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 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.
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.
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.
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