Working on residential remodels in California has its benefits, the endless supply of scrap Douglas fir dimensional lumber is certainly one of them. Therefor, I had a small pile in my garage that needed a purpose and at the same time some empty wall space to fill in the living room. The resultant was this mosaic wall art piece. I am posting it today because the steps and techniques used here were fairly simple and I am confident you can take and apply them to an infinite number of wall art pieces of your own design.
Step 1: Material Gathering
1. scrap wood - in this case I had access to Douglas fir that had been removed during demo on a remodel project. Please note, if you do not have direct access to a construction site, you should not hesitate to dumpster dive at one, it is a great place to reclaim wood.
2. Tempered Hardboard - for the backing
3. Wood Glue - the binder
4. Cherry ply - The inlays
Step 2: Clean Your Wood
With reclaimed wood it is very important to thoroughly de-nail all lumber before it is milled. Scour each piece for nails and staples pulling each one as you go. Be organized and double check, you don't want to miss any as it will not be good for your table saw if you do.
Step 3: Sketch
Some of you may do your best work on the fly, if so skip this step. However I Like to get Ideas on paper first so for me this is one of most important steps.
Step 4: Begin Milling Rough Strips
Run your nail free wood through the table saw. Set dimensions to a manageable width and depth, keep in mind that the thicker your strips are, the heavier your final piece will be and the more difficult to hang it will be. I found that 3/8" - 1/2" worked well with the Douglas fir, it wasn't so thin that the strips were breaking, and it wasn't so thick that the completed piece was too heavy.
Step 5: Mill the Smooth Strips
after milling the 1/2" thick rough strips from all the edges of the lumber, I then set the table saw on a 5 degree bevel and began milling what would be the smooth strips from the clean meat of the lumber. Why 5 degrees? So that each one would cast a slight shadow on the one below (like ship lap siding). This will all begin to make more sense in the next step when the strips are all laid out in rough pattern.
Step 6: Rough Layout
In this step I cut my backer (tempered hard board) to the size I wanted. Then clamped some rough strips on the backer board for proper spacing. I cut a 30 degree angle on the end of each clean wood strip using the miter gauge on the table saw., and completed a rough layout. Note: I let everything run long for now because it will be easier to cut flush edges on the table saw at the end of project.
Step 7: Layout Mosaic and Hearts
With the borders of the mosaic securely clamped use a framing square to pencil in a grid of 1" x 1" squares (should match the width of the wood strips, which in this case were 1" wide). Now locate and scale the hearts to fit within the grid.
Step 8: Cut and Glue, Cut and Glue
Begin using the miter gauge on table saw to cut the rough strips into shorter length pieces (which we will call "tiles"). The pattern is completely up to you but once you have a good amount of "tiles" cut and fitted to your liking, you can begin gluing them down using just standard wood glue. continue cutting and gluing your "tiles" sanding the edges when needed for a tight fit. Keep in mind you should not try to cut "tiles" flush along the edges, just let them run long it will be easier to cut them at one time on table saw.
Step 9: Glue the Smooth Wood Strips
Now glue the smooth strips into place with the larger edge at the bottom of each.
Step 10: Square Up the Edges
Up until now we have been letting all strips run wild over the edges, Now is the time to square up the edges using the table saw. The only tricky part here is giving yourself a straight edge to run along the fence of the table saw for your first cut. To resolve this just screw a straight piece of wood to the overhanging strips on one side as a guide, this will allow you to squarely cut the opposite side. Then remove your guide, flip piece around and cut that side as well. Repeat on the remaining sides until all four sides are straight and square..
Step 11: Heart Inserts
In order to get the hearts just right, I first made a cardboard templates. from those I was able to easily cut the Cherry ply using the Table saw and jigsaw. Then with an orbital sander I partially sanded the surfaces to reveal more of the red. After that was done, I burned a quote on the surface of the Ply. Now I am no Poet, so I just went online and found a quote i liked by Daniel Beckett. Once all letters were engraved into wood, I then hit it with the sander once more before gluing them into their final resting places on the board.
Step 12: Make Cleats for Hanging
From an extra piece of scrap about 2' long, it is fairly easy to make two interlocking cleats that will allow you to easily mount the finished mosaic on a wall. The one cleat is glued to the rear of the mosaic and the second is screwed into two wall studs, now you are ready to easily mount the finished mosaic on a wall.
Step 13: Add Finishing Touches and Hang.
The finishing touches included three small hearts just applied to the surface with wood glue. when hanging just make sure the cleat on the back of the mosaic catches the lip of the one on the wall. Stand Back and enjoy.