Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cool Summer Project- Make a PEDESTAL STAKE!

Varying height, an important element of design, adds variety, interest and rhythm within the garden. It can be accomplished with plantings, hardscape and decorative elements. Often I have a perfect piece of artwork to display but if placed on the ground it becomes lost among the lush growth. Height of some sort is needed to get the piece up and working as the desired focal point.  If a large tree is growing in the right spot, it will sometimes serve this purpose. Most times though, there is no tree. This pedestal stake is an easy to make project that will raise diminutive pieces up closer to eye level or at least above surrounding plants.
What you need:

-4  10” x 16” pieces of 1 ½ inch thick insulation foam readily available at your home improvement store.  You can even ask them to cut it to size for you!
-small  keyhole handsaw
-box of 3-inch nails
-black marker
-1 bag sand topping mix in the yellow, red and black bag at your home improvement store.
-masonry trowl or large old spoon
-1 four-foot length of rebar
-plastic pail
-vegetable oil
-exterior latex paint
Goop Household Cement or other strong  epoxy-type glue.

What you do:

1.  You will cast the pedestal stake in two separate pieces and join them later. The first is the upright panel and the second is the horizontal shelf to hold stuff. 

2. Start with 2 of the 10 x 16 “ pieces of foam to make the mold for the vertical panel holding the rebar stake. Measure 2 inches in from all four sides of one piece of foam and mark a rectangle measuring 6” x 12”. Cut out this rectangle using the small hand saw.

3. Set aside the cut-out piece from the middle.  It is the outer frame that will serve as your mold.  Find the halfway point along one of the short sides of this frame mold and make a line with the marker.  Meaure ½” to either side of this center line. Cut a groove between the two outer lines to fit the rebar stake .

4.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining two pieces of foam, omitting the groove.  This piece will serve as the top shelf of the pedestal stake.

5.  Match up the frame molds with their bottom pieces and stick them together using the large nails as pins.  Position the nails about 2 inches apart all the way around the frame molds.

6.  Brush the bottom and sides of each mold with oil or use baking spray.  This will help your cast pieces to come away from the mold easily. 

7.  Mix up 1/2 bag of the sand concrete in the plastic pail using the trowl. Use enough water to make a thick concrete that keeps its shape when piled.  Be careful not to add too much water.  Watery concrete will not set correctly and will be weak.  It will also seep out of the seams in the mold. Fill up each mold level with the frame mold edge.  

8. Insert the rebar stake 1 inch below the top edge of the vertical piece and shimmy it down into the concrete until it rests in the groove at the bottom.  Support the other end of the rebar with an extra piece of foam.

9.  Allow the concrete to set and cure for three days.  Use your trowl to remove the nails and gently lift the cast pieces from the mold.  Smooth the edges with a brick or the edge of the trowl. 

10.  Now is the time to add color using exterior latex paint or mosaic to your pieces.

11.  Stick the vertical upright of your pedestal stake firmly into the ground.  Run a bead of exterior glue or epoxy along the top edge and center the shelf piece on top.  Allow to dry overnight and you are ready to place your stake where you want it in the garden.

TIP:  Use your small hand saw to create a random texture in the bottom foam piece that will add interest to the surface of your pedestal stake pieces.  Gently drag the teeth of the saw across the surface of the foam at random angles.  This scratching will be picked up by the concrete and add interesting texture to your stake.

TIP:  You can add further design interest to the verticaL piece of your pedestal stake by cutting the foam in a “stairstep” pattern along the 12” sides and angling the bottom edge to meet the rebar stake.

TIP:  Add a mosaic glass design to the front of the pedestal stake for greater interest.
Use a craft knife to cut a channel in the foam piece to hold the glass pieces.  When the cast piece comes out of the mold,  use tile adheisive to attach the glass in the resulting groove.  Allow to dry overnight and then grout with natural gray grout.

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