Playing with Hypertufa

One of my latest new addictions: HYPERTUFA. between school, getting sick & winding up in the hospital, I am not quite were I wanted to be as far as "projects made". The "recipe" for hypertufa is the hardest part...not mentally, its a bit much on the arms and wrists some times. There has to be an easier way and I plan on finding it!
In the meantime I have done a few projects. I am most definitely in the beginner's trial and error stage, but either way I feel like a kid at Christmas when I unravel my latest project to see how it came out. I can honestly say that most of the items I tried look pretty cool and some just plain 'ol surprised me with being better than I expected. Of course there are some that just didn't go the way I planned, but no worries! The best part about "mistakes"....just hammer them up & add them to your garden!!! YUP...makes for great garden food!

My first attempt at making something with hypertufa, I had found red concrete dye and not knowing (or should I say: not reading the directions) how much to put it, I winged it the same way I do with cooking. Patience being a chip on my shoulder, I just kept dumping more and more in.  For the recipe, well there's a subject all its own, cause it seems everyone has a different one of choice. Therefore you have to experiment and find what you like the best. For the first projects that I had made, my recipe was as follows:

1.5 parts Perlite
1.5 parts Peat Moss
1    part Portland Cement

Some people use Vermiculite instead of the Perlite. Some people change the ratios. Some people add sand, some add fiber get the idea.  I also didn't realize Portland comes in different colors. The stuff I got is dark gray and my finished "undyed" projects come out with an light pinkish-brown sort of color. I will have to investigate where I can find white Portland cement. Please note that a key factor in this recipe, whatever which one you find works best for you, the one MUST is that you use Portland cement!

Use the same size container when measuring. Here, I just use an empty coffee container with a handle, works great

I highly recommend putting your Portland cement in a bin!!! Makes life much easier & keeps the cement nice and dry!

Add Perlite

Mix the ingredients while dry. I should add that when adding & mixing it is wise to wear a face mask & to wear gloves. I also use a cement trowel to get in the corners. Before I am done I use my hands and then I can also crumble any existing clumps.

You want the mixture to be somewhat on the dry side: wet enough to hold it together. Add water a little a time. After making hypertufa a few times you will get the feel of what works best for you. The other day while working on a project in the sun & 90+ degrees, I had made my mixture a little more wet than usaul to make up for the weather drying it out to fast on me.

Squeeze a handful, the hypertufa should be wet enough to stick together, maybe squeeze out a drop or two.

For my next "batch " I think I'm going to try less Perlite. It just looks like to much to me, costs is high and it makes for any attempts at carving to become very disheartening. I also want to try "casting" leaves". You know, BIG LEAVES, like Castor bean and Elephant ears. They make for great garden ornaments, wall art or birdbaths. If your really ambitious you can make a cascading water fountain from them! After examining the recipe I had been using, and giving a Hosta leaf a try: My gut says, NO WAY. So I searched the web for the reasons why other people's leaves look so much better. My conclusion: Substitute the Perlite with sand. It will make the project heavier but you will be able to get finer detail from the leaf.
Now for the worst news ever: CURING. For the "I WANT IT NOW" kinda of society we have become, with so many things being available to us in just seconds......if this is you, turn back now. Whatever you decide to make: a bowl, trough, birdbaths, benches, etc, they all need to cure. Curing consists of wrapping it up in plastic and letting it sit. This is also another one of those things that everyone has a different opinion on. So, to me, the best policy is the longer the better. The rule of thumb is that the longer the hypertufa is allowed to cure the stronger it will be. For the most part you should give your project at least one month to cure. Opening it now and then and giving it a sprinkling of water or misting it, will be in even better for a "slow cure". FYI: Even after a month of curing, this does NOT mean that your hypertufa is fit for plants!!! You guessed it... another item for speculation. Let it sit outside and get rained on for a while, soak it in water or soak in a solution of vinegar and water. So far I have left my stuff outside for nature to handle except for one trough I had made for a present. That one I soaked in a solution of water with vinegar, probably a 10 to 1 ratio for at least a half hour.

