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DIY Wood/Vines and Rocks Project

DIY "Wood" and "Rocks"

Driftwood and vines covered in mosses and orchids are always a good addition to a vivarium to add that touch of jungle realism. People have also started using rocks that fit the type of environment they're creating just to add that little extra touch as you know there are rock dwelling mosses and plants too.

So Wood and rocks are heavy to ship but there is an answer to project oriented folks, make your own! So that's what we'll be doing tonight:


-Colored sand called "Scenic Sand" You'll find this at the craft store in the school projects area for diorama building. I bought Black, white and reddish brown. Used together or separately these three colors can be used to simulate many different rock types.

-Great Stuff urethane spray insulation foam. Get the "big gap filler" version sold in the BLACK can (red shown here) it expands more!

-Orchid bark (also need coir or peat and LFS)

-Box cutter with an extendable blade.

-Black Aquarium Silicone (you'll need a caulking gun to use it if it's packaged like this)

-Gorilla Glue


-Plastic drop cloth

-Cheap paintbrushes. these were $0.50 each at the craft shop


Spray out some foam shapes on the drop cloth, long pieces for "wood" and blobs for rocks. Don't make your shapes too THICK or they won't cure properly stay under 2" height. I put things like tee shirts and orchid bark bag under the drop cloth to make the "wood" pieces cure (harden) bent and shaped more like real vines than completely flat. It doesn't smell too bad at all but open a window and put a fan in it anyway for an hour or two and then shapes will be firmed up and no longer smelly.


Let the shapes cure for 24 hours on their plastic

Now you can pull the wood pieces off and spray the other side of the wood to make the shapes "3D". You can also add more thickness to your rock pieces, at this time by just spraying more foam on it. Let the new foam additions cure for 24 hours again.


Now you can start carving with your extendable work blade. Try to find the "flow" to the wood pieces look at pics of jungle lianas online while you do it to get some idea of what shape things are supposed to be.


Rocks on the other hand you will generally cut at sharp planes. Look at pics online to make sure you are creating the kind of rocks you want. The rocks I'm doing will be used in a montane HL vivarium so I want them to look somewhat "volcanic" like a giant lava rock.

Using sandpaper take a bit of the sharpness off the flat edges you cut on the rock so it doesn't look "cut out" or "tooled".


For covering the rock I will be trying out natural colored Gorilla Glue and a cheapo paintbrush. if you buy Gorilla Glue look for this one and not the one which says "Dries white" cos if you miss any spots you don't want white poking through.


Squeeze the Gorilla Glue onto the "rock" and smear it around with the brush working into all the nooks and crannies. You'll have to work in areas if you are making a large stone like this piece of lava rock.


This is why you use a cheap brush, throw it away no saving this!


Now over a clean sterilite bin dump handfulls of colored sand on your rock, use a liberal amount, let it sit a while then shake the excess off and put it back in your colored sand bag. I didn't do much for this rock, I only used black and I didn't work very hard to get the surface smooth. I wanted it to look like a chunk of Lava rock or roughly weathered mountain rock and I think it's pretty close. Other types of rock aren't as pocked as this, jungle rocks are often smoother due to being washed over by streams, lighter in color and may have mineral striations and so on which could be added while the glue is still wet. I'll show some examples of those kinds later on cos this was fun!


The whole apx 12" x 10" x 6" stone weighs about 1 lb, maybe less. It's totally waterproof and chemically inert but things can easily grip onto the sandy surface and grow on the foam rock as it's rough and not smooth.


To coat the "mossy wood" pieces we'll be using Coir, Long Fibered sphagnum and orchid bark, this is a bit bigger bark than I wanted but oh well. Blend these all together in your sterilite bin.


Put on a pair of disposable plastic gloves and smear some silicone on the "wood", now with your gloved fingers work it into all the nooks and crannies.


Lay the siliconed "branch" in the sterilite bin and press handfuls of the Coir, LFS/Bark mixture firmly on all surfaces and let it dry. It should come out similar to this


In time this "wood" being exposed to light and humidity will be covered in live mosses. Orchids, ferns, neps and other epiphytes should have a good time rooting in the live surface of this "wood".

