How To Make a Fish Tank Stand with Hidden Storage and Aquaman LEGO® Scene
I needed to make a fish tank stand and went all out with hidden storage and an Aquaman and LEGO scene with epoxy and LEDs! This fish tank stand is totally tricked out. If hidden storage, LEGO, LED, fish tanks, aquaman, or just making in general is your thing - I bet you'll enjoy this.
This post contains affiliate links, for more information see my disclosures page.
Check out the tools I use.
I’ve been experimenting with bringing metal into my builds and I want to experiment more with the direction I took with this project. Instead of the metal being the star of the show, it takes a support role, literally, to let me reach my vision. Because there’s no way the wood could carry the weight of a fish tank after I cut it all apart.
The metal work for this is stupid simple. Just two rectangles that are connected by two uprights. Instead of messing with miters, I decided to try this tab/half lap kind of approach and it worked okay. I did my best to get it square, but we’ll talk about that later.
Once I knew the frame should be able to carry the weight, I moved on to cutting the back and side pieces from some 1/2” plywood at the table saw.
To hold the plywood together while I work, I drill some pocket holes in the back of the back piece. To make it easier to screen the sides square to the back, I clamp both pieces to the right angle fence thing I made during my bunk bed build.
But, when I go to slide the case over the metal frame, I find out I cut the back a little small. So I spaced the sides from the back with some popsicle sticks. Everything will get bolted to the frame later so there’s no strength issue, I just needed the pocket screws to hold everything together to check it as I go because I don’t have five arms, yet.
So I move on to the tedious process of getting tapped holes in metal so I can bolt the case to the frame. I start by punching divets where I want holes so my drill bit won’t slip around. Then drilling pilot holes, and chasing those holes with the right size bit for the 8-32 tap I’ll be using.
The frame was reasonably square after re-welding the really bad joints with my speed squared clamped in place, so I finished tapping all the holes in the frame. Which is just putting threads in the holes so bolts will screw into them without needing nuts.
The tapped holes need to be transferred to the wood, so I slide the case in place and then just mark all the locations and start drilling. There was honestly a moment here where I was worried about how to drill the holes in the corners, but I remembered I could just unscrew the cover pieces and the world was okay again.
The first hole I drill was just big enough for the bolt shaft. I want the bolt heads to be recessed though, so I come back with a larger bit and counter sink those holes.
Then I just bolt the sides to the frame. Some of the bolt locations went through the pocket holes, but those are just extra now anyway.
Now that the frame has some more rigidity, I do a few more strength checks before moving now.
It’d be a waste for this to not have a storage compartment, so I mark out some pieces in place and off camera cut them down and add pocket holes. Some of these pieces will run into the upright part of the frame, so I notch it them out at the bandsaw to fit around the angle iron.
During this project Bessey sent me some right angle clamps to try, and I’ve gotta say it’s a lot quicker to set these up than my big fence jig for screwing pieces together square.
The first thing I did was knoll my LEGO so it’d be easier to grab the pieces I needed, then I laid out the plates to get an idea of how much surface area I could make. I thought the best approach would be to lay out the river bed and then build out from there. There’s not too much to say about it, so I’ll shut up.
To build the supports I just took some scrap plywood and marked them in place, cut them down, checked and cut some more, notched out for the angle iron, and added some pocket holes.
To screw the LEGO shelves in place, I put the entire scene in the cabinet, adjusted it into position, and then screwed all three into place.
Now for the front piece and its cut outs. I cut it down a little oversized and add countersunk holes for the bolts just like before, then bolt it into place.
The cabinet isn’t perfectly square, so to make sure the front corners aren’t wonky I trim the front to size with a flush trim bit in my palm router.
Laying out the cut outs means I need to know where the LEGO meets the front, so I do my best to mark out the top and bottom profile on the front and side pieces.
Then I pull off the front piece and get to laying out. For the bottom of the reveal, I have to make sure it stays within the profile of the LEGO. But the top is pretty free form. I just sketch some ideas and tweak it as I go until I like it. (MIKE - this might be a bit short, so add some footage after the VO if needed)
I cut everything out with my jigsaw, drilling some relief holes as needed, and then repeat everything on the sides once I’m done.
