Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

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Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby RedHandFilms » Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:12 pm

[TOPIC AUTO-LOCKED DUE TO INACTIVITY]

*Hello. This is a tutorial I did a while back and I am re-posting here in the new DIY section to make it a little easier to find.*

Hey, I've had a few people ask about how I did my cave so I'm putting up a sort of tutorial with my progress pics here. This is for making a large REMOVABLE cave/basking spot for your dragon. Enjoy and let me know if there are any more questions.

Step 1: Design!
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This is my original design I made months ago. The design has changed since then, but this illustrates the basic concept of what I wanted to make. A large cave, with a door allowing access to it from the outside, a basking spot above, and a ramp going up. PLAN AHEAD. I can't stress this enough. It will make things much easier for you.

Step 2: Gather Materials and Tools.
Materials-
Styrofoam ~ Free (This is trash, you can find it for free. It's used to pack all sorts of things. Try going to the back of an electronics store and asking if they've got any you can save from the landfills. I used a broken styrofoam cooler and some odd packing bits.)
Grout mix ~ $8.98 (I got a carton of Sanded grout mix in HEMP color. The sanded leaves a rougher texture than unsanded. The hemp is a kinda dark gray color that already looks like rock. It gives a nice dark base color and could be used without coloration if you want)
Cement Color ~ $4.96 (I used Terra Cotta. Mixed with the Hemp grout it gave a nice red rock color. This is a liquid color mix. You can also use powdered grout color mix. It's about a buck cheaper, but they were out of the color I wanted.)
Great Stuff Expanding Foam Insulator ~ $5.00 (Trust me, this stuff will make things much easier and is well worth it)
Water ~ (To mix the grout)
Water Based Polycrylic Satin Sealer (Go for Satin, not as shiny as gloss and gives a more natural look. You'll need enough for 3 coats. A small can will probably suffice. )

Tools:
Knives and hand saws (to cut styrofoam and shape your cave)
Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks (works great for gluing pieces together and it's safe. DO NOT USE SUPERGLUE. Superglue, or other such chemical glues will melt/eat through styrofoam and give of toxic fumes)
Bucket (For mixing grout in)
2 Cheap Bristle Paint brushes (One for applying grout, one for sealer)

Step 3: Start Building!
The best advice I can give you here is to actually work inside your viv. This helps you make sure it will fit, as well as gives you an idea of proportions. You wouldn't want to accidentally make it too large. Remember to leave some extra room around the edges. You don't want it to be a tight fit now because you still have to grout it.
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Start with a real rough cut, just laying things out. Don't glue anything down yet. It also helps if you can draw on the floors and wall of the viv to give yourself reference points for shape. If you don't actually want to mark your floor, lay down some newspaper you can draw on)
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Get your basic shape together. Don't worry about leaving holes and don't do any detail carving yet.

Step 4: Glue
In order to get everything back the way you have it now, it really helps if you draw marks and lines onto your shape. Trace the outline of a piece onto the piece below it. Trace the bottom footprint onto the bottom of your viv or newspaper. Take off each layer and start gluing things down working from the bottom up (don't glue it to the floor!)
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Step 5: Expanding Foam!
This stuff is truly great. I guess that's why they call it "GREAT STUFF"
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Spray it in to fill in all those little holes and gaps.
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Use a little more in places you want it to build up.
Leave it to expand and dry overnight.
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Here, Viggo checks it out after the foam has expanded completely.

Step 6: CARVING!
Pull out your knife and saw and go to town! Time to get creative and let your artistic side show. What you're carving now will be the shape of the final piece. Remember, don't go into too fine detail. The layers of grout will fill in a lot of the small stuff completely. If you want it to show up, cut it deeper! Be sure to also carve up the expanded foam. When it dries, it can very smooth. It is harder for the grout to adhere to the smooth surface and it may chip off.
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Step 7: Grout!
Ok now, time make this look like a rock, and not a big chunk of foam.
Mix your grout. Don't mix it all at once. Leftovers will dry out while you're waiting between coats. Try using about 1/4 of your grout per coat. I don't really have a set measurement for water, but you want it to be kinda thin and soupy. It will brush on easier that way. If you're using coloration, this would be the time to mix it in.
Image (that bottle is the cement color)
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Once you've got your soupy grout, start brushing it on.
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Make sure you get in all the cracks and crevasses, including the bottom.

Let it dry overnight between coats.
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Here's Viggo checking it out after the second coat has dried.

Apply 3 coats! This will ensure everything is covered and it will be nice and strong.

Step 8: Paint!
I didn't paint mine, just used the cement color, but if you're gonna do that, now would be the time. Acrylic works best I hear.

Step 9: Seal it.
This is a very important step. Use a safe, low fume sealer such as Water Based Polycrylic sealer if possible. Shellac also works well but will leave it shiny. I actually ran out of polycrylic so I used shellac inside the cave and on the bottom where it wouldn't be seen.
Use your other brush and apply 3 coats of sealant, once again, making sure to get into every crack and crevasse. Sorry, no pictures here, cause there's not much to see while sealing. Once you've finished, let it air out for a few days, preferably with a fan blowing on it.

