MOSAIC TILE STEPPING STONE HELPS
Please note! These are my thoughts about mosaic tile stones. I do not take responsiblity for anyone's problems if they use my methods or don't use my methods for stones. I think I've tried just about every method of making stones there is. From mixing concrete and reinforcing with chicken wire, to making my own mix per some instructions I paid for on the internet. I'll do my best to describe each method. You'll have to chose your favorite on your own. Personally, unless I want a particular shape or color stone, I'd rather skip the mess and extra work, buy a premade stone from the home improvement store, glue my tiles on, and grout around them. But, I'm getting older and lazier with time. :o)
MOLDS Specialty molds can be purchased from stained glass suppliers. If you feel you would like a certain size or shape, and you can't purchase one from a local supplier, let me know. I'm sure I can help out. These molds are made specifically for pouring concrete, cement or any other type of stone mixture. They are ruggedly built so they can be used over and over again. If you think you want to pour lots of stones, this type of mold is what you need. On another note, if you're only going to pour a couple of stones and don't want to make a larger investment, you may want to look into purchasing plastic cake molds. I've used these several times and they work fine. You need to be a little more careful with them so that you don't rip them, but for the most part, they work pretty well. I have hearts, squares, rounds, rectangles and even a great oval pan. Also, you can buy the ones that are different shapes such as a fish, flower, fire engine etc. I've bought these and painted the stones with patio paints. They work great. When making a stone from any mold, you may want to think about exactly how thick you want your stone to be. I've found it isn't necessary to make your stone 3" thick just because the manufacturer says you should. You may only need it to be 1 1/2" to 2" thick. Depending on if you're actually going to step on the stone. If you're actually going to "use" the stone, you may then want to think about what type of tesserae you're going to use; since glass, mirror, and most china will not stand up to constant stepping use. Especially if someone's going to walk on them with golfing shoes or something else abrasive. Personally, I don't allow "stepping" on my stones. They're for looking at--not practicality.
MOLD RELEASE AGENTS:
You'll need a slippery substance to coat your mold so the stone will slide out of the mold easily. No different from baking a cake. You can spray the mold with Pam cooking spray, WD40, or wipe petroleum jelly over the inside. Especially coating the corners of the mold. I've used all these agents and found them all pretty equal in use. After I spray with the release agent, I wipe the inside of the mold with a paper toweling to make sure it has coated the inside evenly. When using jelly, I use a paper toweling to spread in around evenly. I'm not crazy about getting my hands all goopy with jelly so I use the toweling.
You can mix your own concrete. It's not my favorite thing to do, but I have done it. You'll need to buy some concrete from a home improvement store or concrete supply company. I've used "Quickcrete" and "White Portland" cement. You'll need to sift out some of the stones so it's not so full of rocks. Add only enough water to make the mix pourable. If you add too much water, it'll take forever for the concrete to dry and it also weakens the concrete. If you're using larger pieces of glass, this can cause your pieces to crack too. This was a big mistake I made until I learned this trick. Some people say to reinforce the stone you need to pour half the mix in the mold, then place a piece of chicken wire cut to the size of your mold in the mix, then pour the remainder of the mix over the top. Or you can use fiberglass pieces made especially for this. Some places stock these pieces but they aren't easy to find. My personal belief is, hog wash on the reinforcement thing. I think people make too much out of this. Most of us make our stones for looks not use. If you're going to "use" your stone, you would want it reinforced. After you pour your mix in the mold, you need to wiggle it back and forth quite a few times to loosen up air pockets that may have formed. LIGHTLY pounce the mold up and down on the floor. Air pockets leave pock-like holes in the concrete. These are nasty little devils that are very hard to prevent completely. Most stones will dry within 24 hours. If you've mixed your cement right and coated your mold properly, your stone should be ready to pop out within this time. Hand-poured concrete stepping stones are the most economical way you can go. You can pour lots of stones for quite cheap. Also, most home improvement stores carry concrete dye. You add this to the concrete to color it. I don't think I'd use anything but this type of dye for stones. Make sure to save a cup of your colored mix, in case you need to fill in holes later. Put it in an airtight container and keep it until you're statisfied you won't have to fill in any holes.
DIAMONDCRETE OR QUICK CRETE:
Now, if I'm gong to pour a stone, I do it the easy way and buy Diamondcrete. It comes in a powder form and in a wide array of colors. You don't ever have to reinforce it since it dries rock hard. It dries within 1 hour. And it mixes easily and beautifully. It is virtually foolproof. As long as you don't add too much water when you mix it! Add slightly less water than the mix calls for. It also is quite expensive. The average stone will cost about $10.00 to make, in some places more. This is a wonderful product. If you can't purchase this product in your area, I'll do the best I can to help you out.