Nolan Wood Mosaic Tutorial

So when it came to math as a kid, it would be an understatement to say that numbers were my Kryptonite.  Solving for X was not a favorite pastime of mine and I could not care less about his friend Z and Y.  I’m not going to go off on a tangent though…  (math joke!).  When it came to this mosaic though I had to embrace these sweet baby angles, but guess what?  They weren’t really all that bad and I’ll show you why.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

This tutorial is going to be a little different.  Rather than show you how I built this exact mosaic, instead I’ll show you how to build your own unique one.  Every snowflake is different (ask Elsa and her frozen fractals all around) and so is every wood mosaic.  But I’m not going to leave you high and dry, check out the video below first on the build and I’ll give you the details after the break (oh and the music is funky this time so crank it).

So how about those sweet baby angles?  The way us numerically challenged folk handle these varying degrees is to crank your saw around to the 45 degree mark and leave it there.   That’s it, that’s the secret.  Don’t make it difficult, just go with the 45’s and don’t make it more difficult.  You can very easily use a speed square to check your work too if things get crazy.   Another trick I used is I designed the entire thing in Sketch Up ahead of time, that way I could see the design and have everything worked out and estimated before I gave it a go.  Sketch Up is a free program, so don’t panic.  There is a learning curve but it’s great for all sorts of builds.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

This also meant I was able to give the client a few options without actually stepping foot in the shop.  Definitely a time saver.

Tools Used

  • Miter Saw
  • 18 Gauge Brad Gun
  • Drill Driver
  • Circular Saw
  • Speed Square
  • 40 TPI Finish Saw Blade
  • 1″ Brad Nails
  • Painter’s Tape
  • TiteBond II Wood Glue

Material Used

  • 2′ x 4′ Project Panel Plywood
  • 1″ x 2″ x 8″ select pine boards
  • 1″ x 4″ x 8″ select pine boards

Step 1 – Sweet Baby Angles

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

Maybe this is overkill to start this project, but I’d rather have things go smoothly than wing it and have my end project show up on the Epic Fails of Pinterest website.  Using the material from the actual project, I traced out my lines on to the sheet of plywood I’m attaching the planks to.  AND IT’S ALL AT 45 DEGREE ANGLES!  Heck, you don’t even need a plan, just start drawing lines and go crazy.  Just make sure your lines are the same width as your material.  Sort of important.

Step 2 – A Cut Above

I didn’t get video of this and only a so so picture.  Bad blogger!  But get cutting.  My mosaic is broken up into 4 sections, 2 that are mirror images.  So all I did was take my first piece of material, lay it down on the traced outline I drew on my plywood and marked where I needed to cut it.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

I gave about a half inch overhang on one side though.  That way I had a little extra to work with later if anything went south.  And not in a good way going South like traveling to New Orleans for Hurricanes and Beignets.  Like, I cut this too short and now my entire project is ruined south.  What’s nice is that you can cut all 4 pieces of each section in one sitting.  Wait what?  Doesn’t the mirrored section have opposite angles?  Yes, but flip your material over so the pretty side is down and make your cuts so you don’t have to constantly change your saw angle from left 45 to right 45.  Mind blown… I know.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about… look over there a bird!

Step 3 – Make It Pretty

Paint and stain your pieces.  This is where having a plan actually matters.  Especially if you want things to be all symmetrical or you know… to look good.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

Alright, this might seem like a no brainer but… you know… do we have to bring up the first time I used a Kreg jig and put wood glue into the hole instead of the joint?   Paint and stain your pieces before you attach them to the project.  My paint took two coats and my stains just one with a poly seal afterward.  Save yourself some time and do all your same color pieces at once.  Or heck, really save yourself some time and limit the number of colors or stains you use.  There’s a lazy tip for you.

Step 4 – If You Haven’t Already…

Assemble and support the backer board.  I swear this is 100% not because I’m lazy, but more so because I don’t have a truck so I hate hauling plywood.  I buy those 2’x4′ project panels a lot because they are so much easier to transport.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

In this case I made a support frame out of 1×2’s and gate brackets.  I originally thought I’d pocket hole the two sheets of plywood together and then have the external frame hold it together… but guess what?  I didn’t buy 3/4″ plywood.  Improv time!  This turned out to be extremely sturdy.  Since this monster piece is 4′ by 3′ wide… it needs a solid base.

Step 5 – It’s Hammer Time…Err… Pneumatic Nailer Time

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

Here comes the fun part!  Nail gun time!  Yes I work with Ryobi, but I freaking (yes, I said freaking like a 12 year old) love my AirStrike nail gun.  It’s like going from a corded phone where you’re tethered to the wall in that room, to a cell phone.  FREEDOM!  (sung like George Michael or yelled like William Wallace)

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

In addition to the 1″ brad nails I’m also using wood glue.  Don’t just rely on the nails to hold this thing together.  I do use my Rockler glue applicator to smear it all smooth, but you don’t have to.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

You will notice there’s a slight overhang on my pieces, remember that was intentional so I wouldn’t have to be exact with my cutting earlier nor would I have to remember exactly which piece went to which side of the panel.  I might be lazy… but it also means I try to make my life easier.

Step 6 – Trim The Fat

If you take anything away from this entire tutorial I hope it’s that you realize how much training goes into being a competitive endurance tickling champ… or how to avoid tear out when you’re using a saw.  Experienced DIY’ers probably cringed when they saw (ha!) I was going to use a saw on a piece that already has a finish on it.  Tear out is when the saw blade causes little splinters at the edge of your cut.  Which means it shows like crazy when that surface has been painted.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

You might notice the piece has added a fashionable blue belt to it’s outfit.   That’s actually painter’s tape to protect the surface.  Pair that with a saw blade with 40 TPI (teeth per inch) and you can kiss your tear out goodbye.  In the picture above I’m just lining up the blade, but I actually use that scrap piece as a guide for a straight cut (like below).

Wooden Wall Art MosaicUse the tape and guide method on all four sides and then…

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

Comes the MOST satisfying reveal.  Pulling tape off is almost as fun as peeling glue off your hands.  It’s worth mentioning though you need to make sure your paint is fully dry or you’re just going to peel it off too.

Step 7 – Living On The Edge

You have two options for finishing off the piece and both look good.  I personally like the piece without a frame.  With the pancaked plywood between the support 1×2’s and the planks on the top, the circular saw method makes for a smooth edge that you can leave as is.

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

I actually ended up adding a stained frame around this piece with 1×3’s with mitered corners to meet the client’s needs, but the pieces looks good either way.  The frame also adds stability, but it gives an already heavy piece a little more junk in the trunk.  Yes, I said those jeans made my wood mosaic look fat.

Step 8 – Enjoy!

Wooden Wall Art Mosaic

That’s it!  You’re finished!  Set it on a mantle, hang it on a wall, turn it into a table.  Enjoy it.  And then plan your next one because they are so fun to make!

~ Lazy Guy

Like Wooden Wall Art?  Check out plans for my Live Edge Wall Clock!

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4 years ago

hello! What steps would you recommend to fill the “gaps” between the boards to use as a table top? I don’t want the kids crumbs getting stuck.

4 years ago

Hi! I don’t have a brad nailer and I’m not quite ready to invest in one yet… Do you think wood glue alone would suffice for this project?

2 years ago

What stains did you use? 🙂

2 years ago

Thanks. I will be sharing this page with my class tomorrow. We will be doing one of your 3 wicked designs!

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