DIY: Cement Candleholders

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

An idea came to me in the middle of the night.  What if I could create my own candleholders and planters with plastic items purchased from the local market ?  I knew that cement wouldn’t stick to plastic, so why not use plastic forms from my kitchen as molds for candleholders ?  I started testing this invention last weekend to see if I could create something wonderful out of something mundane.  After a few rounds of trial and error, my creation took form.  You’d never guess that these lovelies were created out of yogurt cups and plastic storage containers!

How perfect are these for lighting a twilight path to your door ?

Do you need some candlelight in your garden ?

Perhaps a romantic table for two outdoors?

Believe it or not, these cement candleholders were made with molds from plastics available at your local grocery store!

Supplies to recreate:

  1. Plastics in various sizes for outside mold.  They can be storage containers, deli containers, or juice jugs
  2. Yogurt cups for inside mold
  3. Non-stick cooking spray
  4. Plastic sheeting
  5. Rapid set cement mix from home improvement store (I recommend the 55 lb. bag over the 10 lb. box if you want to do more than just a few small tea light candleholders.)
  6. Plastic bucket for mixing
  7. Stir stick (pick up a free one in the paint department)
  8. Measuring cup
  9. Sanding pad
  10. Latex gloves
  11. Outdoor ‘Patio Paint’ in colors of choice

Step One: Clean and dry your plastic molds and yogurt cups.  Spray the inside of your plastic mold with a thin coat of cooking spray.  The cooking spray isn’t absolutely essential, but it does help ease your plastic away from the cement when you pop it out of the molds.

Step Two:  Lay down plastic sheeting on your workspace, and put on your latex gloves – cement is irritating and very drying to your hands.

Step Three: Mix your cement with 4 parts cement powder and 1 part water as directed on the bag.  It should be similar to the consistency of cake mix.

Step Four:  Working quickly, pour your cement into your plastic mold, and set your yogurt cups inside.  Use some pebbles or small rocks to weigh your yogurt cups down, because they tend to want to rise up out of the cement.

Make sure your plastic mold is on a level surface.  Gently tap your candle mold about a dozen times to bring any bubbles to the surface.

Step Five:  If your rapid set mix will solidify in 15 minutes, then let your mold sit for approximately 10 minutes, and gently twist your yogurt cups inside the mold to ease in their removal.  After the full 15 minutes, remove the yogurt cups.  When you can feel the outside cement is very warm inside its plastic mold, and when it starts to form some condensation, pop it out of the mold.  Do this just before it is permanently set.  It’s about a 2 minute window, so stay by your project.

Note:  Your plastic storage containers are completely reusable after this project – be sure to rinse any cement residue out of your mold right away.  But don’t rinse it down your indoor plumbing – after all, it is cement.

Step Six:  Take your sanding pad and gently rub away any rough edges on the surface and sides.

Step Seven:  Allow cement candleholders to fully set approximately 12 to 24 hours.

Step Eight:  If you want a painted surface, then apply several coats of outdoor ‘Patio Paint’ to your candleholders.  Allow to dry between coats.

I added some decorative rocks between Step Four and Step Five to create a more rugged looking candleholder for my younger brother’s bachelor pad.  You could also use shells, mosaics, whatever you like.

I painted the inside and outside a mushroom color that I made from a mixture of brown, gray, and green patio paint.  Nestled among succulents, this version is very zen and organic.


Just look what you can create out of ordinary grocery store plastics and some quick drying cement!

My favorite part about these cement candleholders is how useful they will be through the fall and through the holidays. Unlike glass votives, there is no worrying about shattered glass.  Unlike metal luminaries, there is no need to bring them indoors for fear of rust.  These homemade versions should weather outside beautifully, just like any other cement object.

Next post, I’ll share some more tips and tricks about working with cement.  And I’ll also show you how to made a few cement planters out of more plastic containers and a lemonade jug.



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DIY: Invisible Trellis

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

When we began our remodel in 2005, it required that we dramatically grade our rear yard to accommodate for the extension of the home.  Our rear yard has an uphill slope.  After all the tractors departed, I was left with a gigantic six foot eyesore of a retaining wall.  The only way to cover it was with clever plantings.

In the spring of 2008, I started the landscaping process by making my own invisible trellis to hide the wall.  An invisible trellis is an inexpensive way to train a vine up a wall without the expenditure and installation of wood lattice or a metal trellis.

Here’s a look at my version up close:

An invisible trellis is very easy to install, and virtually maintenance free.  The only tools you need are a drill for pilot holes, wire cutters, and a measuring tape.  The only supplies you’ll need are screw eyes and galvanized steel wire, pictured below.


The first step is to map out your trellis on your wall or fence.  I used a pencil to mark off the location for the screw eyes along the upper diagonal of my wall, then created a vertical and horizontal grid 12 inches apart.  The second step is to drill pilot holes where you’ve marked the location for your screw eyes.  Once all of your screw eyes are installed, simply connect the eyes with your galvanized wire to form the trellis.

The invisible trellis virtually disappears on the wall, and allows the beautiful vine to put on a show.  And here is the wall after installing the invisible trellis, a citrus tree, and some shrubs.  It’s amazing how greenery can turn something functional into something lovely.


Last summer, I planted two pink bower vines, a type of jasmine.  In summer, my bower vines give me pink trumpet shaped blooms with dark pink throats.  The added bonus is that the plant is an evergreen, so it stays green all winter long, hiding my wall throughout the year.



For another brief tutorial by Martha on installing an invisible trellis, look here.

Happy trellising !



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Stars and Stripes Centerpieces

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Last year, we had a huge Fourth of July barbeque for fifty friends.  It was so much fun.  We can see our local fireworks from our front porch, so we’re a great place for an evening party.  Every year, all the kids from the neighborhood end up at our house for Mr. CG’s street fireworks show.  This year, I skipped throwing a party, but I still like to add a festive touch to my table.

I bought some basic canisters from Michaels in white and red, and a few spools of ribbon. 


This is not a novel concept to use ribbon for decorating centerpieces, but this is my simple and easy approach.  

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