Ductiles is born out of my fascination with a video game where players connect water pipes under time constraints, as well as Bauhaus typography. The 15 x 10 grid frame holds 150 pieces of hand-painted wooden tiles, each resembling one of eight archetypes. Viewers are invited to create graphics or messages using the tiles and their imagination.
Required Materials & Tools (for a 10 x 5 board with 100 tiles)
- 2 pieces of 1/2” thick birch plywood (48” x 24”)
- 1 piece of 1/4” thick MDF (48” x 24”)
- Table saw
- 100-grit sand paper with a sanding block or a power sander
- Black exterior acrylic paint (half a quart) & paint brush (one small, one medium)
- Metal straight edge of various lengths, pencil, eraser
- Wood glue
- Masking tape
- Screwdriver + wood screws (for hanging up on a wall)
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Step 1: Cut Up a Plywood Board Into Tiles
Using the table saw, cut 1/2” thick birch plywood board (available at big home improvement stores such as home depot) into 4”x4” tiles. A 4’x2’ board makes roughly 55 tiles. You can make however many tiles you want. For the 15 x 10 grid frame, I made roughly 200 tiles with eight different graphic patterns on them.
Step 2: Sand Off the Edges
Using a power hand sander or a sanding block, sand off the edges slightly so that they are not sharp, but not too much!
Step 3: Mask & Hand Paint
In my design, I created eight graphic patterns based on the idea that each tile is a 3x3 grid. For the ones with straight lines, use masking tape, an Exacto knife, and a metal ruler to prep the tiles before painting with acrylic black paint (I used flat exterior house paint). Spray painting is not recommended as it can get messy.
For the ones with curved lines, lightly draw the curves with a compass, with the compass sharp point at one corner of the tile. Then carefully hand-paint the curves. Don’t worry if it takes a while, you’ll get a hang of it very quickly and it’s very therapeutic.
Step 4: Cut Up Pieces for the Grid Frame
In this Instructable, we’ll make a 10 x 5 grid frame. But really, you can make whatever size frame you want, from 5x5 all the way up to 500x500 (or bigger!).
Cut up the following pieces of 1/4” thick MDF:
(A) The base: W 42 1/4” x H 21” (1 piece)
(B) The horizontal rails: W 42 1/4” x H 3/8” (4 pieces)
(C) The mini vertical rails: W 4” x H 3/8” (45 pieces)
(D) The outside frame - horizontal: W 42 1/4” x H 5/8” (2 pieces)
(E) The outside frame - vertical: W 21 1/2” x H 5/8” (2 pieces)
Step 5: Assemble the Grid Frame
5.1 With (A) as the base, using wood glue, put on the first horizontal rail (B) 4” off the edge. The tiles blocks come in very handy with these 4” measurements. Wipe off any excess glue as necessary.
5.2 Glue down the nine pieces of mini vertical rails (C) one by one. Using the tiles blocks as your guide. Again, wipe of any excess glue, as this will ensure better fit later on. Try putting the tiles in and out of the grid as you build them to make sure that they fit.
5.3 Repeat step 5.2, but on the other side of the first horizontal rail.
5.4 Repeat step 5.1 and 5.2 with the next row until you complete the whole board.
5.5 Attach the outside frame (D) and (E) as appropriate
Step 6: Paint the Frame, and Hang It Up
Now that we have a 10 x 5 grid frame, let’s paint it black. You can either do this with a brush and some exterior wall paint, or you can try using spray paint. The key, however, is to make sure there’s no excess paint, as this will make the tiles not fit well.
There are various ways to hang the grid frame up, but for ultimate stability, drill the screws in to secure the piece to the wall. You don’t want the grid frame to wiggle or wobble once you start putting the tiles on.
Step 7: Play!
Finally they all come together. Try creating graphics or messages. Try collaborating with someone else.
A little note on quality control: some tiles might be too big. For the ones that don’t fit. Sand them off using a power sander or a sanding block. If blocks fall off by themselves, the grid might be slightly too big. Try painting another coat of paint to tighten up the grid a little further.