Doris_J(Z8 WA)June 5, 2001

What are your experiences with hypertufa? I've found a couple of different recipes, and I'm getting ready to make some containers. What kinds of molds have you used? Any interesting ones out there?

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CathyJ(USDA-8 West WA)

Hi, Doris,

Fancy meeting you here!

I'm not at all particular about which tufa recipe I use, and have probably tried any and all of them as I like to vary the look. So I would suggest mixing up a small batch of a couple of them and seeing which one(s) you like the best.

As for molds, I've used cardboard boxes, made wooden and styrofoam boxes, muck buckets, circular and rectangular dish pans and have also done some freeform ones. Also, the discount/dollar stores and housewares sections of the -Mart stores have some interesting plastic storage items that you can use. I have also picked up some of those copper-colored aluminum jello molds at Goodwill; however, these can be rather tricky to use as they don't flex or give like the other materials do. Needless to say, I've now got a bunch of some really heavy jello molds...

I've also applied Plaster of Paris to the outside of various sized inflated balls, leaving a hole on the top, deflating and removing the ball and then filling the mold with the tufa mix. Of course, this is a one-time only mold, as you must break the plaster in order to remove the ball after it has set up. However, you are often able to reuse pieces of the plaster when making a subsequent cast.

Although I have yet to start this year's concrete casting projects, I have a bunch of decorative plastic pots that I've collected over the last few years, as well as a few plastic birdbaths, that I am going to use as molds.

I don't know how others do it, but I've always used negative molds; in other words, I pack the tufa mixture into the mold instead of on it.

Let me know if you have any questions, but I'm sure you'll be successful as well as have lots of fun!


    Bookmark   June 7, 2001 at 1:02AM
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The best looking recipe I've used turned out to be cement, peat moss and chippings/shreddings from my chipper shredder. This included gourd seeds and shells, leaves, bird seed shells, twigs, over-wintered dead plants, and anything else sucked up in the shredder. The look of the finished product was very rustic and much cheaper than purchasing perlite or vermiculite as the third ingredient.

I worried that the mixture would not be strong enough, so I basically mixed equal parts of all three main ingredients then added a little more cement for stability. Maybe I went a little overboard on the cement, but I didn't want to wind up with broken pieces. Once dried, I coated the interior to both retain moisture and keep the cement from leaching into the soil and killing my plants. So far no seeds have germinated as I worried about and the plants are extremely happy in the pots.

I used various shapped boxes to varying degrees of success. I found that some lost their shape covered with the heavy tufa and others were a little hard to remove once they had set up. The best item was a 50 cent dish pan from a thrift store. I used it again and again and it easily popped out of the tufa when dried.

When I had small amounts of tufa left over, I plopped it down on a flat surface that was covered with a trash bad. I then molded the tufa into a head...I made an alien head, funny face, and a happy face to lay in my beds. I then planted thyme and now they have green "hair." Needless to say, these are great conversation pieces.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2001 at 10:52AM
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Doris_J(Z8 WA)

Thanks for the great ideas, Cathy and Wvguy! I've also been collecting odd containers to use as forms from garage sales. Found a perfect little rectangular tray from an old refridgerator for ten cents! So, I'll be experimenting soon.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2001 at 11:04AM
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I have spent a good deal of time reading the postings and gathering materials.
There seems to be a plethora of recipes and methods. I am a "simple is better" advocate.
My tendency is to apply the stuff to the outside of the mold,using silicone or plastcic to prevent sticking.
Need input

    Bookmark   June 16, 2001 at 10:05PM
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Doris_J(Z8 WA)

I haven't done it yet, but this also seems to me to be the easiest way to mould the containers. Kind of like making a mud pie!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2001 at 8:11PM
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Styrofoam shipping containers make great 'fodder' for trough molds. They are usually free at various merchants, especially those that require shipments to remain cool. The styrofoam is easily cut with a small handsaw or even a utility knife. The pieces may be re-assembled with Elmers Glue, water solubile contact contact or silicone adhesivive. The joints may be reinforced with plain old nails or duct tape. Even sheets of styrofoam may be purchased at home centers and cut into custom shapes - just remember you have to get the 'tufa off of the mold (destroy the 'foam if needed.)
Once you have a mold, cover it with a plastic bag like you get from the grocery or a trash bag if larger. Then apply the 'tufa mix. This is the fun part, like playing with PlayDough. NOTE: Any or all of the published recipies are suitible. I like Portland cement, finely ground peat, various grades of sand, all reinforced with the fiberglas fibers. (After curing, remove the whiskers by playing a propane tourch over the trough.) Let the "casting" set until firm but not hard, then use a wirebrush, puttyknife, pointed objects (carefullly, etc.) to add 'character' to your creation.
You should have placed several short pieces of 0.5 - 0.75" diameter dowel in 2 or 3 places on the bottom of the casting to allow for drainage.
Throw the completed trough under plantings (out of sight for the fall and winter), then cover the drain holes, fill with any good 'alpine mix', plant and enjoy.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2001 at 3:24AM
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Isn't it fun playing in the mud!?

