Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Though I realize there is a more specific forum for Hypertufa and Concrete, I
wanted to share this here because I know many of us have a small (or large)
stash of goodies that can be utilized in the following project. Not to mention,
I love and miss all of you! :-(

Complete tutorial with plenty of pictures:

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

What you will need:

CONCRETE - http://www.quikrete.com/index.asp

QUIKRETEŽ 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. (Ver batum as posted on the Quikrete site) Resist the urge to use heavy duty concrete, as it is very chunky.

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.

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.

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.

A WATER BATH - Concrete is not as easy as mix, set and forget. It needs 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, then carefully remove, and gently set the item into a deep bath of water for a minimum of one week. Okay, fine, I admit it, I stuff them into pond plant containers and sometimes in with the Koi. 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!

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.

Spray your mold 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. 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. Set on a level surface out of direct sun. Wait twenty four hours before you even think of touching it.

TIME - Now you have to make a decision. I've tried submerging the entire project, mold and all, for one week before attempting to remove glass molds, as well as removing the mold by breaking it after 24 hours. I highly suggest submerging the entire project. In a week's time, you will be able to gently smack the glass and remove it from the concrete as opposed to risking a not-quite-set-yet project.

After completion, be sure to wash off your tools as well as you can, and make certain you wash your hands and arms well. Apply lotion. In one week's time, remove the concrete item from the water and...enjoy!

This message was edited Jul 9, 2012 7:42 PM

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Cave Creek, AZ(Zone 9b)

thanks I've just begin to experiment and have been making some cobbles for a garden path. I found the same thing w/ cooking spray....works great...don't let it pool when you spray it wipe it to spread it around and it releases fine as long as you let the concrete sit in the mold long enough...I'm going to try some other projects now that my confidence is up a bit with my first small project. I use the 40lb bags of Quickrete because it is about all I can handle. I never tried sitting it under water. Have been spraying it down and using clear plastic w/ good success. Thanks for posting this...love your bowls inhabitant!

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

hey girl good to see you posting
great TUT
putting on the 2do list

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi Cheryl,

I hope to add more pictures one of these days. Good to see you!

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Henderson, NC(Zone 7b)

Hi Wuvie and welcome back. Thank you for giving me something else for my must do list. LOL, now if we could get Gourd back, I would never catch up. Love that bowl & Frog.

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

LOL I thought the frog was concrete till I opened it ...
Yes We do need Gourd to get back here too

Southern California, CA

This is the best tut. Thanks!! I "wuv" it.

Abilene, TX(Zone 7b)

Is the concrete firm enough to pack to the inside of the mold or did you have to put something in the middle after you put the concrete in? You know what I mean?

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi Ramp,

I do see what you mean, but it may be difficult to explain. I did not have to
place anything in the middle of the concrete to form the indention. Picture
the exact bowl I made, but in clear glass. The bottom is open, so in other words,
the 'mold' I used looked exactly as the bowl does, but made of glass. When the
'bowl' is turned upside down, the bottom is open glass, you could put your hand
into it.

I turned the bowl upside down, then filled the cavity with concrete, packing as I
went. After it was cured, I turned the bowl back over, so the indention now becomes
the center, or the 'well', if you will.

Oh, how I wish I had a picture of it before I broke the glass. I cannot find them
anywhere, even on the internet.

Hope this helps,

Abilene, TX(Zone 7b)

sure does, thanks.

N.C. Mts., NC(Zone 6b)

I guess I'm dumb. Do you put the concrete on the outside of the bowl or on the inside?

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)


No, you're not dumb at all. I wish I had a photo of the glass bowl taken before
it was broken. This is what makes it difficult to explain. This was not just a bowl,
but a bubble bowl. The glass was bubbled. I turned it upside down, where it was open,
and then filled the bubble, or the opening, with concrete. Once it was dry, I turned
it over, and wa-la.

I'll try to find a glass bowl like it, and as soon as I do, I'll post a picture to help explain
how this was done.

:-) KM

Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

Karen, you never fail to amaze me!!!! that bowl is great & the pic with frog is just the BEST!!!!

Alameda, CA(Zone 9b)

Hi Wuvie,

Was the bowl you used like this one?


Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Susan, yes, yes, yes, that is it!
Do you own that bowl?

Whooo hooooo! :-)

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Thanks for taking the time to post all this. Your bowl is great, Wuvie.

Alameda, CA(Zone 9b)

Hi Wuvie,

No, not my bowl. -I understood what you meant so did a search on 'floater bowl' and that was one of the images that came up. I wish I could find one so I could try out your technique!

Olympia, WA

Wonderful revisit to one of my most loved pastimes. Only problem was that I do everything in excess - I mean EXCESS. One hint to add to the tutorial is that the craft paints hold up amazingly well out of doors - I have tons of leaves and pavers around the ranch that have not dimmed at all in 7 years!!!!!!!!!!

Paint, wipe, paint more - most of my stuff was concrete leaves - so this is just a little "aside".

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Danc, so glad you mentioned the paint.
Is there a particular brand you favor?


Susan, darn, drat, dagnabbit! Hope you can find one!

Olympia, WA

Folk Art, Patio Paint, DecorArt - found many of them at Michael's or WalMart. When I was doing the big leaves - rhubarb and such - I would use exterior latex from Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. I would buy their mistakes - the ones not blended right for a home painter. One thing wonderful is that if you don't like what you get, you can just paint over something else. Use a rag as much as a brush -------- and then the craft paints for special effects. Just SO much fun that talking about it "almost" makes me want to get back into it - but marketing was never my forte, all my friends have been gifted, and even community raffles have received my donations. LOL Living rural on acreage certain made my addiction flourish!!!!!

