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How To Solder – New Link on Tutorials Page

Posted on 4th August 2011 by Gwynne

A big thank you to Sarah, who is teaching an arts and crafts class at the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library in Jericho, VT this summer making art out of recyclable goods.  Sarah kindly told me that my Guide To Stained Glass Tutorials & Tips on the Web was helpful with the technical aspects of herarts and crafts class project.  Sarah also sent me a link to add to the tutorial links page that I have just posted in the Soldering section.

The link is to a page on the Appliance Parts Pros website entitled How To Solder . The page contains links to several other resources, and though the focus of many of the links is on electrical soldering, much of the information on theory, safety, and some techniques will be of interest to stained glass artists, as well.

Thanks, Sarah, and good luck with your arts and crafts class project!

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Easy Garden Mosaics: 5- Seal the Mosaic

Posted on 30th July 2011 by Gwynne

STEP FIVE – Seal the mosaic

Before you place your garden mosaic where it will get wet or dirty apply a waterproof grout sealer designed for exterior use to the grout. Some tesserae, such as marble and other natural stone, require sealing in addition to the grout. Check the manufacturer or distributor’s information to determine whether you need to seal the tesserae, too.  Use a tile sealer if recommended by the tile manufacturer.  Tile sealers should seal both the tile and the grout.

You may also want to apply a sealer to achieve a particular finish, such as a wet-look or glossy finish on stone or pebbles.

Most sealers should be applied outdoors; sealers can have VERY STRONG FUMES. Check the label to see whether it should remain away from people and pets while the sealer cures or dries. Some sealers may release harmful fumes while they dry.

Wait 48 hours before you place your mosaic where it will get wet or dirty.

STEP SIX – Place your mosaic in the garden and enjoy it!

This post is part of a series on Mosaics on the Rocks:

Easy Garden Mosaics: 4- Grouting Outdoor Mosaic Projects

Posted on 30th July 2011 by Gwynne


Grout is very important to your mosaic project. It unifies and strengthens mosaics.  I recommend sanded grout . I use Polyblend sanded grout available at Home Depot and other hardware stores in 7 lb. 10 lb. or 25 lb. quantities. If you prefer smaller sizes you can purchase 2 lb or 10 lb containers of sanded grout from Delphi Glass. Sanded grout is used for grout lines 1/8″ (3 mm) and larger. Some people say that sanded grout may scratch glass, but I have never experienced this.  Avoid premixed grouts unless you can find one that specifically says it is for exterior use (most are not.)

Grout color choice is very important, and should be carefully considered. The color of your grout can enhance your design or completely muddle things up so that it is impossible to see your design properly. Avoid using grout that is the same color as the tesserae in your project. For example, a design with white, green, and blue tiles should not have white grout. The white tiles will disappear against the white background once you have grouted the project. Neither would you want to use a green or blue grout of exactly the same hue and intensity as the green or blue tiles. With these three colors (white, blue, & green) a neutral gray is a natural choice, but if you want to use something different consider grout that has a green or blue hue, but with a lighter or darker intensity. Considering the white tiles in the example, you would probably want to use a lighter intensity blue or green grout.

Friends don’t let friends use white grout. Please do not use white grout unless you are CERTAIN it will enhance your project.  Some mosaic artists say that white grout makes mosaics look like elementary school projects, and I tend to agree with that. If the grout lines are large and the grout is white you will notice the grout more than the tesserae. When in doubt, use a neutral gray, or sandstone, if that would go better with your tesserae or exposed substrate color.

White grout does have one good use, though: you can add acrylic paint to white grout to make any color grout you desire. You can also use concrete color additives and mix them with white dry grout. If you mix your own grout color, make sure you mix up more than you need, as it is almost impossible to match color if you run out and need to make more. Grout color may lighten slightly as it dries.

If you don’t want to mix your own colored grout and you don’t mind buying a large quantity of one color, you will find that grout is available premixed in many colors at Home Depot and some other hardware stores. (This grout should turn out the same color each time you mix it. It may lighten slightly as it dries. )  Check online and you will find that Polyblend brand sanded grout is available in 48 colors (last time I looked.)

Here’s one way to test out a grout color to see if it is right for your project:

  • Wear a mask, eye protection, and gloves.
  • Sprinkle some dry grout between the affixed tesserae of your project to see how it looks.
  • Brush/shake out the dry grout over newspaper and return it to the container.
  • Repeat to test another color.

