You will need to know how to mix your concrete by hand if you buy it in the bag rather than have a cement truck deliver it as ready mix. There are two basic ways to do this.
One way is with a cement mixer. If you are mixing a large volume of material this is definitely the way to go. However, if you are mixing just a few bags, it might be more trouble cleaning it up afterward than it’s worth to use it.
So, how do you mix concrete by hand?
First you need something to mix it in. A small amount can be made in a dishpan if you’re making something small, like a pot for plants. If you are planning to make some flagstones, stepping stones or pavers, I recommend you buy a mixing trough.
You can buy a trough at your builder’s supply or home center. They are plastic and clean up easily. They are available in small and large versions.
Next, you need a tool to do the mixing. There is a special cement hoe you can buy, but a regular garden hoe will work just fine. One with a bigger blade is better than a smaller one. A long handle is better than a short one.
Put on a face mask or tie a bandanna over your nose and mouth when you pour the contents of the bag into the trough and spread it out. This stuff is highly irritating.
Break up any lumps you find, and then stir it up so the cement and the aggregates are well mixed. Most places you read will tell you to pile it up in the middle of the trough and make a hole in the center for the water. I think that’s too hard.
I like to push it to one end and add my water at the other end. Then I can sit on a stool and pull/push the dry ingredients into the water and the water over the dry stuff. It saves my back that way.
Mix the water in until you get the right consistency for your project. Be careful because too much or too little water will make a poor project.
When you are finished mixing and filling your molds, be sure to rinse your tools off. Do this at an outside spigot so any leftover cement won’t harden in your plumbing pipes.