DIY Concrete Letter

May 9th, 2013

I’ve been wanting to play with concrete, and I thought a two-tone concrete letter would look awesome sitting on my shelf. My concrete letter didn’t turn out quite right, because I was impatient. I picked up the mold before the allotted drying time was up, because I wanted to see if the concrete was still wet. It was, and it cracked into 3 pieces. Oops. The good news is that I just need to get some landscape block adhesive to glue the pieces together, and no one will ever know (well, except you guys).

DIY concrete letter

DIY concrete letter

Supplies:

hollow cardboard letter (available at your local craft store)
box cutter
breathing mask (or something to cover your nose so you don’t breath concrete dust)
disposable gloves
two plastic spoons
two disposable plastic bowls
a disposable cup
concrete mix
cement color
water

DIY concrete letter

Lay the letter face down and cut out the top side to make the mold. (The facedown side of the letter will be the front, so make sure if you’re using an asymmetrical letter that it won’t end up backwards.) Remove the cardboard filler inside, and use a piece to divide the letter mold in half diagonally. The divider should fit snuggly against the edges of the letter.

DIY concrete letter

Next, mix the concrete wearing gloves and a breathing mask (do it outside so you don’t get concrete dust in your home). Mix a bowl of plain concrete and a bowl of colored concrete. For the colored concrete, premix the dye and water in a disposable cup before stirring it into the concrete mix. I didn’t measure anything. I just mixed in enough water to get all the concrete wet and then stirred in a little bit more. It should be thick and not at all runny.

Once the concrete is mixed, work quickly to spoon one of the colors into the mold. Wear gloves and pack the concrete into all the edges and corners with your finger tips. Remove the divider and spoon the second shade of concrete right up against the first. Smoosh them together firmly. Fill in the rest of the letter making sure to push the concrete down into all the crevices.

DIY concrete letter

Now, don’t pull on the cardboard to peek, don’t move it, and don’t even touch it! Let it sit for 24 hours before cutting away the cardboard mold.

DIY concrete letter

45 Comments

  1. Wow! That is an awesome idea, and it looks so effective. I’d love to create something similar for my own nest logo, but I fear it may be too fine of a design. The duotone looks really good.

  2. Love this!! I love the look of concrete, and you got this just right. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is so fun! I l have quite a few unique letters around the house, this would be a fun one to try. Awesome DIY!

  4. Dawn

    Cute idea! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Michelle Nichols

    It looks awesome!

  6. Love it! This looks great! and thanks for the great instructions!

  7. Awesome! :) I love the semi-homemade mold. Are you using it for craft fair display?

  8. This is a wonderful tutorial and it would be perfect for a garden decoration. Happy Friday. xx. McKenna Lou

    http://www.lynnandlou.com

  9. You’re so clever! I never would have thought of using one of those letters as a mold!

  10. An amazing looking piece – you’ve got such a designers eye Amanda..

  11. I feel a new project coming on! Thanks!!

  12. mireya pizarro

    I love it and the cracks give it the little flaw but still art and cool.

  13. I love this! Your ‘W’ turned out awesome. I love the little cracked concrete details.

  14. I love this project!! I’m a little scared of mixing the concrete though. I guess i should get over that :)
    J

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Honestly, it wasn’t much different than mixing milk into flour! ;)

    • Hey Jana! I was told when mixing this up, is to make it like a pancake batter. If your mixture was too watery, then just add a little more cement and mix really well. NOTE: ALSO A VERY VERY GOOD TIP HERE (SINCE I HAVE MADE LOTS OF CEMENT MOLDS) IS WHEN YOU FINISH ADDING THE CEMENT INTO YOUR MOLD, YOU NEED TO “TAP” THE SIDES OF THE MOLD WITH SOMETHING LIKE A SPOON HANDLE OR SOMETHING. THIS HELPS REMOVE ANY AIR BUBBLES FROM THE CEMENT. DO THE TAPPING FOR A FEW MINUTES ALL AROUND THE MOLD. YOU WILL SEE THE AIR BUBBLES POP TOO!

  15. Amazing! I think the cracks and flaws give it personality. Sometimes impatience turns out to be a good thing. :)

  16. I have made lots of cement molds before but out of those nice plastic molds. (I made an awesome “GROW” round cement stepping stone last year for my garden too. Question about this letter mold though, did you rip away the cement from the letter mold or does the cement just pop out? Was wondering if you could use the letter mold again?

