• You are viewing the forum as a Guest, please login (you can use your Facebook, Twitter, Google or Microsoft account to login) or register using this link: Log in or Sign Up
  • You can now follow UKAPS on Instagram.

Figuring out how to build a cabinet. Please advise.

FrankR

Member
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
Hi all,

I was looking for a cabinet for my 30 lt cube, but most of them that were in my budget are cheaply made, material-wise. Also, couldn't find a colour I liked.
As I'm sure I'll upgrade to a bigger tank, I wanted it to be future proof as well. So, I've decided to buy a solid pine cabinet from IKEA and modify it.

ivar-cabinet-pine__21439_pe106384_s5.jpg
ivar-cabinet-pine__0941238_pe795391_s5.jpg


I'll add a board of wood on top so that it sits on the side panels, and a "plinth" at the bottom to give the doors some space from the floor.
I'd like your advise though. The back panel is fibreboard (I guess that's MDF) that slides between the panels.

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 17.31.33.png

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 17.31.55.png


I think that I'd have to replace that to make it more rigid. Any ideas?
Also, what's the best way to seal it?

Thank you in advance.
 

Garuf

Member
Joined
30 Oct 2007
Messages
5,606
Location
Copenhagen
I’ve used that stand and it warped badly, quickly. I ended up replacing the top board with a 21mm ply top and using the off cuts to add a central rib. I later added feet to each corner but the bottom wood cracked so I ended up just making my own stands entirely.
 

Federal

New Member
Joined
29 Jan 2021
Messages
20
Location
Bulgaria
I think this cabinet will be good for 30 Lt.
If you put longer aquarium it will be problem, because the construction in not good for long length.
 

Simon Cole

Member
Joined
25 Dec 2018
Messages
708
Location
Buckingham
If I absolutely had to, I might consider something like 12mm marine plyboard, butt it up against the back, predrill holes glue it with structural quality PVA wood glue, and then use 4 screws on either side, top and bottom. For the top I would be looking at 22mm marine plyboard and doing the same sort of bonding. Then, given the comments above, I would also reinforce the bottom with 12mm marine plyboard and fit a frame inside to reinforce the panels. To be honest, I don't think it is worth your bother because all of these materials cost money and it would take a while to get it built. Most of the units I use are 2" hardwood. Spruce pine would be the last wood that I would choose in the world, and I am not surprised that these cabinets warp badly and quickly.
 
Last edited:

Hufsa

Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
1,444
Location
Norway
Ikea furniture as aquarium stands for the most part tend to be a very bad idea. I wouldnt be surprised if you spend as much time and money modifying it as you would have spent just making/getting something more solid. Their furniture is made out of hopes and lies and I wouldnt personally sleep very well having an aquarium on it. I dont think its worth it.
 

Federal

New Member
Joined
29 Jan 2021
Messages
20
Location
Bulgaria
Just order standard manufactured cabinet from aquarium online site.
 

FrankR

Member
Thread starter
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
Thank you for your replies!
I don't have the tools or the space to build my own cabinet. I'd love to be able to though. Also, I used to have a marine aquarium and bought a Juwel Lido cabinet for it. The tank was same specs as a Juwel Lido tank. After about 6 months the cabinet warped. That's why I thought it would be better buying a solid wood cabinet and modify it. However, I'm open to suggestions. Is there a reasonably priced cabinet for a 60x40x40cm* tank out there?

*That's going to be the next tank
 

PARAGUAY

Member
Joined
13 Nov 2013
Messages
2,763
Location
Lancashire
I can't see much at moment but cabinets seem to come up reduced at certain times often. Check the internet. Check your local aquarium shops for reduced items.
 

FrankR

Member
Thread starter
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
Right! Came up with this frame. Timber's 34 x 70 mm. Overall dimensions are not final. Have to think it through.
Sides and back will be covered with 12 mm plywood. Top is 22 mm.
You think it's going to be sturdy enough?

cabinet01.jpg

cabinet02.jpg
 

Dogtemple

Member
Joined
22 Nov 2011
Messages
193
Location
Brighton
Right! Came up with this frame. Timber's 34 x 70 mm. Overall dimensions are not final. Have to think it through.
Sides and back will be covered with 12 mm plywood. Top is 22 mm.
You think it's going to be sturdy enough?