This second LEGO installation wasn’t part of the original idea. I knew I didn’t want a square door cutout renewing the aesthetic of the piece but wasn’t sure how to blend it. Then it hit me to do another installation and use that to hide the door. So that’s what I did, mostly repeating the steps from cutting out the other LEGO reveal on the side.
This installation is just a panel and not a whole scene, so I needed a different way of supporting it. I added a sheet of plywood I could kragle the panel to hold it in place.
But I also had this weird void between the cubby and the LEGO that would be visible whenever the door is opened, so I made a filler block. I made that part of the LEGO with more straight lines so that filler block would be easy to make.
With the LEGO panel snug in place I can mark it’s profile on the front piece. I screw it into place and then get to marking. I can’t reach all of it, so I just mark where I can and then when I take the front off I line the panel up and mark out where I couldn’t reach.
For some reason it hurts my brain for the lines to not be connected, I have a really hard time sketching if my boundary is a dotted lines so I take a minute to connect everything before sketching out my design.
It seemed easiest to start this by just cutting both pieces in half first, so that’s what I did. And since I’ve already proved this can all be done with a drill and jigsaw, I go to the bandsaw to speed up the process this time.
There aren’t uprights in the front to bolt the front piece too, so I add some pocket holes and mounting blocks for when it’s time to permanently attach the front.
I bolt the front on and chamfer the reveal to get more depth to the edges. I use a 45’ chamfer bit with a bearing for this. And yes, I did said chamfer and chamfer, so whichever way you like to say it, now you can comment that I said it wrong - you’re welcome.
The bit doesn’t get into the corners well at all and I don’t like the rounded look, so I broke out my sanding pad and tried to sharpen the corners. That wasn’t really working well though so I switched to my chisel and that worked like a charm.
Now for one of my least favorite parts, I come back with spackle and fill all of my screw holes and cover any exposed plywood edges. The alternating grain of the plywood soaks up paint differently, so if you don’t cover them somehow then the lines are really obvious even after painting.
To make sure the door will open fine I add some feet to raise it off the floor. I just picked up some levelers from the box store and then drill and tap holes into the frame to screw them in to.
I had some primer on hand from a different project, so I put it in my sprayer and spray a few coats of primer. After it’s dried, I come back and add a few coats of paint to the inside and outside.
Now it’s time for the tricky part, pouring the epoxy river over the LEGO. I make a little dam with some packing tape for the bottom of the river where it’ll be deep, then tape it on.
Then I start mixing for the pour. I’m using Total Boat 2:1 epoxy resin, some pigments, and alcohol dyes. The cups that Total Boat sends with their epoxy makes mixing big patches super easy. The preparation for this pour actually started weeks ago. I did a lot of experimenting to figure out how to get a water like texture, cover the waterfalls, and get the right color and shimmer. I’m not going to go into all of the details because I’m still kinda figuring it out. I’m using a vacuum chamber I bought just for this project to get the bubbles out of the epoxy. I learned that not required, you can still get a really good pour by just doing thinner layers and using a heat gun to pop bubbles, but with this I can go a little thicker without worrying about bubbles. But now we get to see if my miniature experiments translate to this big pour.
Well it seems to have worked pretty well. Not much of the Total Boat epoxy seeped through the cracks and it only warped the scene a little bit. The toughest spot was the corner I dammed up. It wasn’t smooth at all, so off camera I cleaned up and did a skim coat of epoxy to make it smooth.
It’s almost time to put in the LEGO installations so I remove the front and remember I haven’t installed the LEDs yet. So I drill a hole for the power cable that’ll be hidden by the waterfall and then add the LED tape. It’s pretty sticky, but I had a few drops of CA glue here and there as insurance.
Fortunately, the main LEGO scene slides in without any drama. It’ll be locked in place so it doesn’t get any kragle.
The bottom piece won’t be as locked in though, so I add a little kragle to make sure it doesn’t come loose -
And then I reinstall the front. This is the last time though. So I also add some screws into the mountain plates and the pocket screws. Of course this also means some off camera putty work and touch up paint to hide the screws and blend the seams.
Then the last step of assembling is adding the cubby door with some overlay hinges and this thing is ready for a fish tank!