I love the look of old subway tiles and when it came to miniature options.....There weren't many. SO, I decided to look into my box of art supplies and see what I can come up with. I had a lot of leftover veneer laying around from my living room walls, so I decided to use this as my base. Im not sure what the results would be but I also thought about using card-stock as the base. The only reason I ultimately went with the veneer was because I decided to use my 4 Inch table saw to uniformly cut it into strips to later cut into individual tiles.
Materials I used:
• 8"x 5" Wood-Backed Veneer Boards. (This is just two sheets of cheap veneer glued back to back - Purchased HERE) - (Quantity depends on how much space you want to cover. Always make more than you think you need!)
• Acrylic Paint - Whatever color you want your tile to be, I used a swiss coffee(off white) color, Almond by Americana, and Black.
• EnviroTex Lite Pour-On High Gloss Resin - (I purchased an 8oz set and I still have half the bottles left) - Purchased HERE
• Hobby Glue (To Attach)
• Dollhouse Stucco/Grout Mix - (I didn't actually use this, but I highly recommend it)
Tools I used:
• My 4" Mighty-Mite Table Saw
• A thick-handled Xacto knife (Easier on the hands)
• A LOT of Xacto Blades
1. STEP ONE -
First thing I did was prep my veneer boards by sanding them to get them as smooth as possible, finishing with a 400 grit. Once sanded, I used a (very lightly) damp cloth to wipe the boards clean of any remaining saw dust.
2. STEP TWO -
I painted a few of the boards with the lighter off-white acrylic paint and another few with black and set to dry. By the time I got to my last board, they were ready for the next coat. For the second coat I went over in the same colors but while the off white boards were still wet, I sponged in a few splotches with the Almond Color Paint by Americana, Making sure to blend in any hard lines. I did this because once I cut the boards into tiles, there would be a slight mis-match of color on some of the tiles. (A common character of old subway tiles)
3. STEP THREE -
Once the paint was dry, I mixed up the two part Envirotex Lite Resin and with a one inch wide brush, I painted a even layer on each board. Making sure not to get ANY on the bottom of the boards. (The resin will smooth itself out if applied evenly) You can see the discoloring I did on the boards in the below picture. Disclaimer: Envitotex Lite is a messy product if your not careful. It does not wash off with water and requires paint thinner to clean off. Any container or brush used for application will be unusable after.
I set the boards on two strips of wood (Seen in below picture) to dry overnight. (This stuff sets in about 6-8 hours but I recommend leaving it a full day to cure) Try to keep away from an area where dust will be blowing around.
4. STEP FOUR -
The above photos show the cured boards. You can see just how glass-like they set!
Once the boards were cured, I set the desired tile thickness on the table saw and cut all the boards into strips. The standard subway tile size is 3"x 6" (1/4" x 1/2" in miniature), But I decided to go slightly bigger. Mostly to save time. You can cut the tiles into whatever thickness you want though. Below photo shows the cut strips.
5. STEP FIVE -
Once you have all your strips cut out, its time to start cutting the individual tiles. Before cutting the individual tiles, I would slightly sand both edges of the strips to remove any splinters from the table saw cutting.
I cut one tile to the size I wanted and then labeled it "Guide" so it wouldn't get mixed up with the other tiles, and used it to measure out each tile. I did this over a 3 day period because my hands were developing blisters after a while. (This is definitely labor intensive, but the results speak for themselves) How you choose to cut your tile is completely up to you. I just used an Xacto knife because thats all I had, but if you have one of those angled scissors or other form of blade cutting, I suggest trying it. DO NOT use a hand saw to do this. The blade cutting look will give the tile a slight curved edge which makes it look even more like real tile.
6. STEP SIX -
Once I had all the tiles cut out, I started laying them down.
To glue the tiles, I put down a thin, even line of glue and layed the tiles back to back. I didnt use any spacers because I thought the natural spacing of the tiles looked good. And once I applied the grout, the lines would stand out even more. I used a block of wood at the bottom to keep my tiles straight and then used a small piece of dowel to push my tiles down from above to keep them in a straight line. I used regular hobby glue and then switched to crazy glue at some point because it dried faster. You can use whatever glue you feel works best. Just make sure to keep any glue off the surface of the tiles because cleaning it off will scratch your tiles.
• FOR THE TRIM -
For the trim tiles, I used a chair rail moulding that I applied the same finishing technique from above, except instead of cutting this into individual tiles i just pressed down with a blade to score the strip. (This made for an easier application as well) The reason I didn't do this for the actual tiles was because I couldn't get the mismatched look if I kept the tiles in strips but since the trim was black, it wouldn't matter. The thin black tile was just a 1/8" wide strip of wood that got the same treatment as well.
• GROUTING -
I used gray house-paint as grout and I don't recommend this. It was all I had at the time and I had to apply it 4 times to fully fill the cracks.) I recommend using actual dollhouse stucco grout and tinting it. I used gray because it would contrast well and make both the black and white tile pop.
PS - Its late and I typed this really fast so I apologize in advance for any Type-os and grammar issues. Enjoy!