Tuesday, March 26, 2013

mixing concrete for a smaller project

Infusing concrete in to a design can have a great impact on a projects overall result. I really like the way it adds a modern urban vibe to what ever I'm making. If you've been reluctant to use it in your projects don't let it intimidate you anymore. It's pretty awesome stuff.

Stage 1, getting your mix supplies ready.
For most smaller projects I'll use a bucket mix (not shown below in the pic of things you may need). There's some benefits to using this mix method. First it contains the mix really well, second they're cheap, third it's perfect for small mixes, and fourth garage space is kind-of a premium (buckets prevent the need of the additional space a wheelbarrow takes up). 

Supplies required:
  • Concrete
  • mixing container
  • additional bucket of water on hand for tools and clean up
  • hose with nozzle or additional bucket of water
  • mixing stick or drill and mix attachment
  • scoop cup
  • trowel
  • concrete color (if desired)

things you may need

Stage 2, starting your mix.
What ever your chosen mix container add just a bit of water to the bottom and sides of it. It prevents the concrete from clumping, sticking, and makes it easier to get a good mix (I leave about 2" of water on the bottom).

stage 2, pre-wet the mixing container

Stage 3, protect your mixing area.
Lay out something to mix your concrete on. You will splatter and spill it happens especially if you use a drill motor for mixing. I use a scrap piece of cardboard but anything that can be spread out will work.

stage 3, protecting your area

Stage 4, adding concrete.
With your scoop dump 2-3 scoops then start mixing. It's better to go slowly especially if your manually mixing and add as needed to get the proper consistency (pancake batter/ oatmeal) both work well. For a couple of bucks make life easier and buy a drill attachment (it makes quick work of it).

stage 4, slowly add concrete and mix
stage 4, this mix is to wet add concrete
stage 4, this is how I like it

Stage 5, to tint or not to tint?
Sometimes I like to add coloring to get a richer color in my concrete. This step is totally dictated by you and your projects over all look. In this case I'm adding a charcoal coloring. Just squirt in as much or little that you want and then mix in.

stage 5, adding color tint
stage 5, coloring mixed in and concrete ready to use

Stage 6, clean up.
Use that additional bucket of water for clean up and setting dirty concrete tools in. Be sure to dump your mess in an appropriate area. I use a spot in my backyard kinda dedicated to the left over concrete junk...

stage 6, clean up

Here's a couple of recent projects that I have done using the bucket mix method.

stool with up-cycled desk legs
the base to my mid-century modern floor pendant

In the end concrete is pretty easy to work with. Yes, it's a bit messy but it really brings an additional element of material to a project that often makes it super cool.

Go for it, use it and please post some photo's of your work...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A really cool concrete stool

I'm a huge fan of making things and challenging your creativity. Every thing about a project excites me and gets me pumped!! Every so often I'll come across an idea that has a great result with minimal effort.

Here's a really fun and simple weekend project to help fuel you; a heavy duty modern concrete stool. It will cost you about $15.00 bucks for material and the final product is pretty cool.

Materials required:
  • (1) bag of Quickcrete 5000 cement
  • Plastic tub
  • (3) legs of any kind
  • polyurethane (if desired)

final product

Stage 1,  acquiring your legs.
There's several directions we can go for legs. You can use a dowel and cut it into three equal lengths. If you choose this option just be sure to use one about the diameter of a closet rod. You can make your own, or do as we did, and find a junked chair with able legs. What ever you decide to do make sure they all have equal lengths (16" makes a good stool height).

stage 1, our leg choice
stage 1, my three legs all cut to equal lengths @ 16".

Stage 2, choose your tub for the concrete form.
When looking for the perfect tub form you want to make sure the bottom is smooth with minimal indentations. You can get a toy tub at the big box stores for a few bucks or just use a five gallon bucket. Either one work's really good. The only difference is the final product size. The bucket is a bit smaller, I personally like the bigger tub version.

stage 2, the concrete form

Stage 3, mix your concrete.
Mixing concrete isn't as intimidating as one might think. It's actually pretty simple. Using a five gallon bucket add just a bit of water (this helps prevent concrete from collecting around the outer edge unmixed and sticking to the bucket). Scoop in some Quickcrete 5000 concrete then add a bit more water (go slow with the water) add just enough to mix. You want to have the final consistency of pancake batter. Adding to much water can make for a weaker final product. You can manually mix with a big paint stick or something of the sort. If you prefer buy a mixer attachment for your drill, it makes quick work of mixing just don't gun the drill motor or concrete will be all over.

Stage 4, pour the concrete in and set your legs.
Find a good safe place to locate your form so it wont be accidentally touched. Once you have the right concrete mixture pour it into your form. You want to have no less than 2" thickness (the more you use the heavier your stool). you may want to mark the inside of your form so you don't exceed your determined thickness.

Once the concrete is in the form agitate it with a palm sander. Go all around the form with the sander to remove air pockets. It makes for a better cure and a better looking product.

