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Old 02/12/2011, 09:39 AM   #1
smithj108
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DIY Triangle Tank

For many reasons I've decided to set upon building a triangle-shaped glass/plywood hybrid-like tank. Sure, it's easy to find pre-fab 100% acrylics, but I'm old-school and for various additional reasons, I want glass, and aside from bow front or round corner tanks, I don't see anything I like. The tank shall support various installation options such as; corner of a room (the obvious one), against a open flat wall (would offer two viewing profiles), and finally as a center display (full 360° walk-around).

That said, I'm in the initial engineering stages of tank design and I wanted hear some validation or alternative ideas.

Tank size is not too big: 3' x 3' x 4' --> 21" tall
Est 45-50 gal

1] Bracing
First is on tank bracing. I don't have a problem with bracing being a part of the design, I'm just not 100% on how to best implement it on this shape of tank. Even more specifically I'm concerned with the glass joints on the two 45° corners. I've attached a pic to help visualise this.

As you can see, it will be a typical right-angle triangle shape - meaning we have one 90° joint (BA) and two 45° joints (BB & BC). Obviously the 90 is pretty standard and doesn't really require bracing. However, on the 45's the glass edges don't fit flush and I doubt I can get them bevelled nor would really I trust the integrity of bevelled edges here. Instead, my current thought is to ironically use a formed strip of acrylic on the outside of the tank and silicon fill (illustrated in red) the entire thing in-place. Other materials might include painted aluminium (uh, not), and wood (bulky). Questions swirling in my head are: thickness of acrylic, how/who can form it, how well silicon bonds to glass and acrylic material?

I'm thinking the acrylic brace wouldn't really need to be all that thick, and if fit tightly would off sound distributed support. Any thoughts?

Oh, and although a brace on the (BA) corner wouldn't be required, I'd opt to have it just to keep the tank aesthetics uniform - I plan to make this an omni-direction tank for viewing from all sides.

Top tank or rim bracing can be either more acrylic, or water-proofing a wood upper frame which could tie into the hood design.

2) Bottom construction
Second, I am considering framing-in the base of the tank. This is where things get very unconventional. Instead of the typical tempered glass bottom panel, I am considering a fully plywood bottom, framed-in, re-enforced with concrete backer board (optional), and typical 2x4 supports, water-sealed with two-part epoxy. Then, for the final inner-layer, I was thinking thin acrylic to protect the water proofing paint/epoxy from being possibly scratched/punctured by live rock and cleaning. Think of the acrylic sheet as a liner for the bottom. It doesn't have to be thick, nor waterproof as the epoxy treatment on the plywood take care of that. Sure, I'd do a good job at sealing the acrylic layer to prevent water getting behind, but I just want to emphasize the acrylic is simply for tank bottom durrability.

See attached pic - not in scale but shows a cross-section of the layers for the tank bottom. Building a custom bottom allows me to construct the bottom and frame as one solid piece and provide the side glass panels rigid support. True, it will be heavy - but strong. The bottom will then interface on top a custom-build stand.

I'd love to hear any thoughts, past experience, or any potential pit-falls in these design - thanks!


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Old 02/12/2011, 12:23 PM   #2
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Rapidfire thoughts:

A triangle sounds like lots of fun.

It sounds like you're making the bottom way too complicated, why not just use glass?

Although I have zero experience building tanks, I would personally try to get the glass beveled. All you need are two beveled edges, and they would drastically increase the contact area that the silicone has with the glass.

Rather than exterior bracing with a strip of acrylic, I would think that a strip of glass fitting tight into each corner on the inside and siliconed in place would add much much more structural integrity.

Happy reefing


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Old 02/12/2011, 02:11 PM   #3
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the only way to do this nicely is to have the vertical edges of the glass beveled....the only problem with this is that drastically increases the chances of catastrophic failure if the edge of the glass it hit...i wouldnt bevel the glass to a point rather bevel the inside so they angles worked and then have the outside beveled to make it flat...errr i will draw a pic...




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Old 02/12/2011, 05:51 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NanoReefWanabe View Post
the only way to do this nicely is to have the vertical edges of the glass beveled...
Quote:
Originally Posted by widmer View Post
Rapidfire thoughts:
It sounds like you're making the bottom way too complicated, why not just use glass?
I guess the real reason is a lack of confidence in my capability. I'm really worried if I do, I'm only guaranteeing myself a cracked bottom glass one day - especially after some settling time has passed.

