There is generally quite a bit of confusion surrounding the terms related to cement vs. concrete, so I wanted to write a post to try and clarify the differences. Consequently many people misuse these terms. I have found that this makes learning about the subject quite difficult. This is especially in relation to concrete crafting, which is my area. There is also limited specific information for a U.K. based crafter. As a U.K. crafter, I have learnt the hard way. Over the past few years, I have experimented and trialled many different options. So I can hopefully help you. To briefly clarify:
Cement is an ingredient of concrete, which binds the other ingredients together. It is never normally used alone (although could be for small craft projects). Cement is made of clay, limestone and sand which are combined with other materials and heated to high temperature before grinding down to a powder.
Concrete is made of cement, sand and aggregate/gravel/stones. Other ingredients such as plasticisers and fibres are also added to give additional properties. Colour can also be added.
I should also mention mortar which is made of cement and builders sand and used primarily in brick-laying.
In the U.K. concrete is not widely used as a crafting material, unlike in the United States and across other parts of Europe. We only have a relatively small selection of concrete products to choose from here. This makes using it for craft much more difficult. There are only very few (and therefore expensive) specific craft concretes available. These generally come in small amounts and are usually sourced from abroad. However, I have found that they are really great in terms of the quality of the finished product and ease of use, such as this one: Viva Decor Concrete for Creatives, Grey, 1.5 kg. The remaining concrete market is geared towards building work. This means that it usually contains large aggregate (stones) which is not so good for crafting with.
There are a few ways to get round this if you don’t fancy forking out for the craft concrete from abroad. The first, and probably best option, is to make your own concrete, as you can then design it for your project. Alternatively you can buy ready mixed concrete and sift out the larger lumps (but this will be dusty). Some of the ready mix options have smaller aggregate, so the sifting process isn’t always required. Another option is to use a ready mixed mortar, as this will not have stones in it but it might not be as strong because of this. It all depends on what you are trying to make.
I make my own concrete mix, as well as using some of the premixed options, which I am constantly tweaking as I learn more about the stuff. I’d love to hear any insider tips if you have discovered something interesting in your experiments. If you’d like to have a go at making your own concrete homewares, have a go at one of my concrete craft kits, which includes the concrete mix in the box already.