First off, thanks for taking the time to check out my 'ible. The following will try to take you through the steps we took to make this Mario Mosaic Table.
Step 1: Destruction
So we got this table for free from a friend in exchange for a dresser we didn't need. The table was heavy, sturdy, large, and it would serve it's purpose, but it was UGLY. I call it an old granny style tile top table. We were just covering it with table cloths to hide the ugly, but the table cloths kept getting pulled and were constantly slipping too far to one side or another, so we were always needing to fix it. We are a big board game family so we play games at this table often and it gets annoying dealing with wrinkles in the cloth as well.
So we decided to rip out the tile and replace it with something else. I started thinking about what we should do in it's place. We love anime, video games, and board games so I had to choose a character or theme for the table. Since it was tile, I was thinking along those lines, which made me think pixels, which of course led to Mario.
But first, we have to tear out the ugly to make room for the awesome. First we pulled off the trim, which got broken in the process so we will need to replace that later. We used a hammer and a scraper to pry up and remove the tile. Then used an orbital sander to sand it down and remove the excess glue. The sander couldn't quite remove all the glue so we bought a sheet of plywood cut to size and glued it on as a new top. Then added nails with a nail gun for solid hold.
Step 2: Plan It Out
First thing is to find an image to work with. I googled 8 bit Mario images and found the image attached. I liked it because the colors are vibrant and it has many Mario elements in it.
Then figure out what scale you will use. Measure the table and the image. I decided on a quarter inch for my squares. At that scale, the squares are pretty small and I didn't want to go any smaller. The image was too large to fit the entire thing at a quarter inch scale so I had to crop the image. I chose a section that had several of the Mario characters and was visually compelling and balanced.
Next I started drawing out the image on graph paper, which is perfect because the squares are quarter inch. This let's you see exactly how big the characters and all will be. I started with Mario. Count the pixels from top to bottom and left to right. Make sure there are at least that many squares on the graph paper. If there aren't enough, you need to tape multiple sheets together. Choose a place to start, I started at the bottom left, and begin drawing the character on the graph paper. It's all squares so you just have to draw over the existing lines, easy peasy. I colored in the black squares with my pencil as I went which helps you keep track of where you are, it can get confusing with no point of reference. When you finish, color in the squares the appropriate colors and count them as you go so you know how many of each color you will need. Then cut him out and set him aside.
I continued with the other elements: the yellow blocks, the brown block, the cacti, goombas, bullet bill, and the vine.
Next, I taped several sheets of graph paper together until I had a large sheet the size of my table. Then I counted pixels and drew on the land: the strip across the bottom and the 2 cliffs. Once I had those to use as reference, I placed and taped down the characters and things I already made. Last, I drew in the clouds. Remember to color and count all the squares.
I took the image to the craft store and used it to find sheets of foam in the right colors. I had to compromise on some colors since the array of choices isn't that extensive. The foam is sold in many sizes. Take the dimensions and multiply by 4 to know how many squares you can get from it. *Note, not all the squares will be usable. Some get cut off or squished by the cricut wheels that pull the paper in.* They also come adhesive backed or regular. I had to get both kinds to get all the colors.
I made a grid in Photoshop and used the cricut to cut the squares. It takes forever! Like 4 to 5 hours for a full sheet. I attached here several grid images. One is a normal sheet size, one for a large sheet, and one for 2 small sheets.
**Note: after having finished this project, I got a Glowforge laser printer and tried cutting the squares on it. It is SO much faster but it melts some of the foam away so you end up with slightly smaller squares.
Step 3: Start Laying Squares
Now the tedious part begins.
I started with the bottom right corner of the table, the ground/cliff. Gather the colors you will be working with.
I found that the cricut didn't quite cut all the way through the foam and that turned out beneficial. This allowed me to cut large sections of squares to place instead of having to lay each one individually. So I marked out sections of squares on the plan and then cut them out of the foam. *Note: don't do very large sections. The foam isn't perfectly exact in size and I found that sometimes the larger sections don't fit right. Sometimes you have to stretch the foam to make it fill the area correctly. I recommend sections in squares when you can do it: 2x2, 3x3, 4x4. Also, definitely don't do long single wide strips. They stretch as you peel off the adhesive backing and it throws it off*
Then just start sticking the foam to the table. I used DAP rapid fuse super glue for the foam with no adhesive backing. It's about 3-5 dollars at Walmart. As I finished sections, I cut them off of the plan to get them out of the way.
I finished all the land first.
Step 4: Keep It Going
Now that the land is in, using it as a reference point, you can start putting in the characters. I started off by filling in the sky blue from the edge of the right cliff over to the left until I got to the point where the goomba started.
*Note: the only blue foam the craft store had that was close enough to the color I need for the sky was a glitter sheet. The back of it did not have any glitter. I didn't want to ruin my cricut mat with the glitter so I cut the sheets glitter side up, which meant that I had to lay all the sky squares one at a time since the cut lines weren't visible from the non glitter side. As you can imagine, that sucked! I recommend using an old cricut mat that already has lost it's stickiness and duck taping the foam on glitter side down. It's a pain, and if you don't tape it well enough, the foam will move while cutting, but at least then you can lay squares in chunks.*
To lay the sky squares: lay out several squares glitter side down, squirt a thin line of glue about 10 squares long, use a mechanical pencil with no lead to gently push down on a square and drag it into place in the glue. Work quickly since the glue dries fast.
