I started making stepping-stones as I had difficulty detaching from my favourite vase or plates that had seen better days. So I started collecting broken pieces, and before I knew it, I started a new craze at home. Stepping stones are a great way to upcycle broken ceramic, and you personalise your garden.
A quick trip to the charity shop helped me gather the materials I needed. I collected various sizes of rusty cake tins, baking trays and chipped coloured plates.
Before I start a stepping stone, I like to organise the colour pallet. Cracking tiles and plates need a little caution. Wear protective glasses. I place all plates in between some old cloth. This makes sure that ceramic chips don’t fly through the air, which is particularly important if you have small children and pets with soft feet.
I use large baking trays in this post, so I don’t need to line it with anything. But if you use cake tins, you must use petroleum jelly to line the cake tin, as when the concrete hardens, your stepping stone will slide out of the mould with no trouble. You can also use plastic tubs or even a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag.
I have used several different concrete mixes as I try to reuse anything that I find. You can buy quick setting concrete at most hardware stores. Just follow the instructions on how to mix, as every mix is different. Use gloves, so the mixture doesn’t spill on your hands. Concrete is dusty and can irritate sensitive skin. If you do get a little concrete on your hands, wash it off straight away.
Once the concrete has been mixed, half fill the mould and place a wire into the mix. Set it into your mould and gently press it into the wet concrete. This will help prevent the stepping stone from cracking as it gives it a little more structure.
Pour more concrete on the top and mould a slight tap to ensure that the concrete spreads out and fills in any air pockets. Before you start to add tiles, press one tile into the cement. If the tile sinks into the concrete, wait for a little, giving the concrete more time to set.
Time to create!
- It’s time to press the pieces into the concrete. Again, you can use a random pattern or make an image.
- Press the tiles far enough into the concrete so that they don’t stick out but not too far that you’ll cover the tile. If you make an error, remove the tile and rinse it and start again.
- Ensure that no sharp or jagged edges stick out of the concrete, especially if people walk on the stepping-stone. If I am using broken plates, I make sure that the smooth outer edge of the plate is the outer edge of the stepping-stone.
Allow the stepping stone 24 hours before removing it from the mould. Next, gently flip the mould onto a soft surface, such as a patch of grass or an old towel. Wait another 24 hours to strengthen it. If the stepping stone gets stuck in the mould, the concrete needs more time to dry—the concrete shrinks as it dries.
When cleaning the stepping stone, use water and an old toothbrush to brighten the mosaic. This will remove any cement that got stuck on the tiles.
Time to position the stepping-stone in the garden!
Page 220 of Planet Schooling – How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard walks you through making mosaic frames for homeschooling activities. If you are interested in more nature-based activities, purchase the book here.
Author: Lucy Legan