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by pitchick

What you'll need:
20-22 inch Planter tub
7 quart Plastic bowl
8 quart Stainless steel bowl
80 pound Bag of concrete

Optional, but advised:
4-5 Wood shims
Needle nosed pliers
Small 'beater' screwdriver
Dishwashing gloves (thick, long cuff)
Small dustpans



Note:  It is best to make these bowls when it will be mostly clear and no lower than 50-55° nor higher than about 85-90° for at least two days.

Please be sure to read through and thoroughly understand the whole thing before starting!


Receipt for the 20 inch planter tub and concrete I got at Home Depot:



The plastic bowls that I got from Dollar General.  They've sold these or something similar forever:

dollar general bowl


Cut the rim off the bowl as shown here (I use straight tin snips), leaving the edge flared out so it will fit flush with the bottom of the tub:

rim cut off bowl


Some Walmarts still have this style of stainless steel bowl, which is the best since it has a bigger lip, but use a similar 8 qt bowl if you can't find this one:
bowl label
stainless bowl


Here you can see the scale of the one bowl on the other:

bowl on bowl


Cut a hole in the middle of the bottom of the tub big enough to be able to put your hand in later.  I use tin snips again:

hole in bottom of tub


If you've previously used the mold you'll want to take a small 'beater' screwdriver and scrape/knock out any residue from previous use before starting.  The cleaner it is, the better the bowl, and the easier it comes out more neatly.  Some people have told me that they find spraying the inside with wd-40 or vegetable spray at this point makes them come out easier but my experience is that it isn't of much help. 

Be sure you have the tub set on a level work area where you won't mind a little concrete spillage.
Having some shims (4 or 5) is very handy for this now and also later:

large tub


Place the plastic bowl in the center of the tub upside down:

plastic bowl in tub


I use dish gloves from this point on.

Mix up one 80 pound bag of regular concrete according to the directions on the bag.

Carefully place about 3 heaping double handfuls around the plastic bowl being sure to keep it centered, and smooth it around evenly.
Shake the tub gently a few times to be sure it settles completely and do a bit more smoothing, still using care to keep the bowl centered.  Use the picture as a guide for depth (2 1/2 - 3 inches approx), this depth will be the "lip" at the top of the finished bowl.

bowl with first bit of concrete


Place the stainless steel bowl over the plastic bowl. Twist the metal bowl a couple times and shake tub gently to settle it in.

The lip of the stainless bowl should rest just at or slightly into the concrete. Be sure the entire thing has remained centered.

stainless bowl placed over plastic bowl


Gently fill the rest of the concrete into the tub (using a shovel, but I use my gloved hands for the last bit, and use every bit I can scrape out, it's less to clean up).

Once it is filled, gently agitate the tub a bit more and smooth the it with your (gloved) hands, and do so once or twice more over the next few minutes.  If necessary, during this time, you should use the shims to make sure the saucer is relatively flat/level.

You want the air bubbles to surface, without all the rock settling.

filled with concrete


The next section is optional but really helps for tipping and cleaning when in actual use.

I have gotten these little dustpans from Walmart and Dollar General ($2) and have seen them at OReilly's too.  The one on the right is as they come.  Snip the corners off and trim them to form to the sides of the tub as in the examples below:

handle molds


Pivot/slide one dustpan down & into one side. You are trying to push the concrete down smoothly to create the hand hold.  Very gently press the bottom of the lip (it will probably be under a bit of murky 'water') with your gloved fingers against the side of the tub to make a clean straight lip.  Then do the same with a second dustpan on the opposite side and let the whole thing set up.

Be sure the handle molds are angled slightly away from the wall of the tub so they'll be easy to remove.  If you look closely you will notice the edge of the dustpan closely matches and molds to the arc of the tub's circumference.

sample of handle mold placement

placing first handle mold


Now you MUST let the concrete set up for a day and a half to two days.

After that roll it to a sunny, grass or dirt area (you won't want it to drop out on a hard surface) that's out of the way and gently turn it over. Most times it falls right out (unless you let it set too long), do this SLOWLY and gently! If it doesn't fall right out, gently push through the hole.

Once it's setting upright use needle nose pliers, and being careful not to gouge the concrete, get a good grip on the lip of the plastic bowl (if you grab too small a piece it will rip off) and quickly/firmly pull/pop it up and out. 

Run water over it and gently brush off any loose concrete debris/residue. If you haven't waited too long, you can also now take your finger and run it along the rim of the hand hold lip to smooth it if necessary.

Let it set out in a nice sunny area at least another couple/few days to a week (a good curing time will make it last longer) before rinsing well and using.


3 bowls


These bowls hold almost 3 gallons of water and the stainless liner makes them very easy to keep cleaned and sanitized.  The hand hold makes them easy to pick up, tip over and/or move.  Their tapered design and weight makes them resistant to being caught accidentally by a chain or deliberately tipped over by a dog.  They're deep enough that in the summer some dogs stand in them and an average sized dog can get in up to about the bottom of their chest.  I use two or even three of these for 'waders'. 

If you live in an area with black widows I would use caution in sticking your hand under the lip (I use yellow gloves usually to water dogs).  I have seen little black widows get under there, though they usually pinch themselves way back up in there.  As long as you don't stick your fingers way up under there even without gloves you'd probably be fine, but use caution.

Be sure and check out the Concrete Feed Bowl Instructions too.