Metal Tile and Wood Wall Art

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Project by Ron Stewart posted 01-25-2016 04:28 AM 651 views 3 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In this project, the woodwork plays a supporting role; it isn’t the star of the show. But the star wouldn’t succeed without that support, so, after some internal debate, I decided that it was still appropriate to post the project here. Plus, by volume, there’s more wood than metal in the final product. :-)

A few years ago, after my wife and I updated our kitchen, we searched for an art piece to fill the long wall separating the kitchen from the adjoining family room. We didn’t want yet another framed picture behind glass, and we didn’t want a metal wall hanging either, because we had a large one in the family room. We wanted something unique and colorful that was a blend of the modern and the traditional. We never found what we wanted in any of the stores we visited, so we kicked around the idea of designing and making something ourselves.

One part of our kitchen update was a new tile back splash. At the time, I had searched the web for interesting tiles, and I remembered seeing some really beautiful, interesting, hand-painted, brushed-aluminum tiles from Carina Works in Austin, Texas. Those tiles weren’t right for our back splash, but they seemed like a good candidate for our DIY art project, if we could devise a suitable way to display them.

My wife didn’t want the tiles covered by glass, so that ruled out traditional framing. Eventually we came up with the idea of mounting them on (what looked like) square wooden slabs (like plaques), and creating a grouping of these slab-plus-tile pieces. That would give each tile a background, visually tie the tiles together, and create some 3D layering. Our final idea was physically linking each vertical group of tiles. We considered using decorative metal wires to connect the slabs but eventually decided to use small-diameter aluminum rods.

The only factor that made us hesitate a bit before committing to the project was cost. I don’t remember exactly how much they cost, but those tiles were expensive. They were also uniquely beautiful and we liked the idea of having our own one-of-a-kind piece on the wall. So we decided to forge ahead with the project. (That I don’t remember the exact cost, and that we still enjoy the piece, tells me we made the right decision.)

The square 6” tiles are attached (with Liquid Nails adhesive) to simple 7 1/2” square mitered wooden frames that I built and stained a dark color to match the dining table and another piece of furniture in the room. The tiles in each vertical group of three are joined by a pair of 1/4” aluminum rods, spaced 1” apart.

When I worked on this project, I didn’t have the tools or experience I have now. I had a decent miter saw, but I didn’t have a drill press or clamps, and my table saw was an entry-level Delta with a stamped fence that wasn’t even completely straight. To drill the holes for the rods, I clamped the frame tops/bottoms in my trusty Workmate so they were flush with the top, then used a hand-held drill guide (there’s one being reviewed right now) to drill more-or-less perpendicular holes. To make the frames, I glued two pieces at a time, using my hands as clamps until the glue set. It’s definitely not a precision piece, and I could build it much better today. But it shows you can still build reasonably nice projects with modest tools.

-- Ron Stewart

4 comments so far

View lepelerin's profile


471 posts in 1746 days

#1 posted 01-25-2016 06:56 AM

cool idea, nice tiles too.

View majuvla's profile


8711 posts in 2288 days

#2 posted 01-25-2016 01:34 PM

Never mind, looks great.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Bud_3's profile


663 posts in 645 days

#3 posted 01-25-2016 05:32 PM

Interesting art,thanks!

View WilM's profile


1 post in 231 days

#4 posted 03-07-2016 07:47 PM

Looks great! My only suggestion would have been to mount the tiles in a way that they could be changed over time so that the look doesn’t become stale or dated.

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