I hope you enjoyed this project! :)
Think it can be used with snakes?So the wood is sprayed with the foam?May I know the full name of the foam 'cause I think I'll get some(my mum likes that) I guess the scenic sand can be replaced with silica?;p
If your snake is not too heavy (5-10 lbs) you could make "wood" branches with the foam, otherwise you can put a bent wire inside the foam to make it even more rigid. The foam is 100% water & animal safe once it's cured. People use the foam to decorate their frog vivariums. The foam is simply called "Great Stuff" it's expanding urethane foam used to fill cracks and gaps in your houses insulation.

The colored sand for "painting" the rocks is silica sand, just dyed in various colors.

If I could get out of my house to get to the hardware store I could work on another type of rock today for a Lowland jungle vivarium. But we have a foot of snow since last night and 2 more feet of snow coming! :(
I like what you did with the "vine." I was planning on doing something like this to make rocks, but I did not think you could more organic structures convincingly.

Very nice....

Great project; thanks for sharing!
YAY they plowed even though the snow is still falling!

I just got back from Home Depot with a big sheet of 2" thick pink panther foam (Formular 150: closed cell foam) for carving more rock pieces, coarse sandpaper, a big bottle of Gorilla Glue (18oz) and some more cheap brushes.
any one else see the weird baby crawling on the right. Spooky.
nice swords , hope you dont mind ive been trying to think of a way to do just this ill probably use this in my lowland terr soon as i get it finished. Thanks for the cool idea

---------- Post added at 04:05 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:04 PM ----------
LOL Jimmy that was just a tiny inital blob of foam I made just to see how bad the stuff stinks. It is winter and I didn't want to have to open the windows too far incase I sprayed out a whole can and it was really bad. I would just take it to work and do it out on the shipping dock if it was really smelly. But the foam barely stinks at all. Far less than the black aquarium silicone. I really gagged covering the the vine with 8 oz of that so I'll be wearing a respirator next time I do a vine! The Gorilla Glue doesn't stink at all.

I'm carving up new smooth river rocks from the Pink Panther insulation foam sheet for my cube vivarium. I really like this stuff. Much easier than working down the Great Stuff for rocks. I think I will actually use spray foam only for organic shapes like vines and stuff, the pink foam carves/sands so easily into exciting shapes. I'm thinking I might even make a DIY rock waterfall/perch area for my Anole's setup.
yea YEA do that, with some more photos . HA! if you do the mistakes i can do the easy stuff. your so innovative guy , like your stuff.
Thanks jimmy
  • #10
not the one in the bottom right, the large clump to the right, it goes up the entire right side and makes a left, just as it goes over the rise there are two holes that look like eyes, and then the whole thing looks like some deformed baby trying to crawl away , see it ?? maybe i drink a little too much coffee, LOL. :crazy:
  • #11
your a viv forum watcher also :) I am as well, there are tons of threads surrounding making these "fake" rocks etc...

glad to see someone else is interested in it as well, its a good project.be sure to keep us updated I'm planning a similar project.

oh be careful with snakes and stuff, these adhesives are often unsafe for certain animals so be VERY careful that way no one finds out " the hard way "
  • #12
Vivarium forums are great I love naturalistic displays. My own vivs will probably stay plants only unless another animal just happens to appear one day like the Anole did.

Aquarium silicone and Gorilla Glue should be fine for most critters since others are using them with no problems. I'm coating the foam rocks in sand instead of using Grout cos Grout/cement has to be cured underwater/vinegar to get the alkalinity off the set stone. What a hassle! :(

I'm going to wait on carving any more rocks until I have the HL vivarium construction completed. I want to know the true dimensions I have to work with, how many stones I'll need and what size to make them so everything will fit "just so". No sense doing everything twice! I've glued a few 2" insulation sheets together so I can carve out some nice large 3D stone slabs once I get the frame up.

I just got a huge box of 20 assorted driftwood branches/twigs in the mail today. The seller really outdid herself! I told her to send me an invoice for another lot at least this big of not twice this size if she has it. I can always use it for projects later. Fantastic twiggy pieces that will look great next to the DIY moss branches/vines. I can finally get to work on decorating my sliding front cube!
  • #13
fantastic project mate. it will look stellar. :)