I had a hypertufa week... dug out everything I could think of to use for a mold. I mounded wet sand and laid a huge hollyhock leaf over it.. then plastic wrap. I blobbed on the tufa and pressed firmly and shaped the edges to match the leaf. I now have a tufa hollyhock leaf that I want to paint in interesting colors.

I also had a heart shaped bowl that I just put inside a plastic bag and packed the tufa inside to make a tufa heart planter.

And last but not least I thought I would try my hand at sculpting with tufa. I took an old plastic pot and turned it upside down. I then wrapped chicken wire around it and started packing on the hypertufa in the shape of an old tree stump. I think it came out pretty good! :)

I think it worked out great to have all my ideas in place before I started so that I could do them one after another and leave all the necessary ingredients/tools out. I used the portland cement/peat moss/sand recipe. I didn't use any fortifier.. we'll see how they weather.

I've just left everything out in the rain and sun to age and leach out anything undesirable. Maybe someone can recommend how long to wait while the cement leaches and can kill plantings?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2001 at 12:20PM
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Dear fellow tufa addicts.

For my 63rd birthday I was asked what I wanted (I seem to have everything in the world) I asked for cement, sand, peat moss (tooooo heavy for me to lift).

I GOT IT. They delivered it to my door step and put the cement in a large garbage can with a lid. I found a large metal top for a table and this weekend I am going to finally do it.

So if you haven't started your projects ask for the ingredients for you birthday, anniversary, or just for what ever......Ask and you will receive.

Thanks for all the advice on the making of the projects.

Arline in Nevada

    Bookmark   July 20, 2001 at 3:57PM
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victrola(Z5 Montreal QC)

Wayne 5 wrote about using fiberglass for reinforcement. I am mentally scarred from a summer job that involved crawling through attics :) and my "alpinist" aunt mentioned a concrete reinforcing fiber that you can mix in. You don't need a lot but apparently it helps if you live in zones like ours (5) re: cracking in the winter. If anyone is interested, reply to me and I will find the name of the stuff. I remember that it is not too common, you would have to search it out from a very good hardware place.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2001 at 5:49PM
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peachpie1001(6 MD)

We would be interested in learning of a new source for fibermesh. A company in Chattanoga sent us a sample packet when we first started making troughs, but they must be out of business or merged. What we bought at a local supply is not nearly as good. It clumps and is hard to incorporate evenly throughout the troughs. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2001 at 12:56PM
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I have a couple questions. I've never done any hypertufa, but definitely want to. I saw a report on the news about making concrete blocks from concrete and shredded junk mail... Have any of you guys tried using old shredded paper in your hypertufa? That's my first question. Now the second... I had an idea of making a hypertufa stool by using one of those cheap little plastic stools as a form. Do you think this would work? And would you completely cover the stool leaving it as the skeleton for the project, or would you apply it to the stool and then remove it when dry? Thanks for any opinions :-)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2001 at 1:38PM
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Gwen, Shredded paper is a great idea! I wonder if you could use it in place of peat? A friend and I were making urns for her porch last week and the things disintegrated as we were unmolding them (I'd told her they were foolproof)I guess the planets were misaligned. We're gonna give it another shot this week. Maybe someone will offer some advice. I've made tons of stuff using this same recipe and never had this problem. LISA

    Bookmark   October 2, 2001 at 8:37AM
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Fiberglass for hypertufa reinforcement can be purchased at your local concrete construction companys. Most will sell a couple bags. You may need to drive amongst the cement trucks so it is best to call first to find exactly where to go.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2002 at 9:24PM
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lholton2(z8 TX)

I want to start making some things with Hypertufa, but what I'd really like to do is make pots with pretty carvings or decorations on them. Can anyone tell me the best way to do this? And can you paint them?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2004 at 10:44PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

lholton2, you won't believe the expertise and creativity they have at the hypertufa forum. Very friendly too. If they don't know it, nobody does.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 9:18PM
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