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Making a mosaic trivet: direct method. Part I. Preparing the board.

preparing the board
The completed mosaic trivet. Photo and mosaic: Helen Miles Mosaics

Making a mosaic trivet: getting started.

Now you know what to expect when making a mosaic trivet, I will show you how to go about  it step by step. This part is all about preparing the board which is an irksome but essential stage. This is a beginner’s project – anyone can do it. It’s suitable for children, adults, OAPs and extra terrestrials. It really is so easy there is no real reason not to get started NOW!

This is what you’ll need:

Mosaic trivet: materials.

  • A marine plywood board
  • Sandpaper (medium grade)
  • Stanley knife
  • Water soluble white craft glue
  • Paint brush
  • Clean jam jar
  • Wood primer and paint in a colour of your choice.
  • White spirit

Direct method: making a mosaic trivet. Preparing the board.

1. Get a piece of marine plywood in the size you require. MDF would do for this project but I’m a great believer in marine plywood as its strong and water resistant so that it can be used for exterior mosaics. I know you are unlikely to be using your trivet in the great outdoors but I always feel that its a good idea to use the best quality materials with mosaics even when not strictly necessary, simply because you are making something that you hope will last and become a bit of a family heirloom. Don’t get wood that’s too thin – it will warp. Mine are 12mm thick. It’s not too expensive either; I bought six pieces of wood 25cm x 25cm, a larger piece of 45cm x 40cm and a few offcuts thrown in for free from my local wood merchant and it cost E13 over here in sunny Greece. Seemed like a bargain to me.

MDF board, freshly cut and ready for prep.

2. Prepare the board. This is important as it protects the wood from the moisture in the grout and helps the tesserae stick to the board. First, use sandpaper to rub the side of the board you will be mosaicking. Not too rough, just a gentle scrub to buff it up and get those ragged edges off. Then, get some water-soluble white craft glue and make a 50:50 mixture with water in a jam jar. Stir it well otherwise you’ll get lumps. Using a normal paint brush (the kind you use for painting the house, 3cm wide or so) treat the same side of the board with a coat of the mixture and leave to dry.

[quote style=”1″]Tip: Put a mark (an ‘F’ for ‘Front’, for example) on the side of the board you’ll be mosaicking. It’s just an extra reminder in case you have to move the board and cant tell which side you’ve sealed.[/quote]

3. When it’s dry, take a Stanley knife and score the board all over in crisscross fashion to help the tesserae stick to the wood.

Scoring of MDF boards with stanley knife.

3. Paint the back of the board with one coat of wood primer and then give it at least one other coat of paint. I hate this part. I just want to get on and make the mosaic and the last thing I want to do is fiddle around with paint but I have discovered to my cost that doing it now saves so much hassle in the long run that I force myself to buckle down. The painted side of the board might get the odd bit of grout on it in the final stages but it easily wipes off whereas woe betide you if you get paint on the tesserae…Now go wash your brush in white spirit ready for next time.

[quote style=”1″]Another tip: paint the edges first, otherwise you’ll get covered in paint when you pick the board up to turn them around.[/quote]

Here are my boards all painted up. In case you are wondering, I stand them on something so that when the paint dries they don’t stick to the table underneath. And in case you are wondering again, I hate the preparation stage so much that I tend to do it in batches so once it’s done, it’s done:



Part II of Making a Mosaic Trivet: Direct Method coming up soon!



  1. Dear Helen,
    Thank you very much for your interesting Collection of Tutorials.
    I enjoy studying your Mosaics as well.
    Nice work.
    Are you planning on giving workshops in Edinburgh as well?
    Have a nice day.



    1. Hi there, sorry about the late reply – I have had my head down working on a big project. The only workshop in Edinburgh I have planned at the moment is one I am giving at the British Association of Modern Mosaic Forum which will be held the weekend of September 30 and October 1, 2017.

  2. Gloria

    Thank you for your information, the explanation you give in you tutorial is very clear and simple to understand.

  3. Jane Lean

    Hello Helen, thank you for your generous explanation on how to prepare marine plywood. I wonder which paint do you use for the back and whether it is varnished to finish off?
    Many thanks

    1. Hello Jane, I would use any paint designed for wood and use an undercoat too if recommended. The result should be tough enough not to need a varnish too. Think of your front door and replicate that! Have fun, Helen.

  4. christopher spence

    Thanks for your tutorial-very good and I have done my first mosaic ! I am embarking on a 60 by 80 cm work but bought a wooden support of 1cm thickness. Do I risk warping? Thanks alot for your help.

    1. Hi Christopher. 1cm thick is probably about as thin as you could go but I would recommend 12mm if possible. Also, I assume you are using marine ply and that it will be for indoors?

  5. Pingback: Making a mosaic trivet: Part IV. Grouting mosaics

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