Lay out your design
Anything can make a cool mosaic pattern-tiles, glass beads, wood letters, polished rocks, found objects, buttons, and yes, even those old tools, nuts and bolts you bought at a garage sale. Whatever you’re using, arrange it first on a dry stepping-stone alongside the stone you’re covering. Then you can simply transfer and position items without guesswork.
Get in step–create a stone!
One big advantage of using this moldless system is that you can make lots of stepping-stones without multiple forms or having to wait for the concrete to harden so you can reuse one form. To create them, follow the steps, and remember these tips:
- Apply the duct tape so it creates a ‘form’ a smidgen deeper than the thickness of the objects you’re laying in.
- Make your ‘mud’ by first mixing dye and water together in a plastic bucket. Then, while wearing a dust mask, add mortar mix to the colored water. Stir, adding enough mortar mix to create a smooth-textured mortar that isn’t runny.
- Before applying mortar, use a sponge to thoroughly wet the precast stone’s upper surface. If you mess up, just pull out the tiles, smooth the mortar and start over.
- After the mortar mix firms up-usually in 15 to 30 minutes-pull off the tape edging and, holding the sponge at a slight angle, brush the mortared edge to lightly round it over.
Apply a single layer of sturdy duct tape around the precast step to serve as a form and act as a depth index for the mortar.
Spread the mortar mix, leveling it with the tape’s edge. Press down firmly to drive out air pockets and ensure solid contact with the rough surface of the precast step.
Press the tiles and other ‘found’ objects firmly into the mortar. There’s no hurry-take time to check the spacing and location of each piece as you work.
After 15 to 30 minutes, scoop off any squeezed-out mortar with the putty knife and then clean the tiles with a wet sponge. Wring out the sponge frequently and wipe the surface until the tiles or other objects are level with, or slightly above, the mortar.
More about materials
Here are some tips and sources for stepping-stone makers:
- You can easily fit four 4-in.-square tiles on a 12-in.-diameter precast step with room for triangular tiles around the edges. When working with larger tiles, use a tile nipper to cut them to size and shape.
- Stained-glass components are expensive but you can make eyepopping stepping-stones with glass embellishments. Check retailers like JoAnn Fabric & Crafts, Delphi and Michael’s for glass beads, animal and leaf shapes, and brightly colored mini tiles.
- Stepping-stones make great memorials, whether as birthday and anniversary reminders or to keep alive the memory of a treasured pet. Check out craft and hardware stores for wood and metal letters to embed. Or draw and saw your own letters, numbers or shapes using a scroll saw or jigsaw.
- Still feel creatively challenged? Do a quick search for ‘stepping stones’ on Pinterest and you’ll be inspired by all of the ideas.
- And if you want to buy premade stones, check out Sand & Stone.