I've been interested in mosaics for some time, and as I had some tiles remaining from previous projects, I decided to make a 19 inch table top out of some remnants. These black and white tiles are "field" tiles, or just ordinary tiles used every day. One good aspect of using these tiles, especially while learning a new art is the cost: 16 cents for white tiles and 39 cents for the black.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed
I used scrounged materials I had lying around, a particle board 19 inch round piece from a garage sale table, the field tiles, of course, and some left over adhesive, some grout, etc. Tools needed were on hand as well, but the main pieces are the tile nippers, the glass cutter, and miscellaneous tools such as a hammer (to break tiles), pliers to hold tiles while breaking after scoring, a scoring jig, to scribe lines on tiles prior to breaking, and the usual grout mixing tools; spreaders, sponges, pails, etc. I used an opaque projector to copy my art work onto the table top. I also use a dremel tool with diamond bit to shape various pieces as needed. Note eye that is one piece, rounded with dremel.
Step 2: Initial Design and Layout
I love zebras, so am attracted to art work containing them, naturally. I had found these zebras in one art book and decided to use one of them as my subject. From a scanned picture, I drew the design on regular paper to test the concept and layout. Then I drew the zebra onto the primed table top itself, This was accomplished with an opaque projector. Pictures show the steps involved.
Step 3: Breaking and Cutting Tiles
Breaking the tiles for the mosaic is simply a process of smashing the tiles between a cloth towel and a piece of cardboard. Safety precautions must be taken, specifically, wear eye protection at all times! A wraparound visor is highly recommended. Break the tiles as gently as possible, and check progress while breaking so that pieces can be made as uniform in shapes as possible. Tiles can be scored with a glass cutter as shown, and snapped on the line scored. This is necessary to make uniform pieces for the table edge.
Step 4: Glue Tiles to Base
I placed every piece onto the table top as this is my biggest project to date, and I wanted to have a visual check on my design. The whole project is very labor intensive, and requires lots of time, as does all mosaic art. I believe now, I can just proceed by gluing tiles in place from the start. I used a tile mastic, available at any home improvement store. After gluing, the tiles are allowed to sit for at least 24 hours before grouting.
Step 5: Grout Tiles
Grouting is carried out in a standard fashion, i.e., just as you would grout a counter top or wall tile installation. Directions come on all packages of tile grout when you purchase it. It might be best to experiment on a smaller project, of course, but it's straight forward and very easy to do. I used non-sanded grout, but sanded could be used as well. Main concerns: Coloring grout; I used regular craft acrylic paint as my colorant (I wanted a gray grout). See pictures to determine the amount to use...it's quite arbitrary, and of course the more paint, the deeper the color; Not over mixing...i.e., don't add too much water, and don't stir for too long....again, experience determines the correct amount; and finally, when to wipe off excess grout. I try to let the grout sit for 10 minutes or so after having grouted the entire piece. Some setting occurs immediately, and if you wait a few minutes, the chance of removing grout is reduced.
Step 6: Clean Off Grout and Seal Tabletop
After an overnight set, the tabletop is cleaned with first, a damp sponge, and then polished with a dry cloth, such as a micro-fiber cloth. When cleaned up to your satisfaction, the table is then sealed with a grout sealer. I believe this isn't entirely necessary, but can't hurt and will protect the joints somewhat from soil and discoloration. I think any polyurethane varnish can accomplish the same thing, especially for art pieces.
Step 7: Gallery of Photos
Here are photos of the "evolution" of the table top from design to completion.