Introduction: End Table With Glass Mosaic Tile Inlaid Top
I wanted something nice next to the recliner to replace the folding tray table being used as a (temporary) end table. After going into 'sticker shock' at the price of a new table, I looked around for another solution. I had an old table that was taking up space in the garage begging to have something done with it. I was hanging on to it until I could get time to sand out the deep scratches and refinish the top. But I was inspired by this Instructable from knoxmj19, to upgrade the table with mosaic glass tile. My project differs in that I routed out the 1” thick solid pine top and used a multi-colored mosaic glass tile inlay. This turned out to be three projects: prepping the top and setting mosaic tiles, leveling the table (one leg was 1/4” shorter that the rest) and turning a couple of 4” tiles into matching coasters.
Step 1: Tools, Materials and PPE
Straight Router Bits: 1/4” & 3/4”
3/16” Notched Adhesive Trowel
Blue Masking Tape
Personal Protective Equipment:
2- 12” sq. Glass Mosaic Tiles
Qt. White Acrylic Mastic/Adhesive
10# Non-sanded Grout (sanded grout may scratch the glass)
*13- 5/8 x #10 Woodscrews
*Oil-based Stain “Natural” Color”
*Polyurethane Satin Finish Coat
*Cork Sheet, Adhesive Backed
*2- 4” Glass Tile (scavenged)
*20”x18” Occasional/End Table with a 1” thick solid pine top
* Indicates material leftover from previous projects.
Everything else was purchased at Home Depot
Step 2: Remove the Top and Layout the Tile
I removed the table-top from the base. That way, I could clamp it to my work surface and hold it still during sanding and routing. Eight screws were all that was holding the top to the legs. The tile layout used one full piece of tile and sections of a second leaving about 2” of wood on each side. The mesh backing that holds the tile together cuts easily with scissors and keeps the small mosaic tiles lined up with one another. I added 3/8"” to the overall width and length measurements of the tile layout to allow for 3/16"” grout line between the tile and the wood border. I used a framing square to ensure my pencil marks would be straight and the corners square.
Step 3: Router Out the Top
To determine the proper depth of the cut, I stacked the tile on the backer-board and added 1/8” to allow for the compressed thickness of the adhesive. The top is about 1” thick and I removed 5/8 of an inch. I used the 1/4” router bit to cut in the border. The smaller diameter bit is easier to control and hold to a line than the 3/4” bit I used to remove the rest of the material. After cutting the border, I used the larger straight bit, starting in the center and cutting increasingly larger circles while moving outwards towards the border. When routing inside a frame, push the bit into the wood against the rotation of the bit (clockwise/left to right.) Letting the bit ‘pull’ the router can cause an unexpected kick out, ruining your job and even cause injury. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from the flying wood chips and use ear plugs or suitable hearing protection when routing and when using an electric sander.
Step 4: Sanding
Next I sanded the old finish from remaining top and edges with the palm sander using 150 grit sandpaper I waited to sand until after routing out the center to prevent scratching the bare wood with the router base. Because white pine is such a soft wood, I had to be careful not to sand away more than just the finish.
I put down a thin coat of tile adhesive with the notched trowel. I placed a piece of backer-board, that I cut to size with a utility knife, on top of the wet mastic. I fastened it with 5/8” #10 woods crews. I could have just glued the mosaic tile to the bare wood without using backer-board, but I wanted to ensure that the tile would not loosen-up with daily use. Plus the backer-board provides a flat; even surface that will cover any router goofs and provides great adhesion.
