DIYFilter: what's the best way to make a ceramic mosaic on wood?
April 27, 2021 3:09 PM   Subscribe

I want to stick pieces of ceramic to a wooden frame. What's the best way to do it?

I'm a DIY lightweight so please explain your answers to me like I'm 5.

I have a bunch of old broken pieces of glazed pottery, and I want to stick them to the wooden frame of a mirror. If possible, I'd like it to have the appearance of a mosaic floor, with some kind of material between the pieces, so that you can't see the wood.

What should I use to stick the pieces to the wood? Do I need to prepare the wood?
posted by greenish to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there paint on the wood or is it bare wood?
posted by clew at 3:21 PM on April 27

Response by poster: No paint, I think it's been treated in some way, it's smooth but not shiny so oil possibly?
posted by greenish at 3:51 PM on April 27

I think a two part epoxy would stick it just fine. Loctite or Gorilla would both be in the glue area at your local hardware or craft store. If you need more than a tube or two you can find it in bottles, just search Amazon or wherever for 2 part resin epoxy.

I might sand the wood a bit to give it some bite and just dab a bit of resin on the back of each piece. If there's the same type of wood on the back of the frame maybe test a piece or two on the back first. You could chip it off with a chisel before you do the front.

As far as making it like a mosaic floor, If you could make some way of containing the resin (a frame around it using clay or legos or something) you could just arrange your ceramic pieces and then pour the resin around it. That can be somewhat tricky. Do your homework and practice a bit first. A hair dryer or heat gun will help get the bubbles out.

Look around on youtube for makers doing mosaic projects with resin. It's not difficult but it's easy to screw up if you don't do it right. Measure your two parts out carefully and mix them for longer than you think is necessary.

Read reviews of whatever resin you buy. Some brands get sort of brownish with age or exposure to UV light. You can color the resin with mica powder if you don't want it clear.
posted by bondcliff at 4:43 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

What you want is grout. In a perfect world perhaps it would be a first step to waterproof the wood, if it is going to be used in a manner that would have it exposed to water, but I grouted homemade tiles in a wooden tray without epoxying the tiles first. My cats have eaten their meals from it for more than 10 years (it gets washed periodically but not submerged in water) and the grout, tray and tiles have held up beautifully.
posted by citygirl at 5:47 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

A sanded siliconized acrylic grout will stick your pieces to the frame and will give a grouted look if put into the gaps. It comes in caulking tubes so easy to use and a variety of colours.
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

I'd use the exact same tile glue as I'd use to stick tiles to a wall or floor. It's got a tiny bit of rubbery give in it once cured, enough to allow the supporting wood to expand and contract a little from humidity changes without cracking the glue. Once it was set I'd use grout to fill the gaps.
posted by flabdablet at 9:15 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Sadly grout has artistic problems... (grout is probably the best answer if maybe a bit heavy-ish for a framed hanging thing)... GLUE - The Secret Life of Components - a series of guides for makers and designers - Episode 7.

Prepare the wood, don't know, suspect a layer of grout would do the job (indoor outdoor etc).

Sticking things down is trickier. Grout is the thing for like a tiled floor or bathroom. Everything's flat and regular and you do it all at once. Grout is like mud/cement, it's mushy for a day, then it's stone.

If you want to take your time creating your thing with slightly oddly shaped pieces you want a glue. I'd get a Caulking Gun and one of those tubes of industrial adhesives to stick the ceramic pieces to the wood. Then at the end mix up and color some grout and smoosh it in and around and shape it up like a regular tile thing and let it dry.

Grout might be a bit heavy for hanging on the wall? Like the ceramic, it's basically rock. You might want to use some Caulk to fill in the gaps, same principle but it's lighter and more like plastic and I can't think of a good way to color it.

The thing to remember possibly is that you probably don't want to do this whole project at once so things like grout or epoxy are out mostly because once you start you have to finish before it's a PITA to change your mind.

Anyway, I'd caulk gun industrial adhesive bits over time and then mix up or buy a bucket of grout (mud) and mess with it and then squish it all into the cracks real good and play with it and as it dries out turning to stone clean and polish bits as needed until it's a slab of concrete. Then maybe pour a layer of epoxy over it if I wanted it to be a table or something.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:26 PM on April 27

Sticking things down is trickier. Grout is the thing for like a tiled floor or bathroom

Grout is a good filler but it's a terrible adhesive. I've never seen a professional use it to stick tiles to anything, just to fill the spaces between them once the tile glue has done its job.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Amateur mosaicist here. Here's how I would do this: lightly sand the wood to give it some tooth, tape off the mirror and the edges of the frame, and adhere your tile to the wood in whatever design you like with Weldbond, a water-based adhesive that's as easy to work with as Elmer's glue but thicker and stronger (I'm assuming this is for indoor use since the base is wood; otherwise you'll need to use thinset mortar as your adhesive).

When the Weldbond is dry--about 24 hours--use sanded grout to fill in the gaps between tiles. Maybe choose a shade darker than you think you want; I almost never wish I'd gone lighter.

Wear a dust mask when you scoop and mix the grout so you don't inadvertently inhale it. Mix the grout in a plastic yogurt tub or something, adding a little bit of water at a time until it's the consistency of peanut butter. Let the grout sit for about 10 minutes to completely hydrate, give it another good stir, and then apply it to the face of your frame, making sure to fill in all the gaps. Wear latex gloves if you're particular about your nails.

As soon as the joints are filled, take a barely-damp sponge or just a bunch of paper towels and wipe the excess grout off the face of the tiles until they're as clean as you can get them. (Note that this part is extremely messy and you'll want to do it outside or put down a dropcloth. But it's also kind of magical because you get to watch your finished piece emerge with each pass of the sponge!)

Let the grout cure overnight, and then gently rub the tiles with a paper towel dipped in diluted vinegar to get the rest of the grout off and shine up the tiles. You can use a grout sealer if you like after it's had a couple more days to cure, but if it's a decorative mirror you can probably skip that step.

Tiling things is a blast! Have fun.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 1:05 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Tuba Toothpaste has the entire process! Mosaic is really very easy and forgiving (yes, the grout step is messy). Traditional methods are more than adequate—poured resin is expensive, unwieldy, environmentally dubious, faddish, and won't produce the "mosaic floor" look you're after in any case.

Weldbond (or even actual Elmer's glue) is almost certainly up to the task, but if your ceramic pieces are exceptionally thick/large/heavy, you can use something like "Household Goop" (if that isn't sold where you are, I believe "E6000" glue is similar) or two-part epoxy. If the pieces aren't flat, Gorilla Glue expands to fill cracks, and even regular hot glue should work just fine for something so small, especially once grouted. If you want to break your ceramic pieces down further, there are tile "nippers" (pliers) that will let you do so easily.

Craft stores should have everything you need, albeit at a premium. Everything should be available much more cheaply at a hardware store, though a craft store is more likely to have a purpose-made (and more expensive) "mosaic grout," which isn't necessary at all but will have task-appropriate instructions that might be more beginner-friendly.
posted by wreckingball at 7:36 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

For something like this I would suggest a medium-setting polyurethane construction adhesive like LePage "PL Gold" brand. It's similar to a Gorilla Glue style-formula but not as fast-setting and more useful for general purpose things. I use it for gluing most everything except wood-glue situations. Faster glues have some disadvantages: they smell more and are harder to clean.
posted by ovvl at 9:28 AM on April 28

Response by poster: Thanks all! I think I'm gonna go with Tuba Toothpaste's suggestion - Weldbond and then grout. Will let you know how it turns out!
posted by greenish at 8:27 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]

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