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syordano

Achieving natural tufa texture

syordano
10 years ago

Hi everyone, it's my first time posting in the hypertufa forum, although I have been making hypertufa pots for a couple of years now. My first project ever was a large cast bowl (first pic) made of a 3:3:2 mix of peat moss/perlite/Portland cement. I wire-brushed it, soaked in a water/vinegar solution to balance out the alkalinity and applied yogurt/moss mix after it was cured to achieve a more aged look. It has taken over 2 years sitting out in the elements for the bowl to finally weather and take on a more aged appearance. It might have been sooner if I had placed it in a shaded area, rather than full sun, but I have no such area on my patio.

Currently I am using it as a water feature planted with a dwarf Helvola water lily, and I'm mostly pleased with the results - since the peat moss has likely decomposed, water slowly leaches out just enough to moisten the walls and encourage moss growth. Still, it does not really have the characteristically pockmarked appearance of real tufa, other than the few areas where larger pieces of perlite have fallen out.

I frequent the Brooklyn Flea Market, where I saw a guy selling miniature succulent gardens planted in old bricks and small very natural looking hypertufa pots (third pic). I didn't feel comfortable asking him to divulge his secret on how he achieves the natural look of the freeform planters, which are complete with innumerable potholes, channels and crevices, just like real tufa rock. This is not something one can sculpt by hand, and he seems to be producing them often in large enough quantities to keep a low price.

As my oldest hypertufa bowl shows, the decomposition of the peat moss alone indeed makes the walls more porous, but it does not really reveal such a densely potholed appearance, which is what I am lusting after (last pic is of natural tufa rock). I found some brief info on air-entraining admixes that add air bubbles to concrete in an effort to make it frost resistant for patios, but I have no idea where to get it, how to work it, or it if will give me that potholed appearance with hypertufa.

Does anyone have any tips or experience with making hypertufa look more like natural porous tufa? Now that I know that it is being done manually out there I can't stop thinking about it...I will also appreciate it if anyone has experimented and wants to share less common tips on making hypertufa look older faster (in terms of encouraging peat moss decomposition, other natural additives with fast rate of decomposition, texturizing tools, growing moss, lichen, making it look like limestone, etc). Thanks!

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Comments (12)

  • teisa
    10 years ago

    Oh WOW! I love the bowl as a water feature! That is Beautiful. TFS

    This post was edited by teisa on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 1:48

  • teisa
    10 years ago

    Double post! Sorry

    This post was edited by teisa on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 1:50

  • billie_ann
    10 years ago

    Your water feature is very nice.
    Regarding the planters at the Brooklyn Flea Market, are you sure they aren't natural tufa rock? Air entrainment admix adds tiny air bubbles not the larger air pockets you can see in those planters. Air can be pumped into concrete to create larger air bubbles but don't know if you can do that with hypertufa. If you don't break up the peat moss and leave if in larger chunks that will give you large pock marks. If you make your walls thick you can use a water hose to wash away some of the hypertufa mix as soon as you unmold. You can get a free form shape by digging a hole in the ground and forming your planter in the hole. I've done a few in my garden. You need room to dig around the planter to remove it from the ground. Use a masonry bit to drill holes then use a water hose to make the drilled holes look more irregular. Using white Portland cement will give you that whitish look. Any mix you use, add some sand for a more durable mix.

  • syordano
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Thank you for the responses, that's great advice. It is likely that the planters at the flea market were natural tufa, I wasn't sure because the seller had smoother planters alongside as well that most likely were hypertufa. I've always sifted my peat moss to a fine powder, definitely will keep it chunky next time for a more rustic look. I'm also now thinking of taking a trip to the supermarket to look for more unique ingredients to add to the hypertufa mix in lieu of peat moss that will stay solid while the initial mix hardens, but will decompose quickly or I'll brush off for more pock marks (such as rice, some kind of grains, not sure yet)... Sounds like a disaster experiment, I'll let you know if anything turns out interesting.

  • billie_ann
    10 years ago

    Someone on this site (a looooonnnnng time ago) used a pasta in one planter and rice in another and animals ripped the planters apart. I don't want to attract more bugs or animals than I already have. You might be able to use rolled up pieces of bread in the outer layer and just remove them when you unmold.
    I sift the peat moss when I need a mix that will pick up finer detail or for carving. For a more rustic/natural look go with chunky peat moss. Good luck!

  • Collectorplant
    10 years ago

    Your water garden is beautiful. I just love the pot it looks so good. Well done.

  • User
    10 years ago

    The planters in the photo look like real stone.
    For texture try using rolls or balls of tightly twisted newspaper around the inside of your mold.
    I use a hammer to knock chunks off the 'tufa to give it texture, an old screwdriver makes a good carving tool.

  • club53
    10 years ago

    A nice texture can be obtained by using strips of rough tree bark stripped off a dead log.

  • Woodburnduck
    10 years ago

    By coincidence, I came across your post only a few minutes after reading a blog about natural-looking hypertufa rock.

    http://barrowworks.blogspot.com/2011/06/homemade-hypertufa-rocks.html

    Here is a link that might be useful: Barrow Works

  • hosenemesis
    10 years ago

    I use rock salt with concrete. Then I wash it out, and it leaves holes.

  • hosenemesis
    10 years ago

    Oh yeah- your bowl is gorgeous. I would love to have one like that!

  • Nancy D
    3 years ago

    off topic here, but I'm unable to see any of the photos in posts. Can anyone tell me how to see them? (This happens on all houzz sites, and houzz "help" is no help at all.) Thanks.

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