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Easy to make concrete bowls and planters...

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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. (Ver batum 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.

I like this instructable, however as someone who has experience building ponds I have to warn you not to place new concrete into ponds with live plants or animals. The lye that dissolves into the water can kill them. That's why concrete ponds are usually coated with liquid rubber, or filled with water, let sit for a week, drained and refilled a half dozen times to ensure the lye is diluted out. Cure it in plain water. Of course, small structures in a large volume of water may have no effect on livestock, but I wouldn't chance it.

timbit19852 months ago

Wow cool! I think you could make a really cool water feature with that sphere. Force a small circular water vase done the center of the sphere after you fill it, so you have a void for a submersible water pump. Use one of your bowling ball vases as a resevoir and you have a fancy water feature!!

Joni2U2 months ago

The large round globe one I would paint with glow in the dark paint and set in a garden.. If it was mine.. :) Awesome ideas thank you for sharing..

Growergirl2 months ago

Do you have to wait some before you plant into these since they are cement? Or do you have a treatment for them after they have cured so that plants do not burn from the cement?

sagesmoon3 months ago
I pour in anything and everything....LESSON: I've poured for years....but my last bag...I'd been sick with an ear ache for over a month, felt bad and didn't think clearly. NOW I have 3 items I can't get out. ONE a white, staight sided ceramic baking bowl I pushed into the top to make a concrete bowl.....yep, no spray and no liner...:( the other 2 are in metal & stainless pans....the one I figured would release because of the black coating on the inside of it, never has been a problem before....now for the other issue. This time I had the brilliant idea to "stack" for multi items. I poured in bottom container, pushed bowl/pan into the top, then I poured cement into that bowl, then I pushed smaller bowl into that. Yep, worked like a charm....except for the 3 I have to wait for Mother Nature to help me get out. They'll come out...lol.....eventually, may take a year or 6 months....IF you have suggestions, I'm all ears....I know, I know, should lined with plastic....believe me, Next time I feel so bad, I'LL WAIT till I feel better so I won't make such stupid mistakes...;)
Shinchan5 months ago
Do you think you could eat off of bowls made from concrete? Would it have to be treated? I have a plan to make a mochi usu (large mochi pounding mortar) from concrete but hesitant to do so if the concrete would leach out something into the mochi.
Mahalo for any info!
gerrielder10 months ago
Where can you find those bowls?
Try you local dollar/discount stores. They often have lots of plastic bowls & containers of different shapes really cheap that would work.
WUVIE (author)  gerrielder10 months ago
Hi Gerrielder,

And THAT is the question. :-) I've had good luck finding them in second-hand stores on occasion, thrift shops, yard sales and such. They are made by various manufacturers, but are a fad from days gone by pretty much. I'm constantly on the lookout for them. I've paid as much as $8.00 and as little as $1.00 at a yard sale, with the most recent from a second-hand shop for a mere $1.50.
Homemomma9 months ago
What a fantastic Instructable! Thank you for sharing it with us. Heading out later today in search of molds, muahaha!
hohum10 months ago
love the cat
bammabits10 months ago
Great article, but more pictures wanted! How did you make that really cool round edged bowl in your title photo? Thanks!
WUVIE (author)  bammabits10 months ago
Hi,

Actually, the very first step mentions the following:

"Curious about the intro bowl? See step five for details."

When you see step five, there are eight pictures.

:-)
Wonderful ideas; thanks so much. I've looked through all the posts; but can't seem to find the answer to someone else's question on how to make the frog.... are you willing to share that ?
WUVIE (author)  lovestogarden1 year ago
Hi there!
Oh, yes! The instructions for the frog are to live in a good environment, provide bugs and water, and refrain from using garden chemicals and pesticides. The tree frogs will flock to your home and stay forevermore. :-)
cclark11 year ago
I have often thought of makeing some of these I just never have actually had the courage to come up with a way to try it. Great idea useing the cooking spray as a mold release.

