For a quick, fun and very easy garden project, grab a bag of concrete, your imagination, and follow me!
Concrete planters and garden ornamentation are a wonderful addition to the outdoor setting around one's home. Often, such decor comes with a high price, enormous size and incredible weight which is not easily transported. The solution? Make your own.
While you would likely not fare well to dive right into large scale concrete landscaping, you can dabble a bit in a smaller project to begin with. Then, when you find how addicting this craft is, take it easy on me for suggesting it. So let's get started.
Curious about the intro bowl? See step five for details.
Curious about the frog? He is a real. Hyla versicolor have the ability to change colors.
Found a typo? Please, by all means, let me know. :-) I appreciate it!
Is your reply positive and constructive? I'd love to hear it.
Please refrain from being nasty or negative. That is not the purpose of this site.
Step 1: Gather your materials...
What you will need:
CONCRETE - http://www.quikrete.com/index.asp
QUIKRETE® Concrete Mix (No. 1101) is the original 4000 psi average compressive strength blend of Portland cement, sand, and gravel or stone. Just add water. Use for any general concrete work. (Verbatim as posted on the Quikrete site) Resist the urge to use heavy duty concrete, as it is very chunky. For those familiar with mixing their own concrete instead of using a mix, by all means do so. We use Quikrete because it is available in our area and has proven to be of quality for the items I've made.
Though many home improvement stores carry ready-to-mix concrete in 80 pound bags, it is also available in other sizes, depending on your preference as well as ability to lug it around. Be sure to allow store employees to help load the larger bags into your car. There are many types of ready-to-mix available, choose accordingly. I prefer Quikrete (mainly because it is readily available in our area) and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher, but these products are mere suggestions. Nothing is cast in stone. Yet.
COLORING - Not a necessary item at all, though coloring concrete is quite fun, and easy! Check out liquid cement colors near the concrete section of your local hardware store. A 10 oz. bottle will color quite a bit of concrete. If you want to maintain color consistency in your projects, consider making up large bottles of colored water for your project, and be sure to keep a lid on the container of mixed water. Shake well before using. Don't get carried away by dumping in more colorant than recommended, or your concrete will not set properly.
MOLDS - An endless supply of molds, containers and other ideas are available everywhere. Scour yard sales, thrift stores and other thrifty places for interesting shapes and sizes. Don't stick to bowls, use your imagination. You could even make your own. Try not to choose anything with great detail, as you may be disappointed. For finer detail, use Vinyl Patch mix, which has far less bumps and bits of rock, or use a good cement and sand recipe.
Just about any container can be utilized as a mold for concrete, provided you are able to get the finished product out of it. Bowls, cups, milk cartons, jugs, the ideas are bountiful. At present, I've found much delight in selecting unique glass containers from second hand stores and yard sales. If the finished item cannot be dropped or dumped out of the mold, after the concrete has fully set up, simply (and gently) tap the glass to crack or break it from your concrete creation, then rinse off the glass and be sure to take it to the recycling center.
Plastic, stainless steel and other materials release from the cured concrete easily when non-stick spray is applied to the mold prior to adding concrete.
NON-STICK COOKING SPRAY - Yes, release agents are sold specifically for the purpose of mold release when using concrete, but quite frankly, a cheap can of non-stick cooking spray works just fine. Use it generously to ensure your project will slide out of the mold. I've used both generic and Pam brand cooking sprays with success. Thanks to the many wonderful Instructable folks who have also suggested using other agents such as WD40 and perhaps even motor oil.
WATER - Necessary to mix with the concrete. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little. Perhaps my 'luck' has been the love of making mud pies as a child. Think Goldilocks, and mix well.
RUBBER GLOVES - Nothing fancy needed, but you should wear them. Be safe, not sorry. Concrete poisoning is no fun, and it's not pretty. I know this from personal experience.
EMERGENCY MOLDS - So you've mixed a pristine batch of concrete, you've sprayed the mold and you're in the process of filling it. Whoops, not enough concrete! Quick, dump it out and reach for another mold. Keep one close by for this very reason, and don't forget to spray it first. It is better to make a bit more than to end up a bit short.
A POKER - You'll need something about the circumference of a pencil to poke out air bubbles.
A LARGE SPOON - Or any similar item to mix the concrete. My favorite? A skinny garden trowel. Keep your eyes off items in the utensil drawer of the kitchen unless you no longer wish to use it on food.
BUCKETS, MEASURING CUPS, MISCELLANEOUS 'TOOLS OF THE TRADE' - Obtain inexpensive tools and reserve them for concrete projects alone, as they will become tarnished with concrete. Don't be wasteful. Clean and re-use your tools.
Step 2: Mix concrete, fill your mold...
Spray your mold with cooking oil and set aside. Mix the concrete so it is about the consistency of peanut butter, not a slushee. It should hold a bit of form when shaped into a ball, but not so wet that it slumps, and not so dry that you can't make a ball without a great deal of effort. Not too wet, not too dry.
Pack the mold, tapping and poking the concrete down into any crevices in the mold. Once filled, level off the top with something flat like a ruler. If you can, carefully bounce the project on a firm surface that is covered with something cushy. You don't want to break the mold, especially if you've chosen a glass mold.
Set on a level surface out of direct sun. Wait twenty four hours before you even think of touching it.
Step 3: Allow proper concrete curing time...
