building tort table

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pdrobber

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ok, so I've decided I'm going to build a table for my Russian tort. sorry for the length of this post but I have no pics since this is just a vision in my head of what I will be building.
I've looked through past threads and got some ideas. I'm thinking it will be about 3.5 ft tall, rectangular, possibly 6'X3', with a lower level a few inches off the ground (not connected by a ramp or anything) but available for another tortoise or other use.

This lower level will rest on support beams which are attached to the 4 legs of the table and will extend out another foot or so in front of the table, making it, the lower level, have more area space than the top level. This bottom level will have two extra support legs in the front to carry the weight of the extra area which extends out past the 2 front legs supporting the top level. This can be used for miscellaneous storage or the housing of another tortoise should I feed into my newly found addiction and fascination with torts...

Each level will have a large hide area of about 1'X3' covered with a hinge top door at one end and at the other end, a screen type cover above which a mvb light will be clamped onto a support beam which will be attached to and extend up from the side wall. The lamp will be clamped securely and be facing straight downward properly and there will also be a screen type cover whether it be one for a tank aquarium or made from chicken wire or another material, as a safeguard in case the clamp fails and the light falls(though it won't fall because it will be clamped so that it is just touching the screen).

I will most likely line the bottom with garbage bags or shower curtain and garbage bags or something else. I'm not sure what substrate I'll use (remember this is for a Russian) since I've heard so many different things, I might include aspen, coir, sand, hay, soil... I'll have the large hide area, plants near the heated end as hide areas and some smaller hides like logs in between. I'll have a slate as feeding place and a water bowl she can sit in/drink from somewhere in the middle.

How does this sound?!any suggestions on wood to use, treating it at all, etc...
6'X3' good enough size for a Russian? and my girl's a climber so I'll definitely have the walls a decent height.
What substrate should I use? something easy to spot clean and can hold moisture but not get moldy...aspen plain or pellets, soil, sand, coir?
1'X3' hide box and other hides ok? will the hide box be too cold being like all the way across the table from the heat bulb? my apartment doesnt go under 70 but you never know with a draft or something... should I use an ultratherm heat mat under the liner I decide to use under the hide?
Oh yeah, and of course I'll be using my dual probe two location thermometer with one probe on basking area and one in the hide across the table...

PLEASE let me know what you guys think, I've made some (horrible, I'm no artist) sketches and I'll try to get them up asap.
 

tortoisenerd

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Some thoughts:

-If you draw us a sketch and scan it in, this will be much easier to comprehend, likely get you more comments, and also aid in your building
-Line it with either shower pan liner, pond liner, or a very very thick shower curtain. Trash bags are no good.
-The higher up off the ground you have an enclosure, the less heat you need to use (ie. saving you money)
-How much building experience do you have? If none, I suggest to start off by buying some sort of cabinet or cheap IKEA table and building a box to put on top of it. Making something multi-story with legs is a huge project. We got a nice dining room buffet for storage that matches our set, and built a table to set on top. Something with legs and freestanding is not a beginner project....not sure of your abilities & resources.
-Think about how you want to fasten it together, and likely due to size, add additional structural support (like angles/brackets).
-I personally don't like permanent hides built into the table because they take up a lot of room and don't allow as much flexibility. You can have plenty of flexible hide spaces. One of the other reasons I don't like them is one good thing about a hide is the tort has something close over the top of them to make them feel secure, and to do this in a permanent hide, you have to do it more with the substrate (unless you build the top closer down I guess...). Also, just because you build an obvious place for your tort to sleep does not mean that is where they will sleep...they tend to be obstinate!
-18 sq ft is a ton of space for one adult Russian; if your tort has a much smaller enclosure currently, you don't need to go that big (in fact going from say 3 sq ft to 18 is actually going to be quite overwhelming), but if you have the space & means, go for it...just remember you have to have substrate & heat & such for all this...ie. more cost, and you can never decrease the enclosure size...only keep it the same or increase it more
-3.5 ft high walls are overkill...even a 12 inch tort with 12 inches substrate climbing on something is less than that...also keep in mind what width of boards you get...your enclosure might want to work around that to simplify it and decrease cost...also think of if this is off the ground than 3.5 ft high, that is very high to reach into to clean & observe
-Plywood is the obvious choice due to cost, but if you are going nice, then pine or oak is good (yes pine is ok for an enclosure, but not substrate...you would however want to avoid using cedar)....take a look at your local home improvement store or lumber yard to see what they have and price it out...do you have your own tools, or will you have them cut the boards for you?
-I love aspen for my Russian...what do you use currently? I do a local pick up from the Beam Farm and get a screaming deal of $20 for 45 lb. I have a huge enclosure and never have to do 100% changes, just take off the top layer and where my tort digs every couple months.
-Avoid hay unless its just for a hide, and avoid sand & pellets
-Cypress mulch, orchid bark, or coconut coir are all good choices if you want to go with a moist substrate (if your tort is a Russian and an adult, there is no benefit really to go with a moist substrate in my opinion)...price them out as honestly it will really vary based on location and substrate
-Log hides can be very dangerous for climbing torts...I'd go with vertical sided containers and boxes, with fake plants from a craft store
-I am 100% against under enclosure heating, but I'm sure others will advice you. Just a personal choice as I think the risks outweigh the benefits.
-I recommend spending the $25+ on a temp gun as it'll be more accurate than leaving a probe thermometer in there
-What are you doing for light, heat, UVB besides the MVB? Make sure the MVB is vertically adjustable. The MVB alone won't heat much floor space, and there is no use having a huge enclosure that is mostly room temp.
-In addition to a plastic liner you will want to seal the wood with something like water based polyurethane, then let it air out for a week
-If you don't have pets, I wouldn't bother with a screen. I'd use a ZooMed lamp stand with a hood fixture with a hanging loop, and have the cord as the fail safe if the stand or fixture failed. Probably easier to rig, and then you don't have to account for the decreased UVB getting through the screen. A wire cover over the bulb might be another easy second failsafe.
 