Mix the Grout

Read the directions on the grout. Basically, you mix dry grout with cool water in a disposable container until it reaches a consistency similar to brownie batter, peanut butter, etc. When I am mixing up grout for a small project I do so in a resealable baggie. Place the dry grout in the baggie, add the water, close the baggie, and mush around it until it is all mixed. (Once mixed you can open the baggie. I just close it to contain the dust.)

Read the directions to determine the water to dry grout ratio. It takes a lot less water than you might think.

Let the Grout Slake

After you mix the grout, take a 10 minute break and let the grout “slake.” During this time the water tension breaks down, the water thoroughly mixes with the grout, and the chemicals in the grout work their magic.  (Read the directions on the grout container for the slaking time the manufacturer indicates.)

Remix the Grout

After the slaking period, remix the grout before you apply it.

Apply the Grout

You can apply the grout with a flexible squeegee, small plastic spatula, disposable paint brush (foam or other,) or just use your gloved hands. I tend to use gloved hands with smaller projects and a squeegee or trowel for larger projects. Make sure to press the grout down between all of the tesserae.On large projects you might use a grout float.

Allow Grout to Partially Set - Then Smooth the Surface

Allow the grout to firm up for 15 to 20 minutes.  After it firms up, smooth the surface of the grout and remove excess grout with a wrung out sponge, your gloved fingers, or a damp paper towel.

If you use a sponge to smooth the grout you will need to rinse off the excess grout you pick up between swipes. Be careful to wring out the sponge very well, as you do not want to add more water to the grout, and you do not want to wash away the grout.

Warning: Do not rinse grout sponges in the sink or pour grout water down the sink! If grout gets into your plumbing it will block up your plumbing. Rinse the sponges in a bucket of water and dump the bucket outside.

I usually wait another 10 minutes or so before I clean the haze off the tesserae with cheesecloth. If there are any stubborn specks of grout on the tesserae you can remove them with a nylon scrubbing pad. Finally, buff the tesesrae with a soft lint free cloth.

Allow your mosaic to cure for 2 to 3 days. I usually mist the mosaic once or twice a day while it cures. If you get too much water on it, gently blot it dry with a paper towel.

You have to be careful working with grout. Dry grout is essentially similar to dry mortar with finer particles. (See the section on thin-set mortar for more information.) It contains Portland cement that is very caustic. Wear rubber gloves, a dust mask, and eye protection while mixing grout, so that you do not inhale particles or get them in your eyes, and to protect your skin from contact with the chemicals in the grout.

This post is part of a series on Mosaics on the Rocks:

Easy Garden Mosaics: 3- Adhesives for Exterior Mosaic Projects

Posted on 29th July 2011 by Gwynne

STEP THREE – Adhesive for Exterior Mosaic Projects

In Step 3 of your easy garden mosaic you select and apply an appropriate exterior adhesive, lay the tesserae, and affix with heat (for heat-activated adhesive,) or allow to dry for 24 hours with most other adhesives.  The following is a list of adhesives that I recommend for exterior use. This is not a list of all adhesives that can be used outdoors,  just those that I find work well.

Suggested Adhesives for Exterior Projects:

  • No Days Mosaic Adhesive
  • Silicone Caulks and Adhesives: GE Silicone II Window & Door Sealant, Dap Clear Silicone Sealant , Lexel Clear Adhesive Caulk
  • Thin-set Mortar – *see information below

No Days Mosaic Adhesive

“No Days Mosaic Adhesive” is a quick acting adhesive that is activated by heat from a Heat Gun or  your home oven.  “No Days Mosaic Adhesive” becomes liquid at 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and then solidifies and adheres the two materials together as it cools. It will not re-liquify unless it is heated to the same high temperature again.  I find that it is much easier to use “No Days Mosaic Adhesive” on a flat surface such as a flagstone, flat stone. or tile, rather than a curved surface, such as a flower pot or rounded stone. It is more expensive than some other exterior adhesives and not as easily available, but  it is great for completing projects in a hurry – same day from beginning through grouting. You can find No Days Mosaic Adhesive online at Delphi Glass or at Hobby Lobby, (though my local Hobby Lobby keeps a very limited supply on hand.)

