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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Key words in my search indicted : Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, karstic ( ie limestone) mountain plateau, arid, desert-scrub, semi-arid thorn-scrub, cacti, agave, dry grasses ( typical of light soils), pine/oak forest ( typical of dark, red clay soils).
A variety of habitats that fall between lowland and highlands and also the different slopes of a mountain range.
Into the Project:
I decided to chose a dimension of 138cm (L) x 51cm (W) x 62cm (H). ( Roughly 4x2x2). This custom size fits into an alcove with adequate space on each side for ventilation. I chose OSB = Orientated Strand Board* to construct the skeleton which was held together using wood-glue and reinforced along the edges with 2x1 inch pinewood ( photo1).

Photo 1 Main skeleton frame of the enclosure –OSB board & 2X1” wood

*(please do a Wikipedia surf to read about OSB – its manufacturing, properties etc)

I treated the interior with marine grade epoxy resin (this was something left over from another project). This also acted as an adhesive to really bind the wood and corners (this is seen in photo 2 which gives the gloss sheen). The front side then had two pieces of strip-wood glued in place using Gorilla Glue. Clamps prove indispensible to hold the said in place. A third unglued piece of the same strip-wood between the other two pieces is used so as to maintain a groove. A glass fronted wood framed panel will slot neatly between these grooves. It is important to remove the middle piece of strip-wood before the Gorilla Glue sets. A craft-knife can be used to remove excess glue which oozes out from the sides.


I decided to use a AHS 100 Watt heater in this design. To be safe I constructed a division within the enclosure which would accommodate a galvanised 0.5cm X 0.5cm mesh frame . The heater would be mounted on the left hand side wall. To facilitate the maximum heat output from this unit I decided to tile the area that housed the heater. This would reflect as much heat from the glazed surface into the actual enclosure. I was lucky to find a few unused 600 x 300 mm tiles in my Popa’s old shed.
I used a radial tile saw with a wet cutting diamond blade to accurately cut the tiles to my exact specifications. I used Wet Grab silicone as an adhesive and as a grout between any gap.
A ceramic bit and drill came to hand for the AHS unit’s cable to pass through the side of the unit. The AHS was secured to the tile with small screws and rawl plugs.





 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Kingsnake build 2

Next was to construct a dry-wall background using Kingspan. I was lucky enough to also find several large clean pieces in a skip. I decided to use one piece for the right hand side of the enclosure and two separate pieces for the back wall.

Photo 8 Back wall section under construction. Note cocktail sticks holding other pieces in place


I used a panel saw to shear off the top layer of the Kingspan which gave a nice grainy texture. An old heated chisel was used to melt a fissure. Other pieces of sawn Kingspan were used to add layers and Gorilla Glued to the main body of the background. A number of cocktail sticks piercing the layers held the pieces together whilst the Gorilla Glue dried (photo 8). By adding layers I wanted to convey that element of an exposed rock face with sheared surfaces and windswept weathering.



A platform ledge was carved separately and then glued to the back wall after a channel to accomodate it had been cut. The whole was then painted over using oyster coloured weatherproof tile grout. The mixture was applied in several thin layers with adequate drying times between each layer. A start on this application can be seen in the lower right hand corner of photo below.




The first section of the backwall was allowed to thoroughly dry before being spray painted using Rust-Oleum Stone textured Pebble coloured matt finish. A few lighter touches using the same range of Bleached Stone colour added favour. This was also sealed using Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear matt spray sealer. Advisable to wear protective vinyl gloves, goggles and spray out-doors. Follow the product guidelines.


The next stage was to create a hide. A culinary steel mixing bowl provided the mould over which an amount of expandable foam was sprayed. Once set the bowl was simply removed. The base was sprayed with more expandable foam and when ready a flat bottom was sawn for it to sit in the enclosure.
Since the hide is to be positioned up against the right hand side of the enclosure a straight edge was cut on one side and another for it to sit flush against the back wall.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Kingsnake build 3

The interior of the hide was then lined with a section of coir fibre - Gorilla Glued in place and pressed flat with a bag of wet sand. Marine silicone HP6 (black) was also used to seal the top edge of the coir around the rim of the hide.




A tunnel was then carved from the back of the hide that extended around the curvature of the foam towards the front of the side .
Lucky Reptile Coco humus pressed into HP6 black silicone lined the tunnel. This was also used to dress the front of the hide. A small viewing window was cut into the foam too. The outside of the hide was also sprayed to match the back ground walls as described previously. To give a sense of dimension (as though cutting through a section of earth) a few pebbles were pushed into the front of the hide. The hide would sit flush up against the glass of the viewing window. The hide was tested to sit in place within the enclosure.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Kingsnake build 4.

A lid for the hide was made to sit neatly on top. It was one that could be removed without having to take the whole hide out of the enclosure so as to reduce disturbance. A small, waterproof, blue, 9 LED strip light fitted with silicone into the lid’s roof would provide illumination inside the hide if and when needed.

