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Picture of How To Make Faux Rocks
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:
 
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Step 1: Gather necessary materials and tools.

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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.

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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"

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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Looks pretty good!
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nancee441 year ago

I just wondered how heavy the rock got to be.

Yea, I'm sure it would have some degree of weight, just because of the different elements like sand and concrete. Plus, it probably depends on how big you make it!

Creativeman (author)  nancee441 year ago

25 t0 30lbs., I would guess

krambrose8 months ago

Okay. I don't usually comment on these things, but this? This is freaking awesome. If I had a backyard I would definitely be making these for my tropical island themed backyard lol. Really cool!

theegghead1 year ago

A W E S O M E!!!!!

Love It! Will do in June!

lady4feet1 year ago
Just what I was looking for! I recently saw a fake rock at Lowes that I really wanted to get to cover a spigot in my yard but with a $90 price tag it is out of my price range. This is perfect, I even have some quickcrete in my shed.
milesnorth1 year ago
Thats a great rock. I just have to laugh though about saving money by making them. Is it that hard to find rocks where you are? Thats amazing! ( I am a rock maniac and have collected "real" rocks for years). I like it though. Thanks for the lesson. I plan on making a huge one with an old dog crate I have. Should make an interesting dog house I think.
Creativeman (author)  milesnorth1 year ago
Thanks for the comments! Yes, it is very difficult to find rocks here...everything is fenced or paved it seems like. They frown upon taking them from the beaches and forest roads as well. Major fines. Like to see the dog house when done, good idea!
That honestly blows my mind a wee bit. I live in Alaska and collect rocks ABSOLUTELY everywhere i go. Have a bit of a thing for rocks (husband and father are both geologists). Wow! I am a hillbilly from Alaska. It is now official! Good luck in your rock hunting. If you every want to be in rock heaven visit AK :-)
DIYDragon2 years ago
Thanks for this! I already used concrete to make counters for my kitchen that are 'rock look' but was having a hard time making three dimensional items for my backyard landscaping. I'll try some of this to shape my rocks better. ^_^
ilpug2 years ago
Am I being trolled?
CaseBoy2 years ago
you can modify this and make a hidden compartment in it.
strmrnnr6 years ago
I have been trying to think of ways to get rid of the unrecyclable plastic that people are complaining about. One idea is to grind the plastic up and mix it into our own soils. If the pieces are small enough the root systems of plants should have no problem growing around and through them. This project would be a good idea also. You could fill that box with at least 6-8 dozen ground up bottles before gluing the ribs on. You would still have to dispose of the plastic when the rock breaks but from the looks of this one you did that will be some time from now. Great job, and excellent idea.
yah lets take un-biodegrable and unrecycleable plastic and put it back where ppl were complaining about it being first of all... its not the root system that is effected by un-recycleable plastic.. might want to hit the chalk board again
gtoal3 years ago
I discovered by accident that Oogoo (search for it on this site if you don't know what it is) mixed with black Plastidip makes a very convincing Granite look. (Obviously the rubbery texture is wrong but if it's not being touched...)

jbpitcher3 years ago
Have you ever heard of papercrete? Do you think it would work? It would also make it very light and inexpensive. Thoughts from anyone????
http://www.artificialrockoutlet.com/Pump-Cover-Artificial-Rocks/20-1Good idea on the form. It is a nice effect in the paint finish. We used a similar techinque when we built the tree in the movie Pet Sematary 2. (Yes that is the spelling). We also used chicken wire but over a steel and plywood frame that we could take apart and move. I will suggest "molding" different features by twisting the wire, or bunching it up. Remember, you can not "mold" details, but more broad features like cracks, and more miss-shapen rocks. Also, I will suggest playing with flyash in the mix to reduce the weight. (Available at concret supply stores). And during the finishing stages, throw some silver or gold "Glitter" at the rock for the "fleck" of mica often found in natural stone. Not a whole lot, just as if you are using a salt shaker of glitter to sprinkle a few pieces on. You should be quite pleased with the results. I have a fake tree stump made the same way that covers my well pump to keep it from freezing. They sell similar fiberglass rocks to cover well pumps at $100+ see the styles with google for artificalrocksoutlet.com
Good job! It looks incredibly realistic! It would make a great hide-a-key stone among other, real, rocks. Thanks again, WI.

