Personalized Stepping Stones For Gardens
Making Your Own Garden Walking Stones To Create Lasting Memories
Learn how to make your own stepping stones, an easy craft for kids and adults. This is the first of three tutorials on crafting garden stepping stones with easy to follow instructions, material lists and lots of photos. Each tutorial will teach a different method for making your own personalized stained glass stepping stones.
The first tutorial, "Stone Topper" is the easiest method. If you have never made a mosaic stepping stone or are looking for a fast and inexpensive way of crafting a number of stones quickly, then this is it!
No molds, no expensive kits, little mess and (the best part) you probably have most of the needed materials!
The second tutorial Garden Mosaic Stepping Stones follows the "glue 'n grout" method, teaching you a tiling application. Fun and a bit messy!
The third tutorial How To Make Inlaid Stepping Stones, gives you the steps for creating the most intricate stained glass mosaic designs. Easy yet beautiful finished garden stones.
Handprint Stepping Stones
Using the Stone Topper Method
This is a wonderful beginning mosaic project. It's simplicity makes it easy to craft the stones quickly and it's a craft the whole family can join in on!
You begin with a commercial precast stepping stone, your choice of size, shape (square, round, or octangular), and color. Using "the handyman's secret weapon" commonly known as duct tape, a bag of ready-to-use cement mortar mix, a little water and some decorative stained glass cobbles you can make a beautiful stepping stone in a matter of an hour or two (depending on how long it takes you to create the perfect design).
Simple and lots of fun to make.
For our "how to" demonstration, I rounded up three teens with little or no crafting background. They each chose stained glass cobbles as their tesserae (the decorative items used to create the mosaic design) and they decided to embed their handprint for posterity. (Never know, one day they may become famous and that stone may be worth a small fortune!)
They had a blast! And their parents received a wonderful present.
Following are photos detailing the ease of making these stepping stones along with written instructions and a materials list! Have fun!
Making Mosaics is not only fun but it is a great family project!
Material List for the Stepping Stone Topper Project
1--12" Precast stepping stone, your choice of shape. (12" stepping stones can be purchased at home improvement stores for as low as $1.58 each)
Design Template--use either a 2nd precast stepping stone for setting up your mosaic design or you can set-up your design on paper cut or marked to the size and shape of your stone.
Marking pen or pencil
Stained Glass Cobbs (the big ones) or Cobbles (mid sized), the amount needed will depend on the design
5 lbs. of Quikrete Mortar Mix. This can be bought at most home improvement stores in 10#, 40#, 60# or 80# bags.
Duct tape, enough to wrap around the edge of the stone. The sturdier the better.
Up to 1 1/2 cup of Water for mixing with the mortar plus water for soaking the precast stone
1--plastic bucket or large plastic bowl
1--measuring cup for liquids
1-measuring cup for cement or a scale can be used
1-- garden trowel
Dust mask and Safety Glasses
Safety Glasses (cement is very dusty and can cause eye irritation)
Petroleum Jelly-- If you plan on imprinting your hand into the mortar it is advised to use petroleum jelly to protect your skin from the caustic effect of cement. It dries your skin and can cause "sunburn like" irritations, this is especially important for small children.
Newspaper or a plastic tarp to protect your work surface
Paper towels and trash bag for clean-up
Photo How-to for Making Your Stone Topper Stepping StoneClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mosaic Stepping Stones... Make Wonderful Presents!
Complete Stone Topper Written Directions
An Easy Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1. Create Your Design.
Make a paper template of your stepping stone or use a 2nd stone for your design layout. Outline your hand placement using a marker and any lettering you might want to include such as a date, artist initials, etc. Place your stained glass cobbles, seashells and/or any other items you might want to include to finish your design.
Step 2. Set Up Your Work-Space.
Pick a place where there is good ventilation and is suitable for working with cement. Outside on a nice day or in your garage should be ideal. Set up a work table covered with newspapers or a plastic tarp. Place both your stepping stone and your pre-laid design near each other. When ready you will need to transfer your pieces quickly before the mortar dries.
