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Reclaimed timber dual aquarium build


12 Oct 2016
Perth, Australia
Hey all,
Thought I'd share my build as I go, I can only put in an hour or so a day so it's going to be a few weeks until it's completed so you'll have to bare with me.
I'm using reclaimed pallet wood and any other bits I can get for free. I should have enough timber with the 6 pallets I have, the posts are left over from a new house build next door and I have a few sheets of 10mm ply that were on some of the pallets and I'll use to reinforce the sides from the inside.
I'm going to sand the entire stand and give it an ebony stain to match the rest of the furniture in our living room before giving it a few coats of polyurethane for some water resistance.




The posts took forever to saw by hand! really could have used a jigsaw...but I can cut the rest of the boards with my mitre saw thankfully. The pallet boards are 22mm thick so this is going to be one very heavy solid stand! can't wait. I'm going to strip the rest of the pallets down later today, so I should be able to get the frame glued and screwed during the weekend.
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Awesome build. Love recycling wood but never had balls to build a cabinet myself.
Thanks, it'll look completely different when it's done, I wouldn't have taken the chance on an aquarium build if I hadn't already built an outdoor corner seat from pallets, that thing is so sturdy I don't think it'll ever fail!

But as far as this build goes.. I've taken apart another 2 pallets and cut all the frame sections to size, there are a few discrepancies with width but once I've done a complete dry fit I'll disassemble it, clamp them all together and plane them level.
I've put one the long faces together and without any glue its incredibly strong. it could support all my weight on one corner without any leaning, checked it with my square and it didn't move a millimetre! I decided to use stainless M10 round head bolts to fix the sides together, it'll be stronger than screws and the black/chrome look will go well with the other bits in our living room. hopefully they'll look nice, thought I could make a feature out of them. worst case is they don't look nice and I'll paint them black.

Hopefully I'll get the whole frame dry fit tomorrow.
Nice job.:thumbup: You a chippy

My only slight concern would be that's over 250Kg more like 300Kg with rocks substrate etc that's four average humans weighing 70Kg

So maybe a diagnonal cross member between the legs might be worth considering.

Maybe you and three friends could pile up on it and see what lateral movement it does. Probably better to test with something else of similar Mass but the four people would be a great bit of fun :clap:
Thanks, haha I had already asked my girlfriend if she'll sit on it with me with a bunch of my weights! but it's going to have sheets of 10mm ply on the back and two sides, and open at the front so you can see the second smaller aquarium. It's going to have planks of pallet board glued and screwed to that so it looks nice, then I'll sand and router the entire thing before staining and sealing.:thumbup:
So I've glued and bolted the frame together, next I'll glue and screw the 10 mm ply sheets to the back and sides from the inside.

The bolts at the top on the front and back are longer because there'll be another 2 planks running length ways to help distribute the weight of the aquarium.
The frame is already incredible rigid!
Had a bit of time this morning to cut the ply sheets to size and glue and screw them in place, I've decided to put another two long planks on the bottom as well, as this will make adding a raised floor easy, and help spread the load on my tiled floor.... I think I'll place the whole stand on a carpet off cut just in case there are any discrepancies in the leveling (it's perfectly flush with my garage floor but you can never be too careful), if I crack a tile i'm a gonner! once all four of those are in I can start with the top and bottom 🙂

Thanks Manisha, I can't wait until I can get to the sanding point, I'll get a much better idea of what the finish will look like! I love a good project haha
I've cut the boards roughly to size, i still need to cut the notches out from the bottom shelf boards at the edges but I can't do that until the other boards are clamped and screwed to get a final measure. They are a little warped (can't really complain with free wood!) but I tested one with two small clamps and they came flat easy enough, so when I get around to it they'll be clamped down before any gluing and screwing.

Look real good. Like you say it'll be solid too. I much prefer that to one of those glossy cabinets. It'll look even better once it's been sanded. Are you going to treat the timber? A bit of Danish oil would bring the colour out lovely.

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Thanks Vanish 🙂 Due to the condition of the wood its going to need a fair bit of filler, try as I might I couldn't get the planks as straight as i wanted so there are some warp gaps and all the original nail holes, and since I don't like filler being visible i'm still planning to stain the whole stand ebony black to hide the many imperfections and match the style of our livingroom (I love wood btw, but some of our family has a wood mill a few hours away so unless it's Marri wood it has to be stained black). As a finish i'm going to use some wipe on poly, its dead easy to use and still leaves the grain lines visible. I can't stand glossy glass like finishes!
Clamped, glued and screwed the top boards in place, so I should be able to sand them tomorrow. The screw holes are going to be hidden by the aquarium.

Gave the top a quick belt sand just to get an idea about what the wood will look like, it came up really good! not too far off from flat, but I still need to fill in the sides and take all the bolts out before i can give it a proper sanding all over.
I've doubled up on the front support beams, not for strength as it was already over supported but so they are the same thickness as the top and bottom, I think it looks so much nicer now,

Just one more thing to ask? I hope you are using a heat treated pallets? with HT burned sign? because other pallets can be chemically treated and they are harmful...
Yeah Tadabis, I only ever use heat treated pallets for my builds, my mitre saw and sander kick off a lot of dust and I wouldn't risk breathing the dust of any others, and that's through my dust mask!
Finally have all the wood cut and in place!! feels like it's taken forever to get to this stage...I have two empty aquariums to remind me all the time haha.
One more day waiting for the glue to cure and then I can take all the bolts out to sand the entire thing smooth 🙂

Slight change to the appearance....... belt sanded all of the outside surface and the bottom shelf, came up really really nice! and a lot lighter than I thought it would be. Made one hell of a mess though!

I'm going to give it another going over with a finer grit belt tomorrow and then use a small sanding mouse to get to all the corners and round off all the edges. After that I can give it the final major sand before I can fill any cracks and holes. Then sand the excess filler and stain it
I was really pleased with how the sides came out.... I didn't think the different boards would match up so much!

Any way that's it for now!
Actually had quite a few hours free over the last day so I've done a fair amount of work to it, after filling in the (many! albeit tiny) cracks and holes with ebony putty I really liked the look of it so I've decided to keep the natural wood colour and replace the shiny bolts with pine dowel and sand them flat. I gave it the first sand and now I have re-filled and left over marks and I'm waiting for that to dry....then I can get onto giving it a few coats of poly. So close!

You can see some of the re-fills on the inside, but the corner gives an idea about what it'll look like, I know it's not to everyone's taste but from a couple of feet back it looks really nice! and it makes a feature out of the unevenness of the pallet wood.
I went for a short drive to our local river and picked up a few pieces of driftwood, some of them are kinda big!
First couple of coats of the wipe on poly are on 😀 I was hoping to get a third on today but it hadn't completely dried so I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

All of the visible ply is going to be painted the neutral paint colour of out walls, I'll try and get that done in between coats of poly.
I picked up a ceiling light fitting and ordered an led bulb to go in it, hopefully the recess inside should hide it and give it quite a nice look 🙂