Stand construction

docdubz

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Im not exactly a novice when it comes to woodworking, but Ive been having quite the time building these tank stands and getting them perfectly square. Part of my problem is the best 2x4's I could find arent great (for instance one of them has a taper in it and measures 1 1/4" at one end. After building and rebuilding multiple times I got it so that the first stand is solid but one corner is 3/16" high so it has a wobble. Im a perfectionist so half of me wants to start a bon fire and start over. Am I being ridiculous? Would you trust shims to compensate a wobble bearing 700lbs?
 

cdemoss01

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Im not exactly a novice when it comes to woodworking, but Ive been having quite the time building these tank stands and getting them perfectly square. Part of my problem is the best 2x4's I could find arent great (for instance one of them has a taper in it and measures 1 1/4" at one end. After building and rebuilding multiple times I got it so that the first stand is solid but one corner is 3/16" high so it has a wobble. Im a perfectionist so half of me wants to start a bon fire and start over. Am I being ridiculous? Would you trust shims to compensate a wobble bearing 700lbs?
Goodluck! May the best come too you.
 

TheHarold

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That’s why I went with laminated plywood construction:

 

Troylee

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I personally build all mine from aluminum for that reason.. but to answer your question yes a shim would hold it just fine. I’ve seen plenty of 500 gallon tanks 4500lbs with shims under the stand and no problems. “As long as we’re talking between the stand and floor” between the stand and tank is a no no!
 

bradreef

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I did a granite slab on top of my stand to ensure level between the tank. Then shims on the bottom are no big deal.
 

thatmanMIKEson

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if your not falling your own trees and milling your own lumber, it's hard to find a strait board! lol jk... I have the same issues too, shims are the answer for most of my wood work ;)
 

JoeyBagadonuts

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I kinda wish I saw those laminated plywood plans back when I built my stand. They look good. I went with a template on the old RC site by Rocket Engineer. Probably overkill but I never worry about it. You definitely have to spend some time finding straight pieces of wood. I had better luck at Lowe’s than HD for whatever reason. If you have it pretty close to where it should be, shims can be used without any issues.
 

ShakeyGizzard

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Best to take your time when selecting lumber, I have gone through half a pallet of 2x4's at the home store. I take my 2x4 and trim the rounded corners off, before using. this makes for better joinery .The tapered ones you spoke of could still be used if you had a plainer. The best way to get exact length cuts is with a miter saw and stand. I use stop blocks and cut 2 legs at a time to length. Exact length legs helps greatly with over all square of the stand. But minor variations in the floor and the stand will require shims to correct wobble and to level the stand.
 

Jedi1199

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If you look at the commercial stands at stores.. you will rarely (if ever) find one made from 2x4s. While big box store stands are generally fairly lousy construction, made from particle board and a few pieces of lightweight hardwood, pine and fir, they do support a tank.

The stand I built for my 55g was basically standard cabinet construction with plywood and hardwood face frame. The 2 ends are double thickness with 3/4" ply and 3/4" hardwood raised panels. The face frame is 3/4" oak hardwood and so is the back panel. All of these vertical pieces go all the way to the floor so no chance of sagging anywhere. 32 years of service and I dare say I could get another 50 out of it.
 

ShakeyGizzard

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If you look at the commercial stands at stores.. you will rarely (if ever) find one made from 2x4s. While big box store stands are generally fairly lousy construction, made from particle board and a few pieces of lightweight hardwood, pine and fir, they do support a tank.

The stand I built for my 55g was basically standard cabinet construction with plywood and hardwood face frame. The 2 ends are double thickness with 3/4" ply and 3/4" hardwood raised panels. The face frame is 3/4" oak hardwood and so is the back panel. All of these vertical pieces go all the way to the floor so no chance of sagging anywhere. 32 years of service and I dare say I could get another 50 out of it.
True, even when 2x4 is over kill weight bearing wise, its was cheaper to build the frame in mine with 2x4 verses plywood, since I did not have any on hand. Love working with 1x3 and 1x4 boards, thought of doing the stand with some that I had on hand but went with the 2x4. this blanket chest legs are glued up 1x4. would have to glue and screw them for longer length in an aquarium stand.

20230215_172527.jpg
 

Jedi1199

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True, even when 2x4 is over kill weight bearing wise, its was cheaper to build the frame in mine with 2x4 verses plywood, since I did not have any on hand. Love working with 1x3 and 1x4 boards, thought of doing the stand with some that I had on hand but went with the 2x4. this blanket chest legs are glued up 1x4. would have to glue and screw them for longer length in an aquarium stand.

