Just can't get the hang of it!

terri0628May 9, 2008

I've been researching hypertufa since the winter. Now that the temps have warmed up I have been excited to finally give it a try. My results have been terrible so far. I just cannot get it right.

I've tried various recipes but think my problem is the amount of water. I have a pot that is still damp and scratchable after 5 days. I just made another batch and tried to keep from wetting it too much. It was just too crumbly and dry to work with. It took me almost an hour to make one little bowl because I kept having to scoop it all up and wet it again. Now I'm concerned that once again I got it too wet.

I'm trying to keep the proportion of water close to what I'm using for peat and perlite. Is there a better way to figure out the amount of water to use? Suggestions would be very much appreciated!

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gansn(z7 AL)

I decide on my mixture of dry ingredients and then mix them very well. Then I pour up 2 parts water. But I only mix in a little at a time. You want your mixture to be cookie dough consistency. It does not run (until you start patting it), it holds together well when you make a ball in one hand, and you can't squeeze drops of water out of it easily. So if you have done 1 part sand, 1 part concrete, one part peat, start by pouring in 1/2 part water, then GRADUALLY add more water until you have that consistency. And really you want to have the water all mixed in at the beginning. If you keep adding as you go, you will have weaker portions of the container when you are finished.

Good luck, and keep trying. It is so much fun!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 10:12PM
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billie_ann(6b PA)

Terri, What recipe did you use?

gansn, Is that a typo in your recipe? You don't use concrete do you? Billie

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 1:02AM
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Do you moisten your peat before you mix it in?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 6:38AM
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gansn, thank you for the advice and the encouragement!

Billie, I'm new at this and have been experimenting with various recipes. In one batch I used 1 part cement and 1.5 parts each of peat and perlite.

In my latest batch I've tried 1 part cement/1 part peat/1 part vermiculite.

fleur, no I haven't moistened peat first. Would that help?

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 10:35AM
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fredw10(z8 AL)

It sounds like you just need to keep trying with simple containers. Mix all ingredients completely before adding water. I don't think the recipe matters much. 1/1/1 cement, perlite, peat moss is a good average mix. Be sure you are using cement and NOT any Quik Crete mix.
I never measure the amount of water. You will learn from experience how wet or dry the mix should be. I have heard it compared to cottage cheese or bread dough--That is too wet for me. Add water gradually while mixing. When it gets homogeneously mixed and the surface of the mix is shiney and wet appearing-- it is too wet. If it crumbles when squeezed in your hand it is too dry.I feel it should be on the verge of being too dry. I always have a spray bottle of water at hand so if a spot appears too dry when I add mix, I just give it a spray.
When molding over a form some water will migrate to the table surface. If it does this too much and the mix starts to slump, just cut if off and add it to the top of what you are molding. If you are working with a batch and realize it is too dry, just add a little cement.
When working over a mold start at the table surface and build the mix an inch or so deep all around the form. Pack it down thoroughly before going to another layer. Add layer after layer all around an inch or two thick while packing the mix tightly. working in layers all around allows you to always know how thick you are making the wall. If you loose track of where you are, check wall thickness with a nail. If too thick cut some off. If too thin, add some more. You will not make a mistake that can't be easily corrected.
I don't think an hour to make a piece is too long--What's the hurry? Still scratchable after a few days sounds pretty normal.
The weather can affect things too. Hot and windy may dry out the mix. Too cold and it may not cure properly.
These are just some rambling thoughts that may help.
Keep trying, and you will discover a technique that works for you. Asking someone what mix to use or how wet or dry it should be is almost a an unanswerable question. Just keep working. As long as you maintain your interest it will all work out.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 6:03PM
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billie_ann(6b PA)

Terri, No, you don't want to moisten peat moss before hand. You want to mix all dry ingredients together. The ingredients need to be dry so that the cement coats everything.
Your recipe sounds fine. Your pots should be damp after several days. Most of us either keep them in plastic bags for several days while curing or put them in a water bath for a few days.
How are those pots that you just made? Billie

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 8:38PM
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Thank you Fred for the suggestions. I know I need more practice to get it right! (also patience!)

Billie, the pot I made yesterday w/ the 1-1-1 ratio seems to be doing better than I expected. I could just barely scratch the surface so I unmolded it and put it back in the bag again.

I was afraid I had ruined it. I had the mix too crumbly at first and was hesitant to keep adding water after the previous pots had never gotten dry. They are still quite damp and scratchable after 1 week. I've still got them in the plastic bag.

Maybe I'm on the right track?! It does seem that I need approx. 2 parts water. I thought that seemed like too much but this is just what gansn posted above.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 9:11PM
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update- In my most recent batch I more carefully measured water (for future reference) and used only slightly more than 1 part.
So, not sure that I actually used as much water as I thought (2 parts) in previous batch which was the same otherwise.

Learning to make notes! :-)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:18AM
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billie_ann(6b PA)

Terri, There is not an exact amount of water. The weather and how dry your ingredients are, all change how much water you use. It's kind of like working with bread dough, some days it takes more water, some days less water. After you've made a few more you'll see. Keep going, it is fun. Billie

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 3:28PM
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i am new to this forum- i usually hang out in Garden Junk. i want to try the hyperturfa to make some stepping stones. i looked up "Portland Cement" and it came up as Quickrete.
i want to make sure i get the right stuff so just want to clarify. TIA, Carolyn

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 5:51PM
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wannadanc(z8 WA)

Carolyn - Quickrete is the BRAND name - rather like Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker - Portland cement is the product. So - you have to ask for "Portland cement" - because if you ask for Quickrete, you could get a whole bunch of different things with that brand name.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 9:00PM
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Billie is right. Every person has to find their own little niche in hypertufa. For me, I have always used equal parts of peat moss and perlite, and one-half part portland cement. Don't bother measuring out your water. You'll just know when the mud "has arrived". I always mix in a wheelbarrow. I mix the dry ingredients really well and then add a little bit of water at a time until the mud looks like cookie dough.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 2:00AM
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One test I read about may help you determine how much water is needed.
Mix up a batch and assure it is wet evenly. Form a baseball size ball of mix in your hands. Press the mix firmly. If a few drops of water come out, it is right. If you get a little stream of water, that is too much water.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 10:16AM
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Here is my first attempt at making hypertufa.

Here is a link that might be useful: back yard

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 12:38AM
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ladycraft(6b MO)

I can't see your project. Am I the only one that can't?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 9:26PM
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Nope. I can't see it either.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 11:59PM
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