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Found another example of the glass dish, though this one
is in the UK.


Other sources:


This message was edited Jul 21, 2011 9:04 AM

Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

OH Heck, they are sold out on your second site....
and not offered on the site in the UK

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Whoo hooo! I found another dish! This one is larger, but more shallow.
Unless the heat wave pushes me back indoors, I intend to fill the new bowl
with concrete. Here goes!

Note, the bowl is shown upside down.

This message was edited Jul 24, 2011 4:15 PM

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Here is the same bowl, but 'right side' up.

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

ok I got ya now its a one time use of the glass bowl as the mold... right??

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

Hi WUVIE, been watching your thread so I can learn how to do this! I was actually on the 'Hypertufa and Concrete' forum and someone said go to 'Trash to Treasure' and read Wuvie's post. I have been reading and I am starting to understand some things. I was curious about why you were so excited about the glass bowl? Aren't you afraid it will break and why not use a plastic bowl? Was it about size? Are you going to let it sit for 24 hours and submerge it ? I really love your bird bath with the frog on it ! :)

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi there!

Sadly, yes, it is a one time use. Of course, you can always leave the glass
intact, creating a glass / concrete bowl combination, which would be
neat. I'm thinking of doing just that for a pet water bowl, so they can't
tip it over.

Virginia, the glass bowl cannot be removed intact, it is the shape I am after.
Though I have been making other bowls with plastic bowls and molds,
the curve of the underside of the bowl combined with the angled side I'm after.
I try to look at it this way...(insert maniacal laugh)...if I don't buy the bowl
at the second hand store, eventually someone else will.

Sooner or later, the glass bowl will be broken, the pieces will be tossed
into the trash. Gone. Vanished. Wasted.

If 'I' buy the bowl, I'll fill it with concrete, smash the glass, recycle the
glass, AND still have a cool bowl that will be around for years to come.

When I get home this evening, I'll smack the glass, submerge it for a few
days, then remove the glass and sink it again for good measure. :-)

Can you tell I'm easily amused?

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

Ok I understand, sounds like a good plan. I would like to make one too, but not to start off with, I would like to make a couple of flower pots, some fake river rocks and maybe a stepping stone. It was the fake rocks that got me looking into this. Do you think a whiskey barrel will do good for submerging stuff. I will be on the lookout for a glass bowl. I can do searches on eBay and Craigslist, etc. I already have a plastic mould for stepping stones, but I haven't figured out how to do the river rocks. Someone on the Hosta forum was using Styrofoam, I am assuming she just covered them with the concrete and left the Styrofoam in there? Or do you pull it out the bottom and they are kinda hollow, they just look like a rock. Would it dry properly if you left it in there?

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi Virginia,

Oh yes, Styrofoam is another good source of molding, but I'm not sure
if you are referring to covering Styrofoam or making indentions in a large
sheet and filling it with concrete. I've seen both with good results.

Funny you should mention that, as I found a large piece of Styrofoam at
work and intended to do precisely that...use for concrete work.

:-) Karen

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

Wow, that's cool. I was thinking about covering the styrofoam with concrete mixture, just pack it on and try to make it look like a rock. I just didn't know if that would dry properly. Maybe I should just pack it on the top and pull the styro out the bottom. Then It would be hollow in the middle and the hole would be under the rock. I love the idea of making rocks because they are so much lighter and easy to move around. How do you do it??

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi Virginia,

Sadly, I don't have much time, I'm supposed to be getting ready for work. Ha!

You might consider covering the styrofoam with a bit of wire, perhaps chicken wire,
to give the concrete more 'cling'. I'll be back later, hopefully with some links, but
I think the Hypertuffa forum would be filled with such information. I'll try to get back
on later to see what I can find for you.

:-) Karen

Olympia, WA

My boulder has a plastic trash bag filled with paper and styrofoam and such at the center. The next layer was chicken wire, as Wuvie has suggested. THEN - hypertufa - slowly and methodically applied. I used a wheelbarrow as staging area, because in the final analysis, it WAS too big for me to move by hand. I would allow each section to cure some before turning the boulder and adding another section. 6 years later, it is alive and well and marks the turn into my driveway!!!! Moss has begun to grow on it!!!

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Danc, so glad you posted. My knowledge of hypertuffa is
very limited. I'll bet your boulder is gorgeous with the moss!

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

OMG! Then it can be done. You just cover the Styrofoam with chicken wire and do it a section at a time. Scene you could not lift it how did you cure it? I bet it is really nice with the moss. :)

Olympia, WA

Thanks, Wuvie!!!!

Virginiarose, I didn't do anything special for curing, just left it alone till it was well hardened, then rolled it a bit in the wheelbarrow to expose a new side on which to apply more hypertufa.

Even I have been amazed that it has lasted this long without crumbling!!!!!

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

Sounds like a good plan, I will just stick with the smaller stuff for now. I would just like to do some river rocks for a Hosta bed. I will keep you and Wuvie posted.

Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

If you try to make it hollow, it might break later on. Using chicken wire or stucco/plaster lath would give it some strength as would just leaving the styrofoam inside.

Portsmouth, VA(Zone 8a)

Yea, I was thinking that would be easier too. Sounds like a plan. Thanks!

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

looks like our Wuvie is Famous... Way to go Karen

Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

Wonderful! Congratulations!

(we knew her when...)

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