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Old 08-16-2004, 05:17 PM   #1
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Acrylic fabrication: a how to (dail up sensitive)

I get often asked questions about acrylic and building techniques. So, I thought I would take the liberty of posting a step by step pictorial of a project. I had a little over 1/4 sheet of 3/8" continuous cast acrylic and decided to make a 15 gallon acrylic cube tank. I hope you all enjoy.

Cut list:
(2) 15"X15"
(2) 14.25"X15"
(2) 15.25"X15.25" (top and bottom)

Cuts should be as square as possible. I use a standard 10" table saw, then a jointer to make smooth edges. A router can be used to smooth out the edges as well with a fence or guide. Since I have a jointer it just easier for me.

Only the sides are pictured as the topr and bottom do to need to be ran through the jointer (explain later)

The first step is to assemble the all four sides. The reason for this is you don't want to attach the sides to the bottom only to find one of your cuts not square causing a stress point on one seam. It also makes it easier to flush cut an oversized bottom on a router table (reason for not jointing the top and bottom)

I attach the sides to the front using a square weighted jig I made from 3/4" pine. Pine is soft and less likely to scratch the acrylic.





Generally the weight of the acrylic with the clamps on the jig are enough to ensure a bubble free seam. However since this tank is rather small I had to use bar clamps to keep a snug seal. I use weld-on #4 as my primary solvent. It is slower than #3 allowing for small adjustments after application. #3 tends to bond almost instantly.


that's boxter's sump in the background. all four sides.

There are several methods of actually applying the solvent. In this case the capillary method is preffered by me. The "pins" method is for another post generally applies to larger projects.

Now for the Euro top. Draw out your Euro top on the piece. Do a rough cut out so your router blade does not have to work so hard when making the final cut. I use a flush trim bit on a homemade router table. My router is a Porter Cable 1 3/4HP with both 1/4 and 1/2" collets. Then use a strait egde or a wooden jig (in this case more scrap acrylic) and use a strong double sided tape to hold the jig in place and use your flush cut bit to cut out your euro top.


after drilling a stater hole of course.


Corners for larger projects are a little trickier, but still not too hard. I intentionally made this Euro brace somewhat small as I do not know the application of this tank. Users would need a bit smaller brace for hang on applications. In this case it is a 1" brace with a little less that 3/4" in the back just for this purpose.

The top and bottom are attached and weighted. Generally all seams require at least 1 hour to cure before moving. I prefer to wait 2, but sometimes you just cant (like when you wife is yelling at you 'cause she cant park in the garage 8O )



As you can see the top and bottom are slightly larger than the sides. This is so you get a good solid bond and is easily trimmed up with a flush cut on the router.



All that is left is to clean up the edges and polish. I am by far no proffesional and this project is not perfect (like everything else I do) but it isn't rocket science and doable by all.

I'll post more picture when I have it all cleaned up. There was a similar post on "the other site" but my methods are a bit different and I thought I could simplify it a little.

Hope you Enjoy



R-
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Old 08-16-2004, 05:44 PM   #2
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Thanks for the tutorial Sumphead. I want to make an overflow sometime soon and my search for acrylic working techniques hasn't been very productive.
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Old 08-17-2004, 03:19 PM   #3
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Nice work
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Old 08-17-2004, 04:55 PM   #4
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sticky i think!!!!
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A 46 gal bow front (Soft coral) reef tank with a 10 gal sump. And a 30 gal (SPS and Clam) reef tank hooked up to the sump of the 46 so they share water.
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Old 08-17-2004, 06:17 PM   #5
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ok, this is a great informational source and has been sticky-ized!

Thanks sumphead!
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Old 08-17-2004, 06:47 PM   #6
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No sweat! I am glad to do it. Again I will post the cleanup process as well fairly soon. I will do my best to answer any questions.
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Old 08-18-2004, 12:22 PM   #7
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Sumphead, I think that I picked up somewhere that you need to use the "continuous cast acrylic" like you said you are using. My local Lowes carries "Acrylite" and calls it plexiglass. Is this the right stuff? Where do you recommend getting the weldon #4 and #16(?) I also called a local glass place and they said plexiglass is what I needed but this doesn't sound right.
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Old 08-18-2004, 02:46 PM   #8
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There are three types of acrylic: Cast, Continous cast, and Extruded. The difference betweem them is the process in which they are made. They have different densities as listed respectively above. Cast is the strongest as it is most dense. Extruded is the weakest as it is heated to a higher temperature then, well extruded into sheets. All are stong and have thier uses. Proffesionals will not use extruded for tanks (and for large tanks, I agree), but smaller projects it is just fine. Acrylite is a great manufacturer that makes all of the above. Acrylite GP and GT are Cast. Acrylite FF 1/4" and thinner are extruded, FF 3/8" and above are continuous cast, which is somewhere in the middle. For sumps, I have no problem with extruded. For tanks I prefer the 3/8 continuous cast for cost and ease of use. Plexiglass is a generic name for acrylic, though there is a manufacturer who uses the name. There are several manufacturers but Acrylite is most common in the US.

Look under the Yellow pages for Plastics, Plastic manufacturers, and sign shops. Most will carry Weld-on as well as acrylic sheets cheaper than Lowes and HD. Just be advised while these places have extensive knowledge of thier plastics, seldom are they up to speed for water uses.

What are you planning on building?

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Old 08-18-2004, 03:07 PM   #9
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I'm planning on building a hang on back overflow. I think that one of them Cast, Continuous Cast, or Extruded was meant to be better for heat forming. In retrospect, it may have been Extruded, I just can't remember or find the link.
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Old 08-18-2004, 04:53 PM   #10
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Again, the differences are they way they are made causing density differences between them. Extruded would be easier to bend because it is less dense. Also because it is less dense seams are not as strong which is why it sould ot be used for larger applications. For an overflow box 1/4" extruded is just fine.
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