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Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds
#1
I started out thinking my Exoterra fixtures looked awesome on my 18x18x24 Zoomed and Exoterra vivs, but after my Bakuis build they looked ... well ... a bit shabby. So this weekend I decide to build two low profile hoods to replace the stock Exoterra hoods with Todd's mini mounts and my existing JungleDawn fixtures. I figured I would make this its own thread and give you more details on how I built the hoods in case anyone would like to build one or improve on the design. So here it goes.

The first post will be the basic "box" construction. There were two main purchases for raw materials - a sheet of sanded birch handy panel (1/2" x 2' x 4' - $16 per board) and 7' of pine corner molding (11/16 x 11/16 - about $5). I decided against using an internal 1"x2" frame for this build to keep the material costs down. The Bakuis build used a thicker internal frame, but I had extra plywood left over after that build so I thought I would try a 100% plywood build. That will save you $8. So my investment in wood was about $22. Other stuff that you will need for this post's work:
  • work surface
  • table saw
  • hammer
  • orbital sander & 220 grit discs
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • finish nails
  • wood glue
  • vacuum for cleanup Smile
  • safety equipment - googles, ear protection, gloves, common sense

Here are photos of the raw materials:
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The next step was to go upstairs and scribe all my measurements on a reference stick. Though I have built a lot of stuff, precision measurements and plans are not my thing. I usually work from templates and scribes where I can, so I went up stairs with scrap wood and pencil in hand to mark my measurements to ensure I could fit the precise dimensions of each viv. I marked the Zoomed measurements on one side (18 wide, 18 & 3/8 deep), Exoterra on the other (18 & 1/16 wide, 18 & 1/4 deep). The slightly strange measurements include clearance for the door hinge treatments unique to each model.

Backing up a bit, the design uses an internal frame that is flush with the outer dimensions of the plastic tops on the vivariums. This frame will sit on a weatherstripping gasket that will float the hood and provide a tight seal. Outer paneling will be applied that drops about 1/4" down covering the plastic frame on the top of the viv and "locking" the hood in place.

I set my fence on the table saw 2" from the blade and ripped 4 x 19" strips of wood for each hood that will be used for the internal hood frame.
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Here are shots of me transferring my measurements to the ripped frame pieces. First the front and rear pieces:
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Then the side pieces - I had to factor in the depth of the front and rear members of the frame:
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Now's a good time to run back to the vivs and make sure my measurements were accurate before gluing and nailing... Arrow ... :roll: ... :lol: ... Arrow ... ok so they fit. Now on to gluing and nailing. On the bakhuis build I used 1"x2" pine for the frame and countersunk screws. I think this hood could withstand a freakin hurricane, so I decided finish nails and wood glue were sufficient for these two hoods:
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Check the frame for square by measuring the diagonals:
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Again, I'm lazy with measurements so I just dropped the frame on my piece of plywood, used two factory cut edges and traced the other two:
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Make the two cuts on the table saw. Apply glue to the top of the inner frame, then set the freshly cut top panel on the inner frame. Fasten with finish nails (I use 5 per side, 20 total). And now you have...a box:
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Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#2
Now that I have the basic box built, I'll build the outer sheathing with a lip that will lock the hood in place on top of the viv. So far we have a 2" high frame and another 1/2" of plywood for the top piece. These outer sheathing will be 3" tall creating a 1/2" lip around the perimeter of the hood. Approximately 1/4 to 3/8 of this lip will be used by weatherstripping to cushion the hood on the plastic vivarium frame, leaving a 1/8 to 1/4 inch overhang around the perimeter of the top to create a seamless clean look.

Again I set my fence, this time to 3", then I ripped 4 lengths of plywood. I started with the two side panels and fixed them flush to the existing sides:
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I repeated the process for the front and back but these strips were slightly longer. Here are all four installed, and now you should be able to see the inner frame's lip that will accept the weatherstripping:
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This completes the basic hood. The next step is to notch out an opening in the rear for cables and misting tubes. I prefer a 2 inch wide opening that is half of the total height of the hood. Here I found the center of the rear panel of the hood, then measured out an inch from either side:
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I then set the height of my blade to 1.5 inches on the table saw. Be careful with this step - I removed my blade guards for this step, but I don't suggest you do that unless you know what you are doing. It's not on me if you cut something off [of you] that you don't want to. Ok, so here is the blade adjustment:
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And the creation of the notch:
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And now we have two hoods of slightly different dimensions, one for an Exoterra and another for a Zoomed:
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The final step for tonight was to apply the top molding. For this you only need a miter box and saw, wood glue, a pencil, and a moving strap (or a way too many big / expensive clamps). I didn't take photos for this step, but you basically miter 45 degree cuts on the pine molding and glue them to the top of the hood. I use a moving strap to hold them in place overnight to help them dry:
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That's it for tonight. The remaining work is to apply the small strips of molding to the vertical edges, measure and cut the top blow hole, final routing and sanding for fit and finish prep, then application of paint. So far the first post required about 2 hours of workbench time, followed by about 45 minutes to apply the molding. Remember I'm building two as I go. More to come some time this week.

