Concrete is an extremely useful and versatile tool that humans have at their disposal. Usually when one thinks of cement and concrete they will picture an army of cement mixers being manned by workers pouring an enormous slab, but concrete and cement mixers can be used for much more delicate activities. This article will give you some tips on using cement mixers and concrete in sculpting and other crafts.
Concrete is made when cement, sand, water and stones are mixed together, either by hand or with cement mixers, and before it goes through various stages during its curing and drying process. This process happens slowly and can take days or even months to fully complete and the concrete is extremely fragile but also malleable at this point. When pouring a slab this means that you have to keep the area clear and protect the concrete at all costs to avoid any cracking, but this dangerous time can also be used in more artistic ways.
Sculpting and Cement Mixers
Sculpting can be done with any different mediums such as clay, stone and marble but cement and concrete can also be used in many different ways to create beautiful ornaments for your home or outdoor areas. Concrete is often overlooked as an artistic medium as it is generally associated with buildings, floors and other non-aesthetic creations. When we normally see concrete it has cracks or age and will be a wall in need of repair.
But if someone has some level of creativity and they are given the correct knowledge, they can use this to completely change the perceptions of others. Firstly you will need some basic knowledge of concrete and how to mix in the correct ratios for what you want as well as some basic ideas on how long it takes to dry. Although not necessary, cement mixers are recommended if possible as they can take a large amount of beginners error out of the equation.
Someone mixing concrete for the first time may have all the ratios they need and in the correct amounts, but actually bringing it together can be quite difficult as well as tiring, and a first-timer may not know what the finished product is supposed to look like. By using a cement mixer, you will be able to get results much faster and see any possible problems with your mixture. This will also save you time and effort, allowing you to expend more energy on your future concrete creations.
This may seem like a bit of overkill using cement mixers for sculpting but you must keep in mind that mixing concrete together can be very tiring and time consuming when simply done with a shovel. The aggregates are heavy and require quite a lot of stimulation to begin their reaction with the water and with bigger loads this may actually be impossible for one person to do, especially an inexperienced one. This is where cement mixers are pivotal as if you completely ruin the very first step, then no amount of effort and skill from that point forward will save your concrete sculpture.
For small pours and first-time sculpting it is definitely not worth purchasing cement mixers outright and options for renting or leasing should be looked into for longer-term solutions. But whether you’re using a pump truck or your bare hands, next we need to discuss actually molding your concrete creations and preventing some catastrophes. There are three basic ways to use concrete in sculpting.
The Three Ways to Sculpt
The first way is possibly the easiest and is where you make use of a cast and then pour the concrete into it then giving it time to dry and cure. Through this method you can construct fairly complex shapes without exerting too much effort. You can make a cast at home with plastic or wood for simple pours or look online for more complex concrete casts.
Before pouring your concrete from your wheelbarrow or cement mixers into your cast, try lining the inside with some motor oil. Dirty I know but this will allow you to easily remove whatever you have made from the cast without causing any damage. Once you have poured the concrete in, be sure to thoroughly mix it to ensure all air bubbles rise to the surface.
Trapped air can become a problem later on during curing and can cause cracking or drying out. If you are using a large mould for pour it may be worth investing in a small concrete vibrator along with cement mixers. This will again ensure that you have the best results and remove human error as much as possible.
Once this is done, it is time to wait to see the fruits of your labour. You should be able to remove it from the cast after a day but maybe wait two for slightly more complex creations. If you want to reuse the mould be very careful during removal to avoid damage and if you are cutting through the mould be careful not to damage the sculpture hiding within.
Once you have removed the concrete from the cast, you must wait at least another week before using it or applying any pressure to it to allow for the curing process to finish. Curing is where concrete gains most of its structural integrity so it is vital that this step is not ignored. There’s no point in going through all this effort just to watch yout new lawn ornament wash away or break apart in the next rainstorm now is there?
A downside to this method is that if your cast is particularly deep it can be difficult to remove all the air bubbles from inside, even with the use of a concrete vibrator. If all the bubbles are not removed they can create fissure when the water starts to travel to the surface to evaporate. This can cause your entire sculpture to be weak and brittle or never completely finish curing in the first place.
If you are using a vibrator, you will also need to ensure that your cast is built to withstand the intense pressure and vibrations that come along with such an intense machine. A broken cast can be costly and a very nasty cleanup if you are working indoors. For large sculptures and creations, it may be worth using multiple casts and pours and then connecting them together afterwards rather than attempting to do it all in one go.
Although more time consuming, this will allow for greater control and accuracy over your pour, as well as giving you more time to put everything together cohesively. This will also be less dangerous as concrete can be very heavy and cumbersome in one large piece, by breaking it into smaller pieces you can do it yourself rather than asking for help. For larger pours, this is definitely recommended.
The second method is a bit more complicated and medieval but can yield amazing results. This is the technique of carving concrete that has been poured and has finished pouring. You will need the same tools that are used in stone or marble carving such as hammers, chisels and scrapers. This method is also quite time sensitive and will require a high level of concentration as well as a long time-commitment.
For this method, you will mix up your concrete in the same way as the previous method, but this time you will pour it into a flat mould with a full opening at one side. When the concrete has started to dry, this is when you will use your tools to create your masterpiece. Hammer, chisel and scrape away until you are happy, then allow the sculpture to sit another week to finish curing.
This method is much more hands on than the previous one and mistakes can immediately be seen and remedied. Whereas the previous one required work to go into the initial mould, this one requires you to have your skills at the ready before the drying process progresses too far. There is also more danger as a stray swing could damage the structural integrity of your entire creation and require you to start over rather than try and repair the damage done.
You can coat your hands in vaseline to prevent the concrete from damaging your skin as well as preventing you from damaging its surface. Be sure to avoid touching the surface with your hands as little as possible to avoid smudging and to use the tools wherever possible. Try to create a stencil of your design before hand to place over the surface to allow you to work quicker and not be on as much of a time crunch.
The third method requires the use of mesh or chicken wire. First you will need to cut the mesh using wire cutters and bend it into your desired shape, be sure to use a mesh that is strong enough to withstand its own weight and not bend over. Think of it as the rebar that you would place inside of brick walls or concrete piles, it will form the framework and integrity of your work.
If you are unable to to manipulate it into the shape you want or you are having issues with it bending inward, try wrapping it around something hard instead like styrofoam. Next mix up your concrete in cement mixers or a bucket until it reaches the desired consistency. Using a trowel you can then begin applying the concrete to the mesh to create your sculpture.
You will start slowly, applying thin layers that gradually dry and begin to become larger and larger and eventually take shape. When you have finished the concrete should be dry within 24 hours but your work is not done yet. It will still need to cure for another week so be sure to keep it somewhere safe and avoid touching it whenever possible.
The aggregates you use more than the type of cement will determine the characteristics and outer aesthetics of your sculpture. Perhaps do some research beforehand on the combination you are looking for. Employees at hardware stores can also be extremely knowledgeable when asked the right questions.
If you are using a mould to create your sculpture, perhaps look into chemicals that will make the concrete dry and cure quicker. This can be helpful with the mesh method as it will allow your layers to dry quicker and let you finish faster. These can also possibly protect the surface of your sculpture from smudges and other damage.
Some types of concrete are specifically made to bond to others that have already dried, this can either allow you to repair damage, or add on more designs to an existing sculpture. You can use a mould to create the base layer that you will be working on, and a mixture of the other 2 methods to create some incredible designs.