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Look for mosaic pieces almost everywhere: broken porcelain china, dime-store rejects, an old box in the attic, scraps from a tile manufacturer, flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales -- all have the potential to yield precious makings of a mosaic project. Look beyond porcelain to marbles, costume jewelry, pieces of colored glass, buttons, seashells, and coins as material for this project.Before you start:
If your mosaic-pieces-to-be remain in full plate form, put on protective eyewear and lay a cloth over the item. Tap the item firmly with a hammer to break it. The size of the shards you need depends on personal taste and the size of the project -- bigger surfaces require bigger pieces. In general, pieces should range from half-dollar to nickel size. For more control over the breaking process (for example, to preserve a particular design element), use tile nippers instead.
1. Gather the materials. Make sure the surface has been sanded, if necessary, and is clean and dust-free. File or sand sharp edges off the mosaic shards. If you have a special piece to act as a central element for your design, start with it. Apply ceramic mastic (available at crafts supply and hardware stores) or Bondo (available at automotive parts stores) to the back of the shard with a wooden crafts stick.
2. Position the pieces on the surface, and press firmly. Continue this process, placing each shard as close as possible to the next. It takes as long as eight hours for the mastic to completely harden, so you can rearrange pieces as you go. When all the pieces are in place, let the project dry completely.
3. Add grout. Place about a cup of unsanded grout in a plastic container. You may need more for big projects. For color, add pigment to the dry grout. Then, using a crafts stick, stir in acrylic adhesive or water until the mixture resembles thick mud -- add grout or liquid as needed. Let it set for about 10 minutes. Wear rubber gloves. Apply the grout with your hands, pushing it into the crevices between the shards with your fingers. Gaps will allow moisture to seep in. You may periodically need to rinse the gloves in water or vinegar.
4. Wipe off excess grout with a paring knife, damp sponge, or towel, being careful not to remove any from between the pieces. Regrout any problem areas before the grout dries (which takes 2 to 3 hours). To extend the drying time, mist the grout with a spray bottle filled with water. Allow the grout to set. Put on a dust mask, then finish by filing any sharp edges with a Dremel or metal file. Regrout problem areas if needed. Polish the piece with a dry cloth.