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Ball Rack Construction.

Discussion in 'General Construction' started by Dragoness, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Since we have 5 of them now, with the distinct possibility of breeding in the future, I decided it was time to start a rack for my Ball Pythons.

    The plan so far:

    8 clear sterilite tubs, each approximately 17x34" - 6 inches deep. Housed on a rack made of plywood, sealed with polycrylic.

    11" flexwatt tape under one end of each tub, all run on a thermostat.

    LED indoor/outdoor rope lights along the back in order to have a photoperiod. This will be run on a timer.

    Keeping it simple. More concerned about function than appearance. Not painting or staining anything.

    Husband cut the wood for me yesterday. Spending today sanding, and applying layers of polycrylic. Right now, the shelf boards (each 18x36") are spread out on my kitchen floor. Later this evening, or maybe tomorrow, we will begin assembly.

    For the thermostats that come with a probe, how does that work with a rack system? I can't place the probe in a bin, because the bin has to move regularly, and would tug at the cord. Do I place it over the flexwatt between the back of the bin, and the back of the rack?
  2. CryHavoc17

    CryHavoc17 Elite Member

    With the heat tape I tape my probe directly on top of the heat tape so it sits in between the tape and the tub. Youll have to experiment with your thermostat setting to get your 90 deg hotspot in the tub.

    If at all possible I really think you should try and build a small gap between the tub and the flexwatt. I really hate the idea of the tub sliding back and forth across the tape. It seems to me like thats a great way to wear out your tape faster and possibly cause problems. Thats all just personal opinion/preference tho
  3. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    The downside of that is that the thermostat I like has a bulky probe. if I had to guess, 3/8".

    Going to leave a little excess space in the layers to accomodate the tape, but I am not sure how to raise the bin off of it, aside from putting little felt feet or something similar, on the bottoms of each bin. Easy enough to do, though.
  4. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    actually, I have a ton of thin plywood in the garage (1/4" and less) that can be used to boost the bins and give the tape some protection (and breathing room.)

    Will have to do that, would be more sensible. Just make a frame of inch-wide pieces to outline the area where the heat tape is, and put a few strips down the length of each shelf to make the bins level as well.
  5. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    I honestly wouldn't worry about it unless you plan on opening tubs 10+ times a day or something. The plastic on heat tape is faily thick for what it is and you can always put a couple strips of aluminum tape over the "rub" spots where the tubs slide. Remember, most of these racks are built from melamine, and if the tub doesn't wear throught that thin plastic, it won't hurt the heat tape. For the probe, I just tape it down beside or behind the tub and use the heat gun to check what I need for an offset to get correct temps. And just me, but I wouldn't do the light at the back, they will get plenty of light from the room. Or if you feel you just want to, put the light at the front so they still have a dark area at the back.
  6. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I do plan on opening the bins once or twice a day for misting, checking water dishes, etc. Never thought about using the foil tape to provide a layer of protection that won't diminish heat transfer. That would simplify things drastically.

    Another look at the bins - the bottoms are not flat. Each one has a slight lip on the bottom that raises the floor of the bin off the surface it is resting on. This lip runs around the outer edges of the floor of the bin. While I'm sure it will sag and touch the floor in the middle, if any weight is resting there, near the ends (where the heat tape will be) it is less likely to do so.

    Got all the shelf boards done, with 3 layers of polycrylic yesterday. Next time Husband and I are both home, we can assemble the rack. After that, I just need to install the flexwatt (which I am going to order tonight.). Then we are pretty much good to go. With any luck, that means this project can be done within a week.

    The new snakes are still in quarantine, and all of them look really healthy, so I want this rack done soon, so they can move straight in when they are out of quarantine. Maybe in as little as 2 weeks.

    It will also simplify the whole room. Some of the functional, but not-so pretty cages, or ones that are getting rough around the edges from all the moves they have been through can be tossed. What's left can be upgrades for other animals in the collection. Moving all the balls to a rack will free up a lot of space to upgrade the ones who need it. Display cages are nice and all, but the maintenance of them is getting old. I'll keep a few. The rest of my snakes can live on racks, where environment is easier to control.
  7. CryHavoc17

    CryHavoc17 Elite Member

    Sounds like a good plan! Cant wait to see how it turns out
  8. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Twice a day still shouldn't pose an issue, and the foil tape can be carefully removed and replaced if needed, just take a lot of patience. I too want to see this finished, I've thought about building one this way before, cause melamine is heavy and kinda sux to work with. Plywood is stronger, lighter, and wont have the issues with moisture.
  9. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Putting the rope lights on the front would be impractical. They could, however, be mounted on the side - one end or the other.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I can't remember what thickness of Ply I am using. But we bought 3 sheets, and it's all we need to make a rack that will house 8.

