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 How to build a vivarium by Matty18714
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King Snake Admin

United Kingdom
1512 Posts

Posted - 21/02/2009 :  17:56:04  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is a viv building tutorial written due to a request. I work in inches so I apologise to people who use cm and mm!

This should be the finished project:


~ 8ft by 4ft sheet of marine plywood
~ 400 inches of roof baton (green tinted timber with a cross section of 1.5 inches x just under an inch
~ 150-ish chipoard screws No.8 (4.0mm, 1 inch long = 25mm, cross head screws)
~ 4mm Perspex (toughened glass can be used) 55 inches x 21 inches
~ Clear varnish, I used - Ronseal quick drying varnish, satin, clear (comes in a bright blue tin)


~ screw driver
~ A work bench is very helpful but a sturdy table will work.
~ Jig saw***
~ Drill****
~ 3/32 inch drill bit
~ counter sink drill bit*
~ set square
~ sand paper
~ 2 clamps**
~ straight legnth of wood over 4ft for a guide and a ruler
~ a few peices of scrap wood


~ "I WILL finish this job"


The Shell:

This should be the result of the first few stages:

1. Start by marking out (with pencil) onto the sheet of plywood. Make sure you get it right because there cant be any mistakes without sacrificing a few inches off the dimensions of the viv! Use a set square to make sure all the lines are at 90 degrees.

2. The cutting. This is where you need the scrap wood, clamps and the straight peice of wood. The jig saw will mave a small metal guard on either side of the blade.

You can use this to move along the egde of the stright bit of wood so you dont cut off course. line up the blade of the saw to a cutting line and mark where the guard finishes.

When you have done this on both peices of wood clamp the staright peice of wood across the board where the two marks are. Use the peices of scrap wood to go on the under side of the plywood so the clamp doesnt dent it.

Once all the lines have been cut you need to work out the size of the batton needed for each side.

Draw the outline of the battom on the side you want to be the INSIDE of the viv. Do this for the whole of the back pannel. This picture is an attempt at showing where the battons need to be, (the black is the viv outline and the green are the battons). R.s = right side, t = top, f = front, b = back, l.s = left side.

Start buy marking out the whole of the back pannel. *REMEMBER* Look at "The Shell" photo. The sides go on top of the base, not on the side of the base (this is to stop the viv scatching the floor or surface it is put on to). Because the sides are on top of the base, you need to compensate for the extra distance inwards on the top and bottom.

*NOTE* Please refer to "The Shell" photo when marking out the battons. You will notice that some battons are screwed sideways to a pannel and some are screwed upright. E.g. here on the bottom left corner its easy to see.

Once all the pannels are marked out you are safe to cut the battons to size. Mark which one is which my numbering each corner and batton end the same.

After every batton has been cut and marked out, you can start to drill the holes for the screws. Mark out the centre of the batton on the plywood to make sure the screw will be in the middle of the battoning. You only want to drill the plywood, not the battons.

Marked out batton position:

Marked out batton centre with drill hole cross:

You dont want the screws any more than 6 inches apart or any less than 5 inches.

When drilling the holes, drill from the INNER SIDE out towards the OUTER SIDE. This is because if the plywood was to split, it wouldn't matter because the hole will be counter sunk. after you have drilled a group of holes, change the drill bit to the counter sinking one. You want to drill into the plywood to the same depth of the screw head. This is so that the screw lies flush with the surface when it is screwed in. When counter sinking the screws, you want to drill from the OUTSIDE towards the INSIDE. It is only a shallow hole.

At this stage, all the holes should be drilled and counter sunk, and all the battons should be cut to size and read to go. Its now time to assemble the viv. When putting it together, make sure the base is on a flat and level surface or you will get a wonky viv! Its good to have another pair of hands to hold the pannels upright while you screw them in.

Sand the edges of the plywood down so they arnt splintered.

You should now have this!:

You will now need to varnish your viv. Work using the varnish manufacturers instructions. (for the varnish i used it was 3 coats for untreated wood, looks good now).

Its now time to make some air holes. I chose to drill air holes instead of fitting a vent. If you chose to drill them make sure they are small and that there are plenty of them spread across the viv. there will be no air circulation if they are all in one corner of the viv.

The runners I used were bought of ebay for about 7-8. I secured them with contact glue. I am going to buy another 4ft length of top runner to atach to the sides of the viv to stop the perspex from flexing when it is pushed near the edges from the inside.

The perspex can be cut in the same way as the plywood, using a straight bit of wood clamped to the material as a guide.

A few tool pics:





All text and pictures typed and taken myself.

Thanks for reading guys!

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