20230215_172527.jpg

Well, I have the advantage of the fact I was a custom cabinetmaker through my teens to late 30s. I had a full shop to work in (including door shop) and could buy the materials at cost. If I had to build the stand again today it would probably cost 5 times as much just for the materials.

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RoudyRick

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I have built a few stands myself and always rely on Murphy's law and gravity. Lots of good ideas posted here but I have found over the years if the stand is off an 1/8" as Murphy would dictate, gravity and several hundred lbs of tank and water on a floor that was built by "contractors" leaves the tank setup level in the end :)
 

ShakeyGizzard

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Shims will be fine.

But for future reference, 2x4’s aren’t intended for building furniture that needs to be plumb, level and square.
true, but steps can be taken to improve them. selection is key. The moisture level in most 2x4's is high when purchased, and as they dry twisting and bending can occur. unless I'm building a shed, I dry my 2x4. Cutting the round edges off, plaining for flat boards and jointing the edges goes a long way to improve them.
 

Fish Fan

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I have built a few stands myself and always rely on Murphy's law and gravity. Lots of good ideas posted here but I have found over the years if the stand is off an 1/8" as Murphy would dictate, gravity and several hundred lbs of tank and water on a floor that was built by "contractors" leaves the tank setup level in the end :)
^This!

A lot of great replies here for sure. Yes, shims will work, but having built a bunch of 2x4 stands over the years, as well as a few nicer stands, I agree with @RoudyRick. Instead of using shims, place the tank on the stand and start filling it. The weight of the tank will compress everything down, and as long as you built it well it should be rock solid and level. If it's not level, you likely built it wrong or your floor isn't level. Then drain it and shim it as needed.

I've had 2x4 stands wiggle a bit without weight on them, but once you add the tank weight they settle right in. 2x4's will never be perfectly straight and true, and all wood can move (meaning twist, turn, warp, swell, etc.) when you cut it. When you cut a 2x4 (or any board), you are altering the wood physically and forces in the board that cause wood movement can rather quickly show themselves, especially with 2x4's.

Just today I built the following small rack setup for three 10 gallons and a 20L. I want these tanks to QT some future reef inhabitants and to temporarily house some freshwater fish while I reboot their tank. So I wanted something fast, easy and cheap, as this is something I will disassemble when I'm done with the QT and reboot. This stand had just a bit of wobble when I first screwed it together, but once I got the tanks on it the whole thing was rock solid. This topic came up in another thread, and I really believe that this design is the easiest way to build a simple 2x4 stand. Not the best design if you want to skin it or make it nicer, and technically not the strongest, but this is an easy and solid way to build a 2x4 stand.

IMG_0187.jpeg

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That’s why I went with laminated plywood construction:

I am a huge fan of using plywood for stands. It's much more stable, meaning it doesn't move like other material, and it's easy to cut if you have a table saw or a circular saw and a guide. In fact, for those of you who don't know, you're local Lowes and Home Depot will cut plywood to size for you, just make sure you get an employee who's competent on the panel saw ;-) If you find a dedicated hardwood lumber dealer in your area that offers "millwork", you can get both premium cabinet grade plywood and these shops will cut your pieces to perfection (at additional cost, of course). But either way, then all you have to do is take your pieces home and screw them together.

When working with plywood to build a stand, there's lots of ways to join two pieces together including using "rabbet" and "dado" joints cut typically on a table saw with a dado stack blade or with a router. But, for regular humans (did I mean Mere Mortals?? (a joke for anyone that watches these woodworking videos, which really are a great resource for beginner woodworkers)), a Kreg Jig or similar pocket hole jig is your friend. Ignore those "purist" woodworkers that tell you that a Kreg Jig joint is either insufficiently strong or simply "cheating", somehow. The "cheating" thing you'll have to decide for yourself, but it's been shown in real testing that the Kreg pocket hole jig makes a very strong joint indeed (when executed properly). I'm pretty sure @RocketEngineer would agree on this point. It's my go to for building quick things, workshop furniture, and I've done two aquarium stands using pocket hole joinery, a 15 and a 75 gallon. The 75 has been up and running for about 10 years no problem (freshwater). When building "nicer" projects, I do try to use rabbet and dado joinery, but that's just me trying to up my woodworking game. There is simply no shame at all in using pocket hole joinery, in my humble opinion, and this is a very accessible option for for anyone who has limited tools and woodworking experience.

