Intro: Concept for a Sculptural Aquarium Installation // LOOKDOWN
Sometimes found objects or scrap materials can be a starting point for a great work of art or design object.
Using simple materials the LOOKDOWN was designed as a concept prototype for a large-scale aquarium installation.
Update: Click Play to See Video Above
Step 1: OVERVIEW – Inspiration
The inspiration for this project came from found scrap pieces of bamboo panels left from a construction project. I was particularly interested in the patterns of this type a panel. It was the interesting crosshatched pattern that inspired me to use it in my own project. I knew it could be a great furniture piece or a small prototype for a bigger project. Immediately, I decided on a rectangular shape based on the dimensions I had available. Having two different board thicknesses, I chose the thicker pieces for the walls and thinner ones for the back.
The basic form is a box, but it was important to me that the details of the joinery were done with strong, elegant design. I wanted to take advantage of the specific patterns to create a clean design so that it would appear to have a continuous line of bamboo strips on all four angles. I came up with a particular way of cutting the edges, and also wanted to join the walls without any visible elements such as screws or bolts. One of the best ways to achieve that was to use specialty furniture tool such as Biscuit Joiner.
Despite its small scale, I used a variety of different tools to achieve the final results.
Please refer to Step 5 for the list of all of the tools and other materials used in this project.
Thank you so much for taking a look, and I hope this project will inspire you to make something using found objects or scrap wood.
Step 2: SKETCH - Idea Creation
As with most all of my projects, I try to sketch out or develop the idea on paper before start making the project.
The seed idea for this project was to experiment with wood patterns to make angle joints as if they are seamlessly connected. The challenging part was to figure out the way to cut all the pieces according to its size without wasting any material. Also, I wanted to incorporate other elements to make it a complete and unique piece.
Though I started with a basic plan, it was important to be flexible and improvise with the materials. Looking at the materials helped me to see that it could be a prototype stand for aquarium installation. I liked the idea of having a small tank next to the sculptural box element, and adding a piece of Manzanita Driftwood from the pile of aquarium driftwood I already had.
Here are some of my sketched ideas for this project
Step 3: WORK IN PROGRESS - Preparation
First I had to prepare each board by sanding it, using a sander to take off the existing layer of sealant and scratches. I used 100 grit sandpaper for sanding off the sealant, and then finished it off with 250 grit for the final step.
Considering other objects I had, such as the plastic box, which measured 4" on all sides, I had to cut all boards based on that dimension, so the final wooden rectangle measured 4"x12". Now it was time to cut the wood.
When it comes to using a saw, there are many different ways and techniques to achieve a certain cut. I used a table saw to narrow three long boars to 4 inches (two thicker ones for the sides and one thin for the back). Instead of using table saw with a miter gauge, I chose to use miter saw for the crosscuts, which also measured 4 inches. So, I ended up with two long boards that measured 4"x12", one back board that measured 3.75”x11.75” and two 4”x 4” pieces for the sides.
Note: even though the back long board needs to be 4"x12" I'm subtracting thin edge strip from each side which would later compensate for the loss, please refer to the photo.
If your table saw has a kickback guard you would have to remove it for the next steps.
Step 4: WORK IN PROGRESS - making the Joints
The joints are some of the most important elements of this project, so each angle had to be cut precisely with extra attention so that it's perfectly aligned with the adjacent angle.
Instead of a ruler, I used one of the other wooden panels to set the thickness of the blade. Once the blade was set, I made all of the necessary cuts for that specific height and width.
Please refer to the images, which are in the sequence for each measurement and cut.
It was a good practice for me to make a trial run with a different piece of wood at the beginning to see that all of the angels are aligning. With this specific type of wood, I could make two different joints and still retain the beauty of a continuous line.
Please refer to the images of two different joints
Even thought the 1st example was easier to make, I felt that it didn't connect as cleanly as the 2nd one. I knew I had to make joint cuts first, and later use a biscuit joiner and glue to attach all of the pieces together. So, once I figured out how to make exactly the joint I wanted, it was a matter of taking the time and safety precautions to make each identical cut as precise as possible.
Please refer to the images on how I made the cuts.
Step 5: WORK IN PROGRESS – Biscuit Joints and Glue
Once all of the pieces were cut and aligned the way I wanted, it was time to use the biscuit joiner to make grooves in the wood. I chose biscuit joints because they are strong and hidden completely inside. First I made pencil marks on all sides where the grooves were to be made. Then, using the biscuit joiner I made all of the grooves at the same time. There was one scenario where I had to increase the depth of cut from #0 to #20 so that it could reach to a desired depth. (see photo)
It was good having two boxes because I could use least favorite one as a test.
Now the final step was to glue all pieces together.
First I apply small amount of glue into a biscuits groves and using an old brush to spread it around, applying more glue if needed. I was joining one wall at a time and then finished the bottom piece at once. At this point, it helps to work quick so that the glue won’t dry out. After that, I placed the wood biscuits into the grooves and applied more glue onto the opposite joint spreading around with a brush. Than using a rubber mallet, I lightly tapped around the entire piece making sure there were no gaps. Lastly, using clamps for each corner, I tightened it all down and let it dry.
Step 6: FINAL STEP – Photos of Display
To finalize the display, I cut a piece of driftwood into sections that would be fit into the boxes and glued them into place. This gave the look that the wood was piercing all the way through both boxes.
Even though it's only a prototype concept for aquarium installation, it could be used for other purposes too.
NOTE: Live fish and shrimp were placed ONLY for photography purposes to give the feeling of a real aquarium presence.
Thank you for checking out my project.
Step 7: MATERIALS / TOOLS / GEAR
Here's a list of Materials and Tools I used for this project.
MATERIALS // objects
- Bamboo Panels – Found, Scrap Material
- Driftwood – Manzanita Aquarium Driftwood
- Plastic box – 4” Square Display Box
TOOLS // equipment
- Table Saw – primary tool used for most of the cuts
- Miter Saw – used for the crosscuts
- Biscuit Joiner with#0 Wooden Biscuits
- Wood Glue
- Sander with Sandpaper – I use grit 100 and 250 to make surface smooth and scratch free.
- Pencil and Ruler and Measure Tape
- Super Glue (Gel)
- Clamps - quick grip clamps work the best
- Rubber Hammer
- Photography were shot using Sony RX100 IV - This is a great point-and-shoot camera for small documentary work.
Step 8: SAFETY
With this kind of work, I had to be extra careful with every cut I made. Notice that I use push stick and extra wood blocks to push the wood against the saw fence. So always be aware of the placement of your hands and fingers and NEVER rush.
It's always a good idea to make a trial run with a different scrap of wood before cutting the final piece.
When using tools, I always use safety eyeglasses, plus ear protection, and dust mask as needed.
- Safety Equipment
- Safety Glasses or Goggles
- Ear Protective Headphones
- Dust mask when sanding
- Push stick for Table Saw
As with any project, remember that safety always comes first!
Note: This project was intended only for intermediate and advanced individuals who have had experience working with table saw.
-Yev aka TANKRIUM