Here is a sample of my humble beginning:

 This bowl will by my example of why you wait like you're told to let items cure....curiosity killed the cat and impatient hypertufa crafters break their bowls! You can't really tell in this picture but I added new hypertufa to the bowl and but it back together!

A bowl made from a cheap plastic bowl from a dollar store. You can these over and over and make them various heights. Make them with a little "U" portion cut out of the rim, turn it over for a "Toad House". The possibilities are only as short as your imagination. Don't forget to add drainage holes AND grease whatever it is you are going to use to make the holes!!!!

One of the very first things I made. I used an old plastic waste basket. First I sprayed it with "Pam" and then added the hypertufa to the outside, trying to keep the thickness at least an inch thick. I also used 3 pieces of dowels in the bottom to supply drainage holes. I was planning for this to be able to hold chicks and hens, this years addiction, but didn't realize to make a "shelf" for the holes. Now I realize why I was having such a hard time trying to get them to stay in. Live & Learn. Live & Learn! Just so you know: while Pam was suggested, I didn't find it helpful for a "mold release", all my projects required crowbars. Now I have a bottle of canola oil & paint brush handy....slides out like melted butter! In case you forgot, this was one of those red dye jobs.

I wanted to make mushrooms but I didn't want them to be perfect and to round looking. This was actually done in 2 pieces. The bottom was made from cheap plastic cups. The top I filled a plastic flower pot with some sand, then I took a ball and put a piece of plastic over it. Next, I pushed it into the sand till it was as deep as I wanted the top portion to be.Take the ball out and fill, firmly, with hypertufa. For storing to cure and to give the top a "fit" base: I put the cup (bottom mold) into the bottom of the top mold, then wrapped both together in a plastic bag to cure. You can then add them together by wetting  both pieces at the connection points, then add some hypertufa, put together, wrap and let cure again. Otherwise just put the top on top of the bottom. Works well unless you have a dog that insists on running through your gardens with absolutely no respect for anything you do....but I digress....

This one was my first tries at a planter and I decided to do it with legs. I used a cheap Styrofoam ice chest with pieces of foam stuck in the bottom to block off where I didn't want the tufa so it would be one solid piece. You can add legs/pieces on, I just haven't mastered it yet.
For visual effect I also brushed the sides with a wire brush so it would look more like natural stone. I also carved a crack into it after it 2 days of curing.

This planter was made with the same mold, only this time I had added a little black dye and I only made it half as tall.

I am in the process now of adding a new section to my garden in the backyard. First, it starts with a rock wall that will be almost 2 feet high. In the middle of the front I will have a grotto to hold my Grandmother's statue of Mary. The grotto is made of hypertufa which I used an old plastic sled for a mold. When I get done I will post it all with step by step pictures. I have a very expensive back, so sometimes ..hahahaha...alot of the times the going gets pretty slow, so hang in there with me. This is a very special and sentimental project that I would really like to finish in the coming week in honor of my very special grandson, Dominic.
Once the garage is up and running I will have a shop so that I can work on hypertufa projects more often and get all my crap off the picnic table. Another project that I am eager to get started: I want to make a table & chairs set out of hypertufa!!!

Click here or a better explanation of Hypertufa recipes and projects. Just think of it as playing in the mud like when you were a kid!

Go ahead, get down & dirty!



Heather said...

Wow! Thank you for the tutorial! I'd love to try this.... REALLY! (do I sound too excited??) Just think of the things I could make! Thanks again - I'll be checking your blog regularly now!

Jester said...

I KNOW!!! I don't remember how I came accross it but I couldn't wait to try it either! Just remember to be patient & leave your project wrapped up for a few days to be on the safe side before checking it out!!!Yes, I know how hard that is to....that's why my first bowl broke in half....

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