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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Acrylic fabrication is something that I really enjoy. I am by no means an expert, but I have worked with it quite a bit. I have made calcium reactors, protein skimmers, overflows and sumps. This is an image of my calcium reactor that I later turned into a canister filter/CO2 reactor combination.

Anyway, following in the tradition of Dennis' great woodworking thread, if you have any questions or need help building things out of acrylic, please post them here. I and others will try to help. I'll post my work here as well. I'm currently working on a protein skimmer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It actually is really easy once you get the hang of it. Just need a few good tools. Specifically, a good router, router table and a table saw.
 

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Art, great idea. Thanks:)

Could you maybe give a few quick points or basinc info about working with acrylic. Maybe a quick little cheat sheet of the tools and different materials, joinery methods, etc. I have been meaning to do this for hte woodworking thread but life is not being kind lately:(

Thanks fopr starting this.
 

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Is there any structural reason to not make an acrylic tanks with five flat pieces as you would with glass? You only see acrylic tanks that have the front and sides formed from a single bent piece, which adds a lot of complexity for the home DIYer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Dennis, I'll do that. Little later today though.

Bharada, most acrylic aquariums are made from 5 flat peices. There are a number of acrylic manufacturers that bend a piece of acrylic to create curved edges of bow fronts. I don't recommend that a hobbyist do that as it requires large ovens to achieve a bend in large 1/2 inch thick acrylic.

You can bend thinner pieces using a heat gun of heat tape, but this is more of an advanced technique.

To build an aquarium, use 5 flat pieces.
 

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Thanks Art. Seems like all the acrylic tanks I see locally (mainly TruVu) are three pieces (not counting the top bracing) and have a flat front face. But the sides are bent off of the front. The backs are usually colored acrylic.

I know how hard it can be to get a good bend using a heat strip. I used to fabricate assembly fixtures and molds out of acrylic in a long past job. The thickest material I ever worked with was 1/4" so I can't even imagine how hard it would be to try bending a 1/2" sheet with DIY equipment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For those of you contemplating building something out of acrylic, here are some tools you'll need.

1. Router, router table, good acrylic router bits
2. Table saw with a good acrylic blade
3. Glue: Weld-on #4. No. 40 for certain applications
4. Pins or thin wire
5. Some sort of flat weight. I use bricks wrapped in duct tape.

That's it. The rest is up to your imagination.
 

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Thanks Art.

I have 2 more questions though. First, what traits would a good acrylic router bit or saw blade have? I am assuming the bit would be a sharp carbide spiral bit and the saw blade would be a ATB (alternate top bevel) but I could be wrong. Also, what are good bit and blade speeds for working with acrylic?

Thanks:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Dennis,

Really depends on how much acrylic work you're going to be doing. For a one off project, good carbide blade or bits meant for fine cuts would work.

If you are looking for a good cut that won't cause melting, you need to look for acrylic specific products. For blades, look for triple chip with a negative rake. I bought a Freud for about $90. It has a triple chip grind, 3-degree hook and .110" kerf. You are looking for 60 - 80 teeth.

Same goes for router bits. Carbid buts will work for one-off projects. Specific acrylic bits from Unsrud if you are going to do more than one project.

As far as speed is concerned, anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 ft/min is what is required. Based on my blade, I'm at 9,000. However, I've found it just as important to feed the piece at just the right speed. Not to slow or too fast. You get the feel once you practice a bit.

At the end of the day, you want a good clean cut without chip outs or melting.
 

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Got any sources for decent prices on sheet acrylic?

I'm quoting an aquarium for a customer built into the end of a bar, 24"L X 24"D X 18"H, I've built several of these in glass but quite frankly, I'd like to build the tank in my shop and take it to the job site after I build the column that supports and the weight is getting to be a bit much for a middle aged man :shock:

It would have a solid surface underneath it supporting the bottom piece and the vertical corners would have 3/4" oak frames covering them to take the minimal load from the top of the column (it actually hangs from the ceiling).

What thickness acrylic would I need in your opinion as well?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Troy,

Depends on whether you will use a top brace for it or not. I would recommend 1/2 Acrylite GP from Cyro. Here are a few resources for you.

Check out the Cyro Website for good information on building aquariums and calculating thickness.

I've uploaded an Excel spreadsheet that will calculate thickness for you. You can download it at http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/files/tankthicknesscalculator.xls.
 

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Hey Art,

What is the router for? Half lapping/ mitering the joints? Also, I notice you mentioned that the tanks you make use 5 pieces. Do you not use top braces?

Aaron
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Well, I should have said, the tanks I've seen made. I've not made a tank. The tanks I've seen made are thicker so that you don't need the top brace.

The router is for everything- making holes, finishing edges, rounding over, making O-ring slots, slos for the tubes, etc.
 

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Ebay has a section on acrylic pieces, most are left over stick from CNC machining, etc... can usually get good deals on smaller pieces.

Also. I'd rather get "Cell Cast" acrylic over normal stuff, as the cell cast is said to be stronger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Great points.

If you can strike up a relationship with a local acrylic shop, they will usually give or sell you their scraps. Ebay and other portals also have excess items you can purchase cheaply.

For aquarium use, always go with cast acrylic. Extruded acrylic is cheaper but won't last in an aquarium setting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Andrew,

Thanks for the link. However, I would disagree with the tools and jigs used in that summary. If you are looking to build an acrylic aquarium, I would refer to ReefCentral's DIY forum.

Tools would include Weldon 4, wire, router, table saw with acrylic blade and assorted jigs.
 

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Art,

That's an excellent source that I have overlooked. I'm still in the learning phase of tank making. More to come if I can manage to put together a reasonable prototype that would be of interest to the Board.

Andrew Cribb
 

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Art,
Do you have any experience in bending acrylic tubing? What would you recommend I use to keep the tube from collapsing while bending? I know they use springs when bending copper pipe, so is there an equivelant tool used for bending acrylic?
 
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