In this instructible, I present my first attempt at making a faux rock. I tend to do things the hard way, but also consider everything a learning experience, an experiment, if you will. I have since learned there are easier methods to follow, but again, this is my first attempt. My eventual goal: landscape my front yard (southern CA) so that I don't have to water it ever again. Eventually, I will be able to build very large boulders using the techniques, and improvements I have learned, and save a ton of money on the rocks. Lets proceed:
Step 1: Gather Necessary Materials and Tools.
To make this rock, I started with a small corrugated cardboard box. I use lots of cardboard, so have a good supply on hand as well. Old newspapers for filler, some chicken wire, and of course cement/concrete tools such as spreaders, trowels, buckets, access to water, cement, sand and or mortar mix, etc.
Step 2: Design and Start Construction.
Thinking I could make a shape with cardboard as well, I made extensions out of cardboard that were glued onto the box with regular white glue. I let these sit over night to ensure that the glue was dried, and the bond was strong. It's sometimes easier to do these type of projects in stages, no hurry, no rush.
Step 3: Roughout "rock"
Seen in this picture is the rough rock, and the spaces in between the extensions are filled with newspaper. I even used some styrofoam as filler or extensions as well. It doesn't matter, you just want to make some support for your cement mix.
Step 4: Wrap Form With Chicken Wire
After enough newspaper and or styrofoam has been added to the "rock" form, it is all wrapped with chicken wire. I used the 2 inch size as it was cheaper, but 1 inch might be preferred. I made two layers of wire, thinking hole sizes would help hold the mortar better.
Step 5: Mix Your Cement/mortar
Following manufacturers guidelines, I use a mix of 3 parts sand to 1 part cement, with enough water to make a "stiff" mix of mortar. Using this basic formula, (it can be as much as 4 parts sand to 1 part cement), other variations can be tried. For example, I used a latex polymer tile set product as one part of the sand allotment. So it became: 2 parts sand, 1 part polymer, 1 part cement, plus the water. This adds some sticking power to the mortar mix, and makes it easier to control, I believe.
Step 6: Add Mortar Mix to Rock
Using a 3 inch spreader knife (drywall), I spread the mixture over the rock form. I started at the bottom edge of the form so that any loose mortar could be picked up and added to the rock before moving on. I set my form on a lazy susan turntable, covered in waste cardboard to make it easier to work around the form, and of course the cardboard caught the inevitable drips of mortar.
Step 7: Finish the Rock
After an overnight cure, the mortar was set enough that I could fill in any missed spots, or more commonly, places where the wire was showing through. To fill in these areas, I mixed some fresh polymer tile set, colored with cement colorant in a buff tone. This went on very easily, and towards the end, I added quite a bit of water to the mix, and using an old brush, covered the entire rock with the colored and diluted tile set. This dried very quickly, and I could stop here! To further experiment, I may try to add various weathering techniques,using acrylic paints to make "washes" of color, spattering with various colored paint, and so on. After curing for a few days, and finishing my experiments, I will seal it with a good exterior concrete sealer. This will help to protect the rock from the weather and prolong it's life.
Step 8: The Outdoors Rock.
After finishing as described, I moved the rock out into the sunshine to further dry and "season". Note it is still on the lazy susan so that I can rotate it throughout the day.
Step 9: How the Rock Looks in the Garden
Looks pretty good!