Issue 53 Making a Sand-Cast Birdbath

Birdbath with pedestal Looking for a simple project with lots of potential? Try this sand-cast birdbath. It’s easy to make, works with any large leaf and it can be finished a number of ways. For a large birdbath, like the one in the photo at right, plants like rhubarb, gunnera or ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta work best. This one’s rhubarb. You’re not limited to big leaves. This process will work with just about any type. I’ve used sycamore, oak, datura, and lantana. I use the sycamore as a ground feeder and scatter the rest through my garden. You may have already read our story about how to make this birdbath in issue 53, but here we’ll also show you how to make a matching pedestal. There’s a modification to the birdbath in step 5, so be sure to read the instructions for both before starting. We’ll also walk you through the whole process with our video clips. When it comes to concrete, even though its the most expensive, I like Vinyl Patch by Quickcrete®. When it’s dry, its fine consistency preserves the details of the leaf clearly. Less expensive concretes are just as strong but they look coarser. You can do this project on the ground, but I’d recommend using some kind of table — it’s easier on your knees and back. I use a table made of a sheet of plywood and two sawhorses. Who’d have guessed that for less than $25 and a few hours of work, you could have such a unique garden ornament? Are you ready to make your own? Let’s get started.

The Birdbath

  • Large leaf
  • 1 bag of sand
  • 2 bags of concrete
  • Water
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tubular concrete form
  • Paint or concrete dye (optional)
  • Concrete sealer
  • Bucket or mixing Tray for concrete
  • Hoe for mixing
  • crub brush
  • Paintbrush
  • Foam brush
  • 2 containers for paint and sealer

The Pedestal

Making a pedestal for your sandcast birdbath is simple, but there are a few things to do ahead of time to prepare. First, you need a form. Most hardware stores carry cardboard tubular concrete forms that are used for deck footings. They come in different lengths and diameters. The one I got was 6 feet long with an 8-inch diameter. Since 6 feet seemed extreme for a birdbath pedestal, I cut the form in half with a hand saw. You can make the pedestal any height you want to. Just remember the taller the pedestal is, the heavier it will be when you’re done. Now that you have your form cut to the height you want take the leftover piece and cut off a 2-inch ring. Set it aside to use in step five of the leaf project. Now you’re ready to get started. Pour the concrete

Step one — Add the concrete. Cover the smooth side of a pre-made stepper or any smooth surface — it can even be your sidewalk or driveway — with plastic wrap and set the end of the cardboard form you cut up. This way if your earlier cut wasn’t perfectly straight, you won’t have an uneven base. Placing the form on a smooth surface will help keep the pedestal level, too. Mix the concrete with water until it’s the consistency of pudding. The photo at left shows a good mix — not too watery, but not too stiff. Then pour the concrete into the form. This is a good time to have a friend around to hold the form while you pour. Not only does it keep the form steady but, by holding the form down firmly, the concrete won’t be able to leak out the bottom. Give it a good shake to get rid of any air pockets.

Place the stepper

Step two — Top it off. When the form is as full of concrete as you want it, center the other stepper on the top as in this photo. This will keep concrete from oozing out the bottom. Let it dry for 48 hours. Peel off the cardboard

Step three — Finished product. When the concrete is dry, the form can be peeled off just like in the photo. When the cardboard is off, let your pedestal cure for one week. After it has cured you can leave it as it is or decorate it with color. Either way, a coat of concrete sealer will help preserve your pedestal.

Pedestal how-to

You’ve made a beautiful birdbath! Now it’s time to put it to good use and show it off a little, too. Just click ahead for a materials list, and follow our simple steps to build a pedestal that stands out in your garden or any other spot in the yard. Stacking the pavers randomly will give you an informal column like the one here. But it’s just as easy to arrange a uniform pattern for a formal look. The style is totally up to you.

40 712 × 312 × 238 landscape pavers
1 square 16-in. concrete paver cap

  1. THE RIGHT FOUNDATION Make sure the area where you want to set up the birdbath is level, and then lay down eight landscape pavers to form the pedestal’s base.

  2. BUILD IT UP Using the remaining pavers, build up the rest of the pedestal with 8 layers, made of 4 pavers each. Frequently check your work with a level to make sure the bricks are lined up and lying flat.

  3. FINISHING TOUCH When you reach the top, add the paver cap and the basin.