View attachment 186853
View attachment 186855

As a stand alone frame it wouldn’t hold the weight and would wobble a lot but if the sides form part of the structure and are firmly fitted with loads of screws/nails, then it ought to be fine.
 

FrankR

Member
Thread starter
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
As a stand alone frame it wouldn’t hold the weight and would wobble a lot but if the sides form part of the structure and are firmly fitted with loads of screws/nails, then it ought to be fine.
Back to the drawing board.
What kind of timber should I use to build the frame [kiln dried, treated, untreated, CLS, pine (softwood), oak (hardwood), etc] ?
 

MartyK

New Member
Joined
17 Apr 2022
Messages
10
Location
USA
I think you misread Dogtemple's assessment - your design above is more than strong enough for a 30L tank IF the plywood skin is screwed (and glued, preferably) to the timer frame. Without the plywood, the frame itself would wobble from racking and twisting forces.

For what it's worth, I recently built a cabinet out of only half inch (12mm) plywood for a 28 gallon (105L) tank using wood glue and minimal fasteners. It was a simple design with sides and back sandwiched between top and bottom, then two small strips across the front at the top and bottom.
 

FrankR

Member
Thread starter
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
I think you misread Dogtemple's assessment - your design above is more than strong enough for a 30L tank IF the plywood skin is screwed (and glued, preferably) to the timer frame. Without the plywood, the frame itself would wobble from racking and twisting forces.

For what it's worth, I recently built a cabinet out of only half inch (12mm) plywood for a 28 gallon (105L) tank using wood glue and minimal fasteners. It was a simple design with sides and back sandwiched between top and bottom, then two small strips across the front at the top and bottom.
Yes, I got that. That's why I thought that I should change the design. I'm not DIY savvy, and most importantly I have no experience with carpentry. So please bear with me.
I know that the previous design was strong for a 30 l, but as I said, I also want the cabinet to be "future-proof" for when I upgrade to a 70, 80, or 90l tank.
Maybe I'm overthinking it. Or maybe it's my bad experience with the warped Juwel cabinet. You know, once bitten, twice shy as they say.

Re purposing IKEA furniture is becoming more popular.
If done properly then it works brilliantly.
That's what I thought initially. Buy an IKEA IVAR, reinforce it, and Bob's your uncle.
But quite a few members said that wouldn't work. I don't know if they had their furniture reinforced or not though.
 

Simon Cole

Member
Joined
25 Dec 2018
Messages
708
Location
Buckingham
I would recommend C24 treated timber joists from a decent specialist timber supplier. I would go for 2" by 4". The cheapest I got these for was £4.58 per metre with free delivery, so this should cost about £37 for 8 metres. There is nothing wrong with C16 for the spans that you are considering and it is a lot cheaper, but I don't like the knots, it doesn't look as good exposed because it has a wider grain and different tones. Building suppliers are notorious for warped joists because they rack them and store them in all weather. The worst I have seen is those DIY outlets that don't even sell structural timber, store their joists vertically, and then sell it on at about quadruple the cost. Online specialists are a far better choice because they are rely upon reputation, but you can go to a local builders merchant and pick out timber, cut it down and take it home if you don't want it delivered.

