My Home Depot Tortoise Table Adventure

By | June 4, 2014

Recently, we bought a red foot tortoise. We bought it without realizing how much space the thing really needs.  Subsequently, we bought a habitat that is too small for him. I was determined to figure out a solution to the problem.  There was a spot in our house that would make a good home for the little critter. 6 feet wide by 2 feet deep on a raised counter.

I found myself in Home Depot trying to figure out if I could buy materials to build the new tortoise house, also known as a tortoise table.  I said to myself, “It’s a box.  How hard could it be?” Well, the devil is in the details.  Apparently, everything about building  a box is difficult.

I was asking questions of the staff and they were extremely helpful, but they had differing ideas about the right approach.  We thought it would be smart to have plexiglass walls so we could see in.  By brainstorming and other techniques, I inspired the staff enough that they made an exception to the rule and said, “Let’s build it here!” (Apparently they don’t regularly do that.)

One of their associates, Wesley, spent about 3 hours with me building this thing.   Here are some photos of the experience.

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Lessons about Plexiglass
It shatters.  It reminds me of this video from the Hudsucker Proxy.

  • If you don’t score plexiglass properly, it shatters!
  • If you try to saw plexiglass, it shatters!
  • If you drop plexiglass, it shatters!
  • If you screw into plexiglass, it shatters!
  • If you drill plexiglass, it shatters!
  • If you don’t put cement on top of if while trying to snap it…it shatters!

On tip: to make a hole in plexiglass, use a drill bit and drill BACKWARDS.  The heat from the drill bit will melt a hole through.  Do not drill forwards…it shatters.

Needless to say, it was a challenging material.  I should have only put it in the front.  I should have used wood for the back and sides.  It’s MUCH easier to cut and screw in.

The saying, “Measure twice, cut once” should be put on the walls of Home Depot everywhere.  It is the most important rule.  Things do not line up magically.  This was a painful lesson indeed.

I still have alot of work to do.  I need to coat the bottom with polyurethane so that it’s waterproof.  Then I need to get substrate and bedding, maybe a few plants.  Finally, I need to make a perfect water spa lounging area and it will be complete.

It’s pretty cool making things, but I sort of wish Ikea just had one of these I could buy.  This tortoise better stay alive and appreciate it.

Thanks Wesley!

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