Romancing the (landscape) Stone:
One Man’s Adventure in Making Authentic Looking Landscape Stones (Part 2)
By Kevin Loving
Let me stop right here and talk a little about Durham’s Water Putty. Pictured above is a 4 pound can (left) and a one pound can (right). This material looks like flour when you open the can. It is mixed with water to produce a paste or a thick liquid (depending on how much water you use). This paste can be poured in a mold. It takes about a ½ hour to set up enough to handle and in about a day it becomes ‘rock hard’. It will not shrink and can be sanded (or filed), drilled or otherwise shaped after it has set up. I have also found ways to color it (and I might add ways NOT to color it--LOL). In its natural (out of the can) color is a cream or ivory color. Of course this is not the color I wanted so a great deal of effort was expended in ways to get different colors using Durham’s and a coloring agent that could be found locally.
Let me tell you, I tried a LOT of different things (some of which my wife is STILL mad about--LOL, BTW just so you will know, paprika (the spice) don’t work and don’t ask me how I came by that information!!).
HERE is what WILL work and work ‘like a charm’ as we southern peoples say:
RIT DIE (the powdered). You can buy Rit Die in about 5 colors at our local Wal Mart. It is cheap (about $1.50 a box) and a box will last you a LONG time. Now here is the trick, do NOT put the die directly in with the Durham’s and mix it. If you do, the Durham’s will not set up (for a long time). You take a small plastic DISPOSABLE cup and put a small amount of water in the cup and mix a small amount of die in the water. While you are mixing your Durham’s, pour the water with the die in it into your mix and stir. The Durham’s will take the color and will set up normally. PLEASE note, you want to make sure you don’t spill any of the die or the water with the die in it on anything (ie: vanity tops, carpets, tables, dogs…) Don’t ask me how I came by this information but I can ASSURE you I KNOW what I am talking about--LOL!
It takes a small amount of die to achieve the color. A tiny amount of black mixed with a cup of Durhams will produce a light grey stone (something like natural concrete color). I have also made blue and green stones. About any color you can imagine can be produced with only a few base color dies. Experiment and you will see what I am talking about. Just remember it takes a SMALL amount of die to color the Durham’s and don’t mix the die directly into the Durham’s (dilute it in a small amount of water first).
This brings me to the second way I have discovered to die Durham’s. You can mix builders chalk (the kind used in chalk lines) and color water putty.
The chalk pictured above is red, it also comes in blue. The cost is about 2 bucks a bottle and can be bought at any hardware store or home center.
This is a fast and easy way to give stone that terracotta brick color. Just simply pour in the chalk while you are mixing the Durham’s. The amount you put in the mix will determine the how red your stones will become. I have actually made some pink stones by just using a small amount. I have not tried the blue chalk but I am sure it would work as well as the red.
I need to say one more thing about water putty before I move get back to molds. There is a company called Dap that also makes a water putty.
If for some reason you can not find Durham’s I know Dap water putty is sold at Home Depot and it will work like Durhams. Our good friend Peggi on the forum has used the Dap product with great success. That said, I would prefer Durham’s.
Why water putty? Durham’s is a powder and will not dry out, you can mix as much or as little as you want, Durham’s will not shrink and it comes in a cool can that can be used to build something or store small parts in--LOL Much discussion has been directed at various products on the forum (not surprising considering our forum has not only the “Queen of Spackle (Holly) but also the “Goddess of Stucco” (Gina).Each of us become comfortable working with different mediums. I like Durham’s because I have a history of using it even before I had ever thought of building a dollhouse. You are welcome to use what ever medium that works for you but I must say that in my opinion Durham’s is the best.
Join us next month for Part 3 of Kevin’s tutorial to learn how to cast and finish your landscaping stones.
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