Silicone Caulk


sealant, as described by one of the manufacturers, GE, is: “permanently flexible, and adheres to most woods, ceramics, glass, aluminum, and steel. This caulk creates a weatherproof/watertight seal around your windows, doors, air conditioners and duct work.”  I like to use the Windows and Doors type for exterior projects. I usually use the clear stuff, but the white caulk may be a good choice if you are using cathedral glass and you want to bring up the color a bit.

Some silicone caulks indicate that it is ready for water in 3 hours after application, but, if you read the fine print, the manufacturer recommends 24 hours for complete curing. I always give it at least 24 hours. Silicone caulks can get messy. Be careful not to apply it too thickly; it can squish up into the space between the tiles so there is no room for the grout.  Some people object to the smell, but it’s not too bad, especially if you use it in a well-ventilated area (outdoors is a good idea,) and I recommend leaving it to cure in a well-ventilated area away from people and pets. The cost is reasonable and you can buy it in large or small containers. (The large ones require those metal caulking guns to use.) You can buy small squeezable tubes of GE-II for about $5 at Home Depot.

(Note:  Use silicone caulk with care and wear gloves. Silicone caulks can be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Read the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) for the product you choose for complete information. The MSDS is available on the Home Depot website for products they carry; for other products contact the manufacturer.)

Thin-set Mortar

If the mosaic is in an item that will hold water, such as a birdbath or fountain, your best bet is to use thin-set bonding mortar instead of glues or caulks. Thin-set is a strong polymer-modified dry powder mortar to which you add water. You can buy quick setting mortars that cure in 6 hours; others may take 24 hours to dry.

You have to be careful when working with mortar; it contains Portland cement.  It is caustic and considered a “hazardous chemical” by OSHA. It is harmful if swallowed, irritating to eyes and the respiratory tract, and can cause burns in the presence of moisture if it gets into your eyes or onto your skin, (and eyes do tend to be moist.)  So, WEAR RUBBER GLOVES, A MASK, AND EYE PROTECTION  while mixing the mortar powder with water, so that you do not inhale dust particles or get them in your eyes, and KEEP YOUR GLOVES ON while working with mixed mortar. (These are the same precautions you should take with grout. Read the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) for the product of your choice for full information on warnings and precautions. The MSDS is available on the Home Depot website for products they carry; for other products contact the manufacturer.)

This post is part of a series on Mosaics on the Rocks:

Easy Garden Mosaics: 2- Choose the Design and Tesserae

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Gwynne

STEP TWO – Choose the Design & Tesserae

Plan your Design:

Since the aim here is to make something easy and attractive choose simple forms and shapes , such as butterflies, hearts, geometric patterns, etc. Use a design that allows you to use pre-cut tesserae.

Choose tesserae that are easy to work with . Be aware that small tesserae can be difficult to manipulate and place without knocking other tesserae out of place.

Draw your design on paper. Lay out your tesserae to test out your design for placement and fit. Try several design ideas.  First outline the edges of the design, and then fill in the center. If you want to accent the interior of the design, place those pieces after the outline, and then fill on the rest. Depending on your design you may want to use grout feathered around the edges, rather than filling the entire top of the substrate with tile and ending with a tile border.

Cut out your design and trace or copy it onto your chosen substrate.

When selecting your tesserae remember that they need to be water-proof and weather-resistant. Read labels to determine if any particular item is appropriate for outdoor use.

Suggested Tesserae :

  • Ceramic tile
  • Vitreous glass tile
  • Stained glass
  • Marble – requires sealing
  • Stone – some require sealing
  • Pebbles
  • Shells – some require sealing or filling
  • Beach glass
  • Millefiori
  • Old Jewelry or Buttons
  • What else can you think of?

Here are a few tesserae examples: hand-cut, nipped, and pre-cut stained glass and glass shapes.

Use the following  links to view specific suggested products. Continue to browse the complete sites to find other pre-cut tesserae to use in your mosaic.  Remember, with pre-cut tesserae you can make a mosaic quickly and easily without investing in additional equipment. You can move on to nipping, nibbling, and cutting tiles at any time.

Amazon – Glass Mosaic Tiles 3/8″

Pebbles for a Birdhouse

If you are looking for pattern or design ideas browse Glass Sorcery’s Free Patterns. We have an extensive collection of free patterns on this site. While these patterns were originally intended for use as stained glass patterns, they can also be used for mosaic work.

