Hypertufa Water Fountain Project

"Bowls of Life"

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Hypertufa Water Fountain DirectionsThis water fountain is called "The Bowls of Life". This project would be considered more of an advanced project, but I encourage anyone who has made a few other hypertufa pieces to try it. You can always use the bowls as planters if it doesn't work out well for a fountain.

The fountain is constructed of three bowls in graduating sizes. I believe the fountain works better if the bowls are wider than they are deeper. This fountain is very heavy, so if you made a smaller version, that would help with the weight issue. I also think it would look great with square, rectangular or octagon shaped molds.

Your work surface should be smooth and level for this project. We used a simple plywood topped table that was outside. If you are worried about getting cement on your table, cover the table with plastic (or a vinyl table cloth) or use a large piece of corrugated plastic or foam board. Tape down the covering to reduce slipping.

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Supply List:

  • Hypertufa Mix (1:1 ratio)
  • Large trough for mixing hypertufa
  • Water
  • Three molds in graduating sizes
  • Duct Tape
  • Rubber Gloves for mixing hypertufa
  • Latex Gloves for smooth finishing
  • Plastic mesh or nylon fibers for reinforcing
  • Electric drill with a concrete drill bit (the size of the plastic hose you are using)
  • 180 gph re-circulating submersible water pump (fountain pump)
  • 6"-10" length of clear flexible plastic hose (may come with pump)
  • Scissors or knife to cut tubing to length
  • Hydraulic cement or equivalent concrete sealer
  • Metal file (optional)
  • Sandpaper for wet sanding (optional)

Time: 2-3 hours, plus curing time and about 1 hour of set-up/fine-tuning time.

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Step 1 - The Mold
The first step is to find three molds in graduating sizes. The molds we used were 14", 12" and 10". They are actually plastic pots designed for container gardening. To make the molds easier to release, cut a slit along each side of the pot, leaving the pot connected at the base. The first time you use the mold, you will need to use a release agent. You can do more research online about release agents, but I think Vaseline would work well for this project as well as a cooking spray. Once the molds have been used several times, you no longer need to use a release agent as the molds get seasoned over time. Use duct tape to tape the sides back together. You are now ready to fill the molds.

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Step 2 - Filling the Molds
For this project, we used a hypertufa mix that was half potting mix and half portland cement. Check out my detailed instructions on mixing hypertufa. You may find that working on a table that is a little lower than counter height is helpful. You can sit when you are pressing the mix into the molds and then stand to look over the molds to see if they are even and level.

Press the mix into the base of the pot about 1/2" thick. At this point, you should lay down a piece of plastic mesh to help reinforce the base. A 3" x 4" piece of plastic webbed snow fencing, garden fencing or a piece cut out of a plastic berry basket would work as the mesh. Add more hypertufa mix to the base until it is about an inch thick and the mesh is covered. At this point you can start pressing the mix onto the sides of the bowl, again to about an inch thick. Fill the mold to the top of the largest mold and the middle sized mold. Press the hypertufa mix with your thumbs and the palms of your hand to get a nice smooth finish. To get a nice flat edge on top, use the palm of your hand and glide it along the top edge of the bowl until you get the effect you are looking for. It's best to wear a thinner glove for this step, such as latex. Look the bowls over and adjust any spots that seem too thick and make sure the bottom of the bowl is level. You may want to wait until all your bowls are filled before switching to a latex glove for smoothing the edges. Latex gloves tend to tear during the mixing and pressing process.

The middle bowl needs to have a pedestal in the center for the smallest bowl to sit on. To do that, take some hypertufa and form it into an oblong ball in your hand and press it to the center of the bowl forming it into a mountain shape (slightly wider at the bottom than the top), making the top flat. The height of the pedestal should be 2"-3" below the top edge of the bowl. You can use the palm of your hand to help flatten/level the top or a small piece of wood will do the same thing.

When you are ready to fill the smallest pot, do not fill it all the way to the top as you did the larger bowls. Instead, stop the mix an inch below the mold's edge. Flatten the top with your palm as you did the other two bowls. Once you have made sure the base and sides are even, you need to make a pedestal and cup in the center of the smallest bowl.

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Step 3 - The Pedestal and Cup
This pedestal will hold the top piece that the tube of water will bubble out of. The pedestal should be as tall as the finished bowl and almost as wide as the cup that will sit on top. This is to go in the smallest bowl that you have made. To form the pedestal, do as you did for the medium sized bowl and take a handful of hypertufa mix and form a mound in the center of your smallest bowl sort of shaping it like a mountain (slightly wider on the bottom than the top). I like to roll the mix in my hand so it is smooth and nice and tight, then sit it in the center of the bowl and smooth it with your hands until you get the desired shape. To form the cup that sits on top, roll some hypertufa mix in your hand to form a ball, and then begin to flatten it on the table. Once you have reached the desired size, take your thumbs and begin to form the inside of the bowl. It doesn't need to be real deep, just enough so the water has something to bubble in and over when the pump is turned on. The finished cup and pedestal should be a little taller than the mold. How tall, is up to you, but I'd say no taller than an inch above the mold.

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Step 4 - Pump Housing
Pump HousingI did not make my own pump housing (the instructor did), but I will describe how I think it was made.

I am guessing that the mold for this was a piece of plastic corrugated board taped together to form a cylinder shape, about the same diameter as a small coffee can, approximately 4" in diameter and about 4" tall, with another tube rolled up to make the center hole. The form was likely packed tight with hypertufa and set aside for several hours to partially cure, then it was removed from the mold and the legs were cut out as the picture illustrates. I'm sure this can be made in other ways, so do what works best for you. The pump needs to fit underneath this piece and the middle bowl sits on top, so it's important that this piece be level also. The hole at the top needs to be larger than the hose you will be using and the leg openings need to be situated in such a way that the cord of the pump comes out one side and the filter comes out the other.

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