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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recycled Bottles Turned into Concrete Blocks - tutorial Part 3 of 3

SO!  Have you followed along so far????  I hope so.  If not, check out the last 2 blogs that started this fun project. 

Remember,,, any question is a good question!!!!

NOW!  It's time to show you what happened to my blocks I made!!!!

This part can become very time consuming.  After you get the blocks out of your form you have many choices.  You can clean them up and make them really pretty and new looking.  OR!  Like me, you can beat them up and make them look older.  There's always one more option we could look at after this ,,, AND ,,, that's adding moss to our nasty blocks.  YUM!

OK!  Here we go!!!

Let's start with those concrete leaves made from left over concrete!

Remember these???

Well, grab a piece of the leaf and try pulling it off.  It might not want to come off and that's OKAY!  HONEST!  If it doesn't pull off easily ,,, let it stay.  As the leaf dries it will come off easier.  Some times I just leave them on and as they dry up you get some really fun, crusty looks.  Those sold just as easily as the nicer ones.

As you can see the leaf of the left (by the way it was a small rhubarb leaf) came off pretty good.  The leaf on the right (a Foxglove) did not want to come off at all.  I'll wait a few days before I try again.  Just leave it out in the sun and let nature take it's course.  At the bottom of the picture you can see a small screwdriver (flat) and a pick.  Some times I use either or both to manipulate the leaves or the concrete.

That is all there is to making those leaves .... you see them all the time and you think,,, MAN!  I could make those!  NOW!  You really can!  Here's a quick reminder on how to:

1)  Place one leaf on a board upside down.  VEIN SIDE UP!
2)  Place concrete on  your leaf, making sure it covers the whole leaf.
3)  Let dry a good 24 hours.  Try to keep it out of direct sun.  I should have told you that concrete needs to dry slowly!
4)  Pull the leaf off!   DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


OKAY!  So!  Let's see how to un-box those blocks!!!

Remember this block from yesterday???  Well, I just happen to make 6 of these because I made WAY too much concrete!  Bad habit!

This is the wet version of this block!

Here's the dry version!!!  Notice they are not shiny any more!

These are 2 of my forms and how they are held together. 
Screws are my friends!!!

Start by unscrewing your form.  If you used an O J carton ,,, tear it off!  When I made these forms, I didn't pay any attention to their sizes.  This was all out of scrap cedar fencing.  SO!  When I pull them apart to get the block out ,,, I have to keep each set together.  They do not play well together.  The parts do not fit any other form.  This gives me different size blocks.  I REALLY like that.

This close up is to show you the sides of my forms.  Notice how warped they are?  That's from the water in the concrete.  I don't mind.  Notice how the concrete leaked in between the boards?  That will have to be removed.  A putty knife works really good!!!

Here I've removed 3 sides.  That's plenty far.  Many times I only remove one side.  At this point, some will come out easily, some will not. 

If they don't come out easily.  Help them out with a putty knife or some thing thin.  Place it between the concrete and the boards, then tap on it with your hand or a small, light weight hammer.  At this point it should pop right out!

Here are 2 blocks ready to play with.  Notice all the concrete left on the form boards?  That needs to be removed.  I use that putty knife a lot here.  I just try to get the "chunks" off.  That's good enough for me.

Remember the leaves you put in the bottoms of your form?  Here they are, ready to be removed.  The next couple pictures will show these 2 blocks as I "try" to remove the leaves.  One is much easier than the other.

Most of these leaves came off.  We'll let nature do the rest, except, right around the glass.

This is the Foxglove leaf.  They never want to come off.  If you leave this on ,,, it's cool!  And I do mean awesome!  It looks like pieces of a leaf are trying to grow inside the block.  It gets this wonderful old forest look about it.

Just a closer look at the middle of the block.  In the top right corner you can see the edge of the bottle.  We want to see that all the way around.  SO!  We need to clean all that off.  MOST of the time it's easy!

Close up of the block with Wisteria leaves.  See the pattern from the veins of the leaves?

This small, flat screwdriver is going to remove most of that concrete so we can see the whole bottom of the bottle.  NO, it won't scratch the bottle.  You won't need to work that hard.  You can also use an old toothbrush.