pdrobber

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thanks! i'm working on a neater sketch right now... I have her in an about 6 sq ft area right now...well I'm not sure if I was unclear but I meant only making the table 3.5 ft tall, not the walls. I'm going to have help from a friend and my dad (both really good at building things) so it's not a problem at all really.I use coir and soil right now. would you suggest some other plain basking lights to heat then? if so, should these be placed relatively close to make maybe 1/3 heated most and then a decrease from there to the other side?

here are rough sketches. dimensions definitely subject to change...
 

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PeanutbuttER

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I'm confused as to why you want to have that bottom enclosure when you have one tort. Do you intend to get another then?

One piece of advice that I would give you is that you can use "shelf" wood from Home Depot for the sides. It comes in different heights and one side is already nicely smoothed and rounded-out for you. Adds a nice touch. That's what I did on mine. Plus, if you know going into things how long each piece needs to be then you can have them cut it for you at the store which = less work for you.

I don't think a shower curtain is going to be any good as a liner with russians as you will really need something more robust. I lined my table with linoleum (which is comparable to a thick shower curtain) and they tore through it in no time. Here's a link to it with a couple pictures of my table as well. It sounds and looks like you'll be making something very similar to my table, though mine has no bottom and yours will have no cut-out plexiglass windows.
http://tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Why-linoleum-isn-t-good-for-digger-torts

and here's a couple pics that may help you. This is how the table looked before I stained it:
DSCF0357.jpg

Sorry for the poor angle. It probably doesn't help you much from this angle. If you'd like I can take more shots of my table as it is now later for you. However, this shows you the wood that I'm talking about for the sides. You can see how it's smooth on the top edge. It comes in different "heights" so you can pick which size you want.
 

coreyc

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Her is a pic of a table I'm working on similar to Peanutbutter just a different anglehope it help's
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pdrobber

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coreyc said:
Her is a pic of a table I'm working on similar to Peanutbutter just a different anglehope it help's
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very nice! i like that second one!
 

jackrat

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I have one suggestion. Just make sure that the bottom table doesn't stick out so far as to make it uncomfortable to stand in front of and take care of the torts in the top.
 

pdrobber

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jackrat said:
I have one suggestion. Just make sure that the bottom table doesn't stick out so far as to make it uncomfortable to stand in front of and take care of the torts in the top.

yes that's something I considered after drawing it out. thanks. definitely no more than a foot. and I may use the cut out wood and plexiglass idea on the top
 
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