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It’s kind of amazing to think that I’ve been crafting up stuff for this blog since 2012. And in that time I’ve made and remade a whole bunch of things that never graced this site because I was never happy with the quality of them. A long, long time ago my dad and I made some stepping stones and we really didn’t like how they turned out. So they were placed around my mom’s garden. Though not as pretty as we had imagined they would be, they were still functional stepping stones, after all.
Then when I moved down to South Texas I decided to once again try to make stepping stones. And they turned out PERFECT! But when I moved to Southeast Texas my old stepping stones were left behind. Simply put I had a bunch of stuff and only so much room in my U Haul. And heavy as all get-out stepping stones didn’t make the cut.
Fast forward a year and a half later…
and I’ve got a new yard and a new need for stepping stones. My backyard has the most amazing grass that I walk around in bare feet ALL OF THE TIME. But I’ve got dog trails, like you do, when you have pups. It’s such a shame to have muddy lanes and so it’s time pave their path with stepping stones so that lovely grass can return.
Supplies Needed to Make Embossed Stepping Stones:
- Rubber Doormat
- Sand/Topping Mix
- Reusable Plastic Stepping Stone Mold (more info below)
- Plastic Mixing Bucket
- Utility Knife with New Blade
- Cooking Spray
- Cut-Resistant Gloves (optional but cheaper than most co-pays :)
- Rough Sandpaper
- Chip Brush
To form the design on our embossed stepping stones we use a rubber doormat. The good news is we will cut out stamps that can be used over and over for multiple stones. The price of these doormats can vary wildly. On Amazon I found an affordable option in a nice and simple geometric design for about $16. Then there is a really cool leaf print doormat on Amazon but it runs closer to $40. I opted to kind of split the difference and used a pretty floral doormat that I paid about $25 for. With this mat I was able to cut out stamps to create 1 small and 2 large stepping stones at a time.
It’s a good idea to shop around. In store at Walmart I later found a perfectly reasonable rubber doormat that was only $7. When selecting your doormat, pay attention to the shape and the size of the doormat prior to purchasing to ensure you’ll get enough cut outs from it to make it worth the cost for you.
Stepping Stone Molds
You can use a lot of things for this project but I strongly suggest reusable plastic stepping stone molds. They have a little bit of bend and give making it easy to pop the finished stones out (whereas a round cake pan, for example, might not flex well). They’re also inexpensive. Wanting to make a bunch smaller and larger circle stones I got one 7.5-inch round stepping stone mold from Hobby Lobby for $2.99 at regular price. I also purchased 2 larger 11-inch round stepping stone molds for $3.99 apiece at regular price.
Cement, Concrete, Sand/Topping Mix? What’s the difference?
A lot of people (including myself) use the terms cement and concrete interchangeably but they aren’t the same thing. Portland cement is a very common building material. It is a fine powder that you add water to to form a paste that hardens like a rock. Adding pebbles or stones to Portland cement makes concrete that is very strong. Sand added to Portland cement makes sand/topping mix that is often used for concrete repair and shouldn’t be used any thicker than 2″.
I suggest using sand topping mix for homemade embossed stepping stones as long as they will be 2″ or thinner. Because the consistency is super smooth the details from your rubber doormat stamps will stand out so well.
Note * Out of one 60-pound bag of sand/topping mix I was able to make 7 large and 4 small stepping stones.
How to Make Stepping Stones
First things first, we’ll need to turn our big doormat into several rubber stamps to emboss our stones. Luckily, it’s an easy task…
Creating Your Casting Stamps
Before doing any cutting, lay your stepping stone molds on top of your mat. Move the molds around to maximize the number of stamps you can create while keeping in mind that you might want to have certain parts of the designs utilized in the stamps. Because my mat is a semicircle as opposed to a rectangle and because my design is simple and repeating, I didn’t worry so much about where the design went as I did maximizing to get as many stamps out as possible.
*Note – these rubber stamps are not single use. If you don’t mind making 1-2 stones at a time you can cut out less stamps to get the best parts of the design.
Once you’ve chosen where to create your rubber stamps, trace each mold onto the mat using a paint marker.
Using a utility knife with a new, sharp blade, carefully make shallow slices along your drawn shape. Don’t worry about cutting all of the way through the first pass. Instead concentrate on making multiple, clean cuts that will result in a straight (not jagged) edge.
If necessary, gently pry the are you are cutting apart by hand to help your utility knife reach further down into the mat.
Remove your cut shape from the doormat and test the fit inside of your stepping stone mold. Trim where necessary for an easy fit.
Casting Your Embossed Stepping Stones
If using the same stepping stone molds as mine from Hobby Lobby you’ll use 6 cups of sand/topping mix for one small round stone and 10.5 cups of mix for one large stone.