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      I had to tear the cardboard away from the cement, so it’s a one use mold.

  17. Ok, that is good to know! Did any of the cardboard stick to the cement “W”? I know when I used the plastic molds I have, I had to use a “release agent” aka PAM in the molds first so the dried piece would pop out. I wonder if you sprayed the “W” mold with PAM if it would release it once dried? Hmmmm.

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      I didn’t have any sticking problems—the cardboard peeled right off!

  18. Jackie

    Looks amazing! What did you use to colour the concrete?

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Cement color—it’s available in bottles at home improvement stores in the cement section.

  19. Chris

    I started this project for a wedding gift- the cement I bought (same brand and look) has quite a lot of coarse rocks and gravel. Is this correct?

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Yes, mine had small gravel in it since it’s a concrete mix rather than straight cement powder which would be smooth. I was unable to find cement powder in less than 100lb bags, so I went with the concrete mix. It turned out that I liked the more rugged look the mix created anyway. :)

  20. Chris

    Thanks, Amanda! I appreciate your help and thanks, again for the neat idea for some awesome wedding gifts!

  21. Tracey

    Wonderful,I am going to try this in the garden thanks for the clear instructions.

  22. becki ewert

    I actually love the cracks…and I think you are a genius!

  23. Chase

    I asked my husband to do this one for me because he is a contractor and has worked with concrete a lot, I could not find the hollow molds at my crafts store, so my wonderful husband (who is also quite handsome) hot glued the letters that I needed, they came out great, however, you should plan on getting the adhesive when you pick up the concrete and coloring, there is no way anyone can complete this project without the letters breaking in 1 spot or another

  24. Chase

    in case it’s not obvious- my husband wrote the above comment ;) but he did do all the work and made the letters twice- and they broke both times :(

  25. Walter Carmichael

    Very slick, I have been thinking of putting the word Smile in my lawn. I had large metal smile letters that hung in the front of my other house & they got a very positive reaction from my neighbor & friends. Thanks for the tip

  26. Kelli

    A hint to keep the letters from cracking is to reinforce it with metal rods like they do when they pour drive ways, walls, and footers. With the letters being relative small you can use a large gauge galvinized steel wire or just shop your hardware store for something that you can cut with a pair if wire cutters. The bigger the letter with large spans the bigger your wire should be.

  27. Mary

    I’m getting ready to do this project. I’m going to line my letters with kitchen type plastic wrap to see if I can reuse the molds.

  28. Naomi

    What do you think about using silicon baking moulds? They might peel off easily?

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      I’m not sure! It’s worth a try, but I’d only try it if you don’t mind destroying the mould—just in case. ;)

  29. Jenn

    Hi there! Love this idea, tried it but there’s a lot of concrete dust coming off it. Did this happen with yours? It creates a big mess of it whenever I move it anywhere in the house. I wonder if there’s anything I can do in the mixing/curing that would stop this?

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      I didn’t have dust coming off—my W is as solid as a rock. The only thing I can think of that may have caused this is if the concrete mix wasn’t wet enough, so it didn’t set completely. I wonder if you rinsed it with water and let it dry if the dust would cement itself down?

    • Dave

      Hi Amanda I love your letter idea ,looks wonderful . You actually inspired me to make a few for our family and freinds more like about 7 or 8 so for. Here’s what I ended up using . I took some 1 1/2 x16x16 white styrofoam and cut the letter out and poured in the concrete, after it cured just start cutting away with a saber saw and break the styrofoam away. Anyways here’s some info for Jenn and anyone else that has dust film on there letters,efflorescence is the problem when you have the powder film.
      You just need to use 10% muratic acid or they have some other products out that are environmentally friendly just wet the letter then brush it on and hose it off. Then you will want to seal it with concrete sealer. It can be expensive project.

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Awesome Dave, thanks for sharing those tips!

  30. Desiree

    To make the concrete harder/stronger, you have to spray some water every hour. It will slow down the drying process and it will make your product much harder. It is the same as with pouring a concrete floor, they always keep it wet as long as possible…. Love the outcome of your letter! thanks for sharing

  31. Debbie Gipson

    Try buying old letters from a sign shop. They are made from metal or plastic and are called reverse pan channel letters. Should work, and be able to reuse. I would reinforce with rods. Might work great…all sizes and fonts.

  32. cathy

    You can buy cement repair in much smaller containers at your home improvement stores. Also, wondered if you rubbed your mold with Vaseline if that would help release the concrete.

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