Hiya! It’s Mandi here, from Making Nice in the Midwest. Sometimes window shopping can be frustrating. But other times, window shopping can cause great DIY ideas to spring to mind! Recently I was drooling over kitchen backsplashes that I had no business even glancing at. Totally out of my price range! But when I found these wood mosaic tiles, my pointer finger rose swiftly upward as I shouted, “Aha! I can make that!” While I wouldn’t love a completely wood-tiled backsplash, I would rather enjoy a small section of wood mosaic as wall art. So that’s exactly what I set out to create. Check out how easy this project is! Anyone can do it—I promise!
-Rigid backing material (I used a scrap piece of 1/4″ plywood.)
-2″ wooden blocks (I found mine at a local discount craft retailer, but these sets on Amazon aren’t too expensive.)
-Wood shims no larger than the size of your blocks
-Wood stain (I used a stain that also seals the wood.)
-Rag for staining
-Hammer to attach picture-hanging hardware
This project is completely power tool free! I considered making wood blocks to save money on supplies and to give me a variety of sizes to add interest to my mosaic, but I happened to find unfinished wood blocks for a good deal at a local discount craft store called Pat Catans. You can certainly make your own blocks pretty easily if you have the tools, although sanding each one would be pretty time consuming. To save time and avoid using power tools, just head out to your local craft store to find wood blocks, or buy some online. The least expensive set of blocks I found online are right here.
The size of this project is totally up to you. To determine the size of my own wooden mosaic piece, I bought the wood blocks first, arranged them in a single layer, and then measured the area that the blocks covered (15″x17″). I cut out a scrap piece of plywood to be about 1.5″ shorter than the entire area of blocks so that the attached blocks would overhang the edge and hide the backing material. Like I said, this project is power tool free, so you can buy a pre-cut piece of wood at a craft or hardware store and then purchase enough blocks to cover that space (allowing for a slight overhang), or you can buy the blocks, determine the size the backing should be, and then have a small piece cut for you at the hardware store or lumberyard. Most places will make a few cuts for you, free of charge.
Step One: Dip part of your rag into the stain and rub the color onto each side of every block. Rub off any excess stain and lay the blocks out on protective paper (I used wax paper, but newspaper will do) to air out. You’ll want to do this step while wearing a mask over your nose and mouth in a well-ventilated area or use a natural stain without fumes. Don’t ever work with traditional wood stain while pregnant.
As you work with the stain, you’ll notice that the end cuts absorb the color differently from the sides of each block–and that’s okay! The difference in tones will work together to create a varied mosaic as you arrange each block on a different side.
Make sure you properly dispose of your oil-soaked rag once you’ve finished staining all of the blocks. Lay out your rag in a single layer (do not wad it up!) outside to safely cure. Once the stain has cured on the rag (it will be somewhat crispy, like starched fabric) you can safely dispose of it. Never leave flammable rags in piles or crumpled up, because they can spontaneously combust. Before disposing of cured oil-soaked rags with your trash service, you may want to check your local regulations. Some areas require oil-soaked rags to be disposed of at a hazardous waste collection site, even after they’ve cured. If dealing with oil-soaked rags from traditional wood stain seems like an awful proposition, try using an all-natural, non-flammable wood stain instead.
Step Two: This is my favorite part! After the wood stain has aired out a bit, you can arrange each block on the backing piece. Find the side of each block you like best and face it upwards, aiming for a variety of stripes and tones in the finished piece. I arranged my blocks in a random way to achieve variety without a noticeable pattern.
Step Three: Row by row, lift up each positioned wood block, one by one, and glue each one into place by applying glue on the bottoms and on the sides that touch neighboring blocks. Randomly place various sized stacks of shims under blocks as you glue them in place. This will elevate the blocks and give the finished piece a nice textural finish. Don’t place many elevated blocks around the edges, though, and make sure that the few elevated blocks that are placed on an edge row aren’t elevated higher than the thickness of one shim. If they’re too high, you will be able to see the shims and backing material when viewing the finished piece from the side.
Step Four: Once the glue has dried, attach the picture-hanging hardware to the back board. If your finished piece is pretty substantial and heavy, you’ll probably want to get a set of two hooks that can be screwed into either side of the back in order to hold heavy-duty picture-hanging wire.The final wooden mosaic art will be pretty hefty, so before you hang it up on your wall, make sure you’re hammering into a stud or using drywall anchors suitable to hold the weight of the finished piece. If you’re unfamiliar with drywall studs, check out my bathroom storage project which utilizes drywall anchors to hang heavy metal baskets from the wall.
I just love the bulk of this artwork! Even though it was super easy to make, it looks sophisticated and substantial. The earthy feel of the wood mosaic works great with any decor style, but if you’re looking for a more masculine DIY art project, this is perfect!
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson