Seeking Advice for Making Screen Top

Discussion in 'DIY' started by MolaMola, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    Decided to remove the canopy and run our rimmed tank open-top for awhile, but want the security of a screen top since it is in a classroom and also we will eventually have more fish. Bought materials to make two half-tops (clear plastic netting for the screen) and watched a BRS video. I have never done any screen work and have a few questions:
    When you push the spline and netting into the groove do you cut separate pieces for the sides?
    When you are pushing in the spline is it easy to twist the frame and make it out of square or does it stay square?
    Do you think it is easy to mess up the first time you try this? I was hoping to make the screens with a few students tomorrow afternoon but I'm wondering if I should try one myself first.
  2. BillT

    BillT Guest

    The last time I made screens, I used masking tape and taped the finished frames to the garage floor to actually screen them...worked great. Very easy. I'm not sure I follow your question about cutting separate pieces for the sides...
  3. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    Thanks for the tape tip. I was thinking of tacking the inside through cardboard but tape sounds great.
    I mean when rolling in the plastic cordage spline do I cut lengths for each side of the screen or use one continuous length? Not sure how to get around the corner. I admit I have only watched one video. Should pay a visit to YouTube.
  4. sjbro

    sjbro Guest

    I used one continous length of spline and turned it around the corners. At the corners I pressed it in using a blunt screwdriver.
  5. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Officer at large

    That's how I've always done it too.
  6. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    Thank you all for the help. We will give it a whirl tomorrow.
  7. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    I did it in the following order

    1- cut aluminum framing & build frame to desired size
    2- cut a piece of screen a few inches larger than frame and lay out over frame
    3- rolled the edges under the frame (frame on the floor) so I can pull the screen tight
    4- started with one side and lined up the screen with the edge and put the spline on that entire side (long side of frame)
    5- went to opposite (loose) side and pulled screen over it tight and rolled the screen under the frame then stepped on it so it stayed taut
    6- holding pressure on the frame I went back to the corner where I stopped the spline & began putting it in all the way around
    7- now everything is in, nice & tight & straight, trimmed excess and stood back to admire my work :)

    aaaand voila

    Geneva likes this.
  8. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    I've built 3-4 of these over the years and it's easy to do. I think it's worth investing in a $5 spline roller.

    You can usually cut your screen frame to length with a cheap hacksaw. I usually lay out the paired sides together when I cut them to ensure equal length.

    Then I usually lay the BRS clear mesh over the assembled frame loosely and clip it in place with something like chip clips or binder clips. Loose fit is key, as the screen will tighten when you roll in the spline (and can cause it to warp if you're not careful.

    If you leave the mesh relatively loose, it's easiest and produces best results. You'll also have a bit more wobble the larger the dimensions of the screen are. It was rock solid on our 29 gal nano, but a single 24x36" lid on our 90 gal does flex a bit. It still works great, though.

    I'm a big believer in open tops with mesh lids. Best of both worlds. Even with an active skimmer, most of the gas exchange happens at the large surface areas at the top of the display (from what I've read).
  9. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    Thank you so much for the great, detailed responses. When we measured the openings we ran into a snag, though - Kessil mounts. See photo. Not sure what to do. 20160322_162611.jpg
    Screen is supposed to sit on ledge.
  10. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    @wpeterson I checked out your tank journal because you also have a DSA tank with Kessils mounted like mine, I think. Couldn't tell from your screen top photo how you worked around the mounts. Looks like it wasn't a problem for you.
    Also saw the fish feeder. So food just drops in through the mesh? Hmm. Great idea. I have 1/8" mesh so maybe I should switch to 1/4" before I make the screen.
  11. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    I sized my mesh top to sit flush against the Kessil mount base, which is about 1" of a gap against the back sill, but the lip is about 1/2" or so, so the gap of exposed space is only 1/2" or so.

    I also attached a DIY feeding ring to the mesh itself, which I cut out of a dosing bottle which sits below the auto-feeder. The auto-feeder also has a mount similar in size to the Kessils which fit within the same mesh top dimensions/gap.

    The mesh lid sits just above the overflow weir, such that the mesh almost closes off the overflow from the display. I had planned to cut a piece of polycarbonate to make an overflow lid, but it didn't seem like it was necessary. If I had a wrasse or a similar wily fish I might have.

    Feel free to PM me if you want any other advice on the lids. I think a plan for two smaller lids and sizing them to fit the front of the tank to the Kessil mounts will work well, if it leaves a small gap. If you have wrasses or are worried, I would fabricate flaps on the rear of the lid to sit flush with the tank top if needed and seal the gap at a higher level. Duct tape will work, but there are higher quality materials/finishes as well.
  12. BillT

    BillT Guest

    @MolaMola how'd it go?

    Sent from my SM-N910T3 using Tapatalk
  13. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    It hasn't gone yet. Reef club meets only one afternoon per week and we didn't get to it, I had meetings the following day and students were all working on their big engineering project due today and tomorrow, so I'm thinking it will wait until after spring break next week. Also considering switching to 1/4" mesh instead of 1/8". Thanks for asking.
  14. tygunn

    tygunn Webmaster

    Just wanted to chime in; its much easier to do than you think it is. Make sure to get one of the "pizza cutter" type tools they sell for squishing the spline in. It makes it a lot easier than just jamming a screwdriver in.
    MolaMola likes this.
  15. Prince Shah

    Prince Shah Supporting Member

    I have used there one from BRS was easy to install however, it blocks 10-15% of lights. I have ecotech XRPro. I would suggest using birds net.
  16. 650-IS350

    650-IS350 Supporting Member

  17. MolaMola

    MolaMola Supporting Member

    We made two screens in April and I highly recommend the BRS kit except I agree maybe the mesh is too fine. Fortunately the frames are awesome so I think we could change the mesh without much difficulty. I think this fall I will have students replace one screen with larger mesh and we can compare the light under each screen.
    On a side note, I also got a screen kit from Innovative Marine for our soon-to-be frag tank. I think we will make one like BRS instead. IM gives you "clear" screen but it is actually white, has thick mesh and is quite rigid. It did not look like much light gets through.
  18. Ibn

    Ibn Supporting Member

    6 weeks lead out time for them to build one. Still waiting for mine.
  19. dswong01

    dswong01 Guest

    I used window screen kit to make the frame and pond netting to cover frame with plastic ty wraps to secure netting to frame . Works great

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