Staining hardwood tiles


I'm just floating with an idea here, and I need a few opinions on some of the practicalities - hope you can help.
I want to make up mosaics of small square hardwood tiles to form images, and use them as wall hangings or, if they turn out durable enough, as table tops. I've been doing something similar with glass mosaic tiles using photomosaic software, which is still experimental, but is turning out OK, so the computer / assembly end of it is no problem.
To make it work, I need a "palette" of a minimum of 25 different standard shades of tile, which is arbitrary, but must be reasonably accurate and reproducible. I thought I could achieve this by cutting stock tiles (19 mm * 19 mm * 5 mm, say) from a very light timber (beech?), and then staining them by immersing them in a given stain for a given time to get a given tile-shade, ready for assembly. Is this a practical idea? What kind of stains should I be working with (I'm a beginner here)?
I reckon I could assemble the tiles image-face down on a smooth sheet of heavy ply (somebody I spoke to suggested plate glass for a perfect finish - and he has a couple of big panes available); then glue and clamp them together; finally glue on a structural backing - heavy ply or MDF?
Then flip the whole thing right way up, add edging / frame / whatever and polish or varnish.
How durable would a surface made up of small tiles like this be? Is expansion / contraction / water-content a factor (I'm in Northern Ireland - a damp and soggy spot).
How deep can a stain penetrate a timber surface? Can you lightly sand or buff a stained surface without removing the stain (so as to clean up surface imperfections at tile edges but not damage the image effect)?
Like I say, I'm just working through some of the obvious kinks - I'd like to hear from a few people who know more than me.
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Like this? http://www.marquetry.org/detview520.htm Dave
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Wow ! Those are good! But way beyond my ambitions. I want to use regular square tiles and assemble the images using photomosaic software.
My big question right now is about the kind of stain I need to use, as I outlined in my first post. Anybody?
Thanks
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Intense aniline mixing dyes. You can make any color you want. http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&p 082&cat=1,190,42996&ap=1
Dave
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I've never tried anything like this, but I have a few thoughts.
1. Pigmented stain is not going to respond well (it will change the resulting color) to sanding at all. 2. Dye might work, but I would change colors with a different concentration/mix of dye. You would have to try a sample to see if you get adequate penetration to withstand some sanding. 3. Wood, even from the same tree will have natural color variations. Rather than sorting the pieces by the color applied, would it be possible the color the pieces and then sort them by the color that you end up with? This would enable you to fume your wood samples with ammonia to get color variations. Fuming does penetrate very well. 4. A washcoat of finish may be advisable before sorting colors. The finish will make a difference in the apparent color. 5. Thinner may be better. Rather than tiles, think of squares of veneer. Veneer will stay with the substrate. Thick tiles will create movement problems.
Food for thought.
Steve

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Dave, Steve
Thanks for your input. Food for thought, indeed.
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