I love crafting. I love art. I love to make things that I can look at later and feel proud of. And most of the time, if I get inspired to try something new, I jump on google and teach myself through trial and error, Youtube videos and blogs with step by step directions. I have taught myself to make hairbows, to sew, to paint, to make jewelry….My favorite way of learning new things are blogs with pictures and description of process. So to pay it forward, here is my process of making a tile mosaic bar top.
I found this little gem on a Facebook yard sale page.
Front of bar
Back side of bar
Yup…just what I never knew was missing from my life. A mobile, collapsible bar.
It was perfect in every way…except a pretty large gash on the top.
The lady I bought it from suggested getting some glass for the top. That would work, but I figured I could make the bar even better and tile it. I googled mosaic tile tables for inspiration. I settled on using blues and greens and using black grout.
Having never bought mosaic tiles before, I headed to Amazon, but was quickly overwhelmed by the choices, the wide price ranges and I had zero concept of how many tiles and how big they were from looking on-line, so I headed to Michael’s so I could actually touch them.
The truth about finding the tiles that worked for me is that it took me a while, several different stores and several different locations of each chain. I ended up getting some from (3 different) Michael’s and some from Hobby Lobby. Some from the small tile section and some from the floral section- as I used the colored marbles that are flat on one side. (Half way through my project I realized I didn’t have enough tile, so had to head back out to all of the above said stores and purchase more.)
Haul from Michael’s
The square, blue tiles on the bottom right of the above left picture were attached to each other. I cut them apart with some scissors. It is just mesh holding them together. You can leave the mesh on the backside of the tile as it helps the tile stick to the surface and you won’t see it after you grout. The pictures above don’t have some of the really small tiles I got at Hobby Lobby. Those were good for filler pieces.
After I bought the tiles and separated them neatly into containers, I promptly got overwhelmed and abandoned the project for a few days. In order to overcome my craft anxiety (what if it turns out horrible? what if I wasted all of this money? what if my vision in my head does not translate well? arg!) I decided that I would work on another part of the bar that felt a little more controlled and easy to accomplish. I painted the squares on the wood with black chalkboard paint.
This part was actually easy enough that Newt could help me. I taped off around the squares with painters tape and let her go for it. I didn’t prime the wood even though there is a varnish on it, as chalkboard paint has a pretty good grip. I just went behind Newt to smooth out the paint before it dried. Voila!
Now I was ready to dive into the mosaic. I knew that I wanted a mixture of some kind of focal point or points and then randomness around it. The other thing that I knew is that since all of my tile is a hodge podge, the tiles are at varying heights. But the beautiful square ones were A LOT taller than the other tiles. First order of business for me was deciding if I would be able to use them at all. Then to play around with what pattern I wanted for my focal point. So I just started arranging tiles.
To my relief, I found that the really tall tiles worked well as the border, butting right up to the lip of the bar that is on 3 sides. Next problem- I didn’t have enough to go around the entire border. Adding a black, glass flat marble in between each square tile did the trick.
I went ahead and glued the border down so it would be done. As for adhesive, I used Weldbond Universal Adhesive, for no other reason than it was the cheapest one by the tiles in Michael’s and said it worked on glass, tile and wood. It worked well for me.
Then on to sketch out the focal points of my design. Initially I tried sketching it out with pencil, but got frustrated and used dry erase marker. That was 1,000 times easier to draw and then change a design before adding the tile. I landed on doing 4 swirls, which I glued down once I was happy with the design. HOWEVER….
If you use a black dry erase marker and then glue clear, colored glass on top of it with glue that dries clear, you WILL see the black lines through the tile….FOREVER! Whoops.
I like the swirly shapes, but I found they didn’t have enough “weight” to them to anchor the design once I started playing around with filling in the rest of the bar top.
See how the swirl gets lost here in the one on the left? The one on the right has a more prominent design. I didn’t exactly end up going with that one either though, since I knew I would run out of black marbles, so I added blue marbles and a line of black to the swirl. In the picture below, the adhesive is still drying under the blue marbles, which is why it looks kinda milky.
Now to the really fun part. Once I glued down the swirls, I just went with it. The only thing I really worried about here is making sure there was not too much of one color clumped together. That, and since the bar folds down I had to be aware of the gap and not tile over them. I used small tiles to fill in gaps and if there were gaps that were smaller than that, I broke some tiles and used those slivers in the gaps. I didn’t get tile nippers or anything like that. I used my trust hammer and gave the tiles (wrapped in a paper towel) and few gentle whacks. Don’t go crazy with the whacking though, or you will end up with only dust. I just did a nice firm thwack towards the center of the tile piece. The other thing that I did was use my least favorite color of the tile so I would be less sad about breaking the beautiful tile and then would have less of my least favorite color in one place.
For the swirls, I waited to glue things down until I had all of them where I wanted them. For this part, after I played with a small section to make sure it looked ok, I just glued as I went. This took quite a while (over several days here and there), but was actually really relaxing. You can totally drink some margaritas while catching up on episodes of Supernatural while doing this. Just don’t drink too many, or you will wake up the next morning and realize some of your tiles are slightly overlapping… FOREVER. Good news is, with as crazy as the design is, it doesn’t really show. Er, or it wouldn’t really show, should you accidentally drink too much and craft. Apparently, it happens.
You will notice some white and some mauveish tiles in the mix. They were actually just sold with some of the other tiles I wanted and initially I had no intention of using them at all, but they worked nicely to lighten up the blues and blacks and add some interest.
And now, the fun is over….I learned in this process that I do not like grouting. It’s messy and doesn’t engage the creative side.
I chose to use black, sanded mosaic grout to make the colored tile really stand out. Again, I chose the cheapest option and again, I ran out half way through and had to get more to finish. Do you sense the theme of how I create? I wing it. I also take it in stride and have no problem walking away and coming back to something later that isn’t working. Any problem is just a problem to solve.
The grout comes in a powder and you mix water into it. I had to play a little with it to get the consistency that would work best. A little bit of water goes a long way. Can’t have it too soupy or it would run all over and take forever to dry, but too firm and you can’t spread it as easily and it won’t get in all of the crevices. I used my fingers to spread the grout around and work it into the tiles. I wore disposable gloves, which only kind of helped. I still had black under my nails for days. Use disposable bowls to mix it so you can just toss when you are done.
In the bottom right picture from above, you can see the plastic that I put in the cracks where the top folds down. I just used an old cutting mat (I actually use the mat to set my hot glue gun on normally. You can peel the dried glue spots off nicely when they cool.) Making sure the grout didn’t fill in the gaps of the bar top was the most annoying part of this process, but still wanted it to be functional and fold down when all was said and done.
Follow the directions on the grout container, and after it dries a little, wipe the excess grout off with a wet sponge. You will need a bucket with water and will have to keep rinsing off the sponge during this part. Very messy. I actually got very frustrated after this, as initially the grout seemed to make the whole mosaic look dusty and dirty. Several days later and after it was completely dry I went over it again with a clean, wet sponge and made it look MUCH nicer. Some elbow grease is needed for wiping the grout.
If you use tiles of differing heights, obviously your surface will not be smooth. That is one of the reasons I did the swirls with the same type of tiles (just different colors), as it gives me 4 large places on the bar top that are even and easy to set things on. I can set things on the rest of the bar as well; however with drinks, it is best to set them on a coaster first so spread out the surface area.
And that is that! Now I need to have a party.
**I have NEVER tiled anything before. I am certain there are different, better and easier ways of doing this, but it worked for me and might work for you too…but I accept zero responsibility if you try it and it doesn’t work. What are you doing trying to teach yourself something like this from a blog anyway!?!?
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