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BRAE 433 Concrete Bench Project Alex Jensen, Matt Hart

Labs 2, 4, and 7 Nadya Alexander, Daniel deGraaf,
Luke Schaner, Adam Scheuber
BRAE 433
The Bench crew was assigned with the task to create concrete benches for the Swanton Pacific
Ranch. Several different designs have been tried over the years with varying success. Problems
with the designs ranged from rough edges to bubbles forming in the concrete on the top of the
bench. This year’s group decided to try to minimize the difficulties by analyzing what the
groups from previous years had done. Team Sittin' Pretty, from last years bench team, had plans
for a quality bench which was made last year. The team decided to build an identical form based
on last years design. BRAE 433 stamps would be fabricated to put lettering into the finished
product. To add style to the benches after they were poured and cured, acid etching would be
used to give the benches a finish.
Design: The team decided to use and modify last
years form design. After examining the plans and the
execution of the previous bench it was determined that there
were some alterations that could be made that would improve
the design. With two identical forms, it would be possible to
pour two identical benches at the same time. The team used
drawings from the previous group to create the pieces needed
for the bench. Pieces were cut out using the CNC plasma in
shop 5 and were assembled using a welder. All pieces Figure 1 Cutting out the
needed to be placed with precision in order to reduce the bench form pieces on the
amount of leakage of concrete when the benches were to be CNC plasma
poured. The two main pieces of the form were held together
with bolts.
Modification of the existing design included reducing
the amount of steel on top of the bench which trapped air
bubbles in last years bench.
To strengthen the bench and to prevent cracking #5
rebar was bent to fit the form and tied together to make a frame
that fit into the form as the benches were filled with concrete.
There were three pieces of rebar along with two adobe blocks
on each end to hold up the rebar so that no steel would be
exposed on the finished product. They were held together with
Figure 2 Modified edge ties and five pieces of rebar cut to fit between the forms
contour to reduce the
possibility that air bubbles
perpendicular to the three main rebar pieces. These gave the
would become trapped at rebar skeleton enough strength to hold itself together while the
the surface concrete was poured.
To finish the bench when they
were poured two sets of stamps
that read BRAE 433 were cut out
of 10 gauge steel. The letters
were cut with the CNC plasma
and a piece of flat stock was
welded to the top so they could
be pressed into the concrete as it
Figure 3 Fiiting the
reinforcing steel to the
dried and then removed to leave Figure 4 BRAE 43 concrete
finishing stamp fabrication
forms imprints of the letters in the top
of the bench.
Mold Preparation: On the day of the pour, the bench form
pieces were gathered. Each face of the form which contacted the
concrete was sprayed with WD-40. The coat of WD-40 kept the
concrete from attaching to the steel mold as the concrete set.
The reinforcing steel was set in place after the forms were bolted
together and sprayed with lubricants. The rebar was kept
separate to ensure that no WD-40 came into contact with its
surface. A strong bond is desired between the reinforcing steel
and concrete to ensure that shock and tension loads are Figure 5 Applying Lubricant (WD-
transferred to the steel efficiently. 40) to the form
Concrete Mix: Once the concrete bench forms were Table 1 Batch Ingredient Weights
determined during lab 3
assembled, the concrete was prepared. The concrete
was mixed with a 0.40 water to cement ratio in order Lab Three 0.40 Recommended Proportions
to maximize the compressive strength of the benches. Water 28 lb
Cement 70 lb
The initial concrete weights (Table 1) were adjusted Sand 88.9 lb
to the proportions determined in Lab 3. The adjusted Coarse Aggregate 138.4 lb

proportions have the same weights of sand and coarse % Moisture
Actual Sand
2 %
90.7 lb
aggregate as the initial proportions. Because the Actual Water 26.2 lb

mixture was very dry initially, water and cement were Total Weight
Total Volume
325.3 lb
2.2 ft^3
added in 0.4:1.0 until the mixture was workable. The
final proportions have the same 0.40 ratio, but have an additional 20.5 lb of water and 50 lb of
cement. The final proportions are shown in Table 2; the total volume of the final mix was
estimated to be 3.1 ft3. The estimated volume for two benches is 7.6 ft3, so 2.5 batches, or 7.75 ft3,
Table 2 Final Concrete Mix for one Table 3 Total amount of material mixed
bench for two Benches
Final 0.40 Proportions
Water 28 lb Lab Four Concrete Weights
Cement 120 lb Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 (Half)
Sand 88.9 lb Sand (lb) 95 100 45
Coarse Aggregate 138.4 lb Coarse Aggregate (lb) 138.5 139 69
% Moisture 2 % Water (lb) 47 48 24
Cement (lb) 120 120 60
Actual Sand 90.8 lb
Water:Cement Ratio 0.39 0.40 0.40
Actual Water 46.7 lb
Approximate Total
Total Weight 395.9 lb Volume (ft^3) 3.1 3.1 1.55
Total Volume 3.1 ft^3
concrete were mixed. The proportions of each
batch are shown in Table 3; the average water to cement ratio was 0.40.
Mold Filling and Finishing: The well mixed concrete was shoveled into the bench
molds carefully so that the reinforcement skeleton was not dislodged and the concrete filled all
spaces adequately. To ensure proper filling in tight spaces, a rod
compacted the concrete as shown in the image below. This let
air escape to reduce and eliminate air pockets in the mold.
Tapping of the form with a
hammer also aided in releasing air
pockets within the concrete. Once
the mold was adequately filled, the
surface was worked to bring
Figure 7 Filling the Form
with concrete
smooth cream to the top of the
surface. Exposed edges of the
mold were pressed to reduce a
profound and painful edge. Note, the finishing process occurred Figure 8 (left) : finishing
after excess moisture disappeared in the bench (this took hours the surface, (right):
after the last shovel of concrete was added to the mold). removing trapped air
within the concrete
Acid Etching: The final step in the concrete bench
construction was to stain the concrete using a process known as acid etching. This is a chemical
reaction in which the stain is applied to the cured concrete. The acid penetrates into the concrete
and allows the coloring to be absorbed deep into the bench, providing a variety of colors and a
surface finish similar to marble.
The process of acid etching is remarkably simple. The bench surface is first cleaned
with water to remove any surface dust or contaminates. The acid is then applied either with a
sprayer, brush, or in our case a rag. The acid is poured onto the
surface slowly and wiped around so as not to have any puddles
of the acid sitting since that will cause areas of serious
discoloration. The top surface of the bench was relatively easy
to stain since the acid was easier to manipulate and spread.
The vertical sides of the bench were trickier since the acid just
wanted to run down the sides so that it didn’t have time to
penetrate. Several different techniques were used to try to
apply the acid to the sides with no single method working
Figure 9 Concrete Bench after better than the rest. The simplest was to pour the acid onto the
acid etching
rag and then apply it to the bench, this resulted in a little waste
but overall was very effective.
The final appearance of the bench was a reddish golden color with the desired marble
look. The clean up was simple and the final step was to rinse off any acid residue and apply a
concrete sealer to protect the stain and give a satin surface finish to protect the color. The
process was simple, effective and cheap ($80 for acid and sealer) and was more than enough to
stain and seal two benches.
Conclusion: The modified design resulted in less air bubbles being trapped under the form on
the top. The acid etching provided a very provided a good finish after the concrete has cured.
Some recommendations for next year would be to bevel the edges of bench through form
modification. Another recommendation might be to experiment with different colored stains.