Most of the concrete has been removed so you can now see the bottom of the bottles.

Here are 4 more blocks that I am going to do the same thing on.  Remove the leaves, if I can.  Remove any concrete so I can see the bottom of the bottle.

This is Columbine.  Most of the leaves are under the concrete.   DARN!  Not much leaf pattern will show on this block.  To me this is an OOPS!  But, it's still okay.

Close up of the pretty leaf pattern.

This leaf is really buried in the concrete.  Not a problem.  Just grab hold of the middle and pull.  See what happens.

This is what happened.  Looks good!!!

I believe these were the honeysuckle leaves.

Looking good!!!

This looks good too!

Here we are!  2 nice sized leaves and 6 concrete blocks. 
Ready to finish them???  I AM!!!!

This view is from the side of the block, down and across the front of the block.  This is the side of the glass jar.  I wanted you to see that after the concrete dries it will shrink a little.  That's from the moisture drying out.  This is okay.  It will probably only be this way on the top side of your block. 

This picture is to show you the difference in the sizes and thicknesses of my blocks.  I like this random sizing.  I'm not very good at doing things exactly the same.

Cleaning supplies:  hubcap full of water ...  or bowl!  :)  scrubbing pad (not a good one, just an old, stinky one) and a tooth brush!  PERFECT!!!

First take your scrubber and just SCRUB!  Get as much of the concrete off as you can.  Use your toothbrush here too.  Nearly all of it should come off.  If it doesn't, you might want to use that small screwdriver to let it know who's boss!  Remember to scrub both sides of your blocks.  Rinse with clean water and
let them dry!


TAH - DAH!  You did it!  Way to go.  Although!  We can keep going.  I'd like too!  Your choice.  If you'd like, I'll show you one more step I take to get that funky, older, crustier look?  HUH?  Wanna go for it???  It's like some thing you can do to release some of your frustrations!!!  Now did I get your attention?  tee hee hee!

OKAY!  I like to take the edges and "clean" them up.  Right now they are pretty much a straight line.  BORING!  Let us take a fun little hammer and smash the edges!  YEP!  I did too say smash the edges!  READY???

I showed you this picture earlier.  Now I'm showing you this again so you can see the edges!  See how they look pretty straight.  Yours will too.  To me, that looks NEW.  I try to make nearly all of my art look like it's been around for a long time.  That's the part I enjoy the most.  Making some thing out of junk, making it look like it belongs together and then making it look like it's many years older than it is.  That my friends is my challenge!

I took a small hammer with a straight edge on one end and pecked away at every single side.  That's 12 edges!  See the pile of garbage.  Notice the corners, the sides now.  They are kind of messed up.  YUM!  Perfect.  Now, let Mother Nature do her thing and you've got a nice chunk of color in your garden.

This is the hammer I used.  Any hammer will do.  This one is nice because of the wedge.  If your hammer doesn't have one ,,,  just use your regular hammer and strike the block with the edge of your hammer.  It'll work.  Nearly any thing will work.  If your hammer has claws on it,,, use them,,, but go slow and hit them easy!  Try different things.  For me, this was the easiest of all the tools I have.  YES!  I have a bunch ,,, okay!  A WHOLE bunch.

OKAY!  Are you ready for some pictures of my blocks after they are cleaned up???  I'm not a pro at this,,, so, trust me here.  The blocks are nicer than the photos.  OKAY!  Here goes!!!

Coke bottles.  Nice color and love the pattern around the glass!!!  Do you like my "chippie" sides?

Same bottle, different angle.

One side of a bottle.  Notice the textured glass in the top right corner?

Side 2 of that bottle.  That texture in the last picture is now on the top left side of this picture.  You have the same glass and 2 completely different looks.

This is my favorite color in a wine bottle.  You can't tell it here, but, it's a soft, beautiful blue.  Love the texture of the "wreath" going around the bottle.  Plus, can you see all the little marks all over the bottom of this bottle?  Love them.  They all work together to give you "movement" in your glass.

One side of this bottle.  You can see the leaves on the concrete.  This is the bottom of your block.  It's the side you really want to see.