Step 6: Apply the Adhesive/Mastic and Set the Tile
I covered the exposed wood with blue masking tape and applied the acrylic adhesive to my screwed and glued backer board using a 3/16” notched adhesive trowel; keeping the trowel at 90 degrees. I set the full piece of tile first, then added the pieces keeping it back about 3/16” from the edge to leave room for grout. Here’s a hint: take a photo of the tile after you layout your pattern. You want to don’t have to reposition the tile once it is set on the adhesive because you put the pieces in the wrong place. I used a 12” tile to push the tile into the adhesive, keeping one edge on the wood to keep the mosaic tile flush with the wood. You can use a scrap piece of plywood or anything flat that is of sufficient size. Don’t use your hand to set the tile; it is easy to push too hard and not only have the adhesive ooze up between the pieces (a mess) but also to unintentionally move the tile or make it uneven. I let the tile set for a couple of hours (follow the recommendations on the container for dry/cure time.)
Step 7: Stain and Polyurethane Finish
After wiping down the wood with a tack cloth, I rubbed in a coat of oil-based stain. Now to please let everything dry overnight. First thing the next day, I applied. two thin coats of polyurethane. I used cheesecloth in place of a brush to ensure the coats were thin and to keep the gloss down.
Step 8: Mix and Slake the Grout
After the second coat of polyurethane was completely dry I protected it again with blue (low tack) masking tape. (Dry grout is difficult to remove from the wood.) ‘Glove-up’ at this point because the materials in the grout will eat your flesh. I used about two cups (16 oz.) of dry grout and gradually mixed in approximately 4 oz. of tap water. The grout must be thoroughly mixed, (5-10 minutes.) The grout/water mixture ratio is correct when the grout is the consistency of whipped cream and 'peaks.' Let the grout mix slake (allow it to thoroughly absorb the water) for 10 minutes and stir it again for an additional 5 minutes. You can purchase premixed grout; a quart would have been more than enough for this project, but what fun is that? Mix grout outside because the cement dust from the dry grout goes everywhere. Avoid breathing the dust. When mixing large amounts of grout, a paper-filter mask is recommended.
Step 9: Trowel on the Grout
Use the grout float to work the grout into the spaces between the tile, keeping the float at a 45 degree angle relative to the tile. Wipe the grout across the tiles on the diagonal. Wiping parallel to the spaces between the tiles with the float will pull the grout out of the lines, (not good.) When all the spaces are filled with grout, use the edge of the trowel (90 degree angle,) to remove as much grout as possible from the tile surface. Now I let the grout dry for 15-20 minutes. No more than that.
Step 10: Remove the Grout From the Tile Surface
Use a damp sponge to wipe any remaining grout from the tile surface, again going across the tile diagonally relative to the grout lines. Turn the sponge after each pass, using only a clean edge. Rinse the sponge often in clean water, thoroughly wring out the excess. Any grout left on the tile surface will be difficult to remove once it dries. Remove the masking tape. After a couple of hours, wipe the haze from the tile with a soft, dry cloth. Wait at least three days and apply grout sealer to protect the grout lines from stains.
Step 11: Accent Coasters
I made the accent coasters by taking 4” glass tile and applying 1/8” thick adhesive backed cork. The tiles were on a display board that the flooring store was throwing away because a couple of the colors were discontinued. I had to pry the tiles off the sample board and carefully scrape the glue off the back of the tile before applying the cork, but the store gave me the board with 6 differently colored tiles, free! Make friends with your local flooring store manager. They clear out their out-of-date tile, hardwood and laminate flooring sample boards often and most would rather give it away than have it wind up in the landfill.
Step 12: Fix the Short Leg
One leg of the table was about /16" shorter than the other three. I used a washer that is the same diameter as the glide on the bottom of the legs. I tried a couple of washers until I found one the correct thickness. I pulled the nylon glide off the short leg and put the washer between the glide and the leg.
Step 13: Cost of Materials
The most expensive part of the project was the glass tile sheets at about $15 each. The quart of tile adhesive/mastic was $7; I used only half of the container. The smallest box of non-sanded grout I could find in the color that complemented the tile was $14; I only needed 2-1/2 pounds from the 10 pound box. All the other materials I had left over from previous projects.
So for about $50 or 20% of the price if purchased new, I now have an end/occasional table I’m proud to have in my home.
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