Earlier this month, I mentioned the possibility of making customized garden stepping stones/plant markers. One of the great products I found on amazon.com was the Make Your Own Poetry Stones Deluxe Kit. It was a great price, looked pretty simple and offered so much creative flexibility that I had to buy one for myself. Today, I wanted to share with you the results of my first test stones.
Contents: The kit comes with 6 different shape molds, 5 rectangular:
- 3 ¾” x 14”
- 3 ¾“ x 10 ½“
- 3 ¾“ x 7 ½”
- 3 ¾“ x 4 ½“ and
- 2 ½“ x 3 ¾“
and one circular (12“ diameter). It also comes with two bags of plastic letters, large and small, along with numbers and punctuation, including the @ symbol, a comma and a period. There is also a generous bag of glass stones to use as decorative accents, a 2 ½ pound bag of cement, two small jars of concrete tint (reddish brown and and orange/copper tint) and a small trowel.
You will also need to supply two buckets (preferably ones you can discard if they happen to get ruined by the cement), a large plastic garbage bag or dropcloth to protect your working surface from spills, a plastic-coated surface to let the stones dry on for at least 2 days (I used cardboard covered with plastic garbage bags for my test projects).
There is a nice sheet of directions in the kit guiding you through each step of the process. The steps are relatively simple.
Empty the concrete into a bucket.
Add 1 ½ cups water.
Mix with the trowel. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time until you have a consistency “somewhere between soft-serve and scoop ice cream”. This was probably the trickiest part of the operation. After 1 ½ cups of water, there was a lot of dry concrete still in my mix. I kept adding the water and probably put in close to 2 ½ cups of water total.
In the end, I would say I added just a little too much water. It seemed like the ideal consistency would look almost dry and crumb-like when mixed but would pack down flat. I also added just a small amount of the reddish-brown concrete tint. I wasn’t sure what color I wanted to go for. With just a little of the tint, I ended up with a brown earth-tone color, which I quite like! You could add a lot more to get a terra cotta look or add none for a gray stone look.
Next, it was time to scoop the concrete into the molds. The instructions say that the 2 ½ pound bag of concrete included in the kit is just enough to make one 14” rectangular stone or several of the smaller rectangular stones. It is not enough to make the round stone. I chose 3 of the smallest rectangular forms that combined were just a little bit larger than the 14” rectangular stone. They did use up every last bit of the concrete and there was none left over. (The directions indicate that you can buy a type of fine-grain concrete called “vinyl patch mix” at any hardware store to make more stones.)
Before starting the concrete mixing step, I had chosen the mold sizes I wanted and the letters I wanted to use, making sure the words would fit inside the molds.
I plopped the concrete mix into the molds and kept adding concrete and packing it down as hard as I could with the trowel to get out any air pockets. At first, it didn’t look like it was working very well and might be too dry. However, after my third mold was poured, I went back to the first mold and all the water in the concrete seemed to have traveled to the surface. It was almost too runny and wet on the surface but was still solid enough to work.
Now it was time to press in the letters. I was a bit too aggressive in my space planning here. Ideally you would have your word fit in the mold space plus at least one extra letter space as buffer room. I packed my words right to the edges of the mold, which worked, but just barely. You need a little space in between each letter for the concrete to expand and emboss the letters for the best look. I also pressed in a decorative accent stone as well. After using each letter mold, I put it in the second bucket, filled with water, to soak, so the concrete would not dry on the letters.
At this point, I was ready to set my stones aside to dry for the required 2-days. Fortunately, I remembered that I also needed to remove the mold forms to prevent them from being permanently adhered to the test stones! This was just a little tricky. The molds removed generally well but sometimes a corner would get stuck and I had to carefully poke the brick free with my finger, trying not to leave any impressions in the brick. At this point, you can cut off part of the excess mold if your word is not very long, round the edges of the stone with your fingers or do any other shaping you desire.
We also tried a test footprint in one of the molds to see how it would come out.
Cleanup was relatively easy. I grabbed the hose and squirted out the bucket, molds, trowel and letter forms in one of the leaf-covered areas of the yard. You probably don’t want to do this in your kitchen sink just in case the concrete hardens in your pipes.
Now to see how long it takes for the concrete to cure. Because my mix was a bit wetter than it needed to be and because of Virginia humidity, I will be surprised if 2 days is enough to dry the test bricks and think it could be closer to a week.
So far, though, I think this product is great and really fun. My children enjoyed helping with this project and are already coming up with ideas for what our next stones should say.
What would you write/impress if you were using this kit? Are you intimidated or encouraged by the results of the test? Please share in the comments.