*Note: placing the sky first helped me place the goomba, but later I didn't like the way that section to the right of the goomba looked in comparison to the section to the left of the second goomba. The space on the right somehow ended up being larger than the squares could fill keeping to neat rows and columns while the space on the left was too small. I had to space out the squares on the right and squish tightly the ones on the left. You can see in the picture the difference I am talking about. The tightly packed section looks SO much better. So later on in the project, I ended up ripping off that section on the right and redoing it with tighter packed squares. You just have to let go of trying to keep them all in neat rows and columns and just fill it in.*
With that in mind, it would be much quicker and less fuss to just start with the bottom of the goomba, counting pixels to get to the correct position and start building him upwards. Try to keep those pixels in neat rows and columns since those are noticable if they aren't.
I worked until I had all of it filled up to the top of the land: the question block, 3 cacti, and 2 goombas.
Step 5: Mario and More
Now we are to Mario and the line of blocks. He sits in open space so the placement is a bit tricky. Also, if we followed the image, the block on the left would be cropped since it would go off the edge of the table. I wanted to see the whole thing to have a nicer looking image so we just moved the whole section over a bit to make sure it would fit.
To place it, we used a ruler to measure the distance we wanted from the edge of the table and from the top of the table and drew in straight lines to box it out. This helped start the blocks and helped keep them straight while laying squares.
I layed all the blocks and then Mario and the vines last.
The first picture is each of the elements all cut up in sections and stored in little containers from the dollar tree. It makes it faster and easier to have everything ready to go.
Step 6: Bullet Bill
Same thing again. Measure from the edge of the table, from the top of the table, and from the top of the land. Draw straight lines to box it out and start laying squares. Bullet bill is huge!
After getting the bullet in, I filled in the sky and the little cloud to finish off that section.
Step 7: Sky, Sky, and More Sky
Invite friends over! This part takes forever! Laying thousands of tiny blue squares is soooo tedious. There are something like 18,000 blue squares on this thing! Remember to pack them tightly to get the nicer look.
The feeling you get when you finally finish placing that last square is mixed. Like placing the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Accomplishment and hollowness.
Step 8: Extra!
By this point in the project, our new Glowforge arrived and I thought, why put on plain boring trim when we can engrave it! So I made these boarders in Photoshop. It has the items you can get from the blocks in Mario.
The glowforge has a working area of 19x 11 so we had to cut the trim into sections to fit.
Engraved them all, put them on the table with the sealant pictured here and nailed them into place.
Step 9: Resin
So, this was the worst part for us. We are not resin masters!
We bought incredible solutions bar top epoxy resin gallon kit from Amazon.
I didn't know if I should seal the foam first or not so I did a little test. The first patch was sealed with a heat gun, the second patch is sealed with white glue, the third was left alone. I mixed up a tiny bit of resin and poured it over it and popped bubbles with heat gun. They all look pretty much the same except the heat sealed ones have a different look to the foam before the resin because of shrinking.
I was worried about air bubbles arising from the layer of wood under the foam so I went ahead and sealed the foam with home made modge podge(watered down glue). I did 2 coats. I don't know if I didn't do enough coats or the glue wasn't thick enough, or what, but it didn't help. There were air bubbles galore.
Before you start, make sure to lay down plastic sheeting or something to protect your floors from the resin overflow.
We followed instructions and mixed it all up. We poured it on the table and spread it with gloved hands like it says to do. And we hit our first mistake. We had not checked to make sure the table was level before starting. It wasn't. So the resin over flowed the right side and didn't completely cover the left. We hadn't ordered more resin so we had to let that completely cure and ordered more. But before it cures you have to pop all the air bubbles like I said before, that's why we tried to seal it first to help lessen the bubbles. I went around with a heat gun 3 separate times popping bubbles but they just kept coming! We should have poured a super thin layer of resin first to seal the wood under the foam and then poured the full layer. But we didn't because we didn't have that much resin. Mistake number 2.
Then lightly sand the whole thing, mix up more resin and pour it. We thought: we used a gallon the first time and seemed like it would have been enough if the table had been level. We only need to fill in half the table and have a thin layer over the rest so a half gallon should suffice. And here we made our 3rd mistake. It was not enough resin. It was spread so thin on the right side that it had ripples and distortions from us trying to spread it.
Again with the sanding and mixing another batch. Again we thought: we just did a half gallon and it filled in that whole section we needed. Now we only need a thin layer over the whole thing so a half gallon should be more than enough and it should over flow all sides like it is supposed to do to self level. And here was the fourth mistake! It was not enough resin! It covered everything but did not overflow. So it didn't self level very well. There are tiny dimples in places. But that isn't too bad, the bad part is that we had people over earlier in evening and they left the door open alot, which let in bugs, which committed suicide in the resin. We circled the table for 10 mins after pouring, picking out bugs with tweezers. We had to leave it alone since it was setting and more stupid bugs with death wishes found their way into it. Now we have to decide if it is worth it to dig them out and put more resin, which obviously we suck at.
So for now we are leaving it until we decide it's worth it.
But it is done and it looks great. If you don't already know where the stupid bug is, you won't see it.
Thanks for checking out my Mario table instructable and I appreciate any votes you want to throw my way in the contests.
Runner Up in the
Trash to Treasure