Side 2 of the bottle.  The top of the block when it was in the form.

Here's my blocks in the back yard getting some sun!

Meet Macs!  Yep!  He's on a harness and leash.  I don't let my kitty run loose in the city.  He's just an awesome little man and I'd just die if he ran away or got run over!  He was rubbing all over this block from last year.  This is full of antique marbles.  Notice the rusty look?

This block was put on top of one of my marinating piles of steel junk.  Some of the rust went on the concrete.  Love that!  Notice that most of these marbles are solid colored glass?  Transparent and opaque glass work best at letting the light through.

This block has been outside for one full year.  Notice the chipped up corners and sides?  Every one who comes to the house loves this one the best of all the blocks I've made.  Don't you love the square glass?  I believe these were whiskey bottles.

Check out the numbers, letters, circles, textures and company logo on this bottom!!!  Aren't they all wonderful!  They show up very well too!

Remember when making these ,,, there are all types of glass, colors of glass and textures to be found in glass.  Use them all!  Let it do the art work for you!

I'm cheating here.  This is the concrete leaf that the leaf would not come off of one day later.  This was made 2 days ago.  Left to dry until yesterday.  Then left to dry until the leaf comes off on its own because the leaf wouldn't come off.  You can see it's already drying nicely around the edges!  A couple more days and it will start falling off on its own!

I believe we've done all we can for this project.  The only other thing I can think of that could be done is to get some moss started on it.  This time of the year that's kind of tough.  Maybe this fall we could try that.  If I don't remember,,, drop me a note and tell me to it in gear!

I hope I covered every thing you need to know.  All the little touches you can do ,,, well, try them.  Never be afraid to try some thing.  That's what happened with this project.  I was using the tops of bottles and throwing away (in the recycle bins with my garbage service) the bottoms.  I knew there had to be a use for the bottoms.  Then I thought about all those old buildings you would see with the wonderful glass bottles in them.  Who would have thunk it!???  Not me!  I have a few more ideas for these, but that will come later this year or next year for Sorticulture!  We'll see what happens between now and then!

Let me know if I can help you in any way making these.  Please!  I love these.  They are a little time consuming at first.  They get much easier as you go along.  But, well worth the time.

Use these in your garden, a window in your house.  They make fun gifts for friends who like things that are different!

By the way.  All these bottles I've used ,,,  they all came out of my alley.  I don't drink beer.  I don't drink wine that comes in these colored bottles.  And I don't drink Coke.  As always!  THANK YOU NEIGHBORS!!!  All the hot glass came from Stan O'Neil's glass grave yard.  Yes, his garbage.  Of all the hot glass blowers I know, I have to say, Stan's glass has the best colors of any of them!  IF you get a chance please click on his name, STAN O'NEIL, to visit his website.  He's not only a hell of an artist ... he's a great guy!  All the boards on my forms came from a garbage pile at a local fencing outfit.  The screws that hold them together were from a job site where I found them in a garbage can.  The tool to cut the bottles was an alley find.  The only money I have invested in these fun blocks is the duct tape and the concrete.  NOT BAD! 

This is my challenge as an artist.  First, is to find as much of the art supplies as possible without buying new supplies.   Second, is to make a product that people will truly want to buy! 

Thank you so much for letting me share this with you.  It was a learning experience just putting this into words.  If you haven't been able to tell yet, the written language is not some thing I am very good at.  SO!  I'll just write it like I would say it.  Thank you!

Let me know what you think of this project.  Was it easy enough to understand?  Was it clear enough?  Did that many pictures help?  Until the next time ,,, CYA!!!

Have a good one and thanks for stopping by!  Shell


  1. I LOVE the glass bricks and you show us the pretty side... BUT how to you keep the colored class in? Got a pic of the "other side" ???

    1. Hi. I'm glad you asked! There are 3 parts to this tutorial. It doesn't take too much time to make these, but it takes me a long time to show you how. If you look at part one, 2 days before this, it will show you how to make the glass bottles with the other glass inside. Part 2 shows you how to make the concrete and fill the boxes. Take a look and if you still need help, just let me know! These are fun. Thanks again! Shelley