Furniture project part 4: A different kind of frustration.

Thank goodness, I’ve stopped chiseling.


I finally was able to finish all the chiseling a few days ago. I’ve still not reattached all the door and drawer fronts, since the rest of the project is easier to do when the pieces are lying flat.

So I went back to ye local hardware supply and picked up a few more needful things. Total: $27. I grabbed a can of semi-gloss spray clearcoat and as promised, hit up the hardware for three coats, since it’s going to be touched. It basically looks the same as it did before, so no need to photograph it especially. I also got some stainable wood filler, some more sandpaper, and a container of lightweight spackle, for those areas that were chiseled too deeply.

However the next steps are going to be done in a “one side at a time” fashion, since it’s easier and will require I move the piece around less. So I’ll be working with each section of the project for a while now.

The thing about MDF is that in essence, it’s made from sawdust and waste wood chips. And while it’s got some great advantages (It’s not wasteful, it’s perfectly flat and smooth and it’s dimensionally stable) when you cut into it it’s well… sawdust and wood chips. And that isn’t really the greatest thing to glue things to, because in the end it’s not much different than gluing things to dirt. It’s not really going to adhere well and it will shift. So the first thing we have to do is kind of glue all the carved out bits together so they form one stable surface.


The fastest way to do this is with shellac. Shellac is alcohol soluble (so no grain raising issues), quick drying, and is essentially just sticky as all hell, since it’s a resin. I make my own, but you can buy it premixed in a 2 pound cut (2 pounds of shellac per gallon of alcohol) at the store. You don’t really need to use it at that strength, but that’s a pretty standard ratio that you find in a can in the hardware store (I have that, too.)



If you use shellac flakes, bear in mind that it takes several hours to dissolve the shellac flakes in the alcohol, and you want to be sure to store it in a tightly sealed glass container that you swish around every once in a while. If you use it from the can, you might want to cut it with some additional alcohol. You don’t really need a super strong formula to achieve what we’re after here, just enough to coat all the parts so they adhere to one another.

I just used a small brush to paint the shellac onto the carved parts and then let it dry. If you’re careful it honestly only needs one coat. Just be careful to only put the shellac into the carved areas. Beyond that, there’ no real method to this. No one is going to see it and it’s just there to provide stability to the MDF so you can glue tile onto it.



It takes maybe an hour to dry completely. You’ll know, since it stops being sticky. At that point I started on the tiling.

This part would, I admit, get pricy were it not for the fact that I have *so much tile* at my disposal already, as well as adhesive and good tile nippers. Everyone has their own style for doing mosaics. That’s just an aesthetic decision. I’ve decided to just do each circle in its own two-color scheme. There’s no real method as to which color combo goes where. They’re just essentially multi colored polkadots anyway.




I’m still working on that last circle on this side. It will take me a few more hours. Mosaic work takes time and patience. You can only put so much tile down before you have to wait for the glue to set up so you aren’t moving your work around as you continue to add tile. So you only do a few, wait a while, do a few more, etc. You also tend to get microscopic cuts on your fingertips from the glass.

Once this last circle is done, I’ll get to grouting these.



  1. This is so cool. I am a sculptor by nature but I must try this. Thank you for such a detailed explanation!

    Here are some of my commercial works for Toscano

    Cheers Liam

  2. […] Furniture project part 4: A different kind of frustration. […]

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