Thursday, May 10, 2007

Make Garden Stepping Stones:

We decided to make these with our gardening program. I will post pictures soon! I found these wonderful directions on the internet and compiled them here!

Page 1: Introduction
Home-made stepping stones are a great way to personalize your garden, walkway, or anywhere! They make great gifts and are also great keepsakes if they are made using children's handprints or footprints.
My kids and I had a lot of fun experimenting with our stepping stones. We made one with a handprint, one with our dog's paw prints, one with flattened marbles/gems, one with marbles, and we also used patio paint. You can get so creative while making these we can hardly wait to try more.

I ran across garden stepping stone kits at a nearby craft store for around $20.00 (this makes one stepping stone). I decided to NOT use a kit because it would have been too expensive since I wanted to make more than 1 stone. Instead, I ran to a few different stores to gather the items I felt I needed; believe it or not, the supplies to make ONE of my stepping stones ended up costing me about $3.00!
Let me tell you what I used and help you decide what you want to use...

Page 2: Gathering Supplies
As I said before, the cost to make one stone with the supplies I bought was about $3.00, which is great if you compare it to the $15.00 - $20.00 a garden stepping stone kit costs.

The main supplies you need to make a stepping stone is a mold, cement, and items to decorate or embellish it. You should also always use protective eyewear and gloves when working with concrete as it can burn. If any gets on bare skin, wash immediately with warm, soapy water. Here are lists of the items I bought along with some other options.

Molds :
Plastic Planter Saucer - This is what I used for my round stepping stones, and they worked great. The cost of these was under $1 a piece and they were reusable.

Clear, Plastic Stepping Stone Molds - For a bigger variety of shapes (octagon, square, etc) I went to a craft store and bought plastic stepping stone molds. Other than the shape, they were almost identical to the plastic planter saucers. They cost between $3 and $4 each and are reusable.

Cement :
Quick-Setting Concrete - This is available at hardware or home improvement stores. I used the cheapest Quikrete, under $2 for a 60-pound bag. While it worked just fine for us and the price was right, it was a little pebbly and next time I will spend a little more money to buy a slightly better grade. I made 5 stones and didn't even use half of the bag.

Stepping Stone Concrete - You can find this concrete mixture at crafts stores. It is made especially for use in stepping stones. This is bit spendy though; the average cost was about $5 to make 1 stone. This special concrete might be more worth your while if you are only planning on making 1 or 2 stones.

Things to embed in the stones:
Flat Marble/Gems
Small Mosaic Tiles
Beach Glass
Stained Glass
Special Mementos/Souvenirs
Things to use to make prints/designs on the stones:
Cookie Cutters
Handprints - Paw Prints
Popsicle Stick (to write names or witty verses)
Patio Paint (or other outdoor paint)
Anything unique you have lying around the house
Now that you know what supplies to use, find out how to use them...

Page 3: Step-By-Step Directions
Deciding what design to make is the hardest part of making these stepping stones. However, you need to do this before you start so you know what supplies to gather.
Gather all your supplies and then you are ready to begin! Follow these simple steps and also refer to the suggestions on the supply page and hints and tips pages.

The first thing you should do is to protect your work surface and yourself. Lay down some newspaper, plastic sheeting, an old tablecloth, etc. Whether permitting, you can make these outside! Wear eye protection and rubber gloves... An old long sleeve shirt and sweatpants would also be a great idea.

Set your mold on your work surface. If you are using a special stepping stone mold follow any special directions if any that came with it. I used clear, plastic planter saucers and did nothing to prepare them and they worked perfect! If you are brave enough to try a cake pan or other household item, you should try coating them with a liberal layer of cooking spray or petroleum jelly.

Now, you are ready to mix up the concrete. Follow the manufacturers directions on the bag of concrete you are using. I used a bag of Quikrete, which really had no specific directions. I discovered that a mixture of 5 parts concrete to 1 part water worked well. Your mixture will vary depending on what kind of concrete you use, but the wet mixture should have the consistency of soft cookie dough.

Once your concrete is mixed, you can start spooning it into the mold. Fill the mold about half full and smooth it down. Lay your cut piece of screening or hardware cloth (as explained on the supplies page) into the mold and then finish scooping the cement into the mold until full.
Gently tap around the outside of your mold to help remove any air bubbles and also to help even out the top. Now leave your stepping stone alone to set up for 30 to 60 minutes before you add any embellishments or decorations - this is more important if you are making handprints or other prints in the cement.

Once the cement has been given some time to set up, you can start decorating it. Use the decorating/embellishment ideas listed on the supplies page or think of your own. If you make a mistake, you can simply remove the items, flatten out the top with the side of a popsicle stick or spoon, tap the sides to smooth, and start over again!
Your stepping stone must now sit for 2 - 3 days without being disturbed - do not move it. Once it is dry, you can gently pop it out of the mold. Voila!

Now, you can finish decorating it if you are planning on doing any painting. You can seal the top of your stepping stone with a clear acrylic sealer if you do use patio paints.

I would suggest letting your stepping stone sit for another week before putting it outside. When you place the stones outside they should not be raised above ground more than about 1/2-inch so people don't trip on them and also so the stone doesn't break.

One more thing... Before you make your own garden stepping stones, you might want to read these tips and helpful hints...

Here are some tips and hints that can help you while you make your stepping stones. Some of these tips have been said already, but they are worth repeating. Read on and have fun making your stepping stones!

If you are using cement dye, remember that the wet product will always be a shade or two darker that your finished product.

Your stepping stones should be at least 2 inches thick.

For best results, let your stepping stones set in the mold for 3 days. Allow the stones to cure for a week before placing them outside or stepping on them.

When gathering items for embellishing your stepping stones, steer clear of wooden items because they don't stick into the concrete very well.
Get creative with your embellishments! Try seashells, marbles, beach glass, mosaic tiles, buttons, small toys, and mementos of any sort.
Make prints in the cement after it has set for between 30 minutes to an hour.

Besides handprints and paw prints. Try making prints with other items such as dog biscuits, leaves, cookie cutters, etc.

If you want to try making stepping stones with pans or other household items, buy them at garage sales or thrift shops.

Your cement should be the consistency of cookie dough. You want to have to scoop it into your mold, not pour it.

When you place the stones in your garden they should not be raised above ground more than about 1/2-inch for risk of people tripping and falling and also so the stone doesn't break.

Once the cement is poured into the mold, do not move it! This can cause cracking (I found this out the hard way!).

If you make a mistake, you can simply remove the items, flatten out the top with the side of a popsicle stick or spoon, tap the sides to smooth, and start over again!


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see pictures! I want to make some more stone for our yard. We did a butterfly one once from a kit.


Sarah, Chris, Elijah & Sadie said...

We are unschoolers in Ft. Worth, TX! Came upon your blog accidentally while googling making garden stepping stones. Can you tell me why the need for screen in the middle? I hadn't accounted for that and am hoping to do it as a party activity for my daughter's birthday.