Step 10: Enjoy!
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Well, this step isn't so much for you as it is for your dragon, but hey, you can still sit back and enjoy looking at your handiwork.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby danielz » Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:17 pm

WOOOOW. that looks amazing
1 Bearded Dragon- Spunky
2 Leopard Geckos- Biggy, Buck
2 Uromastyx's- Scooter, Sunny
3 Cats- Munchkin, Motzart, Samantha
5 Finches(no names)
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby xbluex » Mon Sep 29, 2008 10:36 pm

I was wondering, did you have any troubles with the cement color? My brother in law works construction(pouring concrete) and said that it probably wouldnt be a good idea because of the chemicals in it?? If its under extreme heat would it give off any fumes after being aired out for a while??
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby RedHandFilms » Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:09 pm

I've had no trouble with the liquid cement color. Everything is sealed. If there were any fumes, I have not smelled any. Once the piece is sealed and airs out, it's perfectly safe.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby lukenukem83 » Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:23 am

did you build that tank?! i would love to see your plans if you would be willing to share.
-Lucas and Laurajane
--2 Beardies: Princess Eddie Izzard and Barnaby Rex
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby RedHandFilms » Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:06 pm

Yes, I did build the tank. I don't really have any plans or made up at the moment. I used Google SketchUp to make digital 3-D models before I started. I would highly recommend downloading the program and using it. It's Free! I wasn't going to put up any plans simply because it is such a specialized tank (with the front and back sliding glass doors, the window, the cave door, location, etc.). For most people it's too much and the standard crossfire is enough. If you would like some help and advice making a similar one, I'd be willing to help.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby kevindeeley12 » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:17 pm

That's pretty awesome man, good job. Just wondering.. What's a Crossfire? Just a rock you would buy at a store? Or do I have it completely messed up?
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby lukenukem83 » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:35 am

Crossfire is a DIY viv model that you can find here: [url]viewtopic.php?f=34&t=71756&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=crossfire+made+easy
[/url]
-Lucas and Laurajane
--2 Beardies: Princess Eddie Izzard and Barnaby Rex
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby luvthydragon » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:17 am

Redhandfilms-

Holy cow - That looks great. What is more awesome is how you laid it out in such easy steps for everyone to follow. You make it look so easy. Maybe even I can do it :shock: . I've been saving up foam but didn't know how or where to begin. Thanks for taking the time and forethought to take photos as you went along. I really appreciate what you've done and I'm sure alot of others are here do too. I've seen other people lay out the steps but yours really seems user-friendly.

Thanks SO much.
Recently enlisted to the Beardie slave boot-camp
2 dogs , 1 cat, 1 BD, and one great Husband
Yes, I know my typing is garbage :)
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby kevindeeley12 » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:24 am

Yeah, it is really user-friendly.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby spike911 » Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:14 am

Wow very incredible. I love it!!!! I think I'll make a rock for my beardie but better yet my son is making a forest for a school project and your artistic skills just helped me to achieve his project. My husband lays tile so I have all the tools I need except sealer so I will get some well he has sealer but it wouldn't be beardie safe it's not even human safe if you know what I mean. Thanks so much my son thinks you are the coolest. :blob5:
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby TheSmpsnsG85 » Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:33 am

How is cleaning of it? I am not worried about Grumpy, he only poos in one corner, but Chevelle poos on everything! How difficult is it to clean when beardie poo is covering it? Can you use any cleaners on it?
Another question; Have you had any trouble with little beardie nails puncturing it?
And one final question; is it water proof? I was thinking about possible making a home-made waterfall for a Chinese Water Dragon that we have here at the rescue, and this way I can make one to fit his habitat. But I dont' know about the foam and water or high humidity situations.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby RedHandFilms » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:42 am

Thanks for your complements everyone. If you have any other questions or would like some one on one help, feel free to post here or private message me.

spike911. Glad I could help with your son's project. I used to love doing dioramas back in elementary school. He's a tip. For quick and simple rocks and boulders, take sandpaper, crumple it up, then flatten it out again and wrap it around a chunk of foam or something. Gives it a realistic look and a great texture! Best of luck.

TheSmpsnsG85, Cleaning should be pretty easy. Viggo only poos in one spot too so I've never really had to deal with poo on everything. It should be fine with just a wet rag and mild, beardie safe, chemicals.
I've had no problem with beardie nails. This thing is pretty solid, it would take a lot to puncture it. A dragon just doesn't have the weight or strength to do that kinda of damage.
As for being waterproof, I think it would be ok. This is the same sort of grout you'd use on bathroom tiles or showers so I think it should do fine. Plus adding the sealant to that makes it even better. It shouldn't be an issue with the foam so long as the entire piece is covered. The foam is completely encased, including the bottom and any holes. You might add a few extra layers of grout and sealant on the parts that will hold water just to be sure.
I'd love to see your waterfall. Even though it's not for a beardie, be sure to post pictures somewhere. Maybe do your own DIY for dealing with pumps and water.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby kevindeeley12 » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:02 pm

Yeah, I wonder if a Beardie would use a water fall. Probably, huh? Cause the water is moving it would definately get the BD's attention.
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Re: Building a Fake Rock Cave in 10 Easy Steps

Postby RedHandFilms » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:55 pm

It's not a good idea to use a waterfall in for a bearded dragon. This will raise humidity too much which can cause health problems. Also, any water feature in a dragon's tank is likely to become a toilet. Note that TheSmpsnsG85 said it would be used for a Chinese Water Dragon.
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