Step 3. Soak Your Stone.
Soak the pre-made stepping stone in a water bath making sure both sides are thoroughly wet. This will help prevent the stone from soaking the moisture out of the mortar too quickly, which could cause cracking.
Step 4. Wrap With Duct Tape.
Once thoroughly soaked, wrap the stone with a good sturdy duct tape forming a 1 1/2" tall bed which will hold the wet mortar. Make sure the duct tape sticks securely. You may want to wrap your stone twice for added strength.
Step 5. Mixing Your Mortar.
Put on your" dusk mask and safety glasses. Measure out 5 cups or 5 pounds of dry" mortar into a large bucket. Add 3/4 cup of water, saving the rest for adding as needed. Using a trowel, thoroughly mix the dry mortar with the water until it is like thick peanut butter. If the mix is too dry add a small amount of water until it is of the desired consistency. If is too runny add dry mortar. Make sure the slurry is thoroughly mixed before pouring. See mixing tips for additional instructions.
Step 6. Make it Smooth.
Scoop the mortar onto your stone using your trowel. Using the back of your trowel spread the wet mortar evenly across the base stone and as level as possible. With the edge of your trowel smooth the surface. The total time you spend on mixing, pouring and smoothing should be no more than 5 minutes.
Step 7. Decorate!
Once your topper is smooth you can begin to decorate. Paying attention to your design, press your hand evenly into the wet mortar; you may have to use your other hand to help press down each finger to get a good imprint. Using a pencil or thin stick engrave your stone with your initials, date, etc. Wash your hand of any residue before adding your stained glass cobbles. Let set.
Step 8. Final Steps.
When the mortar slurry firms (in approximately 15 to 30 minutes) gently remove the duct tape. With a wet sponge gently round out the edges and smooth any rough spots. The newly poured stone now needs to cure for a couple of weeks before it can be put outside. Your stone is weakest on the day it is poured so let it sit at least 24 hours before moving it to a place where it can finish curing.
Step 9. Clean Up.
Be sure to clean off the trowel and plastic tubs as soon as you're finished with them. Any excess mortar discard in a trash bag. Tools can be easily cleaned outdoors using a garden hose or wash them in a bucket of water. Once the cement hardens it will be difficult to remove. Don't clean them in your house sinks....cement can clog up your drain lines!
More Stepping Stone Tutorials
Tutorial #2 Garden Mosaic Stepping Stones teaches the crafting of a stepping stone using the "Glue and Grout" method. A fun and a bit messy way of applying your mosaic design.
Tutorial #3 How To Make Stepping Stones gives complete instruction for the "Inlaid Method". The best and easiest method to achieve that "professional" look.
...making Stepping Stones as a great fund raising project for schools & groups!
Design Ideas For Your Stepping Stone
Designing stepping stones is fun and very personal. It doesn't have to be a work of art, it has to be about you, your favorite colors, your favorite shapes, your favorite theme.
Do you want to make it for a gift? If it's for a parent a hand or foot imprint always will be cherished. Add color with stained glass cobbles, marbles, old legos, and maybe a penny with your birth year. Find small items that would be memorable of your growing up. Even photos can be embedded.
If it is for a friend think of what they would like. What are their favorite colors? Would they prefer an abstract design? Or maybe a design with a garden theme like flowers or bugs!
For a first stone I always suggest to pull out all the stuff that you might have that could be used to decorate a stepping stone. Old keys, coins, seashells, marbles, beach glass, stained glass cobbles, broken decorative china pieces, polished rocks, buttons, small toys, jewelry pendants, charms, mementos of any sort that can withstand being outdoors and possibly walked on.
Next, lay it out on a table and begin to arrange it into pleasing designs. You may want to line it all up and then push and pull that straight line into a curvey line or maybe a circle or heart. Once you start to visualize the design possibilities with the items you have, transfer them to a paper template cut to the size and shape of the stepping stone you want to make and continue to create. Imagine how it will look in your yard with the sunlight hitting it.
