Lighting support idea

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
So here's something I'm planning on trying out in the near future. I'm looking to change my lighting so I can progress from a FOWLR tank to a reef tank and I wanted some flexibility in placement, plus it's a bugger to actually get above the tank (there's not much room to maneuver) so I want something easy to put up, too.

The plan is:

  • To use 80/20 to build a rectangular frame, just a simple rectangle of aluminium 2' by 6' on the inside.
  • To get 3 of these metal grilles, 2'x2' each. They come in packs of 2, so I guess I'll be buying 4 of them, but hey.
  • To get some of these to attach to the metal grilles.
  • And then to hang the lights (Kessils in my case, although there'll be some AI Sol Blues as well soon) using the standard hanging apparatus for the light onto the magnetically attached hooks.

The hooks are here already, and they are pretty darn strong. They come off the metal grill on my server rack front reasonably easily if you angle them up, but pulling them off without doing that is much harder. I think they'll easily support the weight on a grille that dense. The one above isn't as dense as the one I've tested with (which is the only one I happen to have here) but I guess we'll see. If needs be, I can find a better grille.

Finally, to attach the grille to the 80/20, I'm planning on using a 3D printer to create two halves of an interlocking part that slots into the T-Slot on the 80/20 and also captures the edge of the grille. I'll put a couple of those on each 2' section on both sides (3 at the edges) of each 2' x 2' grille and it'll be locked in place once the 80/20 slides over the 1/2-T-slot of both halves.

The reason for the grille is of course to reduce the weight of the thing, to make it easier to attach to the ceiling and the use of hooks means that the lights can be placed and moved at will. I'll be 3D printing some corner-pieces as well which will be used for mounting the whole thing to the ceiling - and maybe another pair of brackets for halfway down the long piece.

Ideally I'll be able to just mount two corner-pieces to the ceiling without any extra support, slot in the 80/20 rectangle, and then mount the other two corner pieces while the far end is supported, which ought to make it a one-man job.

Another point is that the grille has two sides - so if the mounting pieces have a bit of a standoff, things like the PSU and wiring can all be supported on the top of the grille while the lights hang down. You also don't *have* to use magnets, you could use wire attached directly to the grille with the usual crimps, but then you lose the flexibility.

Anyway, things are on the way, I'll update this as I learn more :)

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
Please include some pics when done.

I will. This might give a better idea of what I'm talking about


With the silver part being the 80/20, and two other parts that mutually hold each other in place in the 80/20 groove. The orange part has slots in it that correspond to the mesh of the wire, and the red part prevents the wire from escaping. It can't escape itself because there's no room for it to rotate out. I suspect a dab of superglue would probably work just fine to stop the two from sliding away from each other horizontally.

Put 2 or 3 of these on each side of each 2'x2' segment and you have a locked-in-place wire mesh. The gap behind the crenellations on the orange part is sufficient for at least one more row of mesh, which means no matter how any given piece is cut (and they'll all be cut differently), they'll always be in exactly the same position relative to the 80/20. That means I can design a corner piece to fit a fixed distance for each side away from the other at the corner, and also provide the stand-off for mounting on the ceiling.

I might trim off some of the rounded edges to make it an easier print (less support) but hopefully the idea is clear

Vinny Kreyling

Premium Member
Looks like a nice fitting solution but may require some alterations.
Depending on how the mesh reacts to being bent, it might be better if the red piece was designed with squares that fit inside the mesh. This would "lock" everything down & allow for alterations when & if needed.

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
I did think of doing that (as well as putting sides on one of the pieces, or notch/tab to prevent lateral slip), but figured it could be an “iteration” along the way because it adds some complexity to the model and tightens the tolerances for how the 3d-printed parts fit together. First thing is to see if it’s at all viable, *then* make it better :)

[edit] it’s also just occurred to me that I’m over-thinking it wrt the magnets. It’s a mesh. An ‘S’ hook would work, and can’t lose its grip.
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Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
Well, it works in principle :)


I'll have to play with the tolerances around the T-slot part (it was too narrow and I had to expand it to get it to slot in) but once the holder is in place, it's stiff to move it around, and it's rock-solid when trying to pull it off.

