Mother Earth Living

A Stone for your Garden

Learn how to make personalized stones for your garden
By Susan Strawn Bailey
April/May 1999
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Photography by Anybody Goes

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Tucking special stones or favorite objects into the garden is a cherished tradition for some folks. Whether you’re planting your first bed of herbs or tending an established garden, this engraved stone can become a welcome embellishment. Our design features the jaunty little herb from the cover of The Herb Companion engraved into a Colorado river rock and enhanced with weatherproof ink.

To have the stone of your choice engraved locally using our design or another, first select a smooth, flat, or slightly rounded stone, one that will endure extremes of weather. Avoid porous kinds like sandstone, which in time may crack and split. If you have doubts, select several and ask the engraver to choose the best one.

Next, photocopy the pattern shown on page 41, enlarging or reducing it to fit your stone with a 2- to 3-inch margin around it. Our stone measures 9 by 10 inches, and the pattern is 41/2 by 6 inches.

To find a stone engraver with knowledge of the fine craft of sandblasting and carving on very hard materials, look under “Monuments” in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book. We chose Ft. Collins Monument and Stone for this project. Be aware that stone engravers tend to be busiest just before Memorial Day.

If you wish to cut your own stencil from the photocopy (or another design), you may be able to purchase a small piece of stencil material from the engraver. Otherwise, the engraver will cut it for you and adhere it to the stone before blasting.

Also consider asking the engraver to spray a weatherproof aerosol ink onto the finished design. A light spray of brown or black ink highlights the design, which otherwise tends to disappear in all but the strongest light and shadow. Don’t substitute common spray paint; it will only fade, crack, and flake away.

What happens next—the process that unites ephemeral image and eternal stone—combines warp-speed erosion guided by the engraver’s skilled hand. An abrasive—commonly aluminum oxide, rarely sand—is blasted onto the rock at a pressure of 40 to 100 pounds per square inch, a pressure sufficient to bore through quarter-inch plate glass in seconds. As the abrasive wears away the rock surface unprotected by the stencil, the image appears.

The blasting must be done in a closed chamber equipped to collect dust, rock fragments, and spent abrasive; otherwise, substantial safety equipment is necessary. Although relatively inexpensive hobby-grade sandblasting equipment may be purchased, it typically lacks both the power needed to engrave stone and the safety factors built into professional rigs.

Place this garden stone among your herbs to enjoy in every season for many years—and to remind you of gardening with The Herb Companion.

Susan Strawn Bailey is an artist, photo stylist, and writer for The Herb Companion and other publications of Herb Companion Press and its sister company, Interweave Press.

To locate a distributor of stencil material, call Anchor Continental, Inc., at (800) 297-8273 and ask to speak to Turner. For weartherproof aerosol ink, call Cleveland Lithochrome at (316) 223-3210 for a catalog.

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