Friday, May 29, 2009

My Cement Dilemma

Yesterday I had to finish making a Texas stone I started last week. I had meant to do it before I went to Austin for graduation, but you know the end of that story. Anyway, last week I had purchased a new bag of cement because my old supply had hardened to the point of driving me insane when I mixed it. So I went down to Lowe's and stood in front of the cement, trying to remember what kind of Quikrete I usually use. I was sure it was a cement mix, but all of them seemed to have a lot of gravel in them. And I was pretty sure I didn't usually have that in my cement. So I called my husband and we discussed it. And after a few minutes we decided that I must have had gravel in my cement, but that it wasn't a problem so I shouldn't worry about it.

So yesterday I opened my cement, and carefully measured how much I was going to need as I really only wanted to make the exact amount I was going to need. I had things I needed to get done, and I really didn't want to deal with what to do with extra cement. I was so thorough--pouring water in the mold to know how many cups it held and then carefully measured out what I needed. I put about half of it in a bucket, and then added what I thought was just the right amount of water for the entire project. Guess what? It turns out my memory of the ratio of cement to water was incorrect. Shocking, I know. I poured in the rest of the cement, hoping that it would make the consistency just right and all would be fine. Yeah, right. So there I was, staring into a bucket of way too watery cement and thinking to myself that not only was it too thin there were way too many little rocks in it. I went back into the garage to get some more cement to add to my mix, and found part of an old bag from my previous projects and wouldn't ya know it--I had bought the wrong kind of Quikrete. So not only was my mix too watery, it was, as I suspected, too rocky. I groaned, but proceeded to add more concrete to my mix until it was the right consistency.

Then came decision time. I had no idea how using such a gravelly cement would affect my finished stone. So I had to decide if I should throw it out and start over, or just gamble that it would all be OK. With the amount of work it takes to make one of my mosaics, you would think I would opt to play it safe. But not me. I was determined to finish this project and not using the cement I had ready would mean another trip to Lowe's and the possibility of not getting it done that day.

So I took the cement, gently shoveled and spread it over the stone and hoped for the best.

Once I was finished, I was faced with another dilemma--what to do with the extra cement. I really need to get over the resistance to just throwing out my extra materials. But that didn't happen with this project. Instead I went to my table and created another mosaic stone. I really do love creating these free-handed mosaics, and this one turned out very nicely. Once it was finished I wasn't sure I wanted to once again gamble on my cement. But I really wanted to finish, and I wasn't sure what to do with the cement if I didn't make a stone out of it. So once again, I put my head down and pushed through it. And after it was all poured, I cleaned up my tools and prayed it would all turn out.

This morning I went into my garage to check out my stones. My free-handed one looked good from this angel:

I like to leave my stones in their molds for about 24 hrs before removing them. But I was so curious as to how this turned out, I just couldn't wait. So I flipped it over...

and removed the mold.

Next came off the contact paper...

to reveal a very promising stone.
Cleaning it up was interesting, as there seemed to be more cement buildup around the glass. But after a few minutes it looked pretty good.
So the verdict is mostly good. I like the design, but wish I had used the light blue throughout the background instead of the white. But that's an artistic criticism. As far as the construction, I was happy to see there was only slight movement of the glass when pouring the concrete. I am also please that although you can see some of the gravel in the concrete, it isn't too distracting. I will not use this concrete again for my mosaics, but I am very happy that I didn't lose all of my work because of my obsession with not wasting materials. Hopefully the same will hold true for my Texas stone, which I am going to give some extra time to cure before I turn it out. But either way, I'll post the results of that later.

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