Now take your legs and push them into the concrete. Be sure to hit the bottom then lift up just a bit to allow concrete back under the leg. Then rest each leg on the inside wall of the tub/bucket form in the position you want. I chose to place mine about 2" from the edge.

stage 4, legs set and ready to let cure

Stage 5, let stool cure for a minimum of 2 days.
Don't be tempted to touch until you reach that second day about 40-48hours later.

Stage 6, turn over and lift off form.
This is where you'll get a chance to feel how heavy your project is. Gently turn it over and work the form off by squeezing, turning, and lifting. it should slide out pretty easy.

stage 6, turned right side up
stage 6, with the tub form lifted off

Stage 7, Keep as is or polyurethane.
Adding poly will give the project a more polished look. If you choose to add poly apply a thin coat let dry do a light sand and then repeat.

stage 7, adding poly

Our final product is a really cool modern stool that you can make for yourself. I liked this project so much I'm making custom bar stools. Same process with just a bit longer legs...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the funky (LED) globe pendant

I came across a super cool idea for that old globe collecting dust... a kinda funky looking pendant light. What a perfect fixture for a reading room  or an office space. It's fun, simple, and makes a really unique conversation piece.

For this project you'll need a globe, light kit from the hardware store, and maybe a couple of other things that you might not already have.  

the final product

Stage 1, disassembling your globe. 
Once you have your globe all you need to do is take it apart. Mine was pretty simple to pull out of it's fixture. Start at the top pop it out and then lift out the bottom. 

stage 1, taking it apart

Stage 2, where to cut for making pendant.
This stage is all laid out for you on the globe just pick a horizontal line and start cutting along it with a box knife. I used an up and down motion with the knife it helped me stay along my cut line. If you want to make two pendants cut along the equator and you'll have two halves. I wanted more of the diameter so I lost Antarctica and the South end of a couple more countries. 
stage 2, splitting the globe

Stage 3, sand the edges where you split your globe.
Use a 150 grit and sand off the cardboard area's to clean up the fixture. If your cut was rough this step will help you flatten it out so it looks good.

stage 3, sanding edges

Stage 4, stain or paint the inside then poly.
I chose to stain the inside of mine with a dark walnut. Whatever method you use give it a couple of coats and the proper time for drying. Once dried give both the inside and outside a coat of poly, let dry and do it again. You may even want a third coat?

stage 4, applying first coat of stain
stage 4, inside after second coat
stage 4, the first coat of poly on the outside.

Stage 5, drill your light fixture hole.
I'm using an LED pendant fixture and my hole needs to be 1 1/4" to accommodate the light. A hole that size is best done with a hole saw, it makes a cleaner pass through. Your hole will depend on your light kit.

stage 5, drilling fixture mount hole

Stage 6, connecting the light kit.
Assemble the kit per kit instructions. If you're converting and improvising with another fixture than do what ever you need to do for assembly.

stage 6, assembling the light
stage 6, view of the fixture poking through the mount hole on globe
stage 6, what the pendant looks like once assembled

Again this is a super easy project that looks really cool when done. I don't have pics of it hanging because she's going straight to market...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Huge style almost "FREE" organic art

One super hot trend in design is organic art pieces. If well executed it can dramatically change a room by bringing the outdoors in and adding a bit of natural rustic vibe. Surprisingly organic pieces like this will take on whatever style decor of your space. Is your space modern the art looks modern? Is your space rustic it will look rustic. In whatever the setting indoors or out I say go big and go for it! Why not the piece is practically free anyway?

As we all know art is expensive especially big impact pieces like the one we're about to make in our project at hand "the almost free organic art."

final product a 3'x6' organic art piece outside front entry
final product inside the house
Stage 1, the foraging.
we live in an extremely wooded area so I don't have to go far for this project. In fact all these pieces for the project were found by my daughters school. If you don't live in a location that's wooded either find a place or next time you prune those trees around the house set them aside for this project. Where ever you go to get them don't forget pruners and a hand saw. Trim off all excess branches but be sure to maintain some of the natural "Y's" on a few branches.

stage 1, the foraging score oak branches

Stage 2, the supplies needed.
Your supplies are pretty basic and the only thing you may need to purchase is the 16gauge wire. In addition to the branches I have pruners, loppers, dykes, and wire that's it.

stage 2, your supplies

Stage 3, establishing frame.
Go in any direction you like for reference we did a 3'x6' rectangle. Take a few of your straighter branches and form your frame. It's organic and its art so don't worry about perfection. Over lap your pieces just enough to wire them together. Wrap each branch connection with wire and tighten with dykes or pliers.

stage 3, laying out frame
stage 3, close up of overlap and wire

Stage 4, start layering.
You want to start placing branches within the framework you created. Remember to overlap and secure each piece as you go. Be sure to layer free form one here and one there. Step back often to see your design and to fill holes.
stage 4, layering started
stage 4, layering continued
stage 4, layering continued/ standing back checking for holes
stage 4, layering done
stage 4, close up of all the wired connections

This project is pretty simple but does take a couple of hours of layering and securing. Don't forget to add a picture wire style of hanger to the back so you can mount your work and show it off (if it's not to big and heavy). What was super cool about this project. I had opportunity to involve my daughter, she's a pretty good forager.

final product ready for market or to enjoy