Some of the simpler patterns can be made using pre-cut tiles and other tesserae that do not require cutting or reshaping. The more complex designs may require nipping, nibbling, or cutting. If you are ready for the next step in your mosaic adventure I highly recommend that you buy the best tool for this purpose – Leponitt Mosaic Tile Cutters .  These wheeled tile cutters are far superior to the cheaper imitations and they do not cost that much more – just a few dollars, so go ahead and buy the  BEST. If you buy the slightly cheaper imitations you will end up wanting Leponitt tile cutters, anyway.  Leponitt Wheeled Tile Cutters cut glass, ceramic, china, smalti, shells, and more, easily and neatly.

This post is part of a series on Mosaics on the Rocks:

Easy Garden Mosaics: 1- Substrate Selection

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Gwynne

STEP ONE – Substrate Selection & Preparation

The first step in making your garden mosaic is to select the best base or substrate on which to place the mosaic.

Q: Is the substrate waterproof & weather-resistant ?

The combination of moisture and low temperature is a major problem for garden mosaics.

Beware of freeze-thaw cycles. Bring your mosaics indoors when temperatures drop to freezing, and keep them in storage until freezes are over in the spring.

It’s not just the water; it’s the combination of water seeping into the cracks and crevices followed by freezing temperatures that can ruin all of your hard work.

Suggested substrates:

  • Pre-made concrete stepping stones, bricks, or pavers
  • Natural stone
  • Stone tiles
  • Flagstones
  • Concrete
  • Terracotta

How do I know if it is waterproof?

Do a test for porosity:

  • Drop a small amount of water on the surface of the item.
  • If the water is readily absorbed, the surface is porous.
  • If the water beads on the surface, it is not porous.

(Terracotta, for example, is quite porous and will need to be sealed. For terracotta you may want to do two coats of waterproofing. Test when it is dry to see if water beads up.)

Waterproof any porous surface.

Suggested waterproofing methods:

  • Thompson’s Waterseal
  • Weldbond or other PVA glue Method

Spray or paint Thompson’s Waterseal on per the instructions. You can buy a spray can at most hardware stores (Home Depot, Ace, etc.) that will handle several small projects. One coat should do it, but repeat the porosity test when it is dry to confirm. The fumes are notable; this should be used outdoors. (After you spray, you can bring the item into a garage or outdoor shed until it dries, so that it does not get wet prematurely. Because of the fumes, I would not leave it in the house, or around pets or people until it is completely dry.)

PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate glue) glue is the white glue you are used to. It is also called: wood glue, carpenter’s glue, white glue, school glue. Weldbond is an especially good version of PVA glue. It is non-toxic and does not have any fumes, so it is safe to use in the house and around children and pets. Weldbond is available at some hardware stores (Ace) and on the internet.   To waterproof  the substrate with Weldbond or other PVA glue: mix 5 parts water to 1 part glue, paint it on, and allow to dry. It should dry in about one hour.

Note: Many people use PVA glue as the adhesive for indoor mosaics, but it should not be used for outdoor mosaics. A solution of 3 -10 parts of water to one part PVA glue can also be used to prime a surface before applying mosaic.

This post is part of a series on Mosaics on the Rocks:

Easy Garden Mosaics in 5 Steps

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Gwynne

Would you like to make decorative mosaic items for your garden?

Maybe you are new to Mosaics and uncertain about cutting glass or shaping tile?

Relax, you can make mosaics without nipping tiles or cutting glass.

What you can make:

  • Mosaic paving stones (decorative only, not for walking on)
  • Decorative garden mosaic accents
  • Mosaic labels for plants
  • Mosaic house number signs
  • Mosaic plant pots
  • More …

Keep it Simple!

For your first mosaics use simple shapes and simple materials . Start with outlining a simple shape and then filling it in.

When you select your designs and materials think about your result being colorful, entertaining, playful.Use colors you like; do you prefer bright primary colors, or a soft pastel palette.

Think about adding color to areas of your garden where there are down times in bloom production. What colors do you want to see there? What colors will complement your garden when flowers are in bloom?

Also think about adding little half-hidden touches in borders, under branches, and around corners.

Be practical, too, and make some colorful plant labels for that plant name you can never remember.

When you are more comfortable making mosaics be inventive, try new techniques , learn.

Most of all, have fun!

(Click on the links below for more detailed information.)

How To Make Easy Garden Mosaics in Five Steps

(The material/item to which you attach the mosaic)

  • stone tiles,
  • concrete stepping stones or paving stones,
  • bricks,
  • smooth stones,
  • flagstones,
  • terracotta pots
  • etc.

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