Well, I like to think of myself as handy but I am also realistic. My dad, however, is a carpenter by trade and loves little side jobs like this, so I may have to pick his brain for ideas.
I checked out your pics, coralbandit, and you have some nice tanks! I saw one pic with the hood open and could see what I think you were talking about - a lift for the light setup? I like the idea, but unsure how I would fabricate it with the hood as is. I have seen other tanks with this feature where the lid itself is hooked up to some type of lift.
The system came setup with a retro fit cfl lighting system but I'm thinking that would be downgrade from a lighting perspective, in my opinion.
I also thought about nixing the top altogether and just going for the open top but am concerned about the extra light spilling out into the house.
As for now, I will be putting some braces across the width of the tank for the lights to rest on but will definitely plan for a hood mod at some point.
I have decided to do a pretty deep sand bed in the DT. I'm going for 6 inches or so, just so I can work on the bottom if I need to. I also want to go for some nice undulation and banks with the sb. According to this calculator: Sand Bed Calculator
I will need 420 lbs of sand!!