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  • Starting with only dimensional design drawings and plans, these committed students attending a concrete countertop training class in Australia built an elaborate cantilevered concrete desk in just five days.
  • During the intensive five-day session, students learned how to make forms, proportion concrete mix designs, cast the pieces, and then finish and seal them.
  • Assembling the desk components.
  • The concrete sections of the desk are designed as floating cantilevers off a main spine of dark wood.
  • A side view of the desk, which was made using a white GFRC premix.

If you think the amateur dancers who participate in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars have it tough, at least they are given a full week to master their routines before performing them live. For the students attending The Concrete Countertop Institute’s Ultimate training class, the challenge is even more daunting; they have only five days to learn every step of building both precast and glass-fiber-reinforced concrete countertops, including creating a project, from templating to installation, using from-scratch mixes.

For this particular class, held in Sydney, Australia, in February 2013, the challenge was to build an elaborate concrete desk. The piece was designed by CCI president and instructor Jeff Girard as one of the hands-on projects for the training session. “In the 5-day Ultimate class, we do a variety of projects showcasing precast and GFRC mixes and techniques. They are always unique. This was a particularly challenging project that Jeff dreamed up on the airplane on the way over,” says Lane Mangum, CCI’s vice president of business services.

The class was hosted by Domenic Scarpari, one of Girard’s former students. Scarpari is seeing a huge demand for concrete "benchtops" (as they call countertops in Australia). To help meet this demand, he wanted to give other students the chance to learn how to use the latest concrete countertop materials and techniques by hosting the Ultimate 5-day course in his shop.

“Jeff and I were thrilled to be participating in this, and felt it would be a huge boon to the concrete countertop market in Australia,” says Mangum. “They are where we were about 10 years ago -- hardly any products available specifically for concrete countertops, hardly any training. They have all the internet information sources, but no local availability. So we all felt the Australian concrete countertop market was poised for explosive growth, once the availability was there.”

Building the deskThe concrete sections of the desk are designed as floating cantilevers off a main spine of dark wood. The students were given dimensional design drawings and plans, and then they were tasked to figure out how to make the forms, proportion the mix, cast the pieces, and then process, seal and assemble them. One of the biggest challenges was forming the angles of the flared legs, which required cutting accurate bevels on a table saw.

The mix used was a white GFRC mix, with no pigment. The students did a light hand sanding of the exposed surfaces, and also honed and smoothed the underside of the desk where the exposed fibers created a rough surface. The desk was then sealed with a few coats of TK6 sealer from V-SEAL.

As the photos show, the students were up to the task, and quite proud of their accomplishment. Scarpari is now using the desk in his office.

The students who attend CCI’s Ultimate 5-day class vary widely in skill level. Some have made concrete countertops for years, and some have no concrete experience at all. “The most important skills are craftsmanship, attention to detail, the desire to create high-quality work and satisfy customers, and the desire to succeed in business. This is definitely not a class for hobbyists,” says Mangum.

For more information The Concrete Countertop Institute (www.concretecountertopinstitute.com/australia)

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