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How to Make Cement and Concrete Candle Holders


Nighttime garden illumination is an excellent way to bring a bit of ambiance to your landscape as evening falls. It also helps provide the light needed to enjoy your yard as it begins to darken, providing you with a relaxing glow by which to toast a few drinks, or simply wait for the stars to appear. Concrete candle holders are the perfect choice to add both a live flame to your patio area for insect deterrent, or even solar lighting throughout your garden beds.

When I first decided to tackle this idea, I thought it was going to be a simple, straightforward concrete candle holder DIY project. Little did I know how many options would begin to present themselves as soon as I began researching it. Because of that, it began to take on a life of its own, and I have a few ideas to share with you below to help you create your very own concrete, or cement, candle holder.

Difference Between Concrete and Cement

What I discovered very early in this project was that there was a major difference between concrete and cement. Surprisingly, I had never used either for a project before, and I quickly found what each could lend to the candle holder ideas I had in mind. The difference between the two is simple, but understanding what each is will help ensure your project is strong and durable enough to be used in the manner you want to use them in.

Cement is the main ingredient of concrete. It is a rough building material made of a powder of calcified lime and clay. It is the main ingredient of concrete, and when mixed with sand, gravel, and water creates a strong, clay-like mass that can be both poured or spread to help create a foundation for all sorts of projects. Both cement and concrete can be used for various projects, with one being stronger than the other, but the other being a bit more versatile.

As Crafting Choices

Concrete and water needs to be well mixed and yields a gravelly, thick foundation that is more easily poured into molds. This allows the heavier sand and gravel to settle towards the bottom when using it for crafting purposes.

Cement, when mixed with water, yields a thick, clay-like substance as it rehydrates. The amount of water you add provides either a thicker or thinner solution to work with. When dried this creates a smoother surface, and when you are not working with molds and want to shape your crafts, this is the choice you will want to use. Unfortunately, cement on its own is not incredibly strong. To make it stronger, consider adding a little bit of sand or marble powder.

What You Will Need

I showcased how you can use both cement and concrete below to create various types of candle holders. This was mostly so you could see what kind of results you may be able to get from your own project ideas. When working with these substances, be sure to use both gloves and breathing protection, even if it is only a bandana wrapped around your mouth and nose. Also, work in a well-ventilated area. Concrete and cement are both a very fine powder that can be damaging to your skin and lungs. Eye protection may also be wanted.

  • Portland Concrete Mix: Portland is the name used to describe cement. This can be mixed to create your own cement mix, or used as is.
    OR
  • Quickcrete: For easy, quick set up concrete pour projects
  • Paper or Plastic Cups: Or really anything that won’t stick that you can create your own mold out of.
  • Balloons: To create free forms
  • Cooking Spray: sprayed inside your molds will help with removing your dried piece later
  • Mixing Buckets: At least two- one for water, one for concrete/ cement
  • Fine Sandpaper: to smooth uneven areas and edges
  • Polyurethane Spray: Will help seal and protect your finished project

Optional:

  • Sand or marble powder: if you are using Portland, you may want to mix some of this in to strengthen it.
  • Paint: depending on the vision you have for your final project.
  • Modge Podge Outdoor: to help seal and strengthen your project for outdoor use.

Using Cement to Shape Your Own Moulds

I had a vision of natural rock-like candle holders to place within my gardens. I wasn’t too keen on a super smooth surface and wanted it to look more natural and wanted to shape them without pouring a mold. As my idea took shape I envisioned them to be more like a geode and ended up creating them as such.

Step 1: Blow up your balloons

Balloons seemed like an obvious solution for a free shape mold. Blow up how many you want to make, and place them tie down in a cup or tin can for stability. Don’t be afraid to make more than you plan on using as you probably will end up breaking a few, and this technique s very delicate at first and a few of your molds may not make it as well.

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What to remember:

Don’t blow up the balloon until tight. Instead, leave them only at 70 to 80% of fullness (or smaller for various sizes) for added strength.

Step 2: Mix your cement to create a thick clay

Mix the Portland little by little with water until it is thick and clay like. You want it to be able to hold together on its own and not be runny. A little water goes a very long way with this, so be careful how much you add in at first, stirring constantly until it is evenly distributed. I made sure I could squeeze the cement without it oozing our water to create a wet clay like feel.

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What to remember:

You can also add in marble powder and sand at this point. It is much easier to use your gloved hand to mix and stir as you can feel through the whole process how thick and sticky the substance is becoming.

Step 3: Begin forming over balloons

Start shaping your form over the balloon by starting at the top and working your way down the sides. The thicker you put this on, the more strength you will get. You also can use thin layers, but just be aware that it will be less strong. I used straight concrete for this project to gauge how strong it was, and played with various thicknesses to see how well it would hold up. In hindsight, I would add in marble powder for strength, although my process below did yield a strong final project in the end.

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What to remember:

A thicker base help provide weight and stability to the rounded shape. Feel free to drop in some rocks and create an uneven surface for added texture.

Step 4: Allow to set up

Cement can take up to 28 days total to be completely set up, but since I was working with a thin amount, and didn’t want to wait that long- I gave it a good 2 days to ensure even the thickest of places was dried all the way through. Even though it looked like they were ready for the following day (approximately 16 hours later), I decided to give it another night just to be sure.

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What to remember:

You can create a ‘test’ piece of cement to try and break or gauge the strength of the molds, prior to popping your balloons.

Step 5: Pop Balloons

This is the step of reckoning as you will find out if you made these strong enough. I created variable thicknesses of molds ranging from about 1/8th of an inch, to a thicker 1/4th inch, and all survived being popped. I lost a few little edge pieces that stuck to the ballon a bit, but nothing major. The places that I had placed rocks within pulled the rocks through, creating cool little holes.

