How to Make Headstones for Grave Sites

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Making a headstone for a grave requires little more than a mold, mortar and wooden letters. Putting your own touch on a headstone is a fitting tribute to your loved one. Your personalization is another step in saying goodbye and helps in the grieving process. Creating a headstone can also be a way to mark the grave of an ancestor you've never met. Time and weather erodes and corrupts headstones, so putting a fresh one on the grave is a sign of respect.

1 Setting the Mortar

2 Purchase an 80-pound sack of mortar mix

Purchase an 80-pound sack of mortar mix with no aggregates such as rocks. This is enough to fill up your frame without any mortar left over.

3 Buy wooden craft letters

Buy wooden craft letters to press a name into the wet mortar. Don't forget numbers for dates.

4 Build a frame

Build a frame measuring 21 inches by 16 inches out of plywood. The corners should be screwed together so that you can take the frame apart when the mortar has set. Include a plywood back if you plan to move the marker before you reach the grave site.

5 Spread plastic sheeting onto a level surface

Spread plastic sheeting onto a level surface, then set the frame on top of it. Add rebar or bits of fiberglass for strength if you plan to set the headstone over the grave vertically.

6 Pour the mortar mix

Pour the mortar mix into the plastic tub, then add the exact amount of water recommended on the bag. The inscription's letters will fill up with water and be ruined if you put too much liquid in the mix; it also compromises the strength of the headstone. Your goal is mortar with the consistency of thick peanut butter, not soup.

7 Shovel the mortar into the frame

Shovel the mortar into the frame until it is filled to the brim. It shouldn't pour if you have properly mixed the mortar.

8 Level

Smooth and level the surface with a flat piece of wood left over from frame construction or a trowel.

9 Hammer the edges

Hammer the edges of the frame to burst any air pockets and allow the mortar to firmly settle in all of the corners. Smooth over the surface again.

10 Press the letters into the mixture

Press the letters into the mixture. Coating the letters with a cooking spray or getting them wet first prevents them from sticking in the mortar. You should have about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the mixture. Using cold water extends the drying time.

Kyle Martin has been a newspaper reporter in Florida for over three years, and was a reporter in Mississippi before that. He is fluent in Spanish, having lived overseas during his formative years. He has a Bachelor of Arts in communications, with a concentration in journalism from Mississippi College.