Hypertufa Planter

Using railroad spikes for legs

Hypertufa Information & Instructions

It seems that most people who are lovers of old junk and antiques always have a few railroad spikes lying around. I don't know what it is about them that I like so much. Each spike has been through so many years of history; small, yet so important to our transportation system.

Whatever the reason, there isn't a lot you can do with them craft wise unless you happen to weld, so I decided to come up with at least one thing to do with them. I like incorporating old with new and I love making new look old. This project is my version of a three-legged pot using railroad spikes as legs.

What You Will Need:

  • three railroad spikes
  • play sand
  • Portland cement
  • all-purpose sand
  • peat moss
  • vermiculite or perlite
  • water
  • water bottle mister
  • empty 8 oz. whipped topping container
  • large bowl for mixing
  • metal file for making drainage hole and knocking down edges
  • plastic to protect work surface, sand pile and to cover pot while curing
  • disposable latex/nitrile gloves or rubber gloves
  • small piece of plywood
  • bulls-eye level (optional)

Step 1 - Prep Work Surface

Place plastic on your work surface to protect it from any hypertufa mix that may get on it. Put on gloves to protect your hands from the caustic effects of the Portland cement.

Step 2 - Mixing

Using the empty 8oz. container as a measuring cup, mix together 3 parts each of the Portland cement, all-purpose sand, peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. Three containers full of each ingredient should be enough to make a pot that is approximately 12" wide by 8" deep.

If you choose the vermiculite, there will be a slightly shimmery color to the finished tufa. The perlite will make the finished piece a little lighter in weight and you may see some of the white specs. I chose perlite for this project which will help give it a nice light gray color when dry.

Hypertufa Information & InstructionsMix the dry ingredients thoroughly with your gloved hand. This is important to make sure all the Portland cement is evenly distributed among the other dry ingredients. Break up any large pieces of peat moss and remove any sticks you might find in the peat.

Step 3 - Adding Water

Hypertufa Information & InstructionsAdd about 8 oz. of water to the mix and allow it to seep into the dry ingredients. Add another 8 oz. and then mix with your gloved hand. Keep adding water until the mix is the consistency of a thick brownie batter. You want to be able to form a smooth looking ball and for the ball to hold its shape on its own. Allow the mix to sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the water to fully absorb into the peat moss and other ingredients.

Step 4 - Prep Sand Mound

Hypertufa Information & InstructionsDampen the play sand with water and form a mound on top of your work surface that has been covered with plastic. You want the mound of sand to be as tall as you want the pot to be deep and as wide as you want the interior of the pot to be wide. For this project the sand was about 12" wide and 8" tall. The shape of your mound of sand will be the basis of the shape of your finished pot. Wet the sand down just enough so it sticks together; as if you were making a sand castle.

Tip: This step can be done ahead of time, if you like, but since the hypertufa mix needs to sit a few minutes you can do it now as well.

Step 5 - Protect the Sand

Hypertufa Information & InstructionsOnce your mix is ready to use place a plastic bag over the sand so as not to allow the sand to come in contact with the hypertufa mix. This step is also optional, but I find that the finished product is stronger if you keep the sand from coming in contact with the hypertufa mix. My guess is that the sand wicks away moisture too quickly and the Portland cement doesn't have enough time to cure properly. It also keeps your sand cleaner so you can re-use it over and over again. That being said, there are applications where you can use the sand to create cool textures for the outside of pots, put that project is for another day.

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