Most store-bought tanks use plastic bracing and plastic framing on the bottom. I don't have this material so if I were to assemble a 100% glass tank I still need to create some kind of bottom framing (most likely out of wood). So that thought then lead to - if I'll be using wood, why not go full wood bottom, etc...

So I'm bouncing back and forth to tell the truth.

As far as the bevel, I'm going to at least approach the glass supplier on this. Not sure if these folks can do that (I'm sure any major vendor could). I do like the idea of an inner strip of glass however.

Next question: to temper, or not to temper. The supplier can do either. Should I go with harder thinner glass or weaker yet thicker glass? They also can get low iron hi vis glass - not sure the price jump yet.

Thanks!


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Old 02/12/2011, 06:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smithj108 View Post
I guess the real reason is a lack of confidence in my capability. I'm really worried if I do, I'm only guaranteeing myself a cracked bottom glass one day - especially after some settling time has passed.
A tempered glass bottom should be more than adequate for you. I'd suggest probably 5/16" thick tempered glass.

I have personally never seen a tempered glass bottom break under normal (ie, heavy) reef use. I've seen plate (non-tempered) glass split though.

Quote:
Next question: to temper, or not to temper. The supplier can do either. Should I go with harder thinner glass or weaker yet thicker glass? They also can get low iron hi vis glass - not sure the price jump yet.

Thanks!

I wouldn't get tempered for the sides. From my experience, tempered glass scratches easier.


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Old 02/12/2011, 06:03 PM   #6
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How do you plan to clean the front corners?

I saw someone contemplating this same design a few years ago. The reason it was not implemented, was the front corners. If you cannot get into them to clean, you will have to get used to the fact that the corners will always be dirty.


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Old 02/12/2011, 06:17 PM   #7
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I use a toothbrush to clean the corners of my tanks. The only issue with that is that you have to nab any coraline or the harder algeas as soon as you see them when they're still little dots rather than huge patches. Otherwise the bristles on the toothbrush will never be able to get the big, tough spots off.


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Old 02/12/2011, 09:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eznet2u View Post
How do you plan to clean the front corners?

I saw someone contemplating this same design a few years ago. The reason it was not implemented, was the front corners. If you cannot get into them to clean, you will have to get used to the fact that the corners will always be dirty.
I haven't thought about that. Given a corner that has a 45 degree closure, perhaps a magnet scraper might have an issue getting all the way. Perhaps the silicon bead might come into play as well. More things to think about...


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Old 02/12/2011, 09:21 PM   #9
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Before you go too far...take some cardboard and "Mock up" the tank.

Then try to do your regular maintenance in the model.

Also look to see if you will be able to use rock of any size in your tank.
(This shape only lends itself to 2 styles of Aquascaping IMHO, everything piled up on the back corner, or everything piled along the sides.)
Try to figure out how you are going to plumb it.
Where are powerheads/closed loops going to go.
Overflow placement.
Sump - Size, shape, capacity.
Lighting - How are you going to cover the corners?

What I am trying to say is that; it doesn't matter how cool a tank looks/fits in a given area. If you can't work on it to keep it clean and running right, it will become an eyesore.

If it is not easy to keep clean, you won't.

I don't mean to drop a big steaming pile in the middle of your plans...I just would like to see everyone's DIY succeed. I have thought this one out quite a few times, and it always comes out bad.

Good luck with whatever you decide.


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Old 02/12/2011, 09:24 PM   #10
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I would think it would be no problem to keep clean if you reinforced the corners with a stip of glass on the inside as I described earlier. This will blunt them from the inside, and I would think any algae scraper would have zero problem traveling up to the inside seam.

eznet2u - The OP said it would be 3 sides viewable. To me this translates to rockwork coming up the center which IMO would look cool and unique.


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Old 02/12/2011, 09:29 PM   #11
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Wouldn't it be easier to round the corners or angle them with a small side panel?

So instead of re-inforcing make a small "side" so instead of being a triangle if would be a a pentagon of sorts.

What I am really curious about though is what the forces are in the corners of the triangle and how you would cut the angle if it is glass?