@spartancaver: Do you have your tree stump on the site? That would be a great project for me to do for my grandmother's well. Thanks to you as well.
Creativeman (author)  spartancaver6 years ago
Thanks for the input...will consider it all. I know the possibilities are endless...so many ideas, so little time! Cman
So happy to find this. Moved from Calif. mountaintop w/tons of rocks, to JAX FL.where there are NO rocks, only sand. Have been obsessing how to add rocks to landscape. TY bunches!!!
Creativeman (author)  mmtnmama4 years ago
You are welcome! Condolences on your move from Ca. to Fla.....
sky14102804 years ago
I would like to make a swing out of a 2.5 to 3" vine that will be safe for the kids and adults to swing on by hanging it from my pecan tree. HOW DO I DO THIS AND MAKE THE VINE SAFE.
handprints4 years ago
Totally awesome! How thick is the concrete and is the rock strong enough to sit on? Say 200lbs?
Creating large rocks in the area I would like one is what appeals to me. The weight is prohibitive otherwise. I believe that is what makes buying rocks expensive. It's not the actual rock you pay for but the transportation and the placement. I am going to try to create a form and then use strips of cast off screening material dipped in portland cement to create a sort of paper mache technique to form the first layer of rock and then trowl and press on additional concrete with powdered pigment to create the final look. I'll take picture and let you know if what I'm thinking will work. I love the moss idea. There is a place in my garden that I was thinking of placing to large rocks side by side and plant in the ditch between them, but this might be more fun.
Creativeman (author)  HardwareMa.am4 years ago
This is a lot of fun. People can't believe that you made them! Hope your idea works, I have since discovered many tips and hints by going to you tube, and the net in general...please post your results as an instructable, maybe you are on to something REALLY BIG! My next challenge in this area is to make small rocks with the smooth finish of granite....still working on that one. any ideas? Thanks for the comment.
Thanks for your comment and your encouragement. I will take plenty of pictures and post the results as an instructable. I'll be sure to let you know....I ordered the powdered pigment online as I couldn't find what I wanted anywhere close by so I'm waiting on it to finish the project but can start the actual project soon. Trying to finish some other projects first. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you think of it, my mind comes up with more projects than my time and energy can handle so I have to consentrate on finishing and not just starting..........
botronics5 years ago
Can you use plaster of paris instead of cement? Will it hold up to the elements? I want to use it to make a fake rock for geocaching.
goatgirly6 years ago
I don't understand how this is cheaper than using a real rock.
well say you wanted a rock that wiaghed like half a ton that wud cost a lot
A 1000 pound boulder is about 6-7 cubic feet. That's 2 foot by 3 foot by 1 foot rock. Not terribly large. A local shop where I live, charges $.22 - $.26 per pound for boulders but that depends on the type, etc. Do the math, that small boulder you're asking about costs around $250. So to get a larger one...
I got the same problem with you. I had to pay $350-$550/ton on Rock and switch to faux rock now.
I'll probably be making some faux rocks this spring.  I've thought about building a whole outdoor climbing wall this way or even building a concreted side to my pond using faux rocks.  Good luck.
and this wud be darn lot easyer to move
Have you ever pay for real rock? I'm working on this faux rock now, and stop paying $300-$550/ton on rock. Real rock is heavy those. hundreds lbs compare to 20-50lbs for the faux rock with the side about  1-2 cft.
For the cost of making faux rock ($0 carton boxes + $0 old news paper + $6/ 50lbs premix mortar from home depot + $4 paint and other) $10 you have about 2 cuft of rock. Save money and save your BACK.
fake rocks are great for geocaching...they make great "right in front of you" hiding places and this method uses materials that are close at hand. Thanks, good Instructable
Lor goatgirly6 years ago
have you ever tried to find a real rock this big? and then tried to transport it? plus, difficult to find the beautiful rocks when you need them.
ArleaNicole Lor6 years ago
Yeah and you can also use this for making prop rocks for plays.
For a production of The Trojan Women for Theatre @ York, this is the process we used to build 3 dozen rocks/boulders as well as a 4x4x6 altar. The only difference I can see is that we started with a 4x6x8 block of blue insulation and just chunked it out into the pieces we needed. We couldn't use paper mache for our application as the director wanted "the sound of rocks rolling across the floor." and needed to be stood on... so no hollow forms for us. I say: Nice job! Even if it may come off as a little self serving. ;)
We always used paper mache for prop rocks. Strips of newspaper soaked in a flour water mix and laid up on a form. When dried, paint as required. MUCH lighter and less susceptible to damage (by clumsy stagehands during black-outs) than a mortar veneer.
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