I will probably make me some here in a few weeks when I have the spair cash to grab a damaged bag of quickcrete at lowes. (They sell damaged bags at greatly reduced prices here at the local one.)

I do want to point out that you might want to reconsider sticking the cureing product in with your Koi. Cureing concrete wreaks havoc on PH levels in the water. I suspect your pond is large enough to absorb the PH swings with out really messing with the PH in the pond. But if you put something really large in there to cure it might just be bad enough to damage the pond.

I have done some of the DIY hydrolic concrete and styrafoam backgrounds in a few of my fish tanks. (They look marvelous from the get go, more so when they are covered in growth, and weigh next to nothing) The cure time for them to stop effecting the PH levels was well in excess of a month. Most people that do 'oystercrete' for marine aquariums cure it for several months with daily/weekly water changes.

All that being said one of the most clever ideas I saw for that kind of cureing was to simply load the items in the tank of your toilet. So the water gets changed every time you flush the toliet. The water changes help speed the curing process apperently.

Any way thanks for the great information and keep tinkering away!

- Clark
(Frequently Z-man12 around the net)
I have been wanting to do something w/ concrete. I have been digging into my pins on Pinterest to decide which project to start and came across your Instructable. Have you ever done the hupertufa containers w/ the concrete, peat moss and perlite mix? I was actually ready to start on some but we're locked inside w/ Hurricane Isaac making his way to us. So I won't be playing in concrete for now. I know that I've seen something you've done before. Did you do the inside out tire planters on another website a few years back? I know I've seen Wuvie somewhere besides instructables. Well maybe you'll enlighten me. If not, thanks for the great ideas and instructable. I w/ be trying this and w/ let you know how it turns out.
WUVIE (author)  hardwarechick1 year ago
Hello Hardwarechick,

My sincere apologies, I tend to forget about the comments section, and I really do need to check on them more often. Thank you so much for the wonderful compliments! I actually haven't tried hypertufa, though it sure looks fun! Yep, that was me and the tires. That seems like soooo long ago. Hope you will give these a try, and definitely hope you will share. :-)
I was just reading thru some of the older comments and I couldn't stop. So many great ideas. I have been making hypertufa containers. I don't know if you're familiar w/ it but if not, you might like the change. It's 1 part concrete mix, 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite (from the garden center). Everything else you described is done the same exact way but this mix is very light weight. I think it's used to make troughs for succulents in arid climates but I use 2 sizes of buckets and pack the mix in between the two buckets(about 2" thick) or you can make your own forms. Laminated boards work really well. Just like your mix, you have to lube it up so it w/ release. The curing is the same and I drop mine into a koi-less pond. Everythings the same as w/ yours but I also use dowels to make drainage holes. I would do an instructable but I've never even uploaded a photo before and wouldn't know where to start. Of course, you may already know about this mix and I'm rambling on about it. Anyway, I'll be watching you for more great ideas. Thanks.
Oh and once its finished its PH leeching its totally safe. (At least the hydrolic type cement.) Unlike what seems to be a common opinion. If it wasn't there would be a lot of guys with some very dead reef/fresh water tanks out there. My self included. I have some things that a few bits of copper in the water would kill in a few days. None of them have shown any signs of ill effect over the last year plus.

