Monday, October 27, 2014

Active weekend

I had high expectations for this weekend and even though we did not finish many projects, we made progress in many. My wife helped me a lot this weekend. The first thing I had in the agenda was organizing the shed. I did not take a before picture, because it was simply disgusting and that ought not to be shown to the world. Suffices to say that I took out enough trash, that I am not sure they will take it all this week. The end result:
The work bench that you see on the left-hand side was built on Saturday. Here are some pictures of the build. First attaching the beams and making sure they were level.

 Then, I forgot to take more pictures until I was done. It has three beams each screwed to the vertical 2x4's on the shed and each reinforced by a 45 degree truss.

It was almost midnight and I am sure the neighbors did not want to hear me building anything, so I called it a day at this point:
Still messy, but not so bad. On Sunday, I was just going to finish organizing the shed, but instead I started cutting pieces for the 55 gallon fish tank canopy in order to store them neatly in the clean shed. In a second, I went into full-blown project mode. Whenever I finish this project, I will add more details, pictures and measurements in its own blog post. For now, I will just put a few pictures up.
 Box cut out for the filter:
 Front without its cover:
 My wife was painting some signs in the back.
At this point, I needed more materials to keep working, so I made a trip to the hardware store. I bought some extra 2x4's to start on a piano bench that my wife has been requesting for a while. I will also have to make a separate post for that project, but here are some pics:

Last but not least, my wife took the task of staining the pallet chairs:

Well, that was a busy weekend.

Happy building!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Styrofoam-cement aquarium background

I have mixed feelings about this project. At first the rock background looks fantastic. If your fish don't mind high pH, it is great. Now, the bad part is that it gets covered with algae really quickly and if you cannot keep enough plants, it may not look too good. We had Pete, the parrot cichlid in there, so plants were bound to be dug out. Therefore, we ended up getting rid of the background. This is the other drawback, since you silicone it to the tank, this means changing the fish tank. Thank goodness for $1 per gallon at Petco.

So, if you want a dramatic background, can have enough plants to limit the algae growth and have fish that tolerate higher pH values, here are the steps.

At first it seems like it is really complicated and that the chemistry of the water can be jacked up quite easily, but if you let the concrete cure for long enough and then rinse it for about a month, then you'd be fine.

First step, think about what you want your aquascape to look like. Then use styrofoam and silicone (make sure it is 100% silicone without mildew protection, as these chemicals would send your fish to heaven, provided they were good of course) to construct your dream. We used insulation foam from the hardware store (a lot cheaper than the foam at the crafts store).

 Check the fit for the filter!
Once we had this done, we made a very watery mix of concrete and applied it with a paintbrush on the styrofoam (hello Pookie!):

 We used standard hydraulic cement paint (the cure timing is lower than regular cement). Let this layer dry and apply a thicker coat. If I were to redo this project, I would force myself to apply 3 or 4 coats of concrete, as I was able to peel off some concrete when cleaning the tank later on. Don't make your layers too thick and spray water on the concrete regularly while it is curing. Otherwise, your concrete will crack when it cures. Don't apply a coat until the previous one is completely dry. Concrete takes a long time to cure (weeks). So, at least you want to wait a couple of days between layers. Once you are done, you can test fit again and then silicone the crud out of the back to attach it to the tank. Don't go stingy on the silicone now. You probably have gone through 10 - 15 tubes now, no reason to stop. If you go stingy, some pieces will float... you can ask my wife, the middle piece, that we called the fireplace, just took off and almost broke some lights. Let everything dry/cure for a week or more and pump the water in.

Now, you need to put a little circulation pump and a makeshift filter:

If you don't do this, you will end up with concrete on your glass and you will have had ruined a perfectly good fish tank. So, make sure you have the filter and circulation. Once a week for the next month or two, change all of the water of the tank. This tank is not fish safe yet. Once you read the pH of your water and it is not more than 0.2 higher than the tap water, you can throw in some substrate and for good measure, let the filter run for another week. This takes a lot of patience, I know, but you HAVE to do it.

You can see in these pictures that we set up the tank in the family room. It was intended for the living room, but there is too much mess going on when you do this, it is better to have your project in a hidden room.

When the time finally came we added the plants and the fish.
 After the fireplace floated away. We added a lot more plants there, to try to cover it up. That made Pete mad, and it was hard to keep the plants in place.
  If you have any questions about this project, please leave your questions in the comments section.

Happy building!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fish tank coffee table


This is a project that my wife and I built on a 3 day weekend. We only had a jigsaw, and orbital sander, and a drill. Here is the story. I saw one of these cool fish tank coffee tables and thought it would be awesome to build one. I learned a thing or two about fish in the process. This was our first honest-to-goodness fish tank.  The first thing I did was to make a platform for the fish tank with 2x4's. Notice I left a gap between the top part to run cables in and out. My intention (as you can see from the pic) was to put the lights underneath. Not a good thing, as algae will form underneath your gravel and your fish will swim upside down. Notice that on the the first picture, the light has been moved to the top.