I would recommend that the verticals are uninterrupted and that you use butt joints with wood screws. I'm not a big fan of the 45 degree screw holes in your design, a real pain. Bolts are wonderful, but wood screws are fast, especially if you use ones with a self drilling tip. My favourites are the TurboGold plus TX double countersunk, but there are plenty of cheaper options. You need to get the right size screws to go through at least 3/4 of the wood on the back piece. If you used bolts then you could design a dismantlable stand in case you want to move house. The thing is to build something that you are going to love for years to come, and this is the reason why I make all of my furniture, plus you end up with superior quality. A strong wood glue like Vitrex wood and laminate adhesive is good for attaching side panels, but if you make it strong enough then you don't even need them. You can also use herringbone joist struts at 45 degree angles to prevent any lateral movement. I've put a picture below showing them on my gate. I think they are under £1 each and 4 of them would completely prevent the frame from moving or wobbling, even two would be enough. You can get twist nails for these struts, but any type of fasteners will do the trick. Quite a lot cheaper than panels. For the top you have a variety of options. The cheapest would be a single piece of 22mm Caberfloor P5 moisture resistant chipboard flooring. Marine plyboards are a lot more expensive but have greater water resistance. This is the kind of thing to get from a building supplier. The 18mm P5 is also good. If it looks slightly warped, don't be put off because it will flatten out with pressure and completely flatten out over time. If you are a very splashy aquarist, you could paint the top with a rubberised paint, use a bit of vinyl, or go all out and order some emperador marble tiles to give it that funky palatial look. P5 doesn't bother me when it gets wet because it will dry quickly and doesn't really have anywhere to warp if it is sat on top of a frame. I personally never waterproof the P5 because it is more likely to go to mush before it warps, which it hardly does even in the rain for days, unlike a lot of the cheaper chipboards and plyboards. The stuff is wonderful, but you might want to edge it with a nice trim strip - just make sure you glue that trim on because you don't want to see any panel pins.

Using turned wood is another idea for the verticals if you are skipping the side panels. I have used hickory balusters for my kitchen table and that has supported a lot of weight, but if you do go down this route then use something a lot stronger and thicker than balusters, like turned oak table legs. Personally I prefer the look of exposed square-cut untreated wood. Ideally you would want smooth planed C24, but C16 should be suitable if you cannot get the former smooth planed. You can customise your shelving. An acoustic box for your filter and reactor. A brass towel rack. Trimming and scissor racks. Book shelf. I always incorporate live food cultures into these designs, especially somewhere to grow California blackworms, Grindal worms and springtails. Cable trunking is also a nice touch. If you get a beer can holder, then you can put your live food in a cup with a little pipette ready to drop in live food and get some neat snappy shots of your fish. A smoke alarm underneath the tank is a great way to identify when all of that dodgy imported electronics has gone tits up. Some nice LED strip lighting can give you the rainbow puke effect, but it is also nice if you get some sound activated strips so that you can boogie out to all those old school disco classics. How about reinforced glass for the top piece, so that you can check out your epic root growth; it's the frame giving the tank strength and it would be waterproof. Somewhere for the cat to sleep? ...great plan.

The second picture below is the kind of thing that I would build. It needs a lot more work to get some nice shelving and to make it more functional, but it shows that the verticals are continuous and how to use butt joints, which is what I am suggesting. It's a box design. If you have it raised like that then you can rescue fish that have jumped, lost socks and hoover or mop underneath. The top struts aren't that necessary if you are gluing a panel on the top. I think that the box design is great, but you can narrow the bottom shelf in on the front if you want somewhere to put a stool or small viewing chair. You could go all shaker and have the stool hanging upside down. You can actually go about 50% of the way back on the bottom horizontal and fit it to the side struts, so that you have an attractive overhang, but you must never move the 4 legs inwards or it could topple. The key is to build something that you really want. I think it should cost less than £60 for all the materials (with delivery) for a very basic design. But the wonderful thing with DIY stands is that you can get something highly customised that works and looks great. It is a no-brainer if you want to go down this route. It is one of the most fun projects you can do in the hobby and in many ways you can design something far far better than any commercial stand that I have seen in recent years. The Ikea route is something that comes down to personal choice. I wouldn't even consider it as an option, but if it works for you then you've got my support. Just to give you an idea of what you can pick up second-hand: the last photograph is a solid tropical hardwood designer cabinet that we picked up for around £60 a couple of years ago. It would have been well over £1500 new, and it is 2" thick and strong enough to support a 16 stone adult standing in the middle without bending more than 1mm. They are rare finds, but they are out there, and this is the difference of what getting a stunning designer piece can do to the overall look and feel of your home.
DSC_0295.jpg
1650215874347.png
WP_20190210_04_38_20_Pro.jpg
 
Last edited:

seedoubleyou

Member
Joined
29 Mar 2022
Messages
512
Location
Windsor
That's what I thought initially. Buy an IKEA IVAR, reinforce it, and Bob's your uncle.
But quite a few members said that wouldn't work. I don't know if they had their furniture reinforced or not though.
I’m not sure which range is best to use, but there’s certainly a lot of people doing it out there with great success.
As for those saying to use special this and special that, I’ve seen plenty of aquariums stands warp with water.
Provided you don’t go splashing about and you wipe up any water that does spill, then you’ll be fine.

