Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

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Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:16 am

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 :)
  • safety equipment - googles, ear protection, gloves, common sense

Here are photos of the raw materials:
hoodBuild-01_2637.JPG
Raw materials - handy panel and molding.

hoodBuild-02-trim_2638.JPG
Close up of the trim I will be using to finish the edges.

hoodBuild-03-trim-partNum_2639.JPG
Trim part number.

hoodBuild-04-panel-partNum_2640.JPG
Handy panel part number.


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.
hoodBuild-05-rippedFrame_2641.JPG
Ripped frame pieces, 4 per hood, 2 inches wide, 19 inches rough cut.


Here are shots of me transferring my measurements to the ripped frame pieces. First the front and rear pieces:
hoodBuild-06-scribeMeasurements_2642.JPG
Front and rear measurements.


Then the side pieces - I had to factor in the depth of the front and rear members of the frame:
hoodBuild-07-scribeDepth.JPG
Transferring the measurements to the side pieces. I had to factor in the depth of the front and rear pieces.


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:
hoodBuild-09-frameGlueNail_2646.JPG
Fastening frame with finish nails and wood glue.


Check the frame for square by measuring the diagonals:
hoodBuild-10-frameAssembled_2647.JPG
Squared up frame.


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:
hoodBuild-11-scribeTop_2648.JPG
Transferring top measurements.


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:
hoodBuild-12-topInstalled_2649.JPG
The box...inner frame and the top of the hood.
Jim from Austin
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:44 am

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:
hoodBuild-13-outerLipSides_2650.JPG
Side panels installed.

hoodBuild-14-applyingGlue_2651.JPG
I was generous with the glue for these outer pieces. I used scrap wood to spread it evenly.


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:
hoodBuild-15-boxAssembled_2655.JPG
Fully installed outer sheathing.


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:
hoodBuild-16-cableAccessMeasured_2657.JPG
Measuring the notch for cable access.


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:
hoodBuild-17-settingTSdepth_2658.JPG
Adjusting blade height.

And the creation of the notch:
hoodBuild-18-removingMaterial_2659.JPG
Rough cutting the cable notch.

hoodBuild-19-cableAccessRough_2660.JPG
Notch is done!

And now we have two hoods of slightly different dimensions, one for an Exoterra and another for a Zoomed:
hoodBuild-20-twoHoods_2661.JPG
Two hoods!


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:
hoodBuild-21-applyingMainTrim_2663.JPG
Glue down the molding, strap in place.


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
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:10 am

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:

hoodBuild-22-miter_2684.JPG
Miter box.

hoodBuild-23-cuttingMolding_2677.JPG
Making a cut.

hoodBuild-24-glueMolding_2678.JPG
Glue molding in place.

hoodBuild-25-strap_2679.JPG
Secure vertical molding with strap.

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:

hoodBuild-26-filler_2680.JPG
Wood filler.

hoodBuild-27-applyFiller_2681.JPG
Example of wood filler applied to a corner.

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:

hoodBuild-28-blowHoleTools_2682.JPG
Prepping for drilling...

hoodBuild-29-blowHoleMark_2685.JPG
Find center, set back 2.75 inches from inner edge of molding. This positions the exhaust over the front portion of the viv where I have placed my vents in the glass top.

hoodBuild-30-blowHoleDrilled_2686.JPG
Drill the hole...

hoodBuild-31-blowHoleRouted_2687.JPG
Rounding the edges of the blow hole.

hoodBuild-32-readyForSanding_2688.JPG
Ready for sanding and paint!

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:

hoodBuild-33-painted_2689.JPG
Paint applied!

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
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby BcsTx » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:51 am

Looking great Jim!
Can't wait to see them on the vivs. :D
-Beth
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby RanaVenenosa » Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:39 am

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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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:46 am

BcsTx wrote:Looking great Jim!
Can't wait to see them on the vivs. :D

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
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:46 pm

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.
hoodBuild-34-fans_2692.JPG
Blacking out the fan labels. These are about $10 per fan.

hoodBuild-35-screws_2695.JPG
About $7 of hardware...

hoodBuild-36-installingFan_2693.JPG
Install the fans. I used washers to get the spacing right so the screws did not penetrate the entire sheet of plywood. This will be a theme for the balance of the build, using a variable number of washers to adjust the screw depth.

hoodBuild-37-fanInstalled_2696.JPG
Fan is mounted!


Next up were the blue LED moonlights. I used a moonlight fixture from Todd at LightYourReptiles.com:
hoodBuild-38-installedBlueMounts_2697.JPG
Installing the moonlight brackets. I stacked washers to get the height right to use the factory screws.

hoodBuild-39-installedBlueLED_2699.JPG
Snap in the moonlight and done!


Finally it's time to mount the LED fixtures. These are mini-mounts from Todd - about $7 a piece.
hoodBuild-40-mountingFixtures_2700.JPG
Two washers per screw for the mini-mounts. Three mini-mounts per hood.

hoodBuild-41-lightsMounted_2701.JPG
All three fixtures are mounted.


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.
hoodBuild-42-fanGrillScrews_2704.JPG
Installing the fan guard - two washers per screw.

hoodBuild-43-fanGrillMounted_2705.JPG
Mounted guard - roughly $2.


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).
hoodBuild-44-weatherseal_2683.JPG
The weatherseal - one box can service two hoods. $3 per hood.

hoodBuild-45-weathersealinstalled_2707.JPG
Cut the seal in half, use one "D" per run. Here it is mounted.

hoodBuild-46-weathersealCorner_2708.JPG
Corner with the weatherseal installed.


That's it! Next post will be shots of the hood installed.
Jim from Austin
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby Philsuma » Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:36 pm

Wow.....excellent Jim. Can't wait to see pics of it lit up.
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby frogfreak » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:35 pm

Very nice tutorial, Jim!

Like Phil, I'm looking forward to seeing it installed and lit up.
Glenn
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:46 pm

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.
hoodBuild-47-hoods_2710.JPG
Angle view of both hoods.

hoodBuild-48-hoods_2711.JPG
Front view.

hoodBuild-49-exo_2712.JPG
Exo on left.

hoodBuild-50-zm_2713.JPG
Zoomed on right.

hoodBuild-51-exoSeam_2716.JPG
Close up of the fit on the Exoterra. This is a view across the front.

hoodBuild-52-exoSeam_2721.JPG
Exo seam looking down the side.

hoodBuild-53-exoSeam_2720.JPG
Zoomed front seam.

hoodBuild-54-fan_2722.JPG
One more fan shot. Don't know why I like the look of top mounted fans lol


I'll snap some FTS tomorrow. I need to clean up the glass a bit!
Jim from Austin
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby BcsTx » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:55 pm

Looks great Jim!
If you are ever in the DFW area please let me know...
:)
-Beth
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Re: Exoterra and Zoomed 18x18 low profile hood builds

Postby joneill809 » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:23 am

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:
hoodBuild-55-costs.png


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 ;) ). 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
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