Prepare your rubber stamp by lightly spraying with cooking spray and set aside.
Note* when you pick up the stamp it should be damp but not dripping with oil.
In a plastic mixing bucket combine your sand/topping mix and water until you form a mixture that is similar to a very thick milkshake. I was successful adding 1/4 cup of water per cup of cement but that can vary. You can test the water to mix ratio that works well for you by placing one cup of dry mix into your bucket and adding a small amount of water from a measuring cup until you get the right consistency. You can also just wing it from batch to batch :)
Once you get a thick but pour-able consistency, transfer your mix to the mold. Tap the mold on your work surface several times to break any air bubbles in the mix.
Gently push the mold into the wet mix as deeply as you can without completely embedding the stamp.
If the stamp tries to sink, your mixture is too wet and will need to be thickened up. If your stamp meets a lot of resistance and it’s difficult to push it down, you’ll need to add more water to thin the mixture out a bit.
Once the stamp is in place set on a flat surface (very important!) and allow to sit for 12 hours.
Note * Your stones will cure much more quickly if you can place them someplace very warm. I lay my stones out on the garage floor because in the summer it gets dang hot in there. My stones cured in the hot-ass garage were ready to unmold on 14-16 hours compared to the ones in my room-temperature craft room that took closer to 26 hours.
Removing the Rubber Stamp
You’ll need to remove your rubber stamp halfway through the curing process so that it is easily removed in one piece. This is especially important if you plan on making multiple stones with each stamp you created.
After curing 8-12 hours gently pry one of the pieces of your rubber mat around the edge of the stone up and out of the mold. Do your best to pull the mold straight up to prevent any damage to your design. If the stamp comes away and the stone is firm enough to easily hold its shape, completely remove the mold. If this test section does not come away cleanly, push the stamp back into the mix and allow a few more hours to cure.
Once the stamp has been removed, but before unmolding your stone, clean up the design using a piece of very rough sand paper or a chunk of dried cement.
Any time I sand anything by hand, I prefer to use a generic sandpaper that is made for mouse or orbital sanders. They’ve got a fuzzy backing that prevents your hand from getting hot from the friction!
If a lot of the design comes away with minimal pressure, wait until the design is more firm and can stand up to being smoothed out. You don’t want the stone to be super soft because you’ll mush up the design. But you also don’t want to wait until the stone is totally dry because sanding dried cement is a pain in the neck. There’s kind of a sweet spot for cleaning up the design that you’ll come to find if you create a couple of stones.
Remove any dust or chunks sanded away by gently brushing off using an inexpensive chip brush.
Unmolding Your Embossed Stepping Stones
If cured somewhere warm you can attempt to unmold around 14 hours. In room temperature environments it is best to wait and try to unmold around 24 hours. To remove, flip the stone, mold and all over. Hold as much of the surface as you can with your hand to keep the stone together and in the mold. If the underside is mostly dry or a lighter gray it is most likely ready to remove from the mold. If the back has a dark center it will need more time in the mold so that it won’t break apart as you’re removing it.
Once out of the mold flip the stone over so that the bottom is facing upward. Allow the stone to cure in this position until it is dry to the touch.
Like anything that goes from a liquid to a solid the more time you give it to cure and harden, the less likely it will be to become damaged or break apart. After about a week of stone making I got antsy to see how mine would work out in the grass. So I snapped some pics when they were just a few days out of the mold. (Which is why I’m standing BESIDE them instead of ON them in the photos :) To be super strong try to lay stones flat to cure for about a week before they get regular use.
Embossed Stepping Stones
- Reusable Plastic Stepping Stone Mold
- Patterned Rubber Doormat
- Sand/Topping Mix
- Rough Sandpaper
- Cooking Spray
- Place your molds on top of your mat to determine how to cut out your stamps. Trace the shape of each mold. Carefully cut out each shape using a utility knife with a sharp blade. Trim as necessary to fit within the mold.
- Lightly spray rubber stamp with cooking spray and set aside.
- Mix sand/topping mix and water until you achieve a thick but pour-able milkshake-like consistency. Transfer mix to plastic mold.
- Gently push the stamp into the cement. Set someplace warm to cure for 8-12 hours.
- Gently pull the stamp upward. If it removes cleanly continue to remove. If the cement is still too wet/loose, push the stamp back into the mix and allow a few more hours to cure. Once the stamp is removed clean up any rough edges using rough sandpaper or a chunk of hardened concrete.
- Remove stone from the mold approximately 24 hours after pouring. Set in a warm place for several days to fully cure and harden.
And THAT is How you Make Stepping Stones that are Gorgeously Embossed!
This post was updated from the original published on April 21, 2016. You can visit the original post here.