This project uses a 5-gallon bucket to make a two-part stool with lid. It’s a relatively easy project to complete, requiring only basic hand tools and inexpensive forming materials. The result is a versatile side table, storage container, stool, or planter that works indoors or out. Add decorative aggregate to the lid and polish the top for a unique look. Most of the form can be cleaned up and re-used, so it’s possible to make a set without wasting a lot of material.
What You’ll Need
100% Door and Window Silicone Caulk
CHENG Corner and Seam Shaping Tools
What You’ll Need
Clear Packing Tape
5-Gallon Buckets (2)
CHENG D-FRC Casting Blend
CHENG SmartColor Pigment
CHENG D-FRC Activator
Step 1 – Make the Lid Form
Cut the top off of a 5-gallon bucket with a hack saw.
Measure the diameter of the rim and cut a ring from 3/4″ melamine to fit.
Make the ring the same thickness you want the final piece to be – 1″ thick in this example.
Use a compass to draw the shape and cut it out using a jigsaw.
The ring should fit snugly inside the rim of the 5-gallon bucket.
Step 2 – Lid Form Knockouts
This step is optional, but it will create small divots in the concrete that make it easier to lift off the lid.
Cut a bouncy ball into sections on the band saw.
Use a belt sander to round over one of the flat sides so the rubber knockout matches the shape of the ring (and fits smoothly against the wall of the bucket).
Mark where the rubber knockout will be placed and attach it using contact cement. Spray adhesive or silicone caulk might also work, but contact cement will provide a very strong bond.
Step 3 – Attach Wood Stops
Install a few short pieces of wood to act as stops for the ring.
The ring will only go so far down into the bucket, because it’s tapered, but these stops will help keep the ring in position during casting.
Step 4 – Attach the Lid Form to a Baseboard
Clean up a piece of 3/4″ melamine-coated particle board (16″ x 16″).
Lay the top of the bucket on the board and tack it in place using hot glue if necessary.
Silicone around the inside and outside of the bucket to help secure it in place and make it water-tight.
Use the Corner and Seam Shaping Tools Guide to get a perfect round-over on the inside edge.
Step 5 – Main Form
The main form needs a ring to drop in, just like the lid form.
If the finished piece is going to be a planter, glue a piece of cork or a rubber knockout to the bottom of the bucket.
This will also act as a guide so you know how thick the piece needs to be. In this case, the rubber knockout is 3/4″ – 1″ thick.
Step 6 – Forms Ready to Cast
Blow out any dirt and debris from the forms and clean them thoroughly with denatured alcohol before casting.
Add any decorative details at this point, such as decorative aggregate in the lid, rubber stamps, inlays, or leaf impressions.
Step 7 – Mix the Concrete
The fiber-reinforced concrete mix used here is Surecrete Xtreme Pre-Cast or CHENG D-FRC Casting Blend.
Mix the concrete to a clay-like consistency, not too wet. This will make it easier to pack it into the form without it slumping down.
Step 8 – Hand-Pack
Pack the bottom of the bucket with concrete first, about 3/4″ thick.
Then begin working your way up the sides. It helps to tilt the bucket at an angle and rotate it as you go around.
Don’t try to pack too much at once – it will slump down if it’s too wet or if the concrete is agitated.
Place a pad of concrete and spread it out to about 1/4″ thick, pressing it against the form.
Build up multiple thin coats, like painting, instead of trying to do too much at once.
Step 9 – Cure and Demold
After the pieces have cured overnight, they can be removed from the forms.
Break the silicone seal to the baseboard by holding the piece and hitting the baseboard against something to move it sideways.
Then the outside form can be slipped off of the concrete.
Use a diamond hand pad to sand away the concrete if it’s preventing the wooden ring from being pried out.
Carefully pry the wooden ring off of the concrete.
Step 10 – Cure and Demold
After the main form has cured overnight, it’s ready to be removed from the form.
Step 11 – Main Form Demolding
Remove the wooden ring from the top of the bucket.
Pry the edges of the bucket away from the concrete to loosen the bond.
Flip the piece over and gently drop it down on a flat surface, over something soft like a towel to prevent chipping.
The weight of the piece will let it drop out of the form.
If necessary, blow down the sides of the bucket with compressed air to further break the bond.
Step 12 – Finished Concrete
The finished concrete stools weigh about 50 lbs. each.
They can be used as storage containers or planters, indoors or outdoors.
Step 13 – Finished Concrete Planters
If the planters are going to be used outdoors, consider casting a drain hole in the bottom, using a cork knockout or something similar.