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Old 02/12/2011, 09:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smithj108 View Post
The tank shall support various installation options such as; corner of a room (the obvious one), against a open flat wall (would offer two viewing profiles), and finally as a center display (full 360° walk-around).
I took this to mean that he had not decided which way to put it, and wanted to have options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by widmer View Post
eznet2u - The OP said it would be 3 sides viewable. To me this translates to rockwork coming up the center which IMO would look cool and unique.
With 3 sides viewable the Overflow and returns would also have to be in the middle to hide them, but the OP also states that he wanted it to work as a corner tank and/or Flat.
In either of these configurations, your center Rock/overflow/returns simply will be in the way.



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Old 02/12/2011, 09:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NanoReefWanabe View Post
the only way to do this nicely is to have the vertical edges of the glass beveled....the only problem with this is that drastically increases the chances of catastrophic failure if the edge of the glass it hit...i wouldnt bevel the glass to a point rather bevel the inside so they angles worked and then have the outside beveled to make it flat...errr i will draw a pic...
I agree 100%.

Also, to have the glass beveled like this would cost a small fortune.


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Old 02/13/2011, 12:37 AM   #14
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You're already compromising the acute angle corner with the amount of silicone you can get to adhere to both sides, why compromise further with thinner tempered glass? I'd say go with a thicker plate glass and forget the cost of tempered.

You could check out the plywood section of fingerlakesreefdotcom. They have a bunch of plywood builds that could steer you into the proper preparation of a plywood bottom. Some of the beheomoth's they build are bullitproof. Since you only need the bottom plywood, then It should be really easy to follow the epoxy method they have.

Good luck. I can tell you've really got your heart set on this shape, but I gotta say, if it's a 360 viewable position that you're going for, I like the cubes myself. But you may live in a museum where the architecural lines favor the triangle. Who knows, but good luck!
Aaron


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Old 02/13/2011, 12:53 AM   #15
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Oo beveling the edges sounds scary. I would fear the stress on the glass might come back and bite u


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Old 02/14/2011, 10:27 AM   #16
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Great feedback everyone! This is exactly what I was looking for - plenty of options to air out before I commit to a particular design.

Let me try to respond to some of this:


Quote:
Originally Posted by friendlyAlien View Post
Wouldn't it be easier to round the corners or angle them with a small side panel?

So instead of re-inforcing make a small "side" so instead of being a triangle if would be a a pentagon of sorts.

What I am really curious about though is what the forces are in the corners of the triangle and how you would cut the angle if it is glass?

Hence the real challenge and perhaps rarity of this design. I believe the forces on the 45 corners would be the same as a 90 corner, however I would assume leverage may be greater. To be honest, I wouldn't be a fan of adding side panels to avoid the two 45 corners. It would take away from the triangle shape, and simply add more seams (to worry about). I'm perfectly happy with going with some type of dark-tinted acrylic exterior brace if it came down to it. Perhaps that would also help protect these pointed corners from exterior bumps.



Quote:
Originally Posted by eznet2u View Post
I took this to mean that he had not decided which way to put it, and wanted to have options.

With 3 sides viewable the Overflow and returns would also have to be in the middle to hide them, but the OP also states that he wanted it to work as a corner tank and/or Flat.
In either of these configurations, your center Rock/overflow/returns simply will be in the way.
To avoid confusion in this thread, yes I will be installing the tank in the corner of a room, however the omni-directional requirement for the tank and stand design still applies. I want this tank design to be flexible to allow other installation options.

That said, good point, I haven't brought up the over flow really yet, so I'm glad you did. Going with a drilled hole in the center tank, a straight pipe in the middle of the tank would be an eye-sore, not to mention awkward rock placement. What I am thinking is a large (maybe 1.5") PVC down-pipe, but simply route it on the bottom (under the sand/rock) and have it come back up the rear 90 corner. Perhaps a 45 bias towards the rear might work too and help quite water falling into the pipe. More thought on this later.



Quote:
Originally Posted by dogstar74 View Post
You're already compromising the acute angle corner with the amount of silicone you can get to adhere to both sides, why compromise further with thinner tempered glass? I'd say go with a thicker plate glass and forget the cost of tempered.

Aaron
Great point - tempered glass is out!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thepopo View Post
Oo beveling the edges sounds scary. I would fear the stress on the glass might come back and bite u
I'll still ask the glass supplier about beveling. But as mentioned earlier, I have no issues with external (or internal) bracing.


Glass Thickness??