And by the way, the mini mounts from Todd at Light Your Reptiles are on their way! I should have them early this week, so I expect to have the hoods installed by the 4th!
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#3
Got back to this project tonight. Three main items were addressed - vertical trim, filler / sanding, and paint. First up, finishing the trim. Here again we'll need the miter box for a nice 90 degree cut. Here is the sequence of making the cut, gluing and holding in place with a strap:

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I let the glue set for about an hour. After that, I completed the most important step - filling in all my mistakes with wood filler. Slight gaps between the molding and irregularities in cuts can be filled in. Here's the filler I used and it glopped on prior to final sanding:

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Next up was the blow hole. This was a 3" (78 mm) hole cut with a hole cutter. This cutter is perfect for an 80 mm fan. You need a drill, hole cutter and a dremel with a router bit attachment for cutting the hole and rounding the edges. Here's the sequence for the cut and routing:

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At this point I took the units back to the vivs for another test fit. If I had found any issues I would have adjusted the fit with a router, but the fit was perfect! I was within a 1/16th of an inch so the fit was snug. I let this cure for an hour. Then I used an orbital sander to smooth out the filler and remove any excess glue. I used hand chisels to fine tune the inner miters on the molding and did a final had sand. I also chiseled in "EXO" on the underside of the Exoterra top - I have one Exo and two Zoomed's so I wanted a way to ID the unique hood in case I jumbled them up at some point.

I used Krylon flat black paint. This is an outdoor spray can paint that is durable and water resistant. Could have saved some money here, but I like the convenience and speed of spraying on a finish. So far I was $22 into this project in wood. Paint added another $7 (1.5 cans per hood - lots of coats). So we're at about $29 in materials. A few coats of paint:

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I allowed the hoods to dry in the garage for about 3 hours, then I moved them (dry to the touch) to the backyard to cure overnight. Tomorrow I will mount the fan and fan guard, install the fixtures, and hopefully wire them up!
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#4
Looking great Jim!
Can't wait to see them on the vivs. Big Grin
-Beth
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#5
Such a great thread Jim, not only are the images and instructions clear and concise, but your using tools that are generally accessible to most people. Kudos!
Scott - North Dallas
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#6
BcsTx Wrote:Looking great Jim!
Can't wait to see them on the vivs. Big Grin
Thanks Beth! I can't wait either - I was doing a check on the fit of the hoods prior to sanding and I turned to the wife and kids who were in the room playing and said "wow look at how great the fit is!"... referring to my 1/16" gap. My daughter, briefly glancing up prior to returning to her go fish cards said "it's ugly....you need to paint it." :lol: totally taken down a peg by a 4YO in less than 10 seconds. So off I went to sand and paint.

RanaVenenosa Wrote:Such a great thread Jim, not only are the images and instructions clear and concise, but your using tools that are generally accessible to most people. Kudos!
Thanks Scott! I got quite a few questions on stand and hood building after my last two threads so I figured I would do a better job documenting these hood builds. Yeah nothing fancy on the tools. You could substitute a circular saw for the table saw, but everything else I use is pretty inexpensive.
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#7
The next step was to install the fan, fixtures and weather seal. I reused fans from my original hoods. These were 80 mm Thermaltake fans with built in manual speed controllers. First I used a sharpie to black out the sticker that will be visible through the top of the fixture. The stickers are used to seal the motor, so you can't remove them on most models.
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Next up were the blue LED moonlights. I used a moonlight fixture from Todd at LightYourReptiles.com:
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Finally it's time to mount the LED fixtures. These are mini-mounts from Todd - about $7 a piece.
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Now on to the installation of the fan guard. I used a 92 mm fan guard to offset the screws from the 80 mm fan mounted on the underside of the plywood. You could drill through the plywood and mount the guard and the fan using the same hardware, but I found this easier.
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The final step in completing the hood is attaching the weatherseal that creates a cushion between the hood and the vivarium. This should allow for any anomalies in your cuts while providing a seal that will allow you to vent your viv through a top opening if you choose (this is what I do).
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That's it! Next post will be shots of the hood installed.
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#8
Wow.....excellent Jim. Can't wait to see pics of it lit up.
https://www.facebook.com/dartden/

https://twitter.com/DartDen


"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".
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#9
Very nice tutorial, Jim!

Like Phil, I'm looking forward to seeing it installed and lit up.
Glenn
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#10
Thanks guys! Here's a series of photos of the installation of the hood. I've focused the shots on the hoods and seams so you can see how these hoods sit on the upper frame. It's a tight fit, but they don't interfere with the operation of the doors but they are fixed in place by that 1/8" lip.
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I'll snap some FTS tomorrow. I need to clean up the glass a bit!
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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#11
Looks great Jim!
If you are ever in the DFW area please let me know...
Smile
-Beth
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#12
Thanks Beth!

I thought I would add a brief summary of the cost / investment into a hood. This should illustrate this is a labor of love and not something I'm going to make money doing :lol:. So here is an estimate for the cost of materials and bench time spent on the project:
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The hood itself without the fan or lamps cost approximately $40 in materials. Note that I am estimating what I used, including partial box costs of items like weather seal, nails, glue and paint. You may have a higher up front cost if you only plan to make one (now come on, who's going to only have ONE viv Wink ). The true cost comes into play when you add the fans and lamps. I had the fans and lamps already, so I was just out $40 per hood, another $21 for mini-mounts, and 4 hours of my time. Be prepared to sink roughly $150 to $200 into this project for a fully functional hood.
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
lorenzo | nominant fants | highlands | summersi | bakhuis | azureus

http://www.oneillscrossing.com/dart-frogs
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