I’m sure YouTube has lots of videos on IKEA fish tank cabinets.
 

FrankR

Member
Thread starter
Joined
7 Sep 2018
Messages
172
Location
Cambridgeshire
I would recommend C24 treated timber joists from a decent specialist timber supplier. I would go for 2" by 4". The cheapest I got these for was £4.58 per metre with free delivery, so this should cost about £37 for 8 metres. There is nothing wrong with C16 for the spans that you are considering and it is a lot cheaper, but I don't like the knots, it doesn't look as good exposed because it has a wider grain and different tones. Building suppliers are notorious for warped joists because they rack them and store them in all weather. The worst I have seen is those DIY outlets that don't even sell structural timber, store their joists vertically, and then sell it on at about quadruple the cost. Online specialists are a far better choice because they are rely upon reputation, but you can go to a local builders merchant and pick out timber, cut it down and take it home if you don't want it delivered.

I would recommend that the verticals are uninterrupted and that you use butt joints with wood screws. I'm not a big fan of the 45 degree screw holes in your design, a real pain. Bolts are wonderful, but wood screws are fast, especially if you use ones with a self drilling tip. My favourites are the TurboGold plus TX double countersunk, but there are plenty of cheaper options. You need to get the right size screws to go through at least 3/4 of the wood on the back piece. If you used bolts then you could design a dismantlable stand in case you want to move house. The thing is to build something that you are going to love for years to come, and this is the reason why I make all of my furniture, plus you end up with superior quality. A strong wood glue like Vitrex wood and laminate adhesive is good for attaching side panels, but if you make it strong enough then you don't even need them. You can also use herringbone joist struts at 45 degree angles to prevent any lateral movement. I've put a picture below showing them on my gate. I think they are under £1 each and 4 of them would completely prevent the frame from moving or wobbling, even two would be enough. You can get twist nails for these struts, but any type of fasteners will do the trick. Quite a lot cheaper than panels. For the top you have a variety of options. The cheapest would be a single piece of 22mm Caberfloor P5 moisture resistant chipboard flooring. Marine plyboards are a lot more expensive but have greater water resistance. This is the kind of thing to get from a building supplier. The 18mm P5 is also good. If it looks slightly warped, don't be put off because it will flatten out with pressure and completely flatten out over time. If you are a very splashy aquarist, you could paint the top with a rubberised paint, use a bit of vinyl, or go all out and order some emperador marble tiles to give it that funky palatial look. P5 doesn't bother me when it gets wet because it will dry quickly and doesn't really have anywhere to warp if it is sat on top of a frame. I personally never waterproof the P5 because it is more likely to go to mush before it warps, which it hardly does even in the rain for days, unlike a lot of the cheaper chipboards and plyboards. The stuff is wonderful, but you might want to edge it with a nice trim strip - just make sure you glue that trim on because you don't want to see any panel pins.

Using turned wood is another idea for the verticals if you are skipping the side panels. I have used hickory balusters for my kitchen table and that has supported a lot of weight, but if you do go down this route then use something a lot stronger and thicker than balusters, like turned oak table legs. Personally I prefer the look of exposed square-cut untreated wood. Ideally you would want smooth planed C24, but C16 should be suitable if you cannot get the former smooth planed. You can customise your shelving. An acoustic box for your filter and reactor. A brass towel rack. Trimming and scissor racks. Book shelf. I always incorporate live food cultures into these designs, especially somewhere to grow California blackworms, Grindal worms and springtails. Cable trunking is also a nice touch. If you get a beer can holder, then you can put your live food in a cup with a little pipette ready to drop in live food and get some neat snappy shots of your fish. A smoke alarm underneath the tank is a great way to identify when all of that dodgy imported electronics has gone tits up. Some nice LED strip lighting can give you the rainbow puke effect, but it is also nice if you get some sound activated strips so that you can boogie out to all those old school disco classics. How about reinforced glass for the top piece, so that you can check out your epic root growth; it's the frame giving the tank strength and it would be waterproof. Somewhere for the cat to sleep? ...great plan.

