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Picture of Easy to make concrete bowls and planters...



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.


 
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Step 1: Gather your materials...

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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...

Picture of Allow proper concrete curing time...
Concrete creation is generally not advised in temperatures exceeding _____ or under _______. Work in the shade if you simply cannot resist a Summer project.

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.

http://www.quikrete.com/ProductLines/ConcreteSealer.asp

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:

http://www.quikrete.com/ProductLines/ConcreteSealer.asp

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...

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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,
Quester55. 

No tipping! Best source for these bubble bowls -
yard sales and second hand stores.

Step 9: Additional idea #4...

Picture of Additional idea #4...
Special thanks to Design Sponge and Design Gal for the idea of using a glass fixture. My wheels began to turn!

http://saltlakedesignergal.blogspot.com/2009/07/concrete-garden-balls.html

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!

Picture of More on the bowling ball bowl from step 5...and a link to a great Instructable!
Several of you expressed interest in the bowling ball bowl. Say that three times fast!

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!

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-A-Bowling-Ball-Planter/

Great job, Creativeman!

Step 11: Libbie wanted in on the action...

Picture of Libbie wanted in on the action...
Libbie decided she should keep an eye on the concrete ball as it cured.
Just in case something went awry, you know.
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CaseyA312 days ago

Thanks for this information. These would go good with polished concrete floors.

http://www.myfloor.net.au/services/concrete-polishing/

misty.jasper3 months ago
Just a thought with the 30# oncrete sphere...could paint with glw in the dark paint for outdoor luminaries. ?

GID paint will make the painted item show up at night, but won't really illuminate anything else. So if you wanted to mark where a pathway is, it will do that, but it won't actually show your footing. Those pictures claiming to be GID painted planters casting bright light are lying; the planters are actually translucent and have electric lights inside of them.

WUVIE (author)  CarinH1 month ago

Just wanted to clarify, in case other readers are confused. Carin's comment about the "glow-in-the-dark planters casting bright lights lying", she is not referring to my Instructable, but rather another project using thin light covers with electric lights. :-)

CarinH WUVIE1 month ago

Right, sorry for any confusion, Wuvie. I was referring to a picture that keeps popping up in Pinterest, not this great tutorial. :)

star38441 month ago

Okay...with your instructions, maybe I won't fail again. I tried to make a bird bath with my husband. What a disaster. I do believe the cement was mixed wrong. I'm disabled and really need his help but when I said it needed more water....he didn't agree. It came to pieces the next day. Never tried again. That was last summer. I'm stronger this summer than I was last....so I'm hoping I can wing it and possibly succeed. If so, bird baths aren't all I want to do. Thanks for your help. I'll let you know if I succeed.

kbrush491 month ago

Okay, love this site and the ideas. Thanks for the wonderfully clear instructions!

cjraabe2 months ago

Well written, folksy Instructable. It motivates me to get out the cement. But I'm commenting about Libby--beautiful cat and, obviously, typically needs to be part of the action.. Thanks for including this pic!

bobbie.larsen4 months ago

Okay then here's my deal. About3 years ago me and the husband made 6 birdbaths. as far as we got---Would like to embellish with marbles, colored bits of glass just like the good ole days. Do uou have a process for adding slurry to the outsides in order to smush the items into and then what to seal it all with?

Try latex tile mastic or thinset mortar (not as sticky as the latex). Concrete will not stick to concrete. Or my sister and I have used heavy duty glues to attach our mosaics. Grout the mosaic, then, if desired, seal with a silicone grout sealer.

riwares5 months ago
Glad I've found your site. I've wanted a brutal looking concrete bowl for my grey green succulent plants. However they don't seem to exist but I can make it instead. Thanks for the inspiration.
MsheArt21 year ago

Very nice end result, that's a beautiful bowl!

WUVIE (author)  MsheArt25 months ago

Many thanks, MsheArt2. :-)

tr.jay.75 months ago

is it possible to use the ordinary glass cereal bowls? i cant find these in my country.

WUVIE (author)  tr.jay.75 months ago

Hello, oh, yes, you can actually get very creative by combining bowls, too. You might even visit a second-hand store, and play with various bowls, putting them inside one another, etc.

You might even consider using an adhesive to connect them so they form an inner bowl, then after they are dry, you could add concrete and proceed. You might still have to break the glass, depending on the shape of the glass.

I'm so sorry it took so long to respond, I've been rather inattentive of my messages lately.

Many thanks!

Karen

Love your cover picture of the bowl, and I wanted to make one similar. I've made a couple of hypertufa projects and one cement/sand bowl (that, surrpise, looks like cement), but I really want a bowl exactly like yours. So, I found a 'bubble bowl' but I can't find the concrete mix that you used. I can't even find it on the quickcrete website.

Do you have any idea what I should mix for the concrete? I have portland cement, but how much sand and how much gravel should I use? Any clue? I have one shot at it since I only have found one bubble bowl.

I just love how your bowl looks like it was made of stone.

Hieu Ariana Morris11 months ago

the search engine is your friend -- here's at least one instruction:

http://www.ehow.com/how_7839550_mix-portland-cement.html

Hieu Hieu11 months ago

And if you are too lazy to read through to the link -- 1 part portland cement, 2 part sand, 3 part 3/4-inch gravel. It's quite easy to remember 1,2,3. Have fun.

