- Ideas & How-Tos
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Mold your own hypertufa planter. Then transform it into an outdoor table by adding your own wooden top with an opening to showcase plants.
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Hypertufa combines peat moss, perlite, and concrete that can be molded into moderately porous planters. When working with Portland cement, wear latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands and a mask to avoid breathing the caustic dust from the cement. Do not mix cement with your bare hands.
In a wheelbarrow, concrete mixing pan, or other large container, combine 10 quarts (2.5 gallons) of Portland cement (not a concrete mix), 10 quarts of peat moss, and 10 quarts of perlite. Mix the dry ingredients well by hand (while wearing gloves) and remove any chunks before adding and mixing in 9-1/2 quarts of water. (We photographed the mixing and molding process here on a smaller scale to show the details. It's also a good practice project to try before moving on to the larger table). Avoid adding any more water than necessary to avoid weakening the cement. The mixture should have the consistency of cottage cheese.
Cover the mix with plastic and keep it out of direct sunlight while it sits for 5 to 10 minutes. While you're waiting, coat the inside of your mold (we used a 20-gallon tub for the actual project) with a non-stick cooking spray, such as Pam.
Start at the bottom of the mold and press the hypertufa mix firmly against the bottom and sides to create a consistent thickness of about 2 inches. When you reach the top edges, press and mold the mixture with your hands until it's a shape you like. If you're adding a top, make the edges a uniform height.
For an alternative method that creates a planter interior with smoother, more uniform sides, press a second, smaller container centered in the mold. Tap the outside mold with a rubber mallet to force out air bubbles that will leave voids in the planter.
Cover the mold and hypertufa with a plastic bag to hold moisture in while the cement cures. Let the mold rest 24 to 36 hours before removing the hypertufa planter. Then let the planter finish curing in a dry place.
Gently remove the inside container (if you used one) and press the bottom of the outside container to pop the planter free of the mold.
Draw a diagonal line on one side of the 4'x4' piece of plywood (Hypertufa Table Project Diagram). Using a jigsaw or circular saw, cut the plywood into equal triangles.
Measure 25" from the ends and sides to form a square on the plywood triangles with one corner clipped. Cut the squares from the triangles and save the scraps. With the best face of the upper triangle facing up and the grain on both triangles running the same direction, glue and clamp the squares together with the edges and ends flush. Add weight to the center to ensure a strong glue bond and let dry.
Draw four straight lines spaced 5" apart in the direction of the grain. Set your circular saw to cut about 5/8" deep. With the saw unplugged, measure from the blade to the edge of the widest sides of the saw base. Then clamp a straightedge to the plywood that distance from and parallel to the far right pencil line.
Riding the saw base against the straightedge, cut a 5/8"-deep saw kerf at the first pencil line. Reposition the straightedge and repeat for the remaining four lines to create the look of wood planks, as shown.
Find and mark the center of the plywood square. Using a beam compass set to 12-1/2" or string stretched between a pencil and nail, draw a 25"-diameter circle (Hypertufa Table Project Diagram). Reset your compass to 4-1/4" and draw an 8-1/2"-diameter circle. Drill a 1/2"-diameter hole on the inside of the smaller circle and use a jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade to cut out the center. Then cut along the larger circle.
From the scraps of plywood left over from cutting the squares, cut four pieces 6" long and 1-1/2" wide. On each piece, drill countersunk 1/8" holes 1" from both ends for #8x1-1/4" mounting screws and set the parts aside.
Sand the table smooth and sand off any saw marks around the edges. If you spot any gaps in the layers of the plywood, fill these with exterior caulk or putty and let dry. If necessary, sand the patches smooth with the wood with 120-grit sandpaper.
Center the top on the hypertufa base and lightly draw a circle on the plywood around the top of the base. Remove the top and screw the four 1-1/2"x6" pieces of plywood evenly spaced just outside the circle to keep the top from slipping on its base.
Clean the top with a vacuum and soft cloth. Prime all surfaces, including the saw kerfs, and let dry. Then check for any rough patches and sand those smooth with 180-grit sandpaper.
To achieve the look shown here, brush on a base coat of the Holmes Cream color and let dry. Then rub the top, edges, and underside four times each with a wax candle. (A votive candle rubbed with the grain works well for this.) Your goal is to keep some of the next coat of paint from sticking to the first layer.
Paint a layer of Elephant Gray color over the waxed surfaces. Allow this coat to dry for a couple hours, then sand with 120-grit sandpaper working with the grain on the top and underside to remove some of the gray paint. Clean off the surface with a soft cloth.
Soft paint can clog the surface of sandpaper, creating lumps that will mar the painted surface. Continually check and clean the sandpaper to avoid this build-up.
Apply candle wax to the surfaces, paint them with Voyage color paint, and let dry two hours. Sand away some of this color and wipe surface clean.
For the last paint layer, use an old brush with frayed bristles and Silver Leaf paint. Dip just the tips of the bristles in the paint and brush the excess on a clean cloth. Dry brush a small amount of paint onto the table top in the direction of the grain and let dry.