Concrete statues are an attractive talking point for your outside space, especially if they’re stylish and tasteful. They can be expensive to buy, however, so you may want to consider making one yourself if you’ve got time for a project.
You can make a concrete statue with a wire frame, cast one with a mold or sculpt a small, free form shape by hand. For larger statues, the mix for basic concrete is 1 part cement, 1 part coarse pebbles and 2 parts sandbox sand, with more sand and less pebbles used for medium and small statues.
Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail, looking at how to design concrete statues, mix concrete and make concrete molds. We’ll also look at sculpting and repairing your sculpted concrete masterpieces. 🙂
How Do You Make a Concrete Statue?
Making concrete statues is surprisingly easy. And fun! You can make a statue starting with a wire frame, cast one with a mold or sculpt a small, free form, concrete shape.
Concrete is a mixture of an aggregate, cement, and water. An aggregate is a collection or mixture. In concrete, an aggregate can be of sand, vermiculite, peat moss, limestone dust, small pebbles, coarse pebbles, slag, rip rap, or recycled concrete.
Because concrete is liquid (ish), you can dip all kinds of things in it, then drape them over objects or frames, then let them harden. Dip towels, crocheted doilies, rags, or socks. Dip leaves or sticks.
You can pour or pack concrete into or around just about anything. Immortalize your favorite (but worn out) pair of high tops. Or those beloved wellies.
Make a wire frame – chicken wire works well but check out your favorite hobby store for more wire mesh. Then, smooth concrete over the frame. Rebar works for large, heavy pieces.
Or use cement to make a free form sculpture. Make up some thicker concrete, grab a handful, form a shape, and let it dry for a while. Then, use a knife or other sculpture tools to cut and shape the form. Add small pieces of glass or shells or writing.
Or make a silicone mold of your favorite piece of art. Pour in the concrete and voilà!
Check out this video where they use an old ball, wastebasket, blanket, plastic cups, and old plasticware to create a stunning cement sculpture.
What’s The Best Concrete For Sculpting?
Most experts recommend Portland cement (like Quikrete or Cement All) with a little sandbox (nice and fine) sand mixed in. If you are making a coarser statue, use some small pebbles. If you are making a fine, small piece, you can decrease the sand content.
The proportions for a basic statuary mix are 1 part cement, 1 part coarse pebbles and 2 parts sandbox sand. If you are making a medium-sized, but intricately detailed statue, you don’t want any pebbles in it. Replace the pebbles with sand, so the proportions are 1 part cement to 3 parts sand.
If you are making a small piece, experts say go down to 1 part cement to 1 part sand. Or, don’t add sand.
Concrete sculptors say that the secrets to success are your creativity, willingness to practice, and to experiment. That goes for concrete, too. Not only are there different types of concretes, but there are different recipes for mixtures.
Often, sculptors will use different mixes for the base – heavy with coarse aggregate – and then finer concrete, or just cement, for detailed areas.
Every sculptor has a different recipe that works for their own sculpture style. Experts recommend that beginners start their first project with a premixed bag of concrete and go from there.
When mixing concrete, wear gloves, as the cement can be caustic. Also, consider wearing a mask to protect your airways from the fine silica dust.
Here’s a video on concrete for statuary.
How Do You Make Cement Molds?
It’s super easy to make a mold out of a piece of art, then use the mold again and again. There are several great silicon, fiberglass, and latex rubber products available at hobby or hardware stores and lots of videos to help.
First, though, it’s not OK to replicate someone else’s art for your own profit. If possible, get the artist’s permission to replicate their art or create your own masterpiece.
Next, you are going to create a water-tight box around the piece of art. Use waterproof materials, like plastic, acetate, or melamine to create the box. Hobby stores have lots of choices or repurpose some old containers.
Find or make a base that’s bigger than your art by a couple of inches all around. Then, glue or use double-sided tape to secure your art to the base.
Cut walls to fit around the base or repurpose a plastic container. If you are using a plastic container, glue it firmly to the base. If you are constructing a box from melamine, use a silicone sealant around the edges. The box must be watertight.
Pour some water into your box and check for leaks. Pouring water in will also give you a good idea about the volume of silicone (like Smooth-On) you will need.
Many mold-making products have tutorial videos. After watching some videos and reading the instructions, get some good gloves on. Then, mix the silicone. Most silicone products have two compounds to mix together. Then, pour the silicone into your mold and let it harden.
Once your mold is ready, use your favorite concrete recipe and pour or spoon it in. Make sure to get into all the cracks. Vibrate the cement to release all the air bubbles. Then wait until it’s set – check your instructions for timing.
You can cut small slits in the silicon mold to help get the cement art out. One expert recommends using a heat gun to soften the silicon, which makes demolding easier.
Here’s a great video on how to make a simple mold.
How Do You Glue Concrete Statues?
Many hobby or hardware stores have special concrete repair products. Repairing concrete statues is easier than many other types of statuary.
First, clean the surface. Remove any leaves or mold with water and a soft brush. Let the statue dry overnight. Read the instructions on the glue or epoxy and watch tutorial videos. You may need to wear gloves.
If there is a piece that’s broken off – and you found it – apply the glue or epoxy to both sides of the broken piece and press it into place. If the broken piece is nowhere to be found, then use a putty knife to apply the epoxy and smooth it over.
After 15 minutes, the glue or epoxy should still be soft enough for you to use a putty knife to remove any drips or ridges.
Allow the epoxy to dry for at least 24 hours in a protected area – or cover the statue so early morning dew or rain doesn’t soften it.
How Do You Smooth Concrete Statues?
Experts recommend smoothing concrete while it’s not totally cured. Use some wet/dry sandpaper or a bristle brush. Some sculptors use rub bricks.
Be careful, though, as you can also over do the smoothing and leave gouges instead.
If your concrete is already dry, try spraying some water on and let it soak in. Then use some sandpaper or a hand planer. If you have them, a palm sander, orbital or belt sander will help.
How Do You Reinforce Concrete Sculptures?
Large concrete sculptures usually begin with wire or rebar. Concrete sculptors begin with a sketch. Sketch out your creation, then construct a wire or rebar version of the final sculpture. Make sure that every bend in the design is reinforced with wire.
One sculptor described the wire version as an “armature” of short rebar rods that he covered with galvanized lathe wire, tied with black tie wire. The sculpture base is poured concrete with a large aggregate – solid and heavy.
Then, up to 3 inches of concrete are layered over the wire design. Each layer is dried up to a week.
Concrete absorbs water, up to 1.5 inches deep. If your sculpture has less than that much concrete over wire or rebar, which can rust, experts recommend applying a sealant to
the concrete when you are done.
You can also reinforce the concrete itself with fiberglass or nylon fibers (these mixes will say GFRC – glass fiber reinforced concrete).
Here’s a link about a concrete sculptor that makes very large, reinforced designs.
When it comes to making concrete statues, your process doesn’t have to be set in stone, (editor: easy does it Larry!).
Once you’ve designed your statue on paper, then mixed your concrete – you can either sculpt it by hand, make it in a mold, or start with a rebar or wire frame and build it up from there.
Whatever method you choose, you can soon create some truly stunning outside statuary with really very limited experience. So let’s get creative!