Given that tempered glass is out, what size glass should I go with. For my estimates, I've pretended the tank is a complete square - 36" X 36" X 21" tall. But it might be better to estimate of a 48" panel, since that's the length of half this square.
So 7mm - 9mm thick seems to be what I'm seeing. Is this correct?

Flat working surface??

I was asked earlier why not go with all glass bottom. Thinking more on this, one of my fears is a lack of a true flat surface at my disposal. I don't think my masonry garage floor is really plum flat. If I knew how to guarantee a flat and level surface I would have way more confidence. For example, one school of thought would be to construct the stand 1st, maybe using one of my free glass panels as a flat reference or guide to build a a temporaray oversize FLAT table top, then I'd be able to glue the tank together having full confidence. I cannot stress this enough, you can have the most perfect and plum tank assembled and all it take is a crappy surface to crack glass or bust out a seam.


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Old 02/15/2011, 10:00 AM   #17
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I think I am becoming more and more a fan of using acrylic framing/bracing at the two 45 edges. I feel better about having something to protect the glass edge from potential external bumps (you never know) anyways. In addition, I thought about adding another acrylic wedge on the inner side as well just to add more contact patch. I'll still look into glass beveling, but still go with this molding. That said, would silicon adhere well to internal acrylic strip (as I'm positive it would be next to impossible get a glass strip in this shape)??

More so, this acrylic fabrication should be well within my capabilities. I was thinking on going with black acrylic and black silicon. I know brace-less / trim-less tanks are the trend theses days, but it's not my preference on this style tank. It was pointed out earlier that these corners might be a nuisance to keep clean anyways, so why not hide much of it with these moldings while offering secure structural support and external protection.

Oh, I am now leaning 80% towards doing a full glass bottom. 10mm un-tempered sounds about right?


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Old 02/15/2011, 10:19 AM   #18
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I wonder how hard it would be to just use a plug-in sander to bevel the edges yourself? I was talking to the local glass shop because I'm planning to pick up some glass panels and then score and snap; I asked them how to take the sharp edge off and they said it's really easy to just sand it down with sandpaper.

Although I don't build any tanks, I really do think that sanding/beveling to create flat surfaces to join is really your only option. That acrylic trim is going to do basically zero for actually holding the glass together, although it would be good to help protect the glass from getting chipped.

Also, on the inside, I think if you are going to add an additional strip of anything it should be glass. Silicone adhesion is much better for glass than acrylic...

Silicon is that black stuff that microchips are made out of.


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Old 02/15/2011, 10:38 AM   #19
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I think I am becoming more and more a fan of using acrylic framing/bracing at the two 45 edges. I feel better about having something to protect the glass edge from potential external bumps (you never know) anyways. In addition, I thought about adding another acrylic wedge on the inner side as well just to add more contact patch. I'll still look into glass beveling, but still go with this molding. That said, would silicon adhere well to internal acrylic strip (as I'm positive it would be next to impossible get a glass strip in this shape)??

More so, this acrylic fabrication should be well within my capabilities. I was thinking on going with black acrylic and black silicon. I know brace-less / trim-less tanks are the trend theses days, but it's not my preference on this style tank. It was pointed out earlier that these corners might be a nuisance to keep clean anyways, so why not hide much of it with these moldings while offering secure structural support and external protection.

Oh, I am now leaning 80% towards doing a full glass bottom. 10mm un-tempered sounds about right?


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Old 02/15/2011, 10:44 AM   #20
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I think I am becoming more and more a fan of using acrylic framing/bracing at the two 45 edges. I feel better about having something to protect the glass edge from potential external bumps (you never know) anyways. In addition, I thought about adding another acrylic wedge on the inner side as well just to add more contact patch. I'll still look into glass beveling, but still go with this molding. That said, would silicon adhere well to internal acrylic strip (as I'm positive it would be next to impossible get a glass strip in this shape)??

More so, this acrylic fabrication should be well within my capabilities. I was thinking on going with black acrylic and black silicon. I know brace-less / trim-less tanks are the trend theses days, but it's not my preference on this style tank. It was pointed out earlier that these corners might be a nuisance to keep clean anyways, so why not hide much of it with these moldings while offering secure structural support and external protection.

Oh, I am now leaning 80% towards doing a full glass bottom. 10mm un-tempered sounds about right?