Mesh ought to arrive "tonight by 10pm" [aside: that's *really* stretching 'next-day delivery' guys] so I'll see how it works with the mesh probably tomorrow.

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
That is a very cool idea. Please, more pics!

I'd love to show more pics, but Amazon isn't playing ball.

  • I had a delivery of the mesh that was supposed to arrive last Wednesday, but it didn't turn up - they just issued me a refund.
  • I had another delivery that was supposed to turn up yesterday, but that didn't arrive either. I'm in the "wait a while and see if it turns up" stage right now.

I did make another run on the 3D printer yesterday with three different tolerances for the bit that goes into the 80/20 and found one that that was "just right" - it goes in and slides easily, but it's very secure once in there.

Once I had that, I evolved it with a tab/slot on both sides of the top and bottom, so they lock together and can't slide away from each other when they're in the 80/20. I set that going last night, and am about to go out to the garage to see if it worked :)

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
Ok, well Amazon delivered. That's the good news.

The bad news is that stainless steel isn't necessarily magnetic, and in fact this one isn't. So the magnets are out completely if I go with the mesh I was planning to.

The other bad news is that the mesh isn't as strong as I'd hoped (and it comes folded, which is just annoying). The main problem though is that I'm not sure if the grips at the edge would hold once the centre was weighed down with lighting.

The other other bad news is that the mesh didn't *quite* fit my design for the grips, though that's the easiest thing to solve - I'd just make the slots slightly wider and that'd be fine.

Anyway, paying some lip service to "three strikes and you're out", I'm going to try a different (definitely heavier at 8lbs) mesh, and see if it fixes the above...

  • It ought to be easy to adapt the grips to the new diamond-style mesh. It's just a different type of block to lock in place.
  • It can be cut with tin-snips if 2'x3' isn't a good fit, although it happens to be pretty much perfect for me if I put 2 side-by-side
  • It looks like it's made from galvanised mild steel, so it ought to be magnetic, and its thicker too, so the magnets ought to hold better. The galvanising ought to help with the salt in the humid air.
  • If you don't want to trust magnetic hooks, the diamond mesh ought to help with inserting S-hooks like these
  • It's about the same price for the coverage I want (2'x6') because although a single unit is more expensive, it covers more area too.
So, new material, same plan. Mesh arrives Tuesday (well, maybe...) and I'll go from there.

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
The new sheet turned up, and it's far and away better than the old one. It's stiff (but still slightly flexible), it weighs about 8lbs so it's still pretty light, and the larger holes will actually let wires thread through them a lot easier, so once your fixture positions are known, you could tidy it up and just have the wires hanging down directly.

The cool thing is that this mesh is galvanised and *very* magnetic. I can pull the magnetic hooks off if I twist them, but honestly, I'm not sure I could pull them off "straight up" like they would be when the lights are hanging down from them, without seriously flexing the steel mesh. They are *really* well held on.

On the DIY front, it's even better. I think the best way to mount this is going to be to let the sharp edges go inside the grooves on the 80/20 (or 20/20 or whatever you have lying around), and just butt-up the corners.

To make sure it doesn't flex out of position if a heavy weight was put in the centre, I'm planning on using grey zip-ties at intervals along the mesh. Ideally, the bulge at the head of the tie would slot into the groove on the 80/20 on top, but I'll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

The cool thing is that there's no 3D printer needed, just
  • Get the frame sorted - I'll use a 6'x2' with a centre-strut at 3'
  • Make the short struts exactly 2'
  • Lay it out and mark off where the long pieces will need to be cut
  • Chop-saw (or hacksaw) the right place on the long pieces
  • Screw together at the corners using brackets, and zip-tie the sheet periodically

The screwing-together will need L-brackets (and I'll be 3D-printing mine) but any L bracket that lets you put screws into T-nuts to hold them together will do. Probably best to do the brackets on both top and bottom of the frame...

The plan is to put in ceiling-anchors - one at each corner, maybe one in the middle. I went for the three-screw anchors, so there ought to be plenty of "hold". Once those are in place at the corners, choose your hangers of choice and suspend the frame.

Hook up the lights, and Bob's your auntie's live-in lover :)

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
So having played around with some scrap 80/20 (this is black, but the "real" stuff will be silver to match the mesh) and the mesh, I've re-thought how I'm actually going to mount it, when the pieces come in...