CONSIDER A WATER BATH - Concrete is not as easy as mixing, setting and forgetting. It requires a period of time to harden, or 'cure'. Unfortunately, concrete is notorious for setting before the ingredients have had a chance to bond as securely as they could have. The result of a rushed concrete job is cracking, weakened durability and a crumbled project. I allow my projects to remain in the mold for a minimum of 24 hours, longer for thicker items, then carefully set the item into a deep bath of water for a minimum of one week. Okay, fine, I admit it, I stuff them into unoccupied pond plant containers and sometimes in with the Koi (not advised for everyone, though our tanks are HUGE). Often I submerge the entire project to avoid any damage. DON'T rush it, don't be impatient. The reward to patience is well worth it. A week. I mean it!
Many people also merely cover their projects with wet burlap (thanks, Cyoung13) or plastic wrap and such. Unfortunately I've never used such methods, so I cannot speak for them, but they are equally wonderful methods of preventing your project from drying out too quickly.
For those who simply haven't the time or the means to ensure your project stays moist, you might consider an acrylic concrete cure & seal, available in most home improvement centers in liquid form. Brush, roll or spray this formula onto freshly set (not freshly poured) concrete. Look for the deep yellow jug with green and black labeling in the concrete section. This product can be used on recent projects, or even existing concrete.
Step 4: Sanding and sealing your ware...
Now that your project is finished, you love it, you sit back and adore it, you cock your head sideways and wonder what to do next.
It's beautiful, but have you considered making it even more so? Grab a sanding block, your project and let's head outdoors!
On a breezy day, set your project up outdoors in an area where you will get a good dose of air. You don't want to inhale any kind of dust, you know. With a sanding block, rub your project vigorously in a small area. Now feel the other side. What a difference! Go ahead, sand
the entire thing. After it is completely sanded, rinse it off, dust it off, whatever ensures you have removed any residual dust.
Head to your local home improvement store for a jug of this, or a similar item, depending on what your store carries:
Using an appropriately sized brush, roller, or sprayer, apply concrete cure and seal, allow to dry, and enjoy even more!
Step 5: Use your imagination...BUBBLE BOWLS!
You are not limited by much when choosing molds for your concrete garden treasure. The bowl in the intro was created using what is typically known as a Bubble or Cell bowl. As it is difficult to explain, pictures have been provided. One of the pictures features a copyright message. Not to worry, it is mine. Love you, Dave's Garden!
The glass bowl in the first image is shown upside down. Typically, it is filled with artificial flowers, then turned upside down to allow the bowl to be used, while still being able to see the flowers inside the glass bubble. Look closely and you will see the indented bubble in the middle. The only opening to this 'bubble' is the one you see at the top. This bubble can be filled. I hope I've made sense.
* Updated to include additional images. So many of you did not understand what a Bubble Bowl was, and I understand. It is hard to imagine without a picture. :-)
When filled with concrete, allowed to dry, then flipped upside down, the glass is carefully broken from the concrete, leaving a heavy and very durable bowl. Don't forget to recycle the broken glass.
I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable as much as I have enjoyed making it.
Step 6: Additional idea #1...
I'll post just a few samples to provide a starting point for your creativity.
*Also see step 9*
Fill a bowl (plastic is reusable) half or three quarters full of concrete.
Spray a bowling ball with cooking oil, hold it by the holes and insert into the bowl of concrete.
Push hard, twisting the ball as you press down, but don't let the concrete overflow
the bowl. Allow to sit for a day or so, then twist the ball out of the bowl. The harder
you push, the deeper your bowl will be. Neat! Don't forget to cure it properly.
Step 7: Additional idea #2...
Fill your choice of container with concrete, squish a glass votive holder into the concrete.
Allow the glass to remain in the concrete even when it dries. Try not to be too sloppy, and
you won't have to clean up the glass afterward. Let it cure, add a candle, and enjoy. You
can remove the original container or allow it to simply be a heavy item with concrete intact.
In this example, a flower-shaped votive holder was pressed into a bowl, then later broken out,
leaving a nice shape with a well for a votive candle.
As this bowl has only today come out of a curing water bath, I will allow it to dry, then grind
down the rough edges.
Step 8: Additional idea #3...
This bowl is made using the same type of glass bubble bowl as in the introduction
of this Instructable, but it is much more shallow and of larger circumference. It is heavy, which
makes for an excellent pet food or water bowl after it has been properly sealed...don't want Fido
to become sick from anything harmful that may leak from the concrete. Thanks for the reminder,
No tipping! Best source for these bubble bowls -
yard sales and second hand stores.
Step 9: Additional idea #4...
A very large glass lighting globe was using to make this 30+ pound concrete sphere.
Please note, the glass was removed entirely, I just wanted to share a photo showing both
the concrete and the glass, which if you look carefully, you can see it is thinner glass in
some areas of the globe. A fun project I enjoyed doing.
I simply filled a large glass globe with concrete, left it alone for a week, then submerged
it in water for another week. Wearing safety glasses, the lighting globe was then removed
by gently smacking it with a hammer. What am I going to do with it? I haven't yet though that
far, but for now, it simply remains in our garden walkway for amusement. It isn't likely someone
will run off with it very far. :-)
Step 10: More on the bowling ball bowl from step 5...and a link to a great Instructable!
In a nutshell, you simply choose a bowl that is larger in circumference than your bowling ball.
Fill the bowl half to three quarters full of concrete, submerge the ball in and give it a squish.
Allow it to dry.
Remove the ball, remove the bowl and there you have it. :-)
Want more? You should definitely check out Creativeman's Bowling Ball project!
Great job, Creativeman!
Step 11: Libbie wanted in on the action...
Just in case something went awry, you know.