Arts & Crafts Night Stands #8: The Pour

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by CaptainSkully posted 10-06-2009 02:10 AM 2090 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Glue & Mold Part 8 of Arts & Crafts Night Stands series no next part

If I didn’t pour today, it would be several days until I’d have time to do it, so I slammed a beer and started mixing concrete. This is what I started out with:

The Empty Mold

The BuddyRhodes system is two bags of countertop concrete to one can of dye, so I mixed one bag into two five gallon buckets and poured about one quarter of the dye into each. On the first batch, I put water into the bucket first because it says it’ll keep the dust down. Don’t do it! It’ll start hardening with the white mix ASAP. This made it considerably more difficult to hand mix with a trowel. I ended up just kneading it with my hands. I found that a little water helps distribute the dye more evenly. I ended up mixing to the consistency of thick oatmeal, just short of cookie dough.

I was also worried about slight tinting differences between the batches, but once the color is saturated, it can’t get any darker, and all batches were saturated. I used “coal” color, hoping to get a nice black concrete top to contrast with the reddish brown wood. One bucket went into each form.

The First Batch for the Top Surface

This is a messy project! I put the lath down into the first layer and started mixing the second batch. I used more water up front, added after the powder, so it went a bit easier. It’s still an exhausting process. If I do this any more, I’ll probably get a concrete mixer from Harbor Freight.

The Metal Lath for Reinforcement

So the second batch went into the molds, then it was time to vibrate and float. I tried using my random orbital sander, but it didn’t have enough shimmy to it. I ended up pounding on it with a rubber mallet. This worked fine until I realized the concrete was starting to slump on one of the molds. I only had room in the garage for one mold, so the other had to be set up on the driveway, which isn’t level. The concrete was finding it’s own level! I shimmed and fixed the problem. I’d been using a homemade screed stick to establish the thickness of the pour in relation to the standard height of the molds. Dealing with concrete is much harder than it sounds. Kudos to the pros! I over-floated one and had to redistribute the concrete around the mold with the screed stick. Although very stiff, it’s still quite liquid. Floating this stuff is like trying to make very big, very expensive, perfectly flat brownies.

Floated:  As Good as it Gets

So here’s where I stopped messing with it. As Alton Brown says, “Just walk away”. I couldn’t make it any better and often times ended up making it worse and having to start all over. I then spent a good half hour cleaning everything up. What a mess, especially with the black dye. I really think I’ll do the same thing for our sideboard, but I’ll have to take some time off to forget about what a pain it is.

I’ll give it some time to cure and unscrew the mold apart. Hopefully, I vibrated it enough to allow the milk to surface and give me a relatively smooth finish of melamine. My brother-in-law has all the concrete polishing gear I’ll need, but it wouldn’t be that expensive to pick up a variable speed handheld grinder and the right grit pads. If all goes well, I’ll use silicone to “glue” the tops to the night stands, and take out any bumps/rocking.

If all doesn’t go well, I’ve just blown $200 for a blog entry and will end up making them out of quarter sawn white oak. I’ll let you know how it goes. There’s grinding, buffing, sealing, waxing, etc. still to do.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

10 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117906 posts in 4182 days

#1 posted 10-06-2009 02:48 AM

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4278 days

#2 posted 10-06-2009 02:50 AM

Looks great!

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3840 days

#3 posted 10-06-2009 03:08 AM

Couple things I noted.

1) Did you caulk the mold? If not, you may have issues when you take the mold apart.
2) I thought the point of the hand packing method was that you didn’t need to vibrate it? You’re supposed to have voids in the top of the concrete, which you fill in with the filler paste (either the same color, or 1+ other colors to get a marbled look).
3) Did you screed the top surface? If you had built the mold a bit lower, you could have screed the surface, making the trowling much easier.

Please note: I’m not a cement worker by any means, and I’ve not tried this myself (yet), these questions are all based on my reading of Buddy Rhodes book.

Good luck, and I hope it turns out great!

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4682 days

#4 posted 10-06-2009 05:18 AM

cant wait for the next addition…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4164 days

#5 posted 10-06-2009 07:10 AM

Good questions Jimi_C:

1) Yes, I mentioned using silicone and a corner squeegee to seal the mold and radius the finished top edge.

2) That’s one method, the other is to fill the top completely and vibrate it to bring out the milk so there are no voids. I didn’t want a veined look with contrasting filler. I wanted a solid black top. The melamine was supposed to give me a smooth, finished surface.

3) As I mentioned, I did screed the top, just not flush with the top edge. My screed board had an offset that sat down into the mold, making it the right thickness, but allowing me to control (allegedly) the overflow. I found that there’s a reason why they screed to the top of the mold/form.

So, here it is, five hours later:

Pop Goes the Weasel!

The exposed edges were really fragile when I popped it out of the mold, so I crumbled a few places. I’m hoping to grind a chamfer to disguise this. There are a ton of voids from my lack of proper vibration. I’m hoping a slurry filler will fix this. It looks like there might actually be a color difference between my first and second pour (remember my optimistic saturation comment?). There appears to be a crack in one that I hope will mend itself upon full cure. You can also see a mysterious seam across the one in the picture. I’m hoping that will buff out and not ghosting from the lath. I saw a few hints of mix that weren’t completely mixed with the dye. I hope the aforementioned slurry will fix that too. I didn’t spray the mold with vegetable/olive oil, and a coaster sized section stuck to the mold when I popped it out. I now have a half inch crater in one of the tops. All in all, I’m not terribly hopeful.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3840 days

#6 posted 10-06-2009 02:37 PM

My bad, I missed the part about using the screed stick above. Too bad on the way things are shaping up, this system looked like one of the easier ones to do because you didn’t have to vibrate/trowe (just get a relatively flat surface on top so it sits level on your cabinet).

Hopefully you’ll be able to buff out any stains and fill in voids and save this still. I’d contact them to see what it is that went wrong, and what to do to be sure to save it if possible.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4164 days

#7 posted 10-06-2009 04:26 PM

Actually, I know what I did wrong, and I know how to fix it from reading all those articles on FWW & FHB. The question is why did I do it wrong. I was so overwhelmed by the immensity of this project that I did 99% of the things right, it’s just that last 1% that always bites me in the butt. Knowing this was going to happen in advance is what caused me so much anxiety, which caused me to forget or overlook the 1%.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 3873 days

#8 posted 10-06-2009 08:12 PM

i worked as a concrete materials tester for awhile and got to stand around and watch concrete guys work. they make it look SOOOOOO easy! i was always thinking man i could do that no problems then i realized those guys stand bent over for 8 hours a day while they work and my back told me to quit thinking such silly thoughts lol

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4596 days

#9 posted 01-30-2010 10:32 AM

Hi again Captain. It’s been 116 days since you recorded anything on this project. How did it turn out? Did you rethink the top or just not finish the blog. Just curious. You do such good work, I wanted to know how you dealt with the challenges.


-- Jim

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4164 days

#10 posted 01-31-2010 01:31 AM

Thanks for keeping me honest Jim. I just sent the tops out to the brother-in-law’s for some grinding, polishing, and sealing. I’m at least as interested to see how they turn out as you are.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics