Garden Crafts - Make a Leaf Shaped Bird Bath
DIY Sand Cast Concrete Leaf Shaped Bird Bath
It's really easy to make a decorative and unique lightweight leaf shaped concrete bird bath for your backyard garden. All you need to make this unique craft for your garden are a pile of clean sand, a bucket of water, rubber gloves, plastic trash bags, a bag of acrylic concrete patch mix, and a large leaf with decorative veins and ribs.
I made a rustic leaf-embossed sand cast concrete bird bath for my garden last summer. It only took me about an hour to mix and colorize the concrete, mold it on the leaf, shape the edges and cover the concrete. The resulting bird bath blends into my garden décor beautifully. The birds and butterflies like the shallow water and broad edges of the leaf shape. It's light enough to lift up and dump, even though it's made from a thin concrete slab.
Oh, if you'd rather use this sand cast concrete leaf project to make a bird feeder or (cast thicker and flatter) as a lovely garden stepping stone, it works nicely for those garden features, too.
Photo: my DIY garden art leaf design birdbath, molded from sunflower leaf.
Preparing the Leaf Pattern Stamper - Best results come from an elephant ear leaf, or a sunflower leaf
Use a Large Live Leaf or a High Quality Artificial
You'll be using a living leaf to create a "stamper" or mold for the embossed design on the surface of your bird bath. Select a large, broad leaf with strong vein patterns and few or no defects or holes.
I used a large leaf from a giant sunflower growing in my garden for this casting. Another time I used leaves from elephant ear plants we had growing in our summer garden. I may try a casting using the big, textured leaves of my rhubarb plant next time. Any large leaf will do, or if you want to make a smaller concrete casting, you can try nasturtium or squash leaves. I've used the smaller leaves to make cast dishes and seed feeders for the birds.
Trim the stem end away from the leaf and patch any holes with small bits of waterproof masking tape or duct tape.
Giant Sunflower Leaves Make the Perfect Birdbath Models - I grow sunflowers in my garden every summer.
I plant a few giant sunflowers in my garden every summer. It's fun to see how tall they'll grow and I love to save the seed heads to share with the birds in the winter. One year a picture of my sunflowers appeared in the local newspaper because they were so tall and had such beautiful flowers along a busy street.
I use the leaves from giant sunflowers in my to create my leaf design sand cast concrete garden art. Here's a photo of one from my garden last summer.
Concrete Crafts - Making Garden Art with Concrete
Learn to work with concrete mixtures to create durable and beautiful garden planters and art that is weather resistant and needs no firing.
Materials and Tools to Make Sand Cast Garden Crafts
- Small pile of sand, or bag of play sand
- Small bucket of water
- Plastic dishpan or wheelbarrow to mix up concrete
- Garden trowel to mix and blend concrete with water
- 3 large plastic trash bags, or 3 pieces of thin plastic sheeting (painter's drop cloths will work fine) each one about 3 feet square
- 1 bag of acrylic concrete patch mix
- 1 large plant leaf with prominent ribs and veins (Sunflower, Elephant Ear, Caladium, etc)
- Concrete colorant, if desired (I used a bit of terra cotta colorant for my bird bath concrete mixture)
Protective Gear: Dust mask, rubber gloves, safety glasses
Elephant Ear Plant Leaf Embossing Pattern - This garden craft sand casting used a single giant leaf from an Elephant Ear plant.
Here's the leaf I used to make my mother's concrete birdbath, all set up on the sand and plastic, ready for concrete!
Preparing The Sand Cast Mold
Pour a mound of play sand onto a plastic sheet, or dump it into a child's small plastic pool or large waterproof tub. I spread a sheet of drop cloth plastic in the back yard, right on the lawn. You'll need just enough sand so that the mound will be slightly larger than the leaf you will use for the stamp pattern template. The pile should be about 4 inches deep at the top/center to begin.
Mound the sand slightly (about 3 inches high) in the center, slightly larger all around than the size of the leaf shape.
Smooth out and curve the mound down so that the edges are about at ground level with a bit of sand around the outside of where the leaf will fit.
Cover the smooth sand with a plastic bag or sheet of thin plastic drop cloth.
Place the leaf on top of the plastic, face down, centered on the sand mound.
Safety First With Concrete and Cement Mix
Concrete is caustic and can irritate skin, eyes and mucous membranes.
Always wear eye protection, dust mask and rubber gloves when working with concrete mix.
Before opening concrete mix, read instructions and safety information.
Prepare the Concrete Mix - Wear rubber gloves, safety glasses and a particle mask when working with powdered concrete patch mix
Following directions on the package, add water to the concrete powder mix starting with the minimum amount. If you want to add colorant to the concrete mix, add a small amount and mix in thoroughly with the water. Use a small trowel or planting shovel to blend the mix, water and colorant together.
Mix well until the concrete mix is the consistency of stiff cookie dough.
The mix should not be watery; it should be workable like play clay or craft modeling dough.
I like to use this concrete mix, and I add my own colorant to get a terra cotta look, but you could leave it natural and paint it later on.
Shaping the Bird Bath Concrete Mold
To form the birdbath, place handsful of concrete mix on top of the leaf, beginning in the center. Gently pat down to about 1" thickness as if you were making mud pies or rolled cookies. Continue to add more concrete mix, patting and smoothing and working toward the outer edges.
When you have completely covered the leaf, gently press the concrete between your fingers to form a smooth rolled edge all along the outside border. Take care not to add sand to the mix; keep the leaf snuggly against the concrete.
Concrete Craft Tools and Supplies - Molds, Stamps, Tinting Dyes for Light Weight Cast Concrete
You can really add some artful embellishment to lightweight cast concrete garden crafts with custom molds, stamping patterns and powdered tints to color your sculpting mix. I used a leaf as my birdbath mold, and I tinted the acrylic concrete mix using terra cotta powder tint.
Curing Sand Cast Concrete Crafts
After you've finished molding and shaping the concrete on top of leaf, carefully drape with another plastic bag or sheet of thin plastic to seal out rain or dust while the concrete dries and sets. Weight down the sides to prevent wind from blowing off the cover.
Your concrete needs to dry slowly to cure and not crack, so keeping it covered lets the moisture evaporate slowly. It can take up to 2 days for your cast concrete project to completely dry and cure.
Drying and Cleaning Concrete Garden Crafts
Your sand cast concrete project must dry completely before you remove the plastic cover. Drying can take up to two days; I start checking after 24 hours.
When the piece feels dry to touch, remove the plastic, turn over the birdbath, and carefully peel off the remaining bits of leaf. You many need to use a sharp tool to scrape off tiny bits, or wait a day or two and scrub with a wire brush to remove stubborn bits.
DIY Garden Décor - Simple Garden Crafts
- Garden Crafts - Make a Leaf Shaped Bird Bath
DIY sand cast concrete garden ornaments. How to make a leaf shaped bird bath from lightweight concrete using a large leaf from your garden as the pattern for the sand cast acrylic concrete garden art.
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Sealing the Project to Protect It From Weather - Clear Sealer Makes Your Cast Leaf Easy to Clean
Concrete Garden Crafts - Planters, Ornaments, Tiles and More
The simple how to instructions that will guide you in making beautiful garden art and functional garden planters with concrete. You can find many more interesting garden concrete crafts in this book available at Amazon:
Concrete casting project durability
Cast concrete garden crafts are generally weatherproof after they dry and cure. You can decorate cured concrete with acrylic paints to add more color interest, or simply coat the finished project with a concrete sealer to make it easier to clean and add a glossy finish.
I let my leaf pattern bird bath cure for a few months outdoors in the sun and rain, then I painted on a clear acrylic sealer. It added more depth to the color and made the vein pattern stand out nicely. After sealing, the bird bath is stain resistant and easier to keep clean, plus water cannot be absorbed into the concrete. This coating only lasts a single season. We scrub our cast leaf at the end of the summer, then after it's dry we apply a new coat or two of acrylic sealer and put it away out of the weather for the winter.
My sister uses her molded leaf sand cast craft tray as a serving platter for summer barbeques (she lines it with a napkin) ... and my mother keeps the sand-cast leaf I made for her in the house so it won't get dirty. She uses it as her mail basket. A sand cast concrete leaf made from this lightweight craft medium makes a wonderful mother's day gift or housewarming present.
Have you made a sand cast concrete garden project? Did this tutorial inspire you to design one? (It's EASY. My leaf shape bird bath took me about an hour to prepare and mold!).
© 2008 Lee Hansen