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Old 05-22-09, 06:23 PM
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DIY: Making your own aquarium and cutting your own glass

I have been asked by a number of people if I would post a DIY on how to make your own glass or perspex aquarium, this will include how to cut glass. Some of the places could use a little more info with pics, but as it's only myself here, so I was unable to do a few things...

I have made close to 300 tanks for myself and friends ranging from 2ft up to 8ft. If you decide to ever make any, it is worth it in the end, as instead of going to a shop and buying a 4ft x 18 inch x 18 inch tank and paying at least $150, you can now build one the same size for the maximum of $30.

Please forgive me if you have trouble understanding things I mean, as I am not the best at writing things up.

Ok then, I will start by giving a photo of what will be needed as well as a brief description of what they are used for, most are just common sense lol...

In the picture, you will see 2 types of glass cutters, one is a pen styled one and the other is an easy cutter (yes that is what it is called and will be sold under). Both are oil filled cutters; if you cut glass without oil, you run the risk of damagine the cut. Please take note of this when you are about to make your cut.

There are also a pair of glazier's pliers, not just a normal pair of pliers. They have a flat inside surface, these are used when breaking off a piece of glass that you have just cut that is smaller than say 7cm.

Next is a glass sanding block, they have diamond tips on it, these are used when wanting to take the sharp edge off of your glass.

Don't forget the gloves, I'm sure I don't have to tell you why you need these. They are a must, as taking a cut from newly cut glass doesn't tickle...

A few rulers that are big enough for the size of tanks you want to make.

A pair of safety glasses.

And a strong flat table with a piece of carpet laid over it.

The next step is obviously to find your glass, you can go and buy new glass if you please, but if you want to save a load of money, I suggest going to all the demolitioners around. Most demo's take the stuff they rip out of thier jobs and take it back to a second hand shop that they usually run at the business. You will find truck loads of glass there.Some of them charge an arm and a leg, but you will find a few that practically give it away to you if you go back more than once.

Try to find pieces of glass that don't have deep scratches on them, try to avoid it as sometimes if you are cutting over a deep scratch it can disturb the cut and break up the middle.

I once bought 122 pieces of glass that were 1800 x 1800. They were sold for $20 apiece, which is an amazing deal! Try to look for 6mm thickness glass as it is the size that most tanks are made from. However, once you start making tanks that are 2ft high, you will need the 10-12mm thickness of glass.

Once you have your glass, lay it on your table, the bigger the better. The table I used to make this tank is the one that was left at the place I just moved into. I haven't got my work bench delivered here yet so I was stuck with this little one.

Next mark out where you are cutting...

This is the tricky part, if you miss just a half mm you will wreck your entire cut. Be sure to keep a steady hand and a constant even pressure. It is hard at first, but once you have done a few you will get the hang of it.

You should have a even cut if you do it correctly.

Next you need to slide a piece of wood that is longer than the cut you just made under the glass. Make sure you have the cut just before the wood drops off. I hope this picture can explain it bettter than myself.

Now you will need to have someone help you with this part untill you know what your doing. Grab a mate and ask him to press down on the biggest side of the glass you just cut. Make sure your side (the smaller side) is elevated. Now work out where you are going to press, make sure you have a even amount of pressure, raise your hands and drop them on the piece hard and fast. Not hard enough to punch someone but hard enough to make sure the glass separates. You should have a piece like below.

There are a few other ways to cut your glass without help, but I would not recommend them untill you know how to do this way first. I cut all my glass myself and only need help with the big 8ft tanks.

Next step is to measure you tank sides and ends. Be sure to have the bottom piece smaller than the sides, so that it makes up for the thickness of the glass. I have explained the best I can in a small drawing, but if you don't understand, please ask and I will try my best to answer in a non confusing way.

This is how I overhang my sides to make the tanks.

Now comes the gluing part, I use Selleys Window and Aquarium glue. If you have a big enough table, lay all your pieces down in the order they are meant to be. Because I don't have my usual table, I was unable to take a picture, and I had a little bit of a messier tank at the end of it. Next run a bead of silicone over the sides like so.

Next, join them to the bottom and sides, be sure to get this done as quickly as possible as glass silicone drys fast.

If you want to have a very neat finish like the shop ones, grab some washing detergent and mix it with some water in a dish, dip your finger in it and run it along the joins to have a real smooth and neat finsh. However, if you don't really care what it looks like, it doesn't need to be done.

As you do each side, tape them together so that the silicone can set properly.

Now let it cure for one and a half days before moving on...

If you are making tanks 4ft or bigger this is very important, however if they are only 2ft and 3ft tanks, this does not have to be done.

You will need to cut 2 pieces of glass to make your brace for the middle (see below).

Silicone them to the middle on each side of the top, as above (you will have to wait untill one side cures so that you can turn the tank over to do the other side.)

Once you have the 2 sides done, measure how long the brace needs to be. Glue it to the piece, and let cure for 2 more days.

Now comes the part to see if you have a leak in the tank, at first you probably will untill you get the hang of making them. The easiest way to do so is get an old piece of carpet, lay it oot in the yard, put your tank on it and fill with water. You will see damp patches on the carpet if you have a leak.

If there is no leak, you can now tidy the tank up if you want to. You can find black stripping to put on the sides. Once finished you should have a tank like this...

If you want a glass lid, there are two ways that I know of to make lids. You can get a type of plastic to sit on the top of your tank for the lids to sit on, or just cut soime glass and silicone to the tops so it holds your lids.

I hope this can help a few people make some tanks and save some money in the end.

Now onto my next project, when I will be making 32 glass 3ft x 18 inch x 18 inch tanks. This is all the glass for them. (Well nearly all of it, I have more around the back of my house I have still got to cut up.)

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Old 05-23-09, 02:42 AM
macvsog23 macvsog23 is offline
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One of the most interesting and helpfull post ever
This chsp needs a cheer all round

Regards B
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Old 05-23-09, 05:58 AM
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Very helpful, cheers
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Old 05-23-09, 06:01 AM
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what a great DIY thread, great work
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Old 06-02-09, 05:58 PM
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thanks for the nice comments guys, n2 asked me to do it since i 1st posted it on pf
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Old 06-02-09, 06:34 PM
N2Biomes N2Biomes is offline
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Thanks for the article, Aiden! It makes constructing your own aquarium look very easy.

Please vote daily!

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Old 06-02-09, 06:46 PM
Doodles Doodles is offline
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well done Aiden

and thank you for posting the article
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Old 06-03-09, 09:04 AM
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ExcellentDont think i would try though
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Old 06-03-09, 04:49 PM
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Please dont forget to vote on Aqua rank
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Old 10-11-09, 05:04 AM
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