help needed to finish garden ornament.

1 Nov 2011
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Tyne and Wear
United Kingdom
Hi does anyone know how to highlight stone garden ornaments, dont want to paint and dry brush, i have seen many ornaments that are just concrete but the detail is highlighted with a black or brownish dust or something. any help would be appreciated. thanks gary
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There are a couple of other techniques:
roller on with a small lambswool roller, wiping on with a sponge, or wiping off with a sponge, rag, etc.
Hi thanks for the roller technique, i will try that on another piece, however the technique i am actually trying to achieve is not painting the ornament at all. I just want to leave it natural stone/concrete and highlighting the I ornament with black or brown dust. These are the best looking ornaments by far in my opinion. i have pictures of ornaments i am trying to achieve the same finish of. thanks gary
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. I just want to leave it natural stone/concrete and highlighting the I ornament with black or brown dust. These are the best looking ornaments by far in my opinion. i have pictures of ornaments i am trying to achieve the same finish of. thanks gary

The highlights are not the darker areas. The shadows are the natural darker areas. The highlights are kept clean by the rain/wind/handling, etc.

This can be achieved with the painting on/wiping off technique. You don't need to use paint. I've used shoe polish before now. You could use mud if you wanted. Scrub it in with a brush into the shadows/crevices and then wipe it off with a sponge/rag, whatever you find the preferred finish.

Try experimenting with cement dye.
hi there, thanks for that info mate, appreciated, the techniqes i have been told and tried are, dilute black dye apply and sponge off, resulted in a total black dyed ornament as it just sucked it up. then i was told to cover it in diluted pva first then try the above, i did and if i left it too long it wouldnt come off when i sponged it not long enough and it all came off. then i was told to mix some neat cement and cover the ornment when dry cover it in diluted black dye, then brush off, when i brushed it off it all came off. lol i have tried wood stains, diluted masonary paint and cement dyes. Is there anyway i can put a picture on here for you to see what i am tring to achieve. regaurds gary
Here's a link with a few ideas that may help.

I also came across one site that said to paint the item with yoghut to encourage growth in the nooks and cranies , a technique that was also mentioned to me years ago by an old decorator I worked with although he also talked about marmite , bovril ,coffee of beef stock being painted on to encourage faster "weathering"
hi redherring, do you do garden ornaments? i have tried the methods you suggested and still not getting the result i would like to achieve, not even close in fact. this is very frustrating as i know some guys who are doing garden ornaments and getting this fantastic result, however they are just so secretive and not willing to share the knowlege, i can understand them in a way but its still frustrating. thats why i joined this forum as i am sure someone will know the big secret. thanks for the info anyway. regards gary
hi redherring, do you do garden ornaments?
No, I've only done chess pieces, etc, and had good results with the methods mentioned, but that was resin, not concrete.
The only garden ornament I've done was one for use in a bathroom, to which I applied several layers of matt white paint first. That spent its first 12 years or so in a bathroom. Now its standing in the garden, for the last 5 years or so, waiting for a new home.
Like most things it's largely down to practise, at least with this you can try again without wasting much more than your time.
As an additional thought when I was younger I did some modelling (that's scale models not me in the nuddy) and models were often weathered. This involved mixing up a concoction of dried ground paints , greys and browns mainly with finely ground rust and sometimes household dust and lightly dry brushing this mix onto a painted model to dull the finish. Ok so these models weren't stood outside in all weathers but the technique may be worth experimenting with.
I have done this in the past with cast cement reliefs, for a quick fix the trick is the same one that antique restorers use to forge aged furniture, picture frames etc.

first make sure to use a powder that doesn't stain; for white it is usual to use pumice, for black fine carborundum powder (can be bought by the kilo from Glasplies.

Then you need to find a suitable tacky liquid that will not make a permanent coating on the 'proud' parts of the relief. the idea is to scrub the liquid into all the recesses, then wipe it off of all the proud surfaces, even let the wiped bits dry off a bit - then while the liquid in all the crevices is still sticky pour on powder (just like sprinkling glitter onto christmas decorations). the liquid doesn't need to be all that permanent as the grit in the crevices will accumulate more natural grime by the time the 'glue' has dissappeared.

for really fine work like gesso or revacryl plaster (yes a casting plaster that survives outdoors) i have used ordinary wax furniture polish (it weathers away from the proud surface in a couple of weeks) also sanding sealer (shellac & meths). For coarser cement castings I have used a diluted pva (a waterproof one like resin w waterproof - so it doesn't go white in the rain).

I have also seen this done by premixing the non-staining grit/powder with the liquid and then applying and removing the stuff as required, but personally i think it encourages you to shade in areas and can give a really false look.

The process involves a different approach to painting, you are only falsifying the beginning of an ageing process - where you apply the grit, more stuff will adhere quite rapidly (and yes yoghurt really does encourage a patina). ideally the sticky liquid that you use will weather away from the proud surfaces quickly enough that they look aged too, not leave a coating of any sort, and definitely not staining anything, that is why you should avoid any pigments or very fine powders.

Another, more risky approach is to mix a fine slurry of the same cement, but replace the sand/finest agregate with a non-staining dark powder. increase the powder until you have the right shade - don't worry if the mix is way too weak in cement. Soak the cement surface with water then scumble this slurry into the relief making sure that it is very thin on the proud surfaces. wipe away what you can with a cloth/scourer/wire brush while it is still wet. Then when it is cured, wipe the thing over with cement remover/etching fluid a few times to cut away the surface to expose the cement beneath. make sure to wash away the etch with each application though or it will decay the surface.

be careful to use the same cement, so if have used white opc possibly with a bit of pigment, use the same (the cements should match, the agregate darkens). It can be tempting to use ciment fondue for its gorgeous dark grey colour, but it really disagrees with opc and will flash set (though that could be usefull too).

Writing this made me wonder if you could soak the object in water and then blow ciment fondue dust onto it evenly, to make a really thin surface coating, then etch that away with a rag. I must give it a go.

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