headed. 😁

ETA: yeah, I'm realizing I probably should have posted the plans here for feedback before cutting all the wood. 😅

Edited by Hobbit
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Posted (edited)

(For anyone who hasn’t seen it, @H20CultureLabs’s build with the sliders is here:) 

 @Fishdude I wondered the same thing, and a quick search showed they can get pretty hefty. Here’s a set rated for 500 lbs: https://www.amazon.com/Drawer-Slide-Extension-Heavy-Capacity/dp/B0009OBPH4?th=1

It seems impossible to me but hey, engineering is amazing!

@Isaac M Thanks! Both my parents were engineers, and my husband got an engineering degree in undergrad (he now teaches computer science and says he can’t truly consider himself an engineer anymore 😉). So something must have rubbed off along the way!

Edited by Hobbit
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@Hobbit and @Fish FolkThank you very much for the kind words! Honestly, I'm glad my crazy idea is working so far and I'm thrilled to provide inspiration!

 

@HobbitThis is going to be a sweet build and I am following along! I used cabinet sliders rated for 150lbs to give me a factor of safety of about 1.5 without breaking the bank. Happy to answer any questions you may have about the build process!

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@Hobbit wow, no wonder, you have been surrounded by engineers all your life haha what kind of engineers are your parents? 
 

@H20CultureLabs that is a great idea, I love the ingenuity! Another great thing is that wood is stronger when shorter duration loads are applied to it. So assuming you are only using the sliders as needed, you will get some extra strength out of the wood in that extended position. The sliders themselves however do not get a strength increase. 
 

At heavier weights(the 500lb rated sliders) I would start thinking more about how to anchor the rack to avoid it overturning. It would be interesting to scale the design however to see what size aquariums this would be reasonable with. 

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@Isaac M Yeah for sure! 😁 My mom was an industrial engineer in operations research, but that was only right out of college. She ended up staying home with the kids for a while and then went back to school to get into medicine/clinical trials. My dad is a civil engineer who does estimating. He works for DHL, hiring contractors to build their warehouses. What about you?

Also good point about securing the rack! I think this stand will be pretty stable, but we’ll see.

 

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@Hobbit Wow, your mom sounds absolutely amazing! Much much respect to her. I am in the civil engineering field like your dad. I am still young however (just turned 25 years old), a little over 2 years of experience now. I do some general civil stuff (site design & development, grading and drainage) but my emphasis is in the structural side of things. Residential and commercial buildings, some new and lots of retrofits. We also do forensic engineering which I enjoy a lot. 
 

Yeah, if the stand is going to be used with the sliders, making sure it will not overturn will be important. Assuming you will be adding sliders only to the bottom for the 10’s and/ or 5’s, I would imagine the weight of the 75 gallon above will keep it from overturning. I just mentioned it as someone may see this post and try it without taking that into account. 

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@Isaac M cool! Ooo forensic engineering sounds really interesting. Engineering seems like a great field to be in (though I may be biased 😄) and if you’re doing anything residential that’s got to be hot right now.

Yeah, I may still need to secure the stand to the wall because it’s likely the first tank to go on it will be a 10 gallon that I already have set up and running. And yes I definitely hope this thread comes in handy for people down the road. So everyone should feel free to throw out thoughts and advice, even if I can’t implement it myself!

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@Hobbit Yes we are extremely busy right now haha 

If you own any free weights, that can be an option too. You can add the weights to the top of the stand towards the back given that it is temporary. But yes, you can secure it to a wall too since a 10 gallon is not much weight. 

Another thing, the side of the stand that will have the 1/4” side panel, I would recommend installing that side panel piece once the stand has been carried to the place it will stay if possible. It will be difficult to have a grip on the stand to move it with that side panel in place. 

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56 minutes ago, Isaac M said:

I would recommend installing that side panel piece once the stand has been carried to the place it will stay if possible.

Ooo good idea. Come to think of it, I may not even glue it in place so we can remove it for future moving. We’re also planning to attach the top piece in an easy to remove manner (no glue) so we can move that separately too.

