Introduction: Wooden Bear Skin Rug - Moves Like Real Cloth!

About: artist/maker

This is a really easy and really fun project that can be done with beginner's tools or with a professional-grade woodworking shop. Either way you end up with a great, unique piece of decor!

The main concept behind this design is that of a "tambour" door, or a roll top desk door. You glue the wood to canvas and the parts in between the pieces of wood can flex. On a tambour door you'd use straight pieces of wood that only allow it to flex along one axis, with this project you'll use triangular wooden tiles to make a piece that flexes in multiple directions, mimicking real cloth!

For this guide, I will be explaining my process and the steps I took to reach the final goal. The build video included here goes into more detail about each step and the process in general and I encourage you to watch it.


To build this, you will need:

Wood - you can use high-quality 1/4" plywood or any wood that you can get to a 1/4" thickness. I used Maple/oak for the light wood and Walnut for the eyes/nose. You can paint or stain these if you'd like instead of finding dark wood.

Saws - Any saw that can reliably and safely cut 1.25" strips out of your wood, I used a table saw. Also any saw that can reliably and safely measure/cut repeatable angles in those strips. I used a chop saw, but a good hand saw and a protractor/miter box can also be used.

Sander - Something to smooth out the final product and also to sand down the edges of each wooden tile you create. I used an oscillating belt sander and a random orbital sander, but this can be done by hand or with any reliable sander.

Cloth - I used a canvas drop cloth I had laying around. Canvas is really the best idea for this project and is cheap. Make sure it's large enough for you to create the right sized rug.

Glue - Regular wood glue

Measuring Device - whether it's attached to your saw or you do it by hand, you'll need something that can accurately measure your dimensions Marking - I used spray paint to mark the outline of my rug on the canvas, you can use whatever works for you.

Clamping - you'll want to work on a surface that doesn't stick to wood glue, I laid out some trash bags on my wooden bench top. To clamp, I just used heavy objects to weigh down each section as I glued them. You just have to ensure even weight distribution.

Cutting - Anything that can reliably and safely cut canvas. I used a utility knife.

Finish - I chose a satin acrylic clear coat, you can choose whatever your favorite, durable wood finish might be.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

If you don't have a way to get your wood down to the final dimensions, I suggest buying material that is already at a 1/4" thickness. The thickness is the hardest dimension to achieve, as you can just use regular saws to get the length and angles.

I cut the wood into strips that were 1.25" wide, 1/4" thick, and as long as I could make them.

I used some reclaimed maple/oak shelving that was being thrown out by a library and some walnut scraps for the eyes/nose of the bear.

Step 2: Trace and Cut Out Your Shape

I just free handed what I had seen online as a "bear skin rug" shape. I originally wanted a very large rug, but thought the better of it and made my dimensions a little smaller. Just know that whatever the size, you will be cutting out that many tiles. I wouldnt do anything smaller than about a 2'x3' rug because it wont have the overall effect won't be as impressive.

Cut out your shape from the canvas.

Step 3: Cut the Tiles

Each tile has to be about as exact as you can make it for this to work well. That being said, some of mine were less accurate than others and it still worked out well.

I chose an angle of 31.6 degrees just because there is a setting for it on my saw. Anything from 30-45 degrees will work just fine, so long as all the tiles are the same. You'll need to cut a LOT of these, my 2.5'x4' rug used over 850 tiles.

Step 4: Sand the Tile Edges

In order to make this rug comfortable to walk on and handle, and also to allow greater flexibility, sand down the top edges of each tile.

You'll be creating what is called a "chamfer" on all three top edges, essentially making a 45-or-so degree flat edge where the sharp edge used to be.

It will take a while, and may break your spirits... but, ho! Weary craftsperson, the fun part is nigh....

Step 5: The Glue Up

So this is the big step of the whole build. Lay out your canvas on a surface that doesn't stick to wood glue. If you have any seams in your cloth, you'll want the thick parts on the opposite surface than you are gluing to.

The process for gluing each tile is simple. Spread a reasonable amount of glue on the back of each tile, like you were putting a thin layer of paint on each one. Make sure to get the glue distributed to all the corners.

Press the tile into the cloth and repeat the pattern as shown above. One tile pointing up, the adjacent tile pointing down. Straight rows across, remembering to add the eyes and nose wherever they look best on your piece.

Once you've been placing tiles for about an 45 minutes, you can put heavy objects on top while you wait for the glue to set up enough (at least 5-6 hours depending on your climate). The reason you only work for 45 minutes at a time is that you need to get clamping pressure on the first tiles you laid before the glue has a chance to really start hardening.

This step took me a few days. Your tile pattern will not exactly match the outline of your canvas and that's ok. We will fix it in the next step.

Step 6: Patching and Finishing Touches

There were a few spaces where my outline didn't leave enough room for a tile and it didn't look great, or where my edge tiles were only clinging to a little bit of canvas.

To patch these spots, I just took another scrap of my canvas, cut it to fill the spot I wanted to fill, and glue it, overlapping, to the bottom of the canvas and the new tiles, as shown above.

I used a small, heavy object to clamp these pieces down, and was later able to flip over the rug and use my utility knife to trim away the overhanging pieces of canvas.

If you want, you can add a little glue to the edges of the canvas and let it dry, which will help reduce any future fraying.

Step 7: Sanding

It's not the easiest thing to sand, but it is fun! I started with 120 grit sandpaper and ended with 220, because my tiles were already pretty smooth. Just get the surface to a point where it is comfortable to the touch, realizing that it will likely touch someone's bare feet.

Step 8: Finishing

I used a simple, acrylic clear coat in sating finish on my rug.

You'll want to do a few coats on the surface, but leave an overhang that you can adjust with each spray so you can also coat the inside edges of the tiles. Basically make sure each tile is fully finished.

Step 9: Use and Enjoy!

This is a great little piece for the home, it's weird, quirky, and people love talking about it when they see it.

If you find any errors in this guide (hopefully not) or have any questions then please drop a comment or message, and if you build this project, I'd love to see it!