Monday, January 5, 2015

GARDEN ART: Bird Bath #2

Happy 2015!  This is my first post of the new year...and my 300th post since I started this blog. This project actually began back in the summer of 2014.  I was on vacation for two weeks over the Christmas and New Year holidays, and decided it was time to finish it. This is my first attempt at "faux bois" using concrete (that's "fake wood" in French). I have been doing research for some time on the techniques. I'm moderately pleased with the results. I learned a lot about the materials, though, and think I can be more effective next time I try it.

First I'll show you how I made the "bowl".  This part is made with "hypertufa"...a mixture of Peat Moss, Vermiculite, and Portland Cement.  It dries lighter than cement.  I formed the shape over a metal bowl with a baggy taped to it.  Once it dried for 24 hours, I pulled it from the form, and let it dry. Actually it dried for months!
I made up a mix of Portland Cement to put over the inside of the bowl, like icing. This was meant to help it be more waterproof.  I will use some actual concrete sealant in the Spring, so it will not seep through the porous "hypertufa". I used a wooden sculpting tool to make "woodgrain"...then smoothed it over lightly with a 2" wide paint brush and a bit of water.  When it dried, the surface cracked a lot...which was unplanned, but actually makes it look more like old wood.

To make the "driftwood" stand, I began with an armature of stainless steel wire.  I didn't really have a plan on how to make this look, so I just went with a "tripod" approach.  I wanted it to feel like branches, though.  After I formed the general shape, I added steel screen mesh around the wire.
The mesh wire gives the concrete something to hold on to.  I made a mixture of cement and sand, and applied it to the wire form.  After a day of drying, I turned the whole thing upside down, and applied more concrete to the underside.

I let the the "stand" dry for a day or so.  Then came the detailing, where I added cracks and grooves to make the parts look more wood-like.  This required me to add another layer of cement (with NO sand, so it would be smoother)...then I began to sculpt the form.  I had to keep the whole surface area moist with a spritzer bottle of water, and a wet brush to smooth out the shapes.
Here is the basic shape and woodgrain of the stand.
I didn't like the simple "double inverted tripod" shape of the stand.  So I drilled some holes in the concrete after it had dried.  I bent some more wire, added the mesh screen, then glued the new add-on branches with Plumber's Epoxy.  After the epoxy had set up, I repeated the earlier steps of building up layers of cement onto the wire forms.  I had to blend the shapes into the original "limbs", and glazed over the whole thing with wet cement using the 2" brush.
As happened with the bowl, some cracking appeared over parts of the surface, since there was some shrinkage with the drying of the newer cement.  Had I planned better, I could have done all of the final surface detailing in a single sitting, and it probably would not have cracked.

Here is the final "stand"...looks a bit like driftwood...but I would have liked to have gotten deeper grooves in the "bark".  For my first attempt, though, I'm pretty happy with it.
And here are a few pics of the final Bird Bath. (As usual...click on the image for a closer look.) The bowl just sits on the stand, as a separate piece. The birds will just have to wait until Springtime for me to find a place for it in my flower garden!

UPDATE Jan. 9, 2015
I may have made a mistake to try this so soon after finishing this project, but I wanted to make sure the birds had water during the snow season.  I found out that the additional branches are NOT secured onto the stand very well. One branch (front left side) cracked loose when I was moving it.  I think I can repair it in the Spring.  Guess we'll see how my experiment holds up in the extreme cold.

3 comments:

Barry Parks said...

There are some dirty birds that can't wait for Spring! Very nice.

Warren said...

Thanks, Barry. They would be birdsicles if they took a dip outside this week.

Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

I love these, Warren!