WUVIE (author)  Hieu5 months ago

LOL Hieu, many thanks for sharing that for Ariana. :-)

SACutter9 months ago

I do a little concrete moulding - to strengthen your concrete if you like delicate thin walls it may be an idea to add some fiber - a search on the net will indicate qty, depending on which fiber u use. You have heard of fiber boards - the fiber is added to stop hair cracking and add strength. Let us know what you think please

WUVIE (author)  SACutter5 months ago

Hello SACutter, thank you so much for your suggestion. As my bowls are rather small, I didn't use reinforcing fibers, but have since found some and will definitely give them a try in my next project.

xu.chensheng9 months ago

Hi! Your projects look fantastic and smooth! I have made a few planters and boxes out of concrete as well. However, bubbling has been the worst time of my making process. And you haven't even mentioned about bubbling or vibrating the molds. Do you find any small holes or as know as bug holes on the surface of your bowls? If so, how do you manage to fix that?

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WUVIE (author)  xu.chensheng5 months ago

Hello Xu! Many thanks for your compliments. Yes, I, too, have bubbles, but I'm one of those people who look beyond imperfections to see the whole picture. :-) If you want to try making one that is far smoother, you might pound the surface of your worktable with a hammer or a mallet, short of a way to vibrate the table. You could also try using a palm sander to hold against a towel or other fabric item next to the project (if it is glass) and then turn on the sander, which will cause vibrations. Love your projects, great job. Love the one that looks like a brick!

These are great! How did you make the rectangular one in the third image? That is exactly what I am looking to make.

It was actually one of the very first projects, made out of an iPhone package box and some styrofoam. Easy and neat!

Ra1n5had0w6 months ago
This is inspiring. I hope I have the courage to actually make something.

You asked for spelling corrections: "Ver batum as posted on the Quikrete site" – I suspect you meant to write "Verbatim". Other than that, it all looks great.
WUVIE (author)  Ra1n5had0w5 months ago

(Thunks self in the head) I can't believe I didn't catch that, many thanks! It has been corrected. I appreciate your help. :-)

DanaA26 months ago

This is very cool, but other than the bowling ball or votive, how is the indention made for the bowl?

WUVIE (author)  DanaA26 months ago
Hi Dana, everything is explained in step 5. :-)
rlyndallwemm8 months ago

Nice bowls. Very clear instructions. The pictures help a lot.

For lighter bowls try using a cement + perlite + fiber mix. If you don't like the rough look of hypertufa then use a fine grade of perlite and substitute acrylic fiber or coconut fiber (coir) for the peat moss. You can get fine grades of perlite by contacting the Perlite Institute and finding a distributer in your area. You may need to sweet talk them into making a hobby sized bag for you as the commercial bags as huge.

SACutter9 months ago

I do a little concrete moulding - to strengthen your concrete if you like delicate thin walls it may be an idea to add some fiber - a search on the net will indicate qty, depending on which fiber u use. You have heard of fiber boards - the fiber is added to stop hair cracking and add strength. Let us know what you think please

SACutter9 months ago

I do a little concrete moulding - to strengthen your concrete if you like delicate thin walls it may be an idea to add some fiber - a search on the net will indicate qty, depending on which fiber u use. You have heard of fiber boards - the fiber is added to stop hair cracking and add strength. Let us know what you think please

Nevermind! I found the 1101 mix at Lowe's and today we filled 4 bubble bowls of varying sizes, having found those at Goodwill. I'm really hoping they turn out well but a little concerned we used too much water, as water was really pooling at the tops.

I'll share our finished bowls when they come out of the molds. Excited!

WUVIE (author)  Ariana Morris1 year ago

Ariana, such good news, what a great find, four bowls, whoo hoo! I have the same issue with the pooling water, I just keep gently sponging it off. Would love to see your bowls. :-)

houndog2g1 year ago

I love the ideas here!! I've molded concrete stepping stones, benches, birdbaths etc and have never done any kind of water bath for curing. I've never had a problem with cracking or crumbling.

DIYDragon1 year ago

ohhh nice. Now I need to find something suitable as a mould to make some big planters for my backyard. :-)

Tetrafish1 year ago

I had been wondering if something like this could be used like a mortar & pestle. Preferably something to keep outside (since it's heavy anyway) and to crush up egg shells to use in my raised garden beds for insect control (& here I find it :-). I think I'd use a larger bowl (like with the bowling ball) for the mortar, and a smaller globe for the pestle.

WUVIE (author)  Tetrafish1 year ago

Hmm. At first, I thought this was not such a great idea, but I was thinking about food consumption, with bits of concrete in the food, which is likely what would happen.

If you use one to grind eggshells for a garden, perhaps that would not be so bad, provided you were more or less tapping the shells into crushed form and not necessarily grinding then against the concrete. Sounds neat, though, I'd love to see a picture if you end up making one, and an update with regard to the eggshell crushing. Neat!

Homemomma2 years ago
What a fantastic Instructable! Thank you for sharing it with us. Heading out later today in search of molds, muahaha!
WUVIE (author)  Homemomma1 year ago

Looking forward to hearing good news from you. Hope you had fun and made a few great bowls. Loved your muahaha. :-)

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