The Best Glass for Stepping Stones
I love Stained Glass Cobbles! They are made right here in the United States. They are made from 98% post-consumer recycled glass bottles and plate glass. And best of all....they are beautiful and safe to handle. No breaking, cutting or bleeding! Easy and wonderful! And available at Amazon. Check them out!
Which Cement To Use In Stepping Stones
There are several manufacturers of cement products. One of the largest and well known is Qwikrete. Their products can be found at most home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot. For the "Stone Topper" method I use and highly recommend "Qwikrete Mortar Mix". Their mortar mix is a blend of masonry cement and graded sand. It is a long lasting, strong bonding mortar that can withstand outdoor weather conditions. When it dries it has a pale grey color or you can add colorants to make the dried stone more colorful. (see "Color Options")
I like the option of purchasing the Qwikrete Mortar Mix in 10# bags. It is easily transportable and it only costs $1.98. That's a buck per topping!
Mixing Cement and Other Tips
For Best Results Read This Before Starting Your Project
Have your working area set-up, all of your materials ready to use, and make sure your dusk mask, gloves and safety glasses are available when needed. Cement sets-up quickly and you have to be ready.
Water and Cement (Mortar) VERY IMPORTANT TO READ!!!!
The right amount of water added to any cement mix is very important. Using too much water will weaken or cause cracking in your stone. Too little water will cause the stone to dry too fast which will also weaken the stone. The trick is to start out with approximately 2/3 of the total water
that you think you will need. Then slowly add more water, a few drops at a time, until the mix is the consistency of peanut butter or a thick milk shake. It is best is you use water at room temperature. Warmer water will cause the cement to set up faster giving you less time to apply your decorations.
The amount of water needed will vary with each stone made due to humidity, the color of cement used and the way in which you mix your cement. Less water is required in humid weather, when using lighter colors of cement, or when you use a power tool to mix your slurry.
3. Rule of Thumb
The rule of thumb on calculating a water to cement ratio is 2 oz. of water to every cup of cement mix. Make sure you read #2.
4. Mixing Cement
MIX VIGOROUSLY! No wimpy mixing allowed! And wear your safety equipment!
The strength of the final piece relies on vigorous mixing. You want to make sure that all of the cement is thorougly mixed with the water, no dry spots. Hand mixing is fine for small batches but larger batches should be mixed with a power mixer such as a drill with a mixing blade attachment.
Note that as you mix "vigorously" the cement slurry will thin so use caution when adding additional water.
5. Air Bubbles
Air bubbles in the slurry will rise while the stone is drying to cause little air holes in the surface of the finished piece. To eleviate many of these you need to "burp" your stone. Once poured and smoothed, gently tap the lower precast base stone with a rubber mallet , slowly moving the mallet around the base. Thirty seconds will probably do the trick.
After the stone is set you can fill any holes left by making up a small batch of slurry paste using a teaspoon or so of mortar mix and a few drops of water. Using a gloved finger rub the slurry into the hole wiping any excess off with a damp sponge.
6. Drying Tips
For the first 24 hours after making your stone let it sit undisturbed. This is when it is the weakest. The precast stone is going to be drawing moisture from the newly poured top so cover it with plastic, a household trash bag or grocery bag will due. The following day you can move it indoors where it will need to fully cure for a couple more weeks before it can go outside.
Material Safety Data Sheet for Qwikcrete Products (MSDS)
Qwikcrete has posted on their website their Material Safety Data Sheet for you to view. Go to http://www.quikrete.com/PDFs/MSDS-E1-MasonryMortar...
Every great company stands behind their customers and their products. It seems to me that American made products such as Qwikcrete do more for the safety of their customers then those products made overseas.
Support Americans.....Buy American!
Color Options for Stepping Stones
The wonderful thing about technology is that you don't have to stick to plain grey cement. There are a range of beautiful color additives available in liquid and powder forms. Add colors with concrete powders sprinkled or rubbed into the surface of the concrete when wet or mix the color directly into the cement slurry. You can also achieve wonderful effects using acid stain and different colored paints on dry or even old cement. Get an idea of what is available by following the Amazon connection below.