Introduction: Casted Hypertufa Garden Art

Hypertufa is something I’ve wanted to try for several years, but never attempted until this summer. Starting with pots, the instructions I’d been following called for a 2” base for very large pieces. This quickly changed due to my pots being small. A one inch base is sufficient when creating small objects. With the ‘Garden Art’, the 2x4 frame works perfectly and with the addition of the chicken wire for stability, you’ve got a winning combination. So be creative and have fun, there are so many options…..

There are several variations in the recipe from which to choose. The one I used is as follows: 1 part Portland Cement
1 part Sand
1 part Screened Peat Moss
1 part Perlite

NOTE: the strength of the piece will depend on the water to dry ingredient ratio. Too much water will weaken the piece, so be sure to add the water in small amounts until you reach the desired consistency.

Other tools you’ll need include:
Rubber gloves, dust mask, a screen for screening the peat moss, lumber for the
frame (mine was all scrap), plastic for lining the frame (I used a large
garbage bag that I slit down the sides), chicken wire, wheelbarrow/tarp for
mixing hypertufa, bucket for measuring, shovel, scissors, rope (purchased at
the dollar store), 3/8 inch dowel (cut 7 pieces each 3 inches in length), stiff
wire brush, nylon brush, metal frame (I used an old fountain frame made from ¾
inch copper, but you can purchase all the needed pieces at the home improvement
store), 2 metal straps ¾ inch wide by 7 inches long, with ¼ inch holes drilled ½ inch from each end
(used for hanging, can also be purchased at the home improvement store), ¼ by 2 ¼ inch screws with nuts (used for hanging), white vinegar for aging screws.

Step 1: Design

This was my original drawing. At first I was going to make a stand for the piece but changed direction when I found an old fountain frame. The frame measures 11 ¾” (inner diameter) wide by 4 foot high. With these
measurements, I settled on the piece measuring 10” wide by 32” long. This size allowed the frame to be buried a
foot into the ground for stability. You can easily purchase pipe to build your frame (this gives you options on the
type of metal used).

Step 2: Prepare the Frame

You’ll need plywood for the base that measures larger than your finished piece and 2x4’s for the outer edges. The 2x4’s do not have to be cut to length (refer to picture). Lay them out for a 2” depth. Screw the first board down then square the other pieces to achieve the desired size (10” by 32”).

Step 3: Prepare Peat Moss

Put the peat moss through a screen to remove the
clumps. This makes the mixing easier as
it’s hard to get them out once you’ve started mixing.

Step 4: Prepare for Your Project

Cut the chicken wire slightly smaller than the finished size of your piece (8” by 30”).

Cut dowel into seven 3” lengths (If you decide you don’t want the holes in the design, you’ll
still need two for installation).

Line your frame with plastic (I used a large garbage bag slit down each side).

Step 5: Mix Hypertufa

For safety, wear a dust mask and eye protection.

Using the recipe in the intro, measure out your ingredients into a wheelbarrow (you can use a tarp if you don’t have/want to use a wheelbarrow). I used 1 bucketful for each part, this gave me enough hypertufa to fill the frame and make three pots (it could also be used for anchoring the metal frame but you’ll need to plan ahead, see 'installation'). Adjust the amount to meet your needs. Wearing gloves, mix the dry ingredients prior to adding water (this makes it easier to incorporate everything once the water is added). Add the water a little at a time, mixing after each addition, until you achieve the consistency of cottage cheese (refer to picture).

Step 6: Fill Frame

Fill frame half full. Spread hypertufa and press into frame (pack it in).
Put chicken wire into hypertufa. This adds stability.
Now fill frame to the top edge of the 2x4. Make sure to pack it down and into the corners, you want a solid piece.

Step 7: Lay Down Design

Place a dowel one inch in from each side and one inch from the top edge, pushing them all the way to the bottom of the hypertufa. These are the holes used for hanging the piece.
Using your design as a guide, lay the rope on top of the piece to make sure of the length, then cut. When
you’re happy with the placement of the rope, push it down into the hypertufa.
Next, decide on the placement of the dowels and push them to the bottom of the hypertufa like before.

After approximately an hour, check for water pooling on the top of your piece. If you have water, use a paper towel to absorb the excess.

Allow the piece to set up for 24 hours.

Step 8: Finishing

After 24 hours have passed, the piece will be solid but not dry.

Unscrew and remove the wood frame.

Remove the rope and dowels (you may need to use pliers).

Brush the sides with a stiff wire brush to remove the shiny smooth edges. Be careful when moving the piece
because it hasn’t yet cured.

Use a nylon brush on the top surface to remove any sharp edges from the design.

Step 9: Curing

Now that you’ve done the finishing work and are satisfied with the results, it’s time to do nothing.
The piece needs to dry slowly to cure properly. Mine sat in the garage for two weeks. If your piece is drying too quickly, keep it covered with a damp cloth.

Step 10: Installation

Even though I decided to use an old fountain frame, it would have been just as easy to make one from pipe purchased from the home improvement store. If you’re using a larger gauge pipe, you’ll need to adjust the length of the straps to accommodate the extra width.

If you want an aged finish on the straps and screws, soak them in distilled white vinegar overnight.

If your holes aren’t completely through the hypertufa, use a screwdriver to pop them out.

To install the piece, dig a 12 inch deep hole to bury the pipe base.
For more sturdiness you may decide to cement it into place. Another option is to screw a piece of board
(12” by 16”) into the bottom of the pipe, when this is buried, it’s sturdy.

Now fold the straps over the tubing. Holding the artwork, feed the screws through the holes and secure with nuts.

VOILA, you’re finished

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