DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads – How to Make a Cement Planter

DIY concrete planters are a fun project that takes very little time or effort. Save money by making your own.

Along the roadside here in Limon, Costa Rica people like to sell you their wares and crafts. In just a 20 minute trip from town we pass balsa wood carvings of eagles and toucans, granite fountains, baskets made from local fibers and our favorite, the replications of Indian art sculptures. The designs are beautifully adapted into tables, benches, chairs, planters and a variety of other objects for your outdoor space. After building our cabin we had a half bag of concrete left over and I decided to try to make a DIY concrete planter for myself. I have made quite a few since then at just a fraction of the cost of the roadside ones.

Stone Head 001 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Materials List – What you will need:

Cement

Sand

Items for making a mold such as buckets, containers and Duct-tape

Water

Carving instruments such as old silverware and metal tools

Rubber mallet

Make a Bucket Mold 

First get an idea of the general shape of what you are making, and then make a mold using found objects. I like the idea of making something functional so my mold is for diy concrete planters. Using an old bucket I had with a hole in it I used a coke bottle, duct tape and a PVC tube to help create hole for the planter. The plastic 2L bottle is cut so only the spout part is left. This makes a wide opening at the top of my planter.

Stone Head 008 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Stone Head 007 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

The mold is a very general starting point and a lot of the cement will be carved away. The most important function of the bucket mold is to allow your concrete to set and for your concrete block to easily slide out of it without cracking.

Mix Cement

I like to use a mixture of 1 part cement to 3 parts sand and make the mixture nice and wet to reduce the likelihood of air pockets in your mold.  The finer the sand the better, it makes for easier sculpting.  I don’t use it, but mixing in granite powder makes the sculpture stronger and also more expensive.

Stone Head 009 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

When the mixture is ready pour it into the mold.  I like to make sure my mold is already on my worktable in a shady dry place and level.  This ensures that the concrete sets level and that I don’t have to travel far when I flip the mold over, since at this point it is quite heavy and depending on the size of your mold you may need more than one person to gently move it around.

Wait and Flip

Wait for the cement to set to the point that when you push on it with your thumb it is hard but still wet and cool with a small indentation. When you feel it is ready, flip it over. You may need to  use a rubber mallet to tap the bottom for a clean release.

Stone Head 005 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Carving

Use old tools and silverware to carve out your sculpture. My favorite tool is a small spoon but old screwdrivers, knives, nails and other metal objects work well also. As you are carving out your sculpture frequently wet down the sculpture with a spray bottle or handfuls of water to soften the cement and keep it from cracking and breaking away.

 

Stone Head 004 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Set and Dry

You won’t want move your sculpture until it is completely dry so make sure it is in a spot that does not get direct sunlight to avoid cracking.

For the first three days of your sculptures life wet it down morning and evening, this will allow the concrete to dry evenly and strengthen your sculpture.

Stone Head Final 003 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Stone Head Final 002 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

Stone Head Final 001 DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads   How to Make a Cement Planter

After approximately 5 days place your planter in a spot that is visible from your favorite outside lounging spot.


Comments

DIY Concrete Planters, Sculptures, Stone Heads – How to Make a Cement Planter — 14 Comments

  1. If you guys want to colorize concrete in Costa Rica you can buy “iron oxid” the pigment for concrete works. Almost all colors available at Company Don Benito situated just before Ciudad Colon. Iron Oxid is not washed out from water and does not alter the consistence of concrete at all. Ocre sold in most “CR ferreterias” is organic pigment and do wash out with the time, so i would not recommend it. Btw, like your artwork very much!

    • Hi Liz – There is a powdered concrete pigment that works well and you use very little to get the desired effect. It is called pigment in the U.S., Ocre here in Costa Rica and in South Africa well I am not so sure. We are able to get it at hardware stores. I hope that helps.

  2. I’m trying this technique out with the hope of making a couple of “heads” for the tops of our gate posts. First one was a disaster (mixed in too much of an additive), the second was better, but I need finer sand. I’m sure the 3rd time will be the charm!

  3. That chunk of wood in the background is AMAZING! The sculptures are very cool too! ;) Can’t wait to visit again, we may be ready to start building something in the near future. The whole family misses you guys.

    • Ha. You are funny. You know that piece of wood also doubles as our back-up sloth. When Carl isn’t hanging around in the Guarumo and guests are coming we just place that piece of wood up in an arm of the tree. ; ) Kidding of course. You guys better get down here soon! We miss you too. The kids look so big in the pictures (not as big as that egg but big).

  4. Hello and thank you for such an interesting article! When the artist is mixing the material is the artist using “cement mixed with sand “or as written, ‘concrete mixed with sand”? Concrete is cement, sand and rock combined while cement is the powder only – which is then mixed with rock and sand , or just sand-for strength. Thank you!! I am looking forward to a reply as i am an artist also. Do you have any more information as to how the larger statues are made from this rock or concrete/cement structure? Do you suppose they are made by mixing cement, and sand and pouring into a very large mold and then worked while wet?

    • Hi. You are correct in that powdered cement & sand is the mixture. We use the words cement & concrete inter-change-ably here, which is wrong but we do it anyway. We have seen the large statues being carved and it appears that the guy puts the mixture in a wooden, coffin-sized box to pre-cure. He also uses granite in the big ones which probably help structurally. We would love to see some of your designs if you do make some. E-mail us some pic’s at 10degreesabove@gmail.com

      • I need a quantity mix recipe for the cement, sand, perlite . Would it help to use chicken wire to add strenth to the mold?

        • J- The quantity is based on the size of your mold. We used 3 parts sand to 1 part cement. We use pure cement and not a pre-mix. We don’t use perlite. If your mold is big enough chicken wire would definitely add strength. After 3 years our planters are still in great shape and this is a harsh environment, without using chicken wire.

  5. Great project. I love the last one. It looks like a tiki mask and has a great patina. Also, you can mix peat moss and perlite into your concrete mix. The sculpture will be lighter and in a few weeks it will look as if it’s been there for a thousand years. I made a sand casting planter like this and it was fun. I’ll try out your project because it’ll look cool on a stump that’s out back.

  6. Very coolio! I will have to give this a whirl this summer – would love them in the backyard around the pool.

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