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Well, I posted in another area, about some candle holders, made of concrete, so I suppose I need a place to post that for illustration, so, this is it. Out of 50,000 members, surely I am not the only one here who has made things of concrete, so what have you made?

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Okay, here is my first concrete countertop, that I made for compensation. My wife made the connection with a wealthy couple, who were building a custom home it in a neighborhood (median household income there, is about $200,000) that I sure could never afford. I drove about 120 miles to see what it is that they we wanting to do, after having a conversation with them about what they wanted. In hindsight, this projects was too much for me, or I should have thought it was, but I took in on anyway, because it would be a challenge. In fact, I had no idea how I would do it, but that is no reason not to try, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Al experts start as beginners.

The shape intrigued me, and their color choices, and other details made me want to do this, I figured if it worked out, it would be a great start for my concrete portfolio.

Now, the reason I am doing this projects here, is because it serves as the explanation, for another project, which I will go into in some future post.

For now though, here is my first concrete project that I made professionally. Mind you, that I am using the word professional, as meaning something done for money, not the same as expert, which I certainly was not.

alcove.jpg

Another view so you can see the details of the edge better:

easteralcove.jpg

Okay, that is it for this post, one object made of concrete, which led to another I will post later.

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Maybe no one will post in this topic except me, though I figure with a material as common as concrete is, someone here must use it for something, after all Home Depot and Lowe's has a huge section of tools and materials related to it. However, if I am the only one, so be it, I should add another post of something made of concrete.

This one was an experiment by request, someone wanted me to make furniture for a reptile in a cage. Following, is what I came up with:

reptilehouse1.jpg

You will note, that in the more upper right portion of the image, the "rock" has a more gradual incline, note so steep as the rest of the rock, This is that way, because even reptiles grow old and get more feeble. This was looking ahead to possible future needs, a sort of reptilian wheel chair ramp. 

Below, is a more "aerial" view, this is so you can see how it is shaped to fit neatly in the rectangular terrarium.
The opening is into a hollow space where the reptile can feel safer, and find some shade or darkness if desired.
The top surface, on the other hand, is the sundeck, where the animal can heat it's body and get some need UV rays.

reptilehouse2.jpg

Then finally below, you can see the construction is just some wire mesh, use to create the basic shape, and support the concrete until it cured hard like stone.

reptilehouse3.jpg

 

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Well, this contribution will be place in two post in this club,  since it relates to two areas. Candles, and Concrete. The candle aspect, is sort of incidental since this is really about candlestick holders, made of concrete.

I have a concrete project coming in the future, if things go like I plan, wherein I am going to make for a pastor, or perhaps help the pastor to make, a outdoor coffee table. He came to me, wanting my assistance, to teach him how to make one. After some discussions about it, I suggested that we make a larger one than he was looking for. Instead of just being a table where he and his wife, could enjoy the ritual of having coffee together, this would be one large enough, for his little girls to join them, as they grew larger.

He liked the idea, and it presented me with an opportunity to do some experimenting. That is what I love most about being a maker, the exploration and implementation of new ideas. The table, would give me the chance to roll several experiments together into one.

What has this to do with candlesticks? Well, candlesticks are small, compared with a table, so, making candlestick out of concrete, affords me the opportunity to try some variations in concrete recipes in small batches, so, that is where I start.

In the past, I have made concrete candlestick holders using rubber molds that I made, for that purpose. Knowing that I wanted to make some more candlesticks of concrete, but also knowing that perhaps someone here might also like to do that, I wanted a way to make them, that did not take serious sculpting skills, nor complicated and expensive rubber molds, I wanted to do something cheap and easy for anyone.

So, the challenge was to find something cheap and existing, available and common, that could serve as candlestick molds. If the mold would be a simple cylinder shape, or maybe a cube or rectangle, plenty of things exist that would work like drink mix cans or small milk cartons. I wanted something a little more stylish. One alternative that occurred to me, are the small plastic milk and orange juice containers you see everywhere (they have nice radii, instead of sharp corners), especially and convenience stores.

However, I do not have any of those, so I looked around the house, and found a couple of items. Both are make of plastic, both are of sutable sizes, and since both would eventually be thrown away, both seemed like good candidates.

cheapmolds.jpg

Now, as I write this, I began yesterday to try this out, and see how it would work. My theory was, that being plastic, that concrete would not stick to the molds. Also, the shapes are somewhat interesting, the sizes are okay, for ordinary candle stick. Being one piece and plastic, the would be waterproof, and not leak white the concrete was curing. The insides are smooth, which means they will leave a decent finish smoothness on the concrete, and the inside shapes, have not irregularities that the concrete would get locked onto. Also, being made of plastic, they should be easy to cut away from the finished concrete when it is time to free the candlesticks.

This is all I am going to write for now, more to come as I get to it, so if this seems at all interesting to you, check back as I add details.

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Part 2 – Concrete Candlestick Holders

I left off with my decision to use food product packages to use as molds for homemade candlestick holders fashions from concrete. Next, I will show, mostly with pictures part of that process. What I am not going to go into during this post, is the concrete itself, nor getting the concrete into the molds.

On those topics, I might go into more detail if there is interest, and I will comment somewhat into some aspects as the pictures show things that merit comment.