Oh and I don't know if you have seen it or not by hydrolic concrete is a very fine premix. If some one is looking for something fine and smooth I think it would be excelent.
hoka1 year ago
I am inspired! Thanks to you and Libbie.
WUVIE (author)  hoka1 year ago
Aww, Hoka, Libbie said 'Thank you!'
And I thank you, too. :-)
donalddon51 year ago
I am inspired. Thanks.
WUVIE (author)  donalddon51 year ago
Donald, thank you so much. If only the weather would cooperate, we could be outside making more of these right now! :-)
ccannon71 year ago
I am absolutely intrigued with these projects. Where was all this wonderful info when I was physically and financially able to do them? Or when I lived in a house instead of this 502 square foot apartment?...... sigh! I'm bookmarking and saving all this info just in case I ever get to live in a real house again. You have inspired me to release that creative spark that I have kept locked away for the last 12 years. Thanks
WUVIE (author)  ccannon71 year ago
Hello! Thank you so much! I hope you won't allow your small quarters to keep you from these projects. Perhaps on a smaller scale, but you can definitely make some wonderful things. Hope you will give something a try. Thank you again for posting, I hope you keep that creative spark!
bajablue1 year ago
lol... I WUVIE your work... all of it!!! ;-D
WUVIE (author)  bajablue1 year ago
Aw, thank you so much, Bajablue! :-)
bajablue1 year ago
lol... I WUVIE your work... all of it!!! ;-D
HollyMann1 year ago
I'm glad you stopped by my instructable earlier as now I can check out yours. This is really great to know/learn how to do. Thank you! And Libbie is so cute!
milesnorth1 year ago
Good Stuff! Lots of ideas rolling around in my head from this. THANKS!
awhitt1 year ago
I haven't tried it yet but, my idea was to use different sizes of children's air filled rubber/plastic bouncey balls. Just cut a hole for filling the ball with the concrete mixture, and as it needs a flat side as not to roll around on the porch anyway, let it set.
danzo3211 year ago
Not sure if Wuvie has mentioned it, but concrete cast against glass or anything slick will come out mirror-shiny. She has a lot of airbubbles which is probably unavoidable since her molds are fragile, but with more vibrating you can get staggering finishes. But this mirror surface does not last outdoors, as rain dissolves the outer layer of cement to reveal the sand texture.
LadyBugShan2 years ago
This is a Great Instructable. Thanks for taking the time to make it. I enjoy doing mosaics and this is an inexpensive way to have things to mosaic.
WUVIE (author)  LadyBugShan2 years ago
LadyBugShan,

A mosaicist? Great, we're going to get along just fine!

I actually thought about applying mosaics to the concrete ball, but then it seemed I might lose the effect of it weighing 30+ pounds. In other words, I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to pick it up, even if it were covered with mosaics, so the fact that it was made of concrete would be ignored.

However, I am in the process of making some of the chip and dip flower rings with mosaic, and I can't wait to finish. Perhaps another tutorial?

Nice to meet another mosaic lover!

Karen
danzo321 WUVIE1 year ago
Mosaics are often glued to the mold surface, as with silicone, and then they are seized by the concrete.
mosaics,----cool

gezz--instructable people have some great ideas
hmiller-12 years ago
You know those big balls they sell in the toy/bicycle section in stores like KMart and WalMart...I'm talking the 3 foot diameter balls that are already pumped up and are thin rubber? They are stored in a bin that has twine or netting to keep the balls corralled. Or the Yoga balls used as a Stability Ball.

That would be a great form, if it held up...for these concrete creations.
WUVIE (author)  hmiller-12 years ago
A yoga ball for sure! Great sphere ideas, keep 'em coming!
hmiller-1 WUVIE2 years ago
If you consider concrete is like a wetter form of pottery clay, akin to clay slip used to pour ceramics and other moulds...you can use concrete to make forms (look it up on the internet) you can get some really cool forms. It's actually how the pros do it with concrete castings. For instance..if you wanted to make a gargoyle or 100 gargoyles or basins with complex cool designs or 100 of them - you take the original and pour concrete around it to make half moulds and join the pieces (similar to push molds) or join the two molds and pour in the middle...shake it a lot to get air bubbles out, and let dry for a while. Then instead of breaking the glass, you just take off the mold straps and pop the two halves of the cast mold out.

For water features with fittings, just pour the concrete around the fitting. It will likely stay. If it slips, you can caulk it after the fact. I thought of inserting a chain link that is stainless steel, or weather resistant...then you'd have a ball and chain, haha.

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