Here's the guy I mentioned above, Steve Ramsey, who is an "OG" of YouTube woodworking channels, and focuses on beginners. Here's his take on the Kreg Jig:



Here's a video from Kreg Tools demonstrating how to build an easy storage cabinet using a Kreg Jig. This cabinet would be plenty strong enough to hold smaller aquaria (don't do the "feet", just build the cabinet), and with some modification could accommodate up to about 125 gallons, I'd estimate:



Here's a little stand I did a while back for an IM Nuvo Fusion 15 freshwater tank. This is actually the tank I want to reboot, I managed to acquire some nasty hair algae and I think I have to pitch and start over with all new plants :-( But this stand is made from inexpensive pine plywood and 2x4's, which I did machine a little so they are straighter/cleaner than an off-the-rack 2x4. I used Kreg pocket hole joinery on the whole thing. This stand was always supposed to be a prototype. I actually hate this stand because it shows my inexperience. I don't love the stained finish at all :-( I have received compliments on the "curvy" legs. Now that I'm rebooting this tank, I really want to rebuild this stand using, I'm thinking, walnut for the legs and frame and cherry for the panels, and a tongue oil finish.

IMG_0188.jpeg


And to those of you that posted pics of your stands like @RocketEngineer @Jedi1199 @ShakeyGizzard really nice work!!! I'm very impressed by what you've done, and it inspires me to rebuild some of my stands using some better materials and techniques.
 
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RoudyRick

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Fish Fan, we're on the same page except for one issue. Screws can hold things together but should NOT be holding the weight, even on a small stand. There are several ways to have wood pressing on wood but avoid having screws holding any weight. Just my opinion :)
 

Oldreefer44

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Im not exactly a novice when it comes to woodworking, but Ive been having quite the time building these tank stands and getting them perfectly square. Part of my problem is the best 2x4's I could find arent great (for instance one of them has a taper in it and measures 1 1/4" at one end. After building and rebuilding multiple times I got it so that the first stand is solid but one corner is 3/16" high so it has a wobble. Im a perfectionist so half of me wants to start a bon fire and start over. Am I being ridiculous? Would you trust shims to compensate a wobble bearing 700lbs?
I used shims under a 135 for several years without issues.
 

workhz

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Fish Fan, we're on the same page except for one issue. Screws can hold things together but should NOT be holding the weight, even on a small stand. There are several ways to have wood pressing on wood but avoid having screws holding any weight. Just my opinion :)
Yeah, may not matter as much as a temp stand but the only thing holding the weight there are screws which would normally be inadvisable.
 

Fish Fan

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Fish Fan, we're on the same page except for one issue. Screws can hold things together but should NOT be holding the weight, even on a small stand. There are several ways to have wood pressing on wood but avoid having screws holding any weight. Just my opinion :)
Yeah, may not matter as much as a temp stand but the only thing holding the weight there are screws which would normally be inadvisable.
I don't typically build stands this way at all, but in my case I needed something temporary and quick, and I was trying to demonstrate the absolute easiest stand I could think to build to help someone in another thread who needs a stand for a 40 gallon. Typically, if I'm going to use 2x4's I do have the weight supported with vertical supports between the top and bottom frame. But, for the person I was trying to help in another thread the design I made would be much easier for them to build with their very limited tool and skill sets.

However, I absolutely stand by this design. It's not my design, I've seen fish stores with racks like this, and here's The King of DIY Joey with the same construction:



The screws I used were rather substantial Deckmate brand exterior deck screws. These are like a #10 screw. And, I have three screws in at each joint, which adds up to six total screws holding up each corner of the tank.

I wanted to be able disassemble my rack, so I chose not to use any glue, and my stand is rock solid. If you use glue at all those joints, it would be indescructable.

I do get the concerns, and if someone is concerned at all, I would absolutely suggest a different design or at least use some heavy duty lag screws or bolts. I would also only recommend this design for relatively small tanks, less than maybe 75 gallons. My rack has been rock solid since that previous post, there is no way it's going to suddenly fail or even start sagging. But definitely build the stand you're comfortable with.

Thanks for the suggestions, I enjoy talking about this stuff, and I hope all of this helps someone down the road :)
 

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