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Dimensional Dog Mosaic

Robin Kingma cuts a dog shape out of medium density fiber board and then tiles and grouts her humorous dog mosaic.

Materials and Tools:

1/2" thick medium density fiber (MDF) board
glue cartridge and caulking gun; glue product should be specifically rated for ceramic application
tiles: separate colors for face, inside of ears, lips and eyes
marbles (for teeth)
sanded grout and water
small plastic tub for grout mixing
paint stir stick for grout mixing
jigsaw and blade
safety glasses
tile nippers
tile file
cotton swabs
paper plate
paper towels
cloth towel
vinyl or latex gloves
muriatic acid
strap hangers
picture-hanging wire
wood screws
wire cutter


1. Determine the design and draw it onto MDF board. The MDF board will not warp.

2. Put on safety glasses. With the jigsaw, cut out the design elements. The base and eye pieces of this project are cut with the blade set at the 90-degree position.

3. The nose piece is cut using a 45-degree blade angle.

4. Create a small glue supply on a paper plate. Because of the large quantity of glue required, use a cartridge and caulking gun rather than a smaller tube of glue. Select a glue product that is specifically recommended for ceramic applications.

5. Apply glue to the nose and eye pieces with a cotton swab and adhere these pieces to the base.

6. Break the tile with the tile nippers and smooth uneven edges with a tile file. Strive for a variety of chip sizes and shapes. Tile pieces may be very sharp and should be handled with caution.

7. Glue bits of tile scrap to the tips of the ears and to the entire mouth outline. These scraps will serve as elevation for the final ear and mouth tiles. Experiment with placement to determine the desired relief.

8. Cut triangles of cardboard and glue them in elevated layers in the middle of the ears.

9. Cover the horizontal surfaces with tile pieces, using glue applied to the pieces with a cotton swab. Press the tile pieces down evenly to achieve a uniform and level surface. Leave 1/4" spaces between the tile pieces to allow for an attractive and uniform grout line on the finished piece.

10. With the tile nippers, cut round marbles into pointed teeth and adhere these pieces to mouth area with glue. Let glue dry, approximately 15 minutes.

11. Do not allow glue to squeeze up between the pieces in a height that exceeds the height of the tile pieces; such a glue tower will be visible after grouting. Put the edge pieces exactly on the edge of the base.

12. Cover the non-horizontal surfaces including the eyes and nose with tile pieces using glue. Place one edge flatly against the work surface. Cut the tile so that the other (top) edge runs exactly against the top edge of the surface base. You will later connect the sides to the surface with a line of grout.

13. Mix grout and water in a plastic tub with a stir stick according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The mixture should have the wetness and consistency of peanut butter or cookie dough. Use sanded grout when spaces between the tile pieces exceed 1/8".

14. Wearing gloves, apply grout to the dog mosaic piece. Apply grout directly with the fingers, pushing the grout fully into each open space. When smoothing the surfaces, be aware of sharp edges and their hazards.

15. Allow the grout to dry partially approximately 10-15 minutes and start cleaning and the buffing the dog mosaic piece with paper towels.

16. Allow the grout to dry more fully at least 24 hours.

17. Scrub the dimensional dog mosaic with a toothbrush dipped in muriatic acid, wiping the mosaic piece dry with a cloth towel.

18. Using the screwdriver, wood screws and wire cutter, apply strap hangers and picture wire. Purchase picture wire that is appropriate for the weight of this heavy piece.

Robin Kingma works in corporate finance for a major insurance company and lives in Columbus in a house with a big yard and her three dogs. A self-described "numbers and jock girl" (she used to be very active in rowing); she was surprised to discover she had the desire and talent for mosaics! It all started when she needed dog-safe planters for her yard. She decided sewer pipes would do the trick, but she wanted to add a little color, so she covered them with tiles. Before long, more intricate mosaics became her hobby of choice, and pretty soon the dogs made their way into the mosaics themselves.

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