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Cement garden ornaments can be as simple as a garden stepping stone or as ornate as a multi-level water fountain. Likewise, the process of making cement garden ornaments can be simple or complex, depending on the intricacy or complexity of the figures being cast from cement. The basic process, however, is straightforward. First, a mould is either made or a purchased mould is assembled and prepared. Cement is mixed with water and sand or other fillers, and poured into the mould. Finally, after the cement has been allowed to harden, the mould is removed and the hardened piece is finished or displayed as is.
Making the Mold
Many crafters start with a purchased mould for their garden ornaments because making the mould can be the most-challenging part of the process. To make a mould for a garden ornament, an artisan carves or shapes a model for it in clay, plaster, stone or wood. The figure is covered with layers of rubber or latex then coated with fibreglass to form a hard, supportive shell. Molds for simple shapes like stepping stones and small, flat markers and plaques may be made in one piece. When the fibreglass has hardened, the model is removed and the mould is finished. For more complex pieces, the fibreglass shell is cut away in pieces which will be reassembled around the latex inner shell. The fibreglass shell will support the shape when the cement is poured into it.
Pouring Cement for Garden Ornaments
Once the mould for the garden ornament is assembled, the artisan brushes the interior with a mould release, which can be as simple as canola or vegetable oil. The cement is mixed with a filler such as builder's sand or marble dust, and then water is added to make concrete. The artisan then pours the concrete mixture into the mould, sometimes in stages to allow any air bubbles to rise to the surface. When the mould is filled, the surface is covered with plastic and allowed to dry and harden in a cool, dry place. The length of hardening time varies with the size and shape of the cement casting.
Finishing Cement Garden Ornaments
Once the cement casting has set up for the required length of time, the artisan removes the mould from the ornament. If the mould was in several pieces, the fibreglass support is deconstructed. In most cases, unmoulding the cement ornament is the last step in the process. If the finished product will be displayed outside, however, the piece may be finished with a concrete sealant.
Considerations and Special Additions
Cement garden ornaments can be coloured by adding oxide to the cement while mixing the concrete. When concrete statues are coloured this way, the colour goes all the way through so that chips and weather damage don't show as easily. Artisans may also choose to add a strengthening agent like Weldbond to the cement mix to increase the strength and durability of the finished ornament. Concrete forms and ornaments may also be strengthened by pouring the concrete around a core of chicken wire or styrofoam.
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