The second picture below is the kind of thing that I would build. It needs a lot more work to get some nice shelving and to make it more functional, but it shows that the verticals are continuous and how to use butt joints, which is what I am suggesting. It's a box design. If you have it raised like that then you can rescue fish that have jumped, lost socks and hoover or mop underneath. The top struts aren't that necessary if you are gluing a panel on the top. I think that the box design is great, but you can narrow the bottom shelf in on the front if you want somewhere to put a stool or small viewing chair. You could go all shaker and have the stool hanging upside down. You can actually go about 50% of the way back on the bottom horizontal and fit it to the side struts, so that you have an attractive overhang, but you must never move the 4 legs inwards or it could topple. The key is to build something that you really want. I think it should cost less than £60 for all the materials (with delivery) for a very basic design. But the wonderful thing with DIY stands is that you can get something highly customised that works and looks great. It is a no-brainer if you want to go down this route. It is one of the most fun projects you can do in the hobby and in many ways you can design something far far better than any commercial stand that I have seen in recent years. The Ikea route is something that comes down to personal choice. I wouldn't even consider it as an option, but if it works for you then you've got my support. Just to give you an idea of what you can pick up second-hand: the last photograph is a solid tropical hardwood designer cabinet that we picked up for around £60 a couple of years ago. It would have been well over £1500 new, and it is 2" thick and strong enough to support a 16 stone adult standing in the middle without bending more than 1mm. They are rare finds, but they are out there, and this is the difference of what getting a stunning designer piece can do to the overall look and feel of your home.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed answer Simon . Helps a lot!
Yes, I want to built the cabinet according to my taste. That being said, I found an online tutorial and I'm going to build something similar.
When you say "a decent specialist timber supplier", do you mean "Travis Perkins", or "Huws Grey Ridgeons" or do you mean a sawmill ?

Edit: Why don't you like pocket holes?
 