Below you see the food packages (used as molds) which have already been filled with fluid concrete. You can see that the lids are used as covers and have two purposes. On purpose is that the lids seal in moisture as the concrete is cureing.

This might seem contraindicated, don't you want the concrete to dry out so it will harden?

The answer to that questions is "No, concrete does not harden due to drying out. Concrete hardening is a chemical reaction that occurs when the cement and water interact. There is a small amount of heat (you usually do not notice this) and that help the concrete to cure quickly.

If the heat is high (such as on a hot day) then the concrete cures more quickly. That in itself, is not a bad thing, but there is anegative side effect. When the heat is higher, water evaporates. You might think that is good, but it is not. When the water evaporates, the hardening or curing process is interupted because the water is no longer available to interact with the cement.

Allow me to switch the topic momentarily to make some terminology more clear.

  • Drying - Drying is the loss of water from the concrete. As that happens, then off course, the concrete will become less fluid and less wet. This is related to the hardening and curing of the concrete, but it is not the same thing.

  • Curing - Curing is the chemical reaction that occurs while the cement and water interact, and this causes the fluid concrete to harden and solidify, and gain strength. Curing begins immediatly when cement and water are combined. This curing is making the concrete harder and stronger noticably in a few hours, in a few days, it has advanced quite a bit, a week, and it is very hard and pretty strong, and in thirty days, it is mostly complete, though it will literally continue for years.

  • Cement - Cement and concrete are not the same things. Driveways and sidewalks are not made of cement, they are made of concrete. They are made WITH cement, cement is one of the indredients incredients of concrete.

  • Concrete - Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, air, and aggregates, which are usually sand and gravel. In the jargon of concrete, sand is anything from what most people think of as sand and gravel, while gravel is what most people think of as small rocks, usually the size of peas or larger.

Now, back to the curing of concrete, we want to keep the concrete from drying out too quickly. That is the nce thing about about the about these plastic containers and lids, they keep the moisture in the concrete.

If the water leaves the concrete too rapidly, several negative things happen. The curing is not allowed to continue, as it should, and that makes the concrete weaker. It makes the concrete more pourous, and that make the concrete prone to stains. The missing water makes the concrete more likely to crack, in fact, it INSURES that the concrete will crack. A reason for this, is that nature abhores a vacuum, so a tension occurs internally and the concrete cracks as the material try to move as it is changing dimensions, yet the solid nature of the material, prevents if from moving freely. It is moving in different directions at once and something has to give.

Now, aside from the fact that the lids hold the moisture in, cutting a hole in the lids, gives us a way to hole candles in place, while the fluid concrete is curing. I cut slits radially on the edges of the holes, so that the lid is self adjusting to the size and shape of the candle.

moldswcandles.jpg

Once the concrete is suffiently hard, you can remove the candles. If it is not obvious, the candles are inserted into the concrete, so that there are holes in the concrete to insert candles into later. If you remove the candles too soon, you run the risk of damaging the shape of the holes you just made. If you want to be cautious, wait a week. I did not, I waited 24 hours, and it worked fine, but don't count on it.

candlesremoved.jpg

Next, come the task of getting the new concrete candlestick holders, out of our molds. I figured that the plastic would grip the concrete and have to be peeled from the concrete. To this end, I belieived that scouring or scribing the the molds, would make is easier to peel the plastic away. I decided that scratching in a helix with a pocket knife would allow me to peel the plastic downward as I rotate the mold.

scribing.jpg

At this point in the post, I am going to break off, because it is already lengthy, and images take a long time to load. I lot of people do not have high speed internet, so I will continue in part 3, if you are still interested.

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Part 3 – Concrete Candlestick Holders

 

Continueing from where I left off in part 2, more pictures and commentary on them. The next picture, reminds me that I should make some safety points.

When using cement, be aware that there is a hazard in breathing the dry powder of the cement as you pour or mix the dry ingredients. Dust masks designed for fine airborne particulate matter is recommended - highly, though I admit I usually do not, but just watch and try to avoid the dust clouds I create. You also to not want this in your eyes, so goggles are also a good idea. If there is wind, or a fan, be sure to stay upwind.

Wet concrete or cement, is also something you want to avoid contact with your skin. It can cause chemical burns. Using rubber gloves  is recommended. This has never been an issue for me, but I know that it is for many, so maybe some people have sensitivities that I do not. Wearing gloves, just makes sense.

Thirdly, sacks of cement, sand, gravel, and concrete, can be very heavy. Keep in mind that you can strain your back, if you are not fit, strong, are small, or use improper lifting techniques. I lift as little as possible, and sometimes divide materials into smaller portions before working with them, and use a varieties of shovels and scoops, to move and measure materials.

If you use any sort of rotary tools, like mixers, drills, etc, be mindful of possible injures from those, especially if you have long sleeves, long hair, or loose clothing.

Pointy and or sharp things, also pose a danger, and I can prove that. Below is the least that will happen, if you fail to control a knife blade, while scribing the plastic mold. In the photo, I have just begun to try to peel the plastic away. You can see the small puncture wound I received from the knife point, while I was scratching the plastic . . . the blade just slipped off.

scribinggonewrong.jpg

 

Below, the concrete candlestick holder is almost free from the mold.

almostfree.jpg

Free at last:

freeatlast.jpg

To be continued in part 4

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