@Patrick_G that’s good to hear! Not sure if I would call these boards cherry picked—we had them delivered so of course we got some crummy ones—but I’m at least going to put their prettiest faces out. 😄

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Base frame day! I worked in my shed because we don’t have a shop and I needed a flat surface.

Angle clamps are a girl’s best friend. (Though I would love to upgrade to a better one.)

B2DF914D-BBB6-4551-8EBE-2D12913AB8D1.jpeg.99abdd789a3b412dafdf3de29389ab9c.jpeg

We have some drill bits with counter sinks, but I didn’t know that until I was done, so I used a larger bit to create sink holes for the screw heads.

D1AA5698-F2B8-4B22-BA56-C55D1A0ABE3F.jpeg.be223b0b11a6299012d727ea982f1ff9.jpeg

The first base turned out really flat and square!

A4797E11-4F60-45D3-A4D8-C91F003122E9.jpeg.ea22813f5cd94bd8e12a50d783d57fca.jpeg

Me getting smart and pre-drilling the next one so I wouldn’t have to switch drill bits:

B448A691-2A97-48F6-BD6A-91E79A0E51DC.jpeg.470cbf803a890ed34eab67bb1b7d2f86.jpeg

All done! The second one is somewhat rocky because of a warped board, but it will be fine once I get the top of each shelf on.

C73689E9-EB5B-4AA6-ABAD-E32452167258.jpeg.43f3119b39e7bf34c68476451f8dad5e.jpeg

These joints are not very strong—I didn’t use any glue, and the end of a board is just not a strong place to put a screw. But there will be many more points of attachment, and none of these joints are actually load bearing.

The plan from here is to put the bottom shelf on the bottom frame to make sure it’s totally square, then add the joists under it. From there I’ll work upwards, adding the legs.

9C05BA75-612E-4BFD-9CFD-EE5267CDB306.jpeg.8367adf2ca4f4bc3b636e26ff1228a5d.jpeg

Now we have to decide if we want to buy a new saw before cutting the shelf. 😄

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Posted (edited)

Yesterday and today we did the next step!

My husband helped me with cutting the 3/4” plywood for the shelves because it was getting dark and I tend to work slow. We had to set up guides because all we have to cut long lengths is a circular saw. And no we didn’t get a new saw yet, but I think we will before we cut the top shelf.

Setting up a guide with much double-checking:

2A172B8A-914D-4528-8E7C-0F0CBE486B6D.jpeg.3e290d55477794a0e0ed68b5290a45ba.jpeg

Today I put the shelf on the base frame and added the inner joists.

Attaching the top. I tried to be sneaky about where I put the screws so they’d either be hidden or in the back.

DC9A31C7-24B1-4317-9E53-521138288438.jpeg.f6cb72d3f0321abfe33b73e226a43fa0.jpeg

I decided to go with two inner joists instead of three because once I saw it in real life, three seemed liked waaaay overkill.

I also decided not to attach the outer joists yet (the ones that abut the end of the frame) because I need to leave room to screw the legs on from the inside. I’m honestly not sure the outer joists are necessary at all. It would be nice to save some weight—I can barely lift this thing already and it’s not even 1/3 built!

945A4B61-2461-4B33-8CDD-F35A8F5BDFD3.jpeg.fcfa3083e9ae8b5f8c864a0082524e62.jpeg

And yeah i forgot to slice off the green ends of the wood. Oops. That will be interesting to stain over. I’ll try to sand it out first.

There was one spot where I wasn’t going to be able to hide the screws behind other wood. So I did what the internet told me to do—I used a chisel to peel back a small section of wood, put the screw in, and glued the wood back down. It felt rather silly but it just might work! I forgot to take a picture before I clamped it. We’ll see how it looks when it’s dry!

BEA85C49-30DB-48BB-9832-361000F2B19F.jpeg.0e136c3eb1c6b6b5c8b26a662fd2a04d.jpeg

Here’s the base sitting in the shed behind the sawhorses. Next step will be to start building the legs! Or maybe it will be sanding the bottom edge of the base perfectly flat... I’m really paranoid about making this thing square.

76DE85D7-11CA-4450-9C25-194A0AAAD586.jpeg.d7401dcec2c6a6737e8b5a0a902fd54c.jpeg

Edited by Hobbit
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