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What to remember:

The thicker the concrete is placed in the mold, the stronger it will be. Even though all mine survived the balloon pop, I did lose a few of the ones with weaker, thinner areas that created weaknesses in the shape after handling them.

Step 6: Sand, Paint, Poly Spray, and/or Modge Podge to Strengthen

These will be delicate when you first begin working with them, and if you have any weak areas that you place pressure upon, they may break. I did end up with some broken pieces due to spreading the cement too thin in areas. Basically, tread lightly when you first handle them.

I did sand out my edges slightly with a very fine sandpaper that required very little pressure. And then decided I wanted to paint mine for added color and texture for both indoor and outdoor use. I used a variety of techniques as seen in the photos and then finished it with a layer of Modge Podge for added outdoor protection. It wasn’t until after I spread my first layer that I realized I grabbed the wrong bottle, so it ended up with a second coat of Modge Podge Outdoor.

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What to remember:

Of course these are all optional steps, but they do help strengthen and protect your project. You can easily use clear coats if you want a more natural color. I would like my raw form to an unfired piece of ceramic, and my final painted and protected form to more of a finished ceramic piece.

Step 7: Enjoy!

I decided to further my creativity with these, and ended up using them both within the house and outdoors on the patio and within my flower pots. When forming these molds you could easily leave an opening for solar lighting options as well, or even enclose fairy lights within.

Pouring Your Own Molds

When pouring a mold you can easily use either concrete or cement. Cement will create a smoother surface, whereas concrete will have a slightly roughed out and textured surface due to the added sand and gravel found within.

As mentioned, you can use just about any smoothly surfaced container that you feel you could easily slide a hardened form out of. I chose to use small paper drinking cups to try this technique out and was very happy with the results. I actually preferred the concrete versions of these over the cement ones as I felt they leveled out on the surface better and were more interesting to work with. Remember, you will need your mold to hold the overall shape, as well as molds to create places for your candles to sit in. The bottoms of cups are excellent choices for this.

To get started with this, mix your concrete or cement with water to create a more pourable substance. This shouldn’t be watery, but you don’t really want it to be able to hold together on its own.

Step 1: Spray your molds with cooking spray

If you spray your molds with cooking spray, then you can more easily remove them from the dried substance you chose to use. This is especially useful if you decide to use any glass, or plastic bowl molds, or larger pieces that would not peel or be able to be cut off.

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What to remember:

Spray, then wipe it over the surface, and spray again to ensure you get a full coverage.

Step 2: Pour your substance

Pour your cement or concrete in, leaving a gap at the top for when you put your candle mold shape in. If you feel you got too much water in it, don’t worry unless it is really watery as it will evaporate as it dries anyway. If you feel it is too watery, just add a little more mix.

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What to remember:

Be sure to tap out your molds to get all the air bubbles out. I simply tapped the entire thing on the top of the table until the surface showed smooth and even.

Step 3: Spray bottom of rest of mold and set

Now, spray the bottom of the molds you are using to create the candle holder. For tea light, small paper drinking cups make excellent choices for this, but you can use anything you want to fit the size candles you plan on using.

When placing in the bottom of your mold, make sure you center it, and slowly push down to allow the substance you have already poured to distribute out of the way. You also want to try and keep it level, and at the same depth. This may take a few tries when you first do this to feel out how much of the substance you needed to pour. I ended up with a little bit of spillover on my first attempt.

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What to remember:

Some of these cups have a ridged bottom, so make sure to spray it very well to ensure you can remove it with ease.

Step 4: Allow to dry overnight and remove from mold

If using a Quickcrete, you probably can remove the molds within a few hours, but I suggest waiting overnight anyway as it still takes a few days to set up completely. Especially if you have any thicker areas. When you go to remove it from the molds, first pull out your candle placeholders, and then peel (if paper), or slide your form from the mold.

If it sticks, simply turn upside down and tap the sides and top for a bit. It will eventually slip out f you greased it up well. Even if you didn’t it should still eventually slip out with pressure.

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What to remember:

If you remove it too early, you may lose the shape, but you basically cannot wait too long. If in doubt, give it more time.

Step 5: Sand for a smooth surface

If you want you can sand your surface for a smoother look. USe a fine grit paper and level out the tops, smooth the edges and create a surface that will take to paint and decoration if you want to get even more creative.

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What to remember:

Concrete already has sand and gravel in it, so if it has settled and you see the texture from this, you may want to avoid sanding these areas too much to avoid from creating a brittle surface. When you see this is means there may have been some air left, and you can strengthen it by using paint or a polyurethane spray.

Step 6: Paint, Poly Spray, or Modge Podge to Strengthen

Of course, you can leave your form as is, but if you plan on using it outdoors, you may want to coat it with a protective surface to keep from weather and water damage. This to help ensure you get a long life out of your projects and can enjoy them for many years. These simple molds are actually very easy and inexpensive and make the perfect base for kids crafts for gift giving and creativity.

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What to remember:

Although durable, it is suggested to bring concrete forms indoors during the winter as they do wear over time when exposed to elements, and can begin to take in moisture in humid climates.

To Conclude

Although I had never worked with concrete or cement before this project, I certainly learned a lot through trial and error and ended up with some pretty cool results. My children got involved and help paint holders for gifts to their Nona, and also helped design a housewarming gift for a beach house from some shells they had collected.

Obviously, my choice of molds and forms may not be your choice, but by using the similar techniques I did, you can create your own cool garden and patio concrete candle lighting. If you have any questions or comments or have a project of your own you would like to showcase, we would love to see it below! And, as always, please share!

 

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!

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