A number of tree branches were cut to length once tried for size within the enclosure. I wanted to have these branches ‘growing’ from the cliff face – as though they had found a crevice to take root and from there grown. Also this allowed them to be set at an angle which would prove better for the snake to climb. The colour of the branches had to match the snake which is why silver and paper-bark birches as opposed to pines or oak would feature in this build. I then decided to enhance the colour using auto spray paints. I had used them in mantis enclosures and no toxicity has over the past few years made itself apparent. The mantis enclosures receive a substantial amount of misting and I use 42 watt heat mats. This is why I deemed the same auto spray paints suitable in this project. Emphasis on CURING times is key – like those projects some of you have built using yacht varnish etc. All are OK provided sufficient drying and curing times are maintained.
I chose a flat matt White as the general tree colouration with Off White and Cream to add hues and tone. A yellow was chosen to represent lichen as too was a vivid Red which would also add to the snake’s needed camouflage, ( red on white). The branches were left for a fortnight thereafter so that the VOC & smell would be minimal. Silicone keeps the branches in place so as to eliminate movement that could otherwise result in injury to the critter.

Additionally, other pieces of shaped Kingspan were made into flat fake rock to be placed on the floor of the viv. A few artificial aloas and grasses were pushed into the base Kingspan. A few lichens, after being boiled and dried, were also put into the scene.


The next stage was to create ventilation paths. I decided to go against the usual design of simply having the push to fit ventilation guards that sat within a predrilled hole and came up with the following design. Using a 40mm core drill bit I drilled into pre-marked holes along the lip of the frame’s base . I decided to place four such ventilation holes on the right hand side of the tank (cool area). Mainly this was to prevent the heat from the AHS and spot lamp from being lost too quickly – which would have resulted if the ventilation holes were placed closer to the hot end of the enclosure. A 40mm diameter hex shank wood drill bit drilled out the wood that the core drill had marked out. The core drill acts as a guide for the later so to speak. Alternatively a Forstner drill bit could have been used to achieve the same effect.




To make sure the ventilation shafts are above the substrate level a section of 40mm pvc tubing came to hand. Placed flush within the hole a small guide hole sees a channel drilled from the front edge of the enclosure to and through the pvc tube. Then a 14mm drill bit is used to drill straight along the guide hole in the same manner and also passing into the pvc tube. A ventilation cap is then pushed into place. I glued this down to prevent it being dislodged by the occupant. A silver washer glued onto the outside of the 14mm hole gave a neat finish.


 

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Discussion Starter #5
Kingsnake build 5


Next was to construct the lid. This comprised of three parts. First was the area over the AHS heater which would be permanently fixed. I decided this piece would simply be screwed down at each corner. Silver foil adhesive tape lines the interior to reflect heat rising upwards from the heater and also to protect the wood from warp.



The second piece of the lid would be hinged and again held secure by a screw at each edge. A section of 10mm tongue and groove measured and cut was then fixed with a couple of heavy duty galvanised hinges. Another piece of tongue and groove of the same measurement was slotted into place and fixed with adhesive along the T&G. This covered half the enclosure. The screws could be unscrewed and the lid lifted back when necessary but the third and final part of the lid would be the removable part which allowed access at any desired time. A Repti-Zoo ceramic lamp holder neatly fitted into and through a predrilled hole in the T&G wood with a Lucky Reptile 50 Watt Halogen spot lamp as the chosen warm spot source. A home-made reflector was secured into place having a 1mm recess chiselled carefully away to allow a snug flush fit.




This section of the lid was slotted into place and fixed to the other T&G using an adhesive. The next stage incorporated Lucky Reptile mini terra fans. Again a position for the fans was worked out. The fans when not working would also act as ventilation points due to the open mesh of their fronts. The inward flow fan was chosen to sit some distance away from the heat sources so as to allow a better gradient of heat up to that point. The outward flow fan would be situated near to the front – perhaps the flow would dispel any condensation on the front viewing panel although this enclosure would be so to speak a semi-arid/arid environment with little doubt on this matter of humidity. With the fans in place a ventilation stream connected air flow from the ventilation points at the base of the enclosure to the location points of the fans.


 

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Discussion Starter #6
KINGSNAKE BUILD 6. (completed).

Again a 40mm core drill bit was used to neatly create a hole in the second section of the T&G lid, approximately this would be situated at the centre of the enclosure. This would hold the inward flow fan – drawing air IN. A square section of 0.5cm X 0.5cm galvanised mesh was stapled over the cut circle and the fan fastened to the outside. The fans do come with fan guards but I had reason to fit the smaller mesh size because anoles would also co-habit the enclosure too.




The outward flow fan – drawing air OUT from the interior was also fixed in place. The next section of T&G was cut to fit. This would fit alongside the section that housed the spot lamp but would be removable if desired by simply slotting out from the T&G since no adhesive would be used. The fourth section of the lid which held the outward flow fan cut to fit would also slot out if desired. This would allow access to the interior of the enclosure such as to remove faeces, place prey items and water in and other such neccesities. I was comfortable knowing the weight of the wood plus the T&G aspect would be sufficient for the lid to rest in place without the snake dislodging any section and escaping. However, a small padlock would also feature at the side for peace of mind.



The exterior of the lid was varnished using Diamond Hard Ronseal clear varnish which allowed good visibility of the wood’s grain and a wipe clean smooth surface. The reason for the mesh is that the enclosure is also shared with three brown anoles. The mesh size prevents injury to them.

A few tweeks here and there will occupy my mind to see that the design is totally finished but I have given a guide as to the projects aim and completion more or less. Hope you folk enjoy my first project thread. Thanks.
Here’s a few more photos :






 

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Discussion Starter #9
The beautiful lad is one of Pete Q's c/b and I am now looking to find a mate for him for next season.
 
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