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Old 02/15/2011, 11:00 AM   #21
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why not make the whole tank in acryic? that way it wouldnt be any need for silicone, or any of this mind-irritating things =P you just cut the plastic peice in the shape you want and go! =)


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Old 02/15/2011, 11:46 AM   #22
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Well, if you want an explaination, acrylics are very very nice looking (new), but not friendly on up-keep - IMHO. No offense to acrylic tank owners, I'm not complaining about whether it's possible or not to keep one well maintained (obviously acrylics can be very well maintained - with proper disciplined care). I am talking about "my" maintaince style - or should I say lack-there-of. If I don't have to touch the tank - I won't! In the past I've had times where some coralline got established on the glass. While scolding myself for letting the tank go so far without regular cleaning and care, I said with razor blade in hand, "gee, I'm sure glad I don't own an acrylic tank!" Glass is just easier "for me" to deal with and affords me the latitude I need given my busy lifestyle.


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Old 02/15/2011, 07:35 PM   #23
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your inner glass strips can simply be 3/8" or even 1/2" glass rods, lay in a bead of silicone, squish the rod in and run more silicone up either edge of the rod...

the acrylic mouldings (not exactly sure what your going to use) are as mentioned going to do basically nothing for strength...and the panels really need to be beveled otherwise the seems are going to fail..silicone gets its bonding strength by bonding to something other then itself...in your drawing you have about 1/1000th of an inch of glass in contact with the other glass panel (where the two inside corners of the panels meet)...in other words of your two half in pieces of glass you only have 1/1000th on an inch of bonding surface...not near enough to hold a tank together...the big wad of silicone on the inside and outside will do very little to hold the tank together as silicone is relatively weak when bonded to itself, it will be very tensile and tear easily...


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Old 02/16/2011, 09:02 AM   #24
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Nano, I appreciate the concern, and I agree with your assessments considering the “inner” contact surface areas lacking to hold it together. I also agree with your point that the silicon beads and fill areas do nothing for bonding strength. And even more agreement that areas with a thin layer of silicon against flat equal surfaces are the ideal bonding joints and yields the greatest strength. Thus, for the sake of my example below, we'll call these ideal areas "contact patch".

I believe the confusion (and this may include me – haha) is with the brace implementation and understanding what forces this external brace is actually opposing/supporting. So let me try and explain:

Please refer to the attached pics. I highlighted in green the surface areas that will yield the most adhesive strength (i.e. contact patch) for each type of bonding scenario.

Pic # 1:
Looking at Fig-A, some of the contact patch is on the opposite side (exterior). I believe THIS is what is so controversial about my brace strategy. True, it's hard to get one's head around the physics here. Tank forces will want to push the glass panels apart and against the braces exterior contact patches. However, the brace will want to bend in the center while urging to "slip off" the corner – but to bend it would need slack, and the only way to get it is if the exterior contact patches bonded to the glass gave way. Therefore, for failure to occur, the brace would either need to split right down the middle, OR slip off one of the contact patches between the brace and the exterior side of the glass. I tried to illustrate this in Fig-B. As you can see, a lot is ridding on the brace! This is why the additional inner strip would be desired.

So the forces on the brace are 1) pull-apart, 2) contact patch slipage.
Acrylic thickness play into #1, while contact patch length plays into #2
Outstanding question would then be:
- how thick acrylic would be required?
- should we lengthen the exterior contact patches (widen the brace)? I feel if one did this, then the acrylic itself wouldn't have to be so thick because the main forces on it is trying to pull it apart. It's not easy to stretch or pull apart acrylic.

Pic # 2:
These pics illustrate more proper (stronger) examples to bond the side panels using only glass. However beveling will be required (except for Fig-E). While Fig-E doesn’t require beveling the panels, it does require a beveled strip of glass and who has the ability to create an inner glass triangle rod shaped like that! And, no I don’t feel a round rod would provide what I define as contact patch.


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Old 02/16/2011, 10:58 AM   #25
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A big part that's missing from your equation here is that silicone doesn't bond to acrylic nearly as strongly as it bonds to glass. If it were me, I still wouldn't count on it to do anything other than protect the edges from bumps.


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Big tank and vertical seams Belgian Anthias Do It Yourself 15 11/18/2009 02:34 PM
any triangle tanks out there? Ehgemus Reef Discussion 2 07/28/2008 09:01 AM
Triangle DIY corner tank nitrotmann Do It Yourself 26 08/12/2007 04:51 AM


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