Here are views from both the "underneath" (left) and top-side (which you won't see from below) of the rack:

It couldn't really be easier - just get the T-nuts, some (better-sized) washers and the bolts and screw it together. I opted for the (expensive!) round corners because I had them lying around from a previous project, but an angle-brace would work just as well.

I'm going to lay it out over the tank like this (not to scale!):

... for an 86" by 26" rack, slightly shrunk by the overlap of the mesh on the 80/20.

The corner pieces will be where I hang the rack from - and that's the only place I'm thinking of 3D printing now - even that you could manage with an L-bracket to provide the hole in the corner and just hang from that hole.

One more thing - here's one of those magnetic hooks holding the whole thing up in the air - just to give an idea of their strength. I think I'll definitely go with the magnets :)

I'm expecting the parts to come in on the 25th, so probably no more updates till then...


New member
I am dumb. What is the point in this? Hanging your lights from the ceiling and being able to retract the light frame up? Or move the lights out of the way entirely?

If it is to be able to move the lights away for more clearance to access the tank from above then why not just use a pulley system to swing the lights away?

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
Not dumb, I just didn't explain it as well as I should have... I have about 2' of clearance over the tank, and only have access to a 36" wide tank from the back. Being able to get to the front of the tank is made significantly more difficult with all the hanging lights.

The original goal (for me at least) is to be able to unclip a light and move it out the way if I need to get to a particular spot in the tank - and then move it back again afterwards. My current system sort of allows for that, but it's basically a single piece of 80/20 with rollers for the lights to move left/right. This is a 2D version of that.

Once I'd had the idea though, it also seemed ideal for perfectly positioning the lights - my aquascape is tower-based, so there's plenty of swimming room[*], but getting the lights positioned to work perfectly for light and shadow isn't easy when the mountings for those lights would be attached to the ceiling...

So, allow the lights to be suspended anywhere, and get a lot more freedom in your lighting.

[*] In fact the idea behind the towers was originally to hide the seams between two TVs at the back of the in-wall tank, where I was going to show a 3D rendered scene, so the tank appeared to 'go back deeper'. I still have some designs along that path, and I recently came up with a way to "quick-release" the TVs to allow for easy cleaning of the back glass. So it's something I'll explore later in the year. If it doesn't work out, well, I guess I have 2 more TV's :)

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
So the 80/20 turned up, and this weekend I got some spare time at last to put it together. From below, the mount will look like:

You can see a couple of the magnetic screws for scale - each of those is about an inch and a half across, with the entire thing measuring ~86" by ~25". You can see the freedom it'll give for mounting the lights wherever I want.

From above (the side closest to the ceiling), it looks like:

The rack will hang from the ceiling - I'm going to attach some more 80/20 to the ceiling joists (my joists go the wrong way, running lengthwise to the tank, and not in useful positions) such that there is a bar of 80/20 going from the front to the back of the tank, attached to two joists, with 6 screws at each attachment point (overkill, but it doesn't exactly cost much).

Then I'll screw in some eyelet hooks to that beam going front to back, and put a carabiner on it. That carabiner will also attach to the eyelet hooks on the lighting rack...

So there'll be about 4-5" of space between the ceiling and the rack, which is plenty to put lighting PSUs and wiring up there.

Spaced Cowboy

South Bay Reefer
So here's the supports on the ceiling and wall. Nothing special, just deck-screws into joists, but I did have to move the support-points because of the skylights...

... and once that was up, it wasn't much of an issue to get the actual rack mounted up - it was actually surprisingly easy. I just connected the two carabiners closest to the wall, then the two closest to me. Since I'd already worked out the separation distance (51") it really was just a matter of positioning the eyelet hooks, tightening them, and clipping the rack to the support.

Wires are still a bit messy up top because I can't find the second set of magnetic hooks for the rest of the lights, no point tidying it up until I have all the lights on there.

Overall I couldn't be happier with it. The magnetic hooks attach with a reassuring thunk and the only way to move them is to angle them before pulling them off. They aren't going anywhere.

It also lets me place the lights exactly where I want, and if I change my mind, I just move a magnet and maybe do a bit more wire-tidying :)