This is one Instructable that will surely knock your shoes off! No really. Take your shoes off and come on in; this is a fairly simple project, but with the sanding work, you'll be staying a while. I welcome you to the Mosaic Wooden Rope Mat.
Final Dimensions: 21-1/4" x 32".
Step 1: Materials
- Lumber- 8 boards - 1" x 6" x 6'
Feel free to substitute the materials I used for whatever you have on hand. I used two different types of wood: cedar and pressure treated pine. The cedar was purchased locally years ago for various other projects and the pressure treated pine was saved after a deck remodel. Both woods are also weather and pest resistant. The cedar is naturally resistant, and the pressure treated wood chemically resistant. Keep in mind, later aspects of this project were only doable because the reclaimed pressure treated pine had dried significantly as it had already lived its first life as a deck. Other woods to consider for the rot resisting abilities are black cherry, chestnut, honey locust, white oak, old-growth redwood, and black walnut. Another consideration for the woods you choose will be color. I liked the contrast of the red and white(ish) wood. The color coupled with the availability (sitting in the shop taking up space), secured my decision.
- Cotton clothesline - 60' of 7/32" diameter line
Just like the wood chosen, my binding agent (cotton clothesline) was also salvaged from past projects. While you need 60' of cord for the initial weave, the cotton cord is pretty stretchy, so you'll end up cutting some off after tightening it up. If you want, synthetic cord could be substituted. Whatever you choose, make sure it is durable or can be made durable since people will be walking on it and it will be out in weather extremes.
- Boiled linseed oil
Finally, we have our finish. I wanted an easy-to-maintain finish that let the wood show off its own beauty. Boiled linseed oil was perfect for this, even if it is not the best outdoor finish. I'm not too concerned, as my front porch is covered. It only needs to be able to stand the humidity, temperature fluctuations, and wear and tear caused by walking on it. The boiled linseed oil really shined on the wood and brought out the rich colors. Other finishes can be used, including paint (*shudders at the though of hiding the cedar*). Whatever you choose, keep in mind how much traction you'll have as you walk over it and how durable it will be.
Step 2: Plane, Rip Wood, and Cut
- Plane to 7/8": The first thing we did after gathering our materials was to plane our boards. The cedar we started with was closer to 1-1/8", which was slightly taller than the almost exactly 1" deck board. Using the planer in accordance with some common sense safety measures (ear and eye protection), we soon had both boards down to 7/8". We chose this width as it allowed us to take a 1/16" off of both sides of deck board to expose non-weathered wood. Clean boards will stain more evenly and planing the board to 7/8" allowed for crisp corners as well.
- Rip: Next, we ripped all 8 boards with a table saw to 1". There was no particular reason we choose the 1" mark, we just liked the slightly rectangular look it gave each block. Again, wear eye and ear protection and keep track of all of your fingers. Count the number of fingers you have and insure you have the same amount attached after all the sawdust has settled.
- Cut*: To get my southwestern/all seeing eye pattern pictured you will need to cut your 7/8" x 1" blocks to two lengths -
- 2-1/4" White (pine) Blocks- 146 pieces
- 3-1/2" White (pine) Blocks- 12 pieces
- 2-1/4" Red (cedar) Blocks- 104 pieces
- 3-1/2" Red (cedar) Blocks- 10 pieces
*We made a pencil mark on the arm saw at the correct distance and carefully lined up each piece. We tried to use a stop block to mark the distance easily, but the two times we tried it, the saw threw our piece off the saw, so we decided it would be safer to line up our blocks with a pencil line. Also, it never hurts to cut extra pieces just in case.
