I made substantial progress on the faux sycamore roots for my 75g FW stream tank this weekend. I put about two hours of work on it Friday afternoon, and another couple hours on Saturday morning. I applied plaster cloth to give the structure some more form, and to provide something for the grout to adhere to other than just smooth PVC pipe. I struggled mentally with how this might work and when first working with the plaster cloth, I found it not as easy to work with as I had hoped. However, once I figured out the best way to get it done, I made the best out of the situation that I could, and it worked out well, I think. What was the problem? Basically, the wet plaster cloth losed rigidity fast, as expected, but likes to stick to itself sometimes better than what you're applying it to. Also, it is difficult to work with in tight spots, in this case, between roots. And finally, gravity works against you if you try and work under the structure. To solve the last problem, I simply worked on the front/top first, and then flipped it over to work on the back/bottom of the structure. After that, I flipped it back over, and put the finishing touches on.
In this pic, my first attempt at application, you can see what I'm working with, as I place the wet plaster cloth onto the structure. Basically, you drag a strip of the cloth across a pan of water, and then apply it to your structure. Then, use your fingers to spread the plaster around a little bit. This becomes the base for the next strip, as you have to overlay the next strip in some way over part of the first one. As I said earlier, it sticks best to itself.
After I was done with it, I took a few photos off the work bench. This first one is a front view:
Front, sort of off to the right:
Right side view:
After that, I fitted it into the tank. The first pic is what it looks like today, the second pic is what it looked like prior to the application of the plaster cloth:
I'm fairly happy with it, but, a few things bug me. The hole in the "knot" that I tried to create became much smaller than I had hoped. I may have to drill or cut it out, the reapply some plaster again, or maybe skip the plaster and just coat it with grout. The small root coming down out of the middle looks like ET's hand, asking the viewer if he could "phone home". I think that I can live with that. There are a couple other flaws that I don't like, but will have to live with, that maybe nobody but me would worry about.
The next steps: apply grout and final form, to supply the structure with some weight and durability, and to hide any of the pipe look and get rid of straight lines. After I'm happy with that, then I'll paint it with Drylok mixed with cement dye to give me the colors and realism that I want, as close as I possibly can. This should also seal in the grout and plaster and prevent water from seeping in, preventing pH spikes from happening and also from plaster getting into the tank. I will apply several layers of Drylok.