The concrete stump is part of an artistic tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century. French artisans made faux bois, or “false wood,” railings, planters and even garden seats from molded concrete. You can enjoy the same tradition by making a concrete stump yourself from a mold, complete with roots, bark and a wood grain pattern -- a perfect addition to your outdoor garden.
Mix, pour, and level the concrete
Mix the concrete according to package directions, but using a concrete bonding adhesive in place of half the water. If you’re preparing the mix yourself, mix 2 parts sand with 1 part cement. Wet it with about 1/2 part water.
Cut off the bottom of the paper cup and set it upside down on a flat surface. Fill it with the wet concrete while tapping on the side of the cup to remove air bubbles, and then lift the cup straight up off the concrete. If the concrete pile stands firm, the mix is right to use in a mold; if it slumps, the mix is too wet and needs more dry concrete mix.
Prepare the mold. Spray the inside of the mold with cooking oil. This will help the concrete remove from the mold smoothly when it has dried. Be especially sure to spray details, such as the shape of the “bark.”
Begin filling the mold. Fill the bottom of the mold to a height of about two inches. Jiggle the mold to settle the concrete mix and remove air bubbles.
Place the cardboard tube in the center of the mold. This will create a hollow core, so that the finished stump isn’t quite so heavy.
Finish filling the mold. Fill the space between the mold and the cardboard tube with the wet concrete mix. Tamp it firmly into place, using a stick that fits in the space.
Level the surface with a trowel. Use a trowel or putty knife to smooth and shape the edges.
Cure and color the concrete
Place a polyurethane sheet over the mold to hold in moisture. Leave the concrete in the form in a warm, dry spot for at least three days.
Remove the stump from the mold. Gently tap the exterior of the mold in several places to loosen the concrete. Remove the concrete stump from the mold. Peel the cardboard tube away from the hollow in the center of the stump if you want to. It’s all right to leave it in place.
Let the concrete finish curing. The concrete will continue to cure and become stronger for 28 days. Leave it somewhere warm and dry to complete the curing process.
Color the stump. When the concrete has completely cured, stain the concrete stump in the colors of your choice. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.