At this time of year, I’m looking for any excuse to keep out of the sun while still accomplishing projects for my landscape. My wife has been plotting new pathways through our back yard and she recently asked me to make some stepping stones for her.
Now, I’ve made simple stepping stones before. I’ve used plastic molds to make small hexagonal blocks and I’ve used wooden strips to make a six-sided mold for even larger stones. I even used a heart-shaped cake pan to make a few heart-shaped pieces for another project.
This time, though, I decided to make real stepping stones. I made the stones in the shape of a footprint and placed them along a line of azaleas, culminating in a chip-covered area in which a gazing ball is centered.
Knowing that I needed to make a dozen of the “foot stones”, I devised a method of casting concrete that can be adapted to making stones of any size or shape. So far, I’ve cast dinosaur footprints and dogwood flower petals. The method is one that anyone can use -and best of all, it can be done totally in the shade!
1. Draw the shape you want to cast onto a piece of cardboard or newspaper. Cut it out with scissors.
2. Get a piece of one-half inch plywood large enough to contain your shape. Staple clear plastic sheeting onto the plywood and outline your proposed shape onto the plastic with a permanent marker.
3. Hammer two-inch long finishing nails two inches apart around the perimeter of the shape. They should not penetrate the back of the plywood – just a few taps will put the nails in firmly, almost through the wood.
4. Use a straightedge to cut several long strips of corrugated cardboard one and one-half inches wide. Plan the cuts to go ACROSS the corrugations, not parallel to them. The longer you can make the strips, the easier the next step will be.
5. Place a strip inside the finishing nail outline. Hold it in place at corners and curves with a few more finishing nails which are tacked in to hold the cardboard in place. Continue with other cardboard strips until you’ve lined the inside of the form.
If you intend to make several stones, line the mold with light-weight plastic from a garbage bag.
6. Now you have a mold into which you can pour concrete! The cardboard contains the mortar and the nails hold the cardboard and concrete in place. The stone will be one and one-half inches thick so don’t forget how heavy these babies can be when you plan your stone size.
7. I use fiber-reinforced Quikrete concrete because it resists cracking. I mix it in a plastic tub with a trowel. On your first try you’ll have to play with the mixture to see how much water to add to the dry concrete powder. The consistency should be somewhere between that of grits and oatmeal. Pour it into the form and tap the plywood a few times with a hammer to settle the mortar into the form.
8. Let it dry for AT LEAST two days. Gently remove the stone and set it aside for a week more to dry further.
Let your imagination soar! This method allows you to make footstones of any shape your little heart desires.
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