    I imagine I can replace the foil tape as often as needed, which won't be horribly often, by turning off the heaters, and using goo-gone to get all the gum up before re-applying tape.
  10. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    I really would skip the lights, unless you plan on having this rack in a completely unlit room, they get plenty of day cycle from the other cages/windows/lights in the room. And the aluminum tape in my experience comes up and takes the adhesive with it, if your slow and patient about pulling it up. Just re did a rack not too long ago and all the tape came up fine, it just took a while.
  11. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    The reason I want the lights is because of observations with my Ball Pythons. One has a cage directly in front of a south-facing window that gets several hours of natural sunlight each day. (screen lid to keep it from baking) and that snake is FAR more active than my other snakes. He is inquisitive, curious, and practically diurnal. He is also my best eater. It has me curious if more light to make a better day/night cycle might be more important than I thought.

    The room is lit, and has a window, so they do get some light, but nothing approaching natural daylight levels. While an LED isn't perfect, it will at least give them some illumination. It's kind of an experiment, to be honest. I plan to keep the LED on a timer for a year (so I can see how well they eat for me next winter.) If it doesn't seem to change anything, then I can assume it won't really make a difference for them.

    Here is a picture of my "diurnal" Ball python enjoying the view, lol.

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  12. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    So far, this is turning out quite affordable. Right now, it's about $290 for the whole project, and it houses 8 snakes.

    Started with 8 bins from Target for a little over $8.00 each (on sale) $70.55 after tax.

    Got from home depot, 3 sheets of plywood, foil tape & electrical tape, LED lights. Total trip came to $123.52 after tax.
    LEDs are optional, and were about $30.

    From Beanfarm. I bought flexwatt, connectors, and a thermostat. With Shipping, it was $81.83

    A quart of polycrylic was about $14.

    Or, roughly, $37 per enclosure, lol. That's dirt cheap.

    I already have cords and timers for the flexwatt and lights.
  13. CryHavoc17

    CryHavoc17 Elite Member

    Which tubs are you going to be using?
  14. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    They are sterilite 1960 tubs. Just did a google search on them, only to find out Animal Plastics uses them for some of their racks, lol.
  15. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Mine will actually look something like this, but made of plywood instead of particle board. Also sealed with polycrylic.
    And my bins will be uniform, lol.

  16. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Had a few delays - shipping for stuff took a little longer than I expected, and I forgot to order the insulator clips as well. So, had to place another order.

    Everything is here now, and husband is playing with the wiring right now. After that's installed, adding the LED rope light, and then the back panel for stability. Then we are done.

    Pretty simple so far: 4.10.14. 202.jpg
  17. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Installed the flexwatt today. Next step is the LED's, which I may do tomorrow. They will be a bit of a challenge, since the rope stuff is pretty stiff.

    After that, we need to add the stabilizers on the back of the cage, to keep it from wobbling, and to prevent the cages from sliding out the back, but we didn't want to do that too early in, because it would make installing the flexwatt and LED's a pain in the butt.

    So here we are for the moment:

    4.10.14. 205.jpg

    My only concerns are the staying power of the foil tape on the wood surface. It has been sanded and coated with polycrylic, but still it isn't glass-smooth, so I wonder how well it will stick... we'll see. I may be re-doing it sooner than I thought.

    Allen thinks the ceiling of each cage may be rough enough to give the snakes snout rub if they are persistent. I know I sanded it about half a dozen times, and put at least 3 coats of polycrylic on it, sanding in between coats, so it's pretty smooth on that side. We have decided that if problems arise, we will simply get the stick on vinyl shelf-liner, and add it to the celings (stapling as necessary).
  18. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Doesn't look too bad. Unless you didn't get ply that was sanded both sides there really shouldn't be an issue with nose rub. As for the tape, that stuff is very aggressively tacky, so I'd be really surprised if it ever moved before you try to remove it yourself. Now here's a couple things to think about for the next build, if there ever is one. You'd have been better off with the wood grain of the ply shelves running lengthwise rather than having them cross grain. Even with plywood, this matters and will give greater stability to the build. The next thing is the corner reinforcement pieces, which are a really good idea, but you could have put them in so they would be on the top of the shelves, that way they'd be where there is already a space created by the angle of the tubs, and the whole rack becomes a couple inches shorter. Probably doesn't matter for most people, but I've spent too many years cramming too many cages into too little space, so a couple inches can make a lot of difference. Still a really nice build though. If you have any ply left, a 6-12" wide strip on each end, going the full height of the rack will take care of both the stability and tub stopping nicely. Really looking forward to hearing how this works out for you once it's done.
  19. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I think that would be more practical than our initial idea of adding horizontal pieces across the back of each shelf.

    We sanded the heck out of the side of each board that was going to be facing the interior of each tub for just that reason. I doubt it will be an issue, but it will be something to watch out for.

    The tape peeled off on it's own overnight, so I need to figure out something else. I may pull the flexwatt off, and try to sand, and add more polycrylic to that end of each shelf. I guess it needs a smoother surface.
  20. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I'm thinking a coat of paint may help. Have most of a gallon left over from doing the kitchen a few months ago. I don't mind the rack being blue, lol. Applied the first coat, once it is dry, I'll sand it, and do a second. After that, sand it, and add polycrylic, then try the tape again tomorrow.

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