A DIY Aquarium Stand for Under $150 – Part 2

Part 1 of this 3 part series gave you a look at the materials, tools, and plan I used to build a clean, sleek DIY aquarium stand for less than $150. Now, let’s take a look at how quick and easy it was to put together…

How to Put Together a DIY aquarium stand for $150 or less:

Step 4: Cutting

Setting up the work space was easy – as I mentioned in Part 1, I only had a small amount of room in my garage to work in. So, I wanted to keep the process as simple and efficient as I could.

If you plan really well, you can have all your pieces of lumber cut to size when you purchase it. They’ll even do it for free for you at Lowe’s or Home Depot as long as you don’t have a LOT of pieces.  Just be aware that they’re there to help people cut down large pieces of lumber for ease of transporting it home, not to do you project work for you — so the saw blade they use is meant to cut quick, not ‘finely’. It may splinter the wood a bit along the edges – especially if it’s plywood, which will not look very pretty on a finished cabinet. To avoid this, either make the final cuts yourself in the manner I’ll explain in a moment, OR be sure you assemble the cut pieces so that the splintered side faces the inside of your stand.

Since I was using plywood (e.g. too much cutting to have them do there), I had them cut it down into 4 sub-panels I could fit in my car (as per my plan) and did the majority of the cutting myself.

Alright, let’s get started…

First, set up a ‘cheap man’s’ saw horse: lay your 4 pieces of 2×4 down on the ground and lay the first piece of plywood you intend to cut on top of them so that the PRETTY side is facing down.

Next, set the depth of your circular saw so that only half a tooth of the blade will penetrate through bottom side of the plywood.

A circular saw tends to splinter the top surface of wood (pulling fibers as it exits) much more than the bottom surface. By putting the pretty side of the wood face-down and only allowing the blade to clear the wood by half a tooth you drastically reduce the likelihood of any splintering.

As an added precaution – OR, if for some reason you have to make the cut with the pretty side face up – you can also cover the entire line you’ll be cutting with a piece of painter’s tape.

And, if you really want to ensure a clean, splinter-free cut, you may also want to consider using a saw blade that has 40 teeth or more.

Okay, so plywood – good side down – on the 2x4s, like so:

cutting plywood for DIY aquarium stand

Now, grab another large piece of wood from your pile that has a factory-cut edge (e.g. not a Home Depot or Lowe’s cut edge) and use it as your guide or ‘fence’ for cutting. Unless you have a pretty warped piece of wood, a factory-cut edge – particularly on plywood – will almost always be straight.

If you don’t have a pair of clamps, use it to draw a straight line where you wish to make your cut.  Then make your cut freehand with the circular saw, moving as carefully, smoothly, and straight along the line as you can.

If you DO have a pair of clamps:

  • mark where you wish to make your cut
  • measure the distance from the saw blade to the edge of the saw base-plate…
  • move your ‘fence’ the same distance away from where you wish to make your cut…
  • clamp it place…
  • put the saw in place so the edge of its base-plate is against the ‘fence’
  • Look to see that the blade is lined up with the mark where you wish to make your cut (if it isn’t recheck your base-plate and ‘fence’ measurements)
  • Then go ahead and make your cut

That’s all there is to it.

Use the same set of steps to continue cutting out all your other pieces.

If you end up having to make cuts on any small pieces, it may be easier to switch to a hand saw or, if you happen to have access to one, a miter saw.

Here’s a really nice guide if you feel you still need a little more detail:  How to cut plywood with a circular saw.

Step 5: Assembly

Once all of the pieces are cut, it’s time to put it together.

First I applied the edge banding. It had heat-activated glue on one side so I grabbed our clothes iron, emptied the water out of it, cover its hot-plate with a double layer of aluminum foil (a few pieces of painter’s tape held the foil in place), turned it on to ‘cotton’, and proceeded to ‘iron’ on strips of the maple edge banding to all the plywood edges that would be visible on the outside of the cabinet.  I then used the banding the was left to cover any interior plywood edges that would be visible when the cabinet door was open.

Here’s more how-to info on edge banding if you need it. (Note: I didn’t spend money on a trimmer, and simply used a sharp razor knife instead. Worked like a charm.)

maple edge banding for DIY aquarium stand
Maple edge banding

 

edge banding finished edge on DIY aquarium stand
Finished edge that was banded

 

Then I began the assembly by attaching and the framing pieces to the inside walls and worked my way ‘out’, attaching the feet, and saving the door and ‘sliding panel’ for last (more on this in a moment).

assembly of DIY aquarium stand
Assembly begins by attaching framing pieces

 

Feet for DIY aquarium stand
Adding the feet.

 

I like to tinker a bit (a little too much actually) so I decided to give a Mini Kreg Jig Kit a try and made pocket holes for screwing my pieces together. But it’s totally unnecessary, you can simply insert your screws on the internal surfaces so you won’t see them… or, countersink them and put some adhesive ‘fast-caps’ over them to cover them… or, if you really want to get fancy, you can counter-bore them and press/glue wood plugs into the hole to cover them.

Pocket holes for screws
Pocket holes for screws

 

Once the stand itself is together, it’s time to attach the door – use whatever style hinge you like. Some people don’t even use hinges, they just set the door in place and/or use magnetic cabinet door catches. That way, they can set the door completely aside and give themselves even more room when doing any kind of work on equipment inside their DIY aquarium stand.

I chose to go with Euro-style hinges, for two reasons:

  1. I think it’ll be much easier to simply swing the door open and closed rather than having to completely set it aside when I want to grab something from inside the cabinet
  2. With the quick press of a little lever on them, they detach; and they snap right back on

In other words, I get the best of both worlds.

NOTE: If you use Euro-style hinges like I did, be sure to follow the installation instructions that come with them carefully! I read the instructions, measured twice, even used a scrap piece of wood as a practice-run ‘door’ to make sure my measurements were good. And yet, when I used the forstner drill bit to drill the ‘cup holes’ on the inside of the actual door, I was off just a little bit and had to use a wood chisel to enlarge the holes so the hinges would be in the correct position. (If you don’t want to spend money on a forstner bit, you can also use a chisel to make the cup holes… or, if your really careful, and ordinary spade-style drill bit.)

And last but not least was the  ‘sliding panel’.

sliding accessory panel
Sliding ‘accessory’ panel

 

I installed this sliding ‘accessory’ panel as a place to mount any aquarium controllers and/or power strips to. That way I can slide it out for easy access to them, they won’t take up as much shelf space inside the stand, and when it’s pushed back in gravity will let the cords hang back down behind the stand.

That’s it — assembly of the DIY aquarium stand is complete.

In the next and final post in this 3-part series we’ll cover the final step — finishing — and take a look at the finished product. And, I make a rather pricey confessions…