I may have asked about something similar a long while back, but I'm
getting closer to doing it now.
I need to build a one-piece "top" for some off the shelf bookshelf
units. The top will have two functions: to make the three units appear
more like one integrated piece of furniture, and to provide a durable
sun- and water- proof surface to cover the damaged tops of the units.
The three units together are about 9' long and about 30" tall. They used
to sit under a long south-facing window. We intend to move them back
there. In addition to the fading and other sun damage to the tops, there
were a few spills over the years; we had some potted plants there.
I intend to use some sort of tiles as the "field" surface; big ones, 20"
wide probably. They will sit in a "tray", made of 3/4" ply with a 1x2
solid wood border on all four sides. The top of the 1x2 will either be
flush with the top of the tile, or perhaps a hair lower. I figure I'll
use pocket screws to fasten the 1x2 to the ply.
So, here are my questions:
Should I use ply? Or would MDF work just as well? None of it will be
seen, and it will rest on the tops of the cabinets, so it won't hold any
What should I use to fasten the tiles to the ply? My original thought
was "nothing". Gravity and the "border" could hold them in. But I wonder
if gluing them down somehow would make them less prone to cracking
should something drop on them. Of course, if they're not glued, they'd
be easy to replace. :)
First off about the only water proof wood product is PT, and that is not
If this addition is to be added to the top of a book shelf consider
covering the surface with plastic laminate If it must endure water and
sun light. You could how ever have a UV window film added to those
windows and place your pot plants in containers that will not leak.
If you use tiles, they will crack off whenever too much weight is put
on the top, if one corner is lifted, if the entire unit is moved, etc.
Tiles need a perfectly flat, non-moving, non-flexing surface. Well,
unless you foam-glue them on and use a flexible caulk for the grout.
Do yourself a favor. Make the top from 3/4" plywood and formica. I
did my kitchen countertops with it and it's nice to work with. I
bought the 12' slab, mounted it, cut it out, and caulked the
backsplash. But I made the two short countertops myself that day.
It was fun, and the formica I bought was perfectly matched to the
preformed slab across the kitchen. It looks like suede, and that's
the name of the product. http://tinyurl.com/9thcet7
They must find it difficult,
those who have taken authority as truth,
rather than truth as authority.
-- Gerald Massey, Egyptologist
Your top is going to be well supported so you could use pretty much
anything. I'm not a fan of MDF so I'd use ply, especially if there will
ever be any water around.
The tiles are not going to bear any weight and being well adhereed isn't
going to stop them from breaking if you drop something on them; actually,
they aren't all that easy to break that way. Possible but not easy.
I assume you are going to grout them. Yes or no, I'd still stick them down.
For what you are doing, I'd probably run a bead of cheap acrylic caulk
around their perimeter an inch or so from the edge and an X across
them...put them down, put some pressure on them to squish down the caulk.
With that, you should be good to go as long as you don't try to lift the
top. If you plan on doing so, you need it beefy enough so it doesn't flex;
if it does, the tiles aren't going to break - unless it flexes a *lot* - but
the grout may crack. I think what you propose will be beefy enough.
If the top surface is not going to be used as rough as a kitchen countertop, how about using a reed spline, rather than grout, to insert between the tiles. Reed spline is inexpensive, fairly strong and flexible. Its easy to cut/miter and glue into the spaces. Reed spline holds pressed in cane in place, without any problems, so I would think it would be reasonable for your use.
If you use reed spline and it eventually doesn't work, then removing it, to use something else, would be easy. Your investment in this "testing" of spline would be nominal... spline is really inexpensive.
A spline could be stained, for contrast, also, for that consideration option.
I get my caning supplies from Frank's, but any supplier near you will have spline at an inexpensive price. http://franksupply.com/caning/press-in-caning.html#spline
You could use particle board or MDF, apply your hardwood edge w/pocket screws from below and shellac the beejeesus on the top of your substrate, then mastic your tiles in place, then grout or caulk accordingly. Screw the top down from underneath and you won't warp the substrate from imbalance of moisture. There's my 10 centavos and worth every penny of that.
I followed the other links and liked the unusual glass in concrete
structure thingie. And I wonder how he fooled the guy to dip his
hands into the molten glass in the "cooperating hands" piece. ;)
I like the glass in steel courtyard gate a lot, too. Bravo, Charlie.
The great thing about getting older is that
you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
-- Madeleine L'Engle
thanks. i did all the glass work, but have tried to incorporate
mixed-media in a lot of my work.
the glass/concrete piece was done with glow powder fused between 2
pieces of 3/4" glass. it faces west, so gets charged up and glows for hours.
the hand pieces were done with copper powder fused between 2 sheets of
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