Simon Cole

Member
Joined
25 Dec 2018
Messages
708
Location
Buckingham
C24 will come from colder regions like Scandinavia where the wood grows slow and dense. C16 can come from anywhere, but in recent years the quality has gone downhill a bit. Non-structural timber is probably alright for smaller stands, but I have seen poor quality timber split badly from places like Homebase. All timber merchants will import into shipyards and from there it makes it's way into merchants. At this point the timber is usually kept dry and laid flat in warehouses so it is very straight and in great condition. There are then three kinds of retailers: Builder's merchants like Travis Perkins and Huws Grey will usually transfer the timber directly to their outlets. It is often laid on rack systems, sometimes the wrong side up as people fumble through it, and usually is exposed to weather. In those conditions it often has a tendency to warp and you can travel from outlet to outlet trying to find good pieces. It's not such a problem for 8" joists, but get progressively worse when you scale down. They will have plane cut and sometimes rough cut joists. You rarely get either of these structural timbers smooth planed, but they will do non-structural indoors (untreated) joists with this smooth finish and in good quality, which costs a few pennies more. The untreated structural timber they will usually put outside because it will not rot. You just turn up, cut it down, fill your car and you go and pay. The second type of retailer is a DIY outlet like B and Q or Homebase. They transport the wood from the merchants warehouses to distribution warehouses and then on to shops, so there is an additional leap, and I imagine they don't pay much attention to transporting it because it is often chipped or scratched. In all of my experience they rarely ever have structural timber, and most of their timber is usually extremely poor quality and badly warped due to being stored vertically on a slight angle. The quality is awful sometimes because it is not properly pressure treated or aged (lots of sap) and they really are at the bottom of the food chain. The big difference with much of their timber is that when you drill into it it will hit knots and fragments will come away or it will split down to the cut when you pre-drill; and that what they sell is really very expensive for what it actually is. Even their floorboards can contain metal fragments which blunt drill bits. It's a pot luck situation but is usually not worth the visit; saying all that, I have had some very nice smooth timber from these places on odd occasions. Wickes probably fit into this category although they also do mail order, the jury is very much out on the quality of what turns up at your door: far better build quality and cheaper but sometimes warped or damaged. The third kind of retailer is a UK-wide mail-order "specialist" supplier. They will transport the timber from the importers (merchants) warehouse to their own warehouse where they will store it flat and dry, sometimes without props to keep it very flat and straight. The quality of these joists can be superb and usually these retailers will show a photograph of the batch to highlight the excellent storage conditions. It is not uncommon for them to use air conditioning and to pick-out sub-standard timbers because they value their reputation, and they will often pick the best timbers for carpentry from each batch if you ask them. They charge a bit for delivery unless you have one locally, which you should because most timber arrives from ships to ports on the east coast. They are usually cheaper than the other two kinds of retailers, and you can often pick up special dimensions or particular planed joists like smooth planed C24 or bevelled edge timber because they are often linked to reputable sawmills with surplus bespoke stock. They also have access to some of the nicer coniferous species like certain pines. Often too they advertise on Ebay, which is handy if you want buyer protection. The fourth option is a timber yard (sawmill) where they either import and saw timber or specialise in UK grown lumber, which can be sawn to your specification. I do not really rate most UK softwoods, but they often have a broader selection of hardwoods, and I have even managed to get 10 year-old air-dried UK native Elm which is now virtually extinct. The problem is that sometimes they do not cure the timber properly and it is not always certified as structural, which doesn't matter that much for a small cabinet, but if it does start to warp as it air dries, then you are treading on ice. They are however a great place to pick up English oak and Scottish pine and you can usually walk around to see how they produce the timber. They are sustainable and support the local economy but can charge a premium and aren't very common in your region unless you want hardwood, but they can cut to size if you want a flashy top piece or solid-piece doors with natural staining patterns.

For what you are making it probably doesn't matter that much which you choose because the weight is not a major factor, structural or non-structural (not that relevant if you have 6 legs), treated or untreated, but I do think aesthetics are a major factor. All timbers have a certain look and this is especially true with different softwood species. I do like the design you linked to. For something like that, I would choose a variety of different woods for different sections, that could mean using something like maple plyboard for the doors, oak trims and mouldings and hickory legs. Saying that, spruce looks great when it is unfinished and it is really cheap. Some woods costs is a bit more, but not that outrageous if you look on Ebay. Luckily, oak trim is now very common and you can get a wide variety of prefabricated doors or plyboards with different woods, but both cost a bit more. Alternatively, I would be tempted to go with glass doors and a reinforced glass top. If you are working with solid boards then note that some hardwoods can be very difficult to cut at home, like English Elm, which cuts well along the grain, but is really hard across it. The design you are looking at is a lot more difficult because you need those 45 degree pocket holes for the screws, also, personally I would not choose to cut the horizontal spans, but it's up to you. I find it hard to get the perfect angle with 45 degree pocket screws and I don't trust them as being as strong, there can be splits as you tighten down, and they take more time than self-drilling wood screws. I'm sure it would be plenty strong enough anyway if you chose them. The problem with getting certain standard trims and mouldings is that they can look very generic and a bit boring, which is why I would shop online. I also prefer hidden hinges or brass fittings. I would go for some nice mother of pearl knobs or possibly marble ones. I think that you might as well design it for a slightly larger aquarium. That could fit two 40 cm cubes, also a 80 cm tank with a nice ledge, but it's up to you. I like enough room for a cup of tea by the side. Overall, nice design you have chosen. I wouldn't feel too pressured to buy from any particular timber seller because there is an awful lot of choice, but equally you can make something quite standard if you like the style.
 
Last edited:
Top