I came upon a realization lately - there seems to be a common thread to…
I know what it’s like standing at the concrete aisle and getting that odd look from the guys at the building supply store… Since I get a lot of questions about which concrete to use I’m going to eliminate some of the guesswork. Follow me as I Compare Concrete Mixes for Crafting
So many Concrete Mixes for Crafting:
I remember many years ago when I started buying concrete, I’d stand there reading and checking the packages, looking quite puzzled, and then someone would think I was sent by my husband to buy ‘normal’ concrete. After a few attempts of trying to explain what I wanted to do I would just buy what I felt was right since they usually thought I was a bit crazy… Even nowadays there are so many that it’s quite daunting.
I knew what I did not want; large aggregate in my mix, which is what the regular Concrete mixes have. They are quite cheap and can work for large pours in large molds or sidewalks. I am usually making small things that were going to be cast in molds or hand shaped for decorative home use.
‘Leaf-casting’ was perfect to make my Concrete crafting tests since I like to work quite thin. These leaves are my new favourite; Savoy Cabbage!
Since time is always short around my place so I like to see my projects finish quickly and I am constantly improving or redesigning so I can’t wait weeks or even days!
I really do love the ‘fast set’ mixes but am not exactly sure about what makes them so quick and also so much stronger. There are special additives in the concrete mix resulting in a dense less porous finish. With that comes quite a hike in price, but it’s worth it in my eyes!
The above Rapidset Cementall is probably my all-time favourite! The specs say that it can be used at different consistencies and it will cure much harder than regular concrete. I am sure there are additives like polymers for strength and those also make it quite moldable at a thicker consistency. I learn by testing and it has worked well for many of my projects. Usually readers who have had concrete problems it’s because of the choice of concrete.
Rapidset Cementall Concrete Mix will start to thicken in about 30 seconds and can usually be taken out of the mold after 1 hour. The molds that I make are quite stiff and this mix will withstand the vigor needed to sometimes take them out. This mix is super fine, will pick up all the details and provide a super smooth white finish. It will be even be shiny when the mold is also shiny material.
When reading the specs for different mixes it will give you a clue at how it can/should be used. ‘Featheredge’ means that it can be used at a very thin layer. Some mixes will state not to be used above a certain thickness.
The Rapidset Cementall can also be used at a thick; sculptable consistency. It will still slump ( a high pile of mix will flatten and sag) but not usually run away. That makes it work well for leaf casting such as the Lacy Circle the Smiling Stones. The workflow can be quite fast since sections harden quickly allowing more material to be added such as around an Orb or a Face sculpture. Dampening the drier sections is good practice before adhering new mix.
Quikrete Fastset All-crete:
Different brands offer similar products. Since entering the Quikrete contest I wanted to use a Quikrete product that compared to the RapidSet Cementall. I find this mix is almost exactly like it. It does seem like it comes under a few different names; Dual Purpose Grout & Structural Repair, Fastset Repair Mortar and Quikrete Fastset All-Crete. (See a selector guide here) It may be a difference of countries (here in Canada) Do NOT confuse it with any regular Fastset Mix though, as it will have large aggregate in it. If it says that it is meant to make sidewalks and post foundations that is usually the indication.
It has much of the same qualities, workability and also stated it can be used at all kinds of consistencies. It also a fine powder but the colour is more like a true concrete ‘grey’.
A new huge 20″ Orb will be posted soon and it used this mix. It performed well at less than 1/2″ thick and quick-setting allowed great workflow.
Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher:
If you can wait a bit longer but still want strength then the Vinyl Patch products will also work well. Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher also has additives to make it really strong but does not set as fast. It has a window of 30 minutes of work time (conditions can affect it) and will be hard in 24 hours. It has good bonding abilities so layering works great as in Giant Orb making.
You can see it still is a fine mix but I’d say it feels a bit more sandy. It cures to a similar concrete colour to the Fastset. You can see a slight bit more texture in the final product.
Sakrete Top’n Bond:
This is another of the bonding mixes with great strength and it performs very much like the Quikrete Vinyl Patch. Sakrete Top’n Bond will work for the continuous building around an orb or casting of thin leaves. It will set in a day as well.
My 20″ Giant Orbs have lasted well through the canadian winters and are light enough to carry with one hand. Amazingly only 1/4″ thick. Stomping on it would likely break it but they are really ornamental garden sculpture.
So, there you have 3 direct comparisons (left to right) Quikrete Fastset Allcrete, Rapidset Cementall, and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher. This is by no way the only available mixes but it does give me quite the selection to get my concrete crafts done.
If you are still a bit apprehensive about working with concrete visit my tips post as it does not mean that you need to be ‘covered in concrete’ to make some easy treasures! Crafting with concrete is like making a cake mix that does not need baking… And you can keep it forever!