Since we are traveling for Thanksgiving this year, I was going to feel a little weird showing up with no food to contribute for our Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t cart homemade rolls from Chicago to Dallas. Well, I could… but they would get eaten up in the car. I had already wanted to do something cool with mosaic for a fall craft, so I decided to make a platter I can bring to my aunt instead of food.
Normally my crafts are much less involved, but I used to do a LOT of mosaic when I crafted for a living, and I really miss it. This does take several days to complete because of the drying time involved with adhesive, grout and polyurethane. But the whole family helped with this project, so it will be an extra special present that was totally worth the time we spent on it!
What You Need to Make This Thanksgiving Mosaic Platter Project
Everything I needed for this platter I got at my local craft store:
Small unfinished wooden tray
Craft paint (I used brown and red)
Glass mosaic tiles – 3/8 inch in 7 colors. I bought mine in two fall color assortment packages – Red, yellow, orange in one, & off white, tan, brown and reddish brown in another.
In addition to what is pictured above, you will also need:
Sanded tile grout - off white.
Water based polyurethane (my preference because it doesn’t smell at all and is super-easy to clean up).
E6000 glass glue - perfect for adhering glass to wood.
Beads for the beak and eye, or you can use pliers made for glass cutting to shape these pieces.
How to Make this Keepsake Thanksgiving Platter
“Stain” Your Wood and Do A Trial Run
First of all, water down some brown paint and use it as a ‘stain’ for the outside edges of the wood platter. When I painted art furniture for a living, I found this method to be WAY easier than messing around with oil based stains, and gave nearly identical results.
After the paint has dried (which will take less than an hour), sand the wood to remove all rough edges. You can do this before you paint, but I wanted a weathered look, so I sanded after I painted.
Then start arranging your tiles on the platter to get an idea of where you will want to place them with the glue. I highly recommend this trial run, because trying to ‘draw’ with glass squares is a little challenging, especially around curves. I also discovered that I had started my design too far from the bottom edge, so when I glued the tiles, I knew to start much further down.
Glue the Mosaic Tiles in Place
E6000 is both a tricky and forgiving glue to work with. Tricky because it is not so easy to spread and dries kind of fast. Forgiving because even though it dries fast, it doesn’t dry all the way for a longer period of time, which means you can make minor adjustments in tile positions if you need to.
The way I found worked best was to spread the glue in the shape of an area I wanted to cover – such as the turkey neck, then body, then half of the feather area, etc. Then press your tiles (grooved side down!) into the glue. Once the tile has been on the glue for a few minutes, try not to pull it up again. But you can move it slightly from side to side if you find you need to make adjustments for fitting pieces into your design.
Since I didn’t want to cut the tiles (too sharp for little hands to help), I used a few beads I had on hand to make the beak and eye. If you want to cut tiles for a more precise fit, use pliers specifically made for glass cutting. Really – trust me on this, don’t use anything else to cut glass tiles. It will save you hours of frustration and wasted broken tile pieces (and probably sliced fingers. Yes, I speak from experience).
If you were tiling a floor, you would have to make sure that your grout lines were always a certain width, but for a craft project, you have way more leeway. Just make sure that no spot is big enough for another tile to fit there. You can see I have a few awkward gaps in some places, but I love the look of handmade stuff, so I purposefully didn’t let myself get perfectionistic about placing the tiles into the design.
My kids loved helping me with this part, and even fought over turns. We’ll probably have to do more mosaic soon!
Once your tiles are in place, allow the platter to dry for at least 24 hours.
Grout The Mosaic
Important - before you grout, tape off the wood around the perimiter of the tiles (like you would if you were painting). The grout sticks to raw wood (unfortunately very well), and makes for a real mess you would have to sand off later. I used clear tape that you can’t see in these pictures.
I bought my grout at Home Depot, just using the smallest container they had of pre-mixed grout. I always hated mixing grout myself. I used an old kitchen spatula to spread the grout between the tiles. Be sure to press the grout down in between the tiles and spread it around as you smooth it in all directions. Sometimes the grout looks like it is everywhere when it really isn’t, so it’s very important to spread in all directions to get it down into all the various spaces between the tiles. The kids helped with this too, just make sure they either wear gloves or don’t get it on their skin.
For grouting around the beads, make sure you uncover them enough to see them. My beads were not as tall as the tiles, so there is a slight indentation there.
When you’re done, scrape off as much excess grout as possible. It should look somewhat like this – don’t worry about the haze:
Let the grout dry for at least an hour or 90 minutes. Then use a wet sponge or paper towel to removed the grout haze. It comes off quite easily now.
Let the grout cure for an additional 24-48 hours, according to the label directions.
Final Step – Protect with Polyurethane
You have to seal and protect the platter so that you can clean it later after use. I hate the fumes and cleanup of normal polyurethane, so I use a water-based polyurethane if possible. I wouldn’t use it on hardwood floors or furniture, but it’s perfect for craft projects. Be sure to cover both the top, tiles and bottom of the platter. Put on two coats and let dry between coats according to product instructions. Sand lightly between the coats, too. I know it’s a PITA, but it makes sure the second coat adheres to the first coat, especially if you are using a gloss finish like I did.
Here’s the finished product with a top view so that you can use it as a pattern template!