How to Make a Cheap Marker for an Unmarked Family Grave

by Paul Young

The unmarked grave of a loved one can become lost to future generations. However, having tombstone or a grave marker made for the grave is an expense that some families cannot afford. Less-expensive solutions are available for marking a loved one's final resting place; one solution is for a family to make their own marker for their deceased family member's unmarked grave.

Use a table saw to cut the 2x4 into two 21" sections and two 16" sections. These sections will provide the border of the frame for casting the headstone.

Use a hammer and nails to join the previously cut sections together to form a rectangle.

Place the rectangular frame on top of the plywood; the plywood will form the bottom of the mold for the casting. Drive one nail diagonally through the frame into the plywood on each side of the frame to hold the mold in place.

.Mix the 80 pounds of mortar mix and water together in wheelbarrow to make cement. Sakrete, a producer of mortar mix, recommends 5 liters of water per 80-pound bag of mortar mix.

Shovel the mixed cement into the mold. The cement should fill the mold to the top.

Use the trowel to smooth and level the cement mix.

Use the hammer to hit all four inside of the edges of the mold to cause the cement to settle. Doing this ensures that the cement settles in the corners and the bottom edges.

Use the trowel to re-level the cement.

Use a string to line up the placement of stamp letters. Using a string will help to place the letters in a straight line.

Place the stamp letters into the cement to make an indentation of the deceased's information. After making the indentations, remove the letters and wash them as soon as possible to preserve them for future use.

Remove the frame from around the grave marker after two days. After you remove the frame, stand the marker on its side for two more days to allow moisture from the back to evaporate.

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Items you will need

  • 80-pound bag of mortar mix
  • Table saw
  • 2x4 board, 7' long
  • Wood nails
  • Screwdriver
  • 21x16" piece of plywood
  • Stamp letters
  • Five liters of water
  • Hammer
  • Cement trowel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel


  • When building the frame, use nails long enough that they do not have to be driven all the way in. You should leave a space between the nail head and the wood to make it easier to take apart the frame. For a strong marker, let the marker set for a week before taking it to the graveyard.


  • Be conservative when adding water to the mortar mix; you can always add more water later. The mortar should be the consistency of thick peanut butter.
  • Be sure the letters are laid out in the proper order before you apply them to the concrete. This will help ensure proper letter placement on the marker.

About the Author

Paul Young started writing professionally in 2008. His writings have been published on various websites, including U.K. van insurance site, The Van Insurer, and its sister site, The Bike Insurer. Young focuses his writing on news articles about the motorcycle and commercial vehicle industries, environmental projects, information technology and money and finance. Young is involved in ministry.

Photo Credits

  • Bowling Pin Tombstone image by steverts from Fotolia.com