Then I built the legs around the fish tank (this is a 20 gallon high tank), so that there is enough clearance for cables and airlines. An air pump can be installed as seen in the following picture. I do not like air stones, and the water gets oxygenated enough with the ripples formed by the filter.
The next step was to attach pieces on the side and make a lid. I wish I had better pictures of the lid.

Now to stain the wood. Notice the picnic table... That poor thing got burn with my welder, painted, stained, until it eventually was removed, luckily now I have a work bench:
 Several layers later:

Then, I added those weird glass pebbles, to let the light through. Again, bad idea. This will trap fishy poopy and mess with the water chemistry of the tank. You want a fine substrate, thus the light has to be on the top. Thankfully, now LED lights are very compact and can be installed easily.
We had this setup like that for a while. Say hello to Pete (she is a girl, we didn't know).

Since then, we changed the light and we have Wilson, the blue betta, living there with some neon tetras, some cory cats, and a bristlenose plecos. They all get along just fine. Don't believe that stuff that bettas need small tanks and no tankmates. Please do not put two male bettas together, though.

Pete has moved to our 55gal tank:

and as you can see she lives with 5 giant danios and two bristlenose plecos.

Happy building!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Standing desk

This one is an old project, but looking at pictures I found a few of this project. So, here is a post about it. I decided to build this desk last year, when after working for extended hours I got a little clot on one of my legs. I had read about how marvelous standing desks are for your health, so I gave it a go. I now have two of them, one for the office and one for home. It takes some getting used to, but it certainly has helped as I have not have had a clot since then. This project requires welding, so may or may not be easy to make. Of course the design can be easily replicated with wood.

Now to the pictures (find Pookie in the first picture):

 This one is currently in my office:
 This is the one for home:
If I would have done the project for somebody else, I may have made the height adjustable. I was lucky and got the height right on my first attempt. However, this is something to consider.

Happy building!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Second Pallet Chair

Today, I found out that not all pallets are identical. I had to modify some of my steps, but all in all the procedure is pretty much the same. This second pallet was in much better shape than yesterday's pallet. It made for a slightly taller chair, here are the pictures:

One thing that I was about to mess up today was the angle at the bottom of the rear leg. Make sure you measure those well...

 The one on the left is the one that I built today.

I did not paint them today, as the boss (my wife) wants them stained in a dark mahogany tone and that will take longer than just putting some linseed oil on. That will hopefully happen next weekend. Until then, happy building!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pallet chair

There ain't no rest for the wicked... Today, we went pick up some coffee with our friends at Jayells Coffee, and Lynda (the owner) offered us two free pallets. I have been wanting to make some of those "upcycled" pallet chairs, so of course, we brought them home.

 Hello, what is it that you brought? Smells like coffee... That's what Hope says.
So, after watching my Baylor Bears lose to WVU, I went ahead and started to build the first chair. Tomorrow, I will try to finish the second one. So, I started cutting the pallet:

Make sure those cuts are made as flush against the middle board as possible. I did not do this and ended up having to cut them flush after the fact, no biggie anyways. Then, cut this piece in half at a 45° (or close to that).  (EDIT: 45° ended up being to laid back. I ended up transforming the chairs into pool-side loungers, so it worked out. I'd say 60° should be better) I added an extra board to the sitting area:
Now you need to remove all the little boards from the remaining beam:
From this piece you can cut your back legs. I did not like the way I cut these pieces. At first I cut this piece in half, but found that the resulting legs were too long. Then, I had to cut them a little shorter, but I found out that pallets are not symmetrical in a bad way. So, my advice is put the seat at the height you want it to be and cut the legs at the appropriate height. Once this is done, you can screw the legs on the side, like this:
You see, that leg was way too long. You will need two screws on the top and bottom part. To make the back stand at the same height, I had cut the front legs out of a 2x2 I had in my shed, I attached the front legs (identical pieces) and then determined the height of the other rear leg:
Then, I put some long screws to secure the rest and the seat together and voilĂ :
 I definitively think it needs arm rests. Other than that, it is pretty comfy. The advantage of this design, is that you just use one pallet and about 34" of a 2x2 (97 cents at the hardware store). Now, it is time to paint the chair with some linseed oil, to protect it from the elements while keeping the rustic look.

I will post another update tomorrow, hopefully with the two chairs and maybe some arm rests... we'll see.

We ended up staining them. I like the color. It was a red wood stain.

Happy building!