Step 3: Layout Pattern
Here was one of the harder parts for me, and the (potentially) easiest part for you: choosing a pattern. I was inspired by the red and white colors to do a southwestern/aztec-y design. You can see I had a very rough idea of what I wanted drawn out. Ultimately, I played around with the cut pieces until i settled on this pattern. Keep in mind for the string to weave correctly, the top must start with a short piece and the bottom must end in a long piece on the first and last columns. If you have two shorts or two longs on either side the weave will jump in between blocks and have a greater chance of being sheared due to wear and tear. Follow the first picture pattern in this step (the pattern with the clear concrete background) as it is the actual pattern used. Remember, as you weave, the blocks will be spaced out. Keep this in mind if you decide to come up with your own pattern. From this point on keep track of your pattern. Mark it, photograph it, do whatever it takes so you know which piece goes where.
Step 4: Drill Holes
After your pattern is all laid out, it's time to drill holes. Our cotton clothesline was 7/32" in diameter which will easily fit into a 1/4" hole. To layout the holes for the 2-1/4" pieces we laid out a mark 1/2" from the end and centered on the 1" wide side. To aid in drilling accurate holes we fashioned a jig out of some scrap wood so all we had to do was flip the piece to drill both sides. The 3-1/2" pieces got the holes on both ends, as well as a hole in the direct center, which is1-3/4" in from the ends and centered on the 1" side. The 25 end pieces (23 short and 2 long) get groves cut into the long side to help inset, hide, and protect the cotton cord. We used a 1/4" countersink on the drill press to gouge out the wood between the holes and then used a chainsaw file to help sand out all the frayed wood. The cotton will hide most of it, but we wanted a clean final result, so we spent extra time filing it down. And again, remember to keep your pieces in order.
Step 5: Sanding, Sanding, and More Sanding
Time to get sanding! Using a combination of multiple belt sanders and liberal use of a chainsaw file, we sanded each side, chamfered (rounded) the edges, and cleared all holes of frays. Go with the grain of the wood on the sides you can. There's no avoiding the sanding; the difference between the raw cut and sanded piece is night and day, and it really adds a whole new dimension to the project. Hopefully, you've managed to keep all your pieces in the correct order.
Step 6: Rope
Now its time for it to all come together!
Tie an overhand knot or figure eight knot in one end of the rope to keep that end from being pulled through as you weave.
Pro tip: on the other end we attached a long wire with tape to help guide our cord as it weaves through the boards. This makes it SO easy.
Pro tip: take care to keep your cord free of tangles as you go. We used a saw horse with a long stick to wrap the cord around to keep it tangle free.
Two people make this task go by surprisingly quickly. As you weave, the mat will grow wider and wider as the holes begin to line up. We left the cord loose as we weaved to make it easier to tighten later (easier to grab) by inserting little scraps in the cord loops, as pictured. Once the whole thing was woven, pull all the scraps out. Start at the beginning and pull the rope as tight as you can through each row. The tighter you get it the less the mat will flex. Don't over tighten though, or you might accidentally break your clothesline. When you've tightened to the end, use vice grips to keep the line taut while you tie another overhand or figure eight knot. Slide the knot as close as you can to the vice grips. After your knot is tied and you know it wont slip, you can cut off the excess cord and burn to get rid of frays. Next, remove the vice grips. The cord will be sucked into the side and relieve some of the pressure throughout the mat.
Step 7: Finish
Time to make your mat pop!
Pro tip: to keep the mat from falling through the center of two sawhorses and off a flat, unbreathable surface, take some long wood scraps and place on the sawhorses but under the mat. This keeps it straight but allows room to breathe.
Boiled linseed oil also has a very easy application. Use a brush to apply a generous amount of the oil. Then allow it to soak for 5-10 minutes. Finally, use paper towels, shop towels, or rags to remove the excess oil. We used a wide brush for the top and bottom and a 1" foam brush to get in between all the little gaps. The color we got was just gorgeous! Apply as many coats as you like, allowing time for the mat to dry to the touch in between coats. The more coats you add means more protection from elements, so add accordingly.
Step 8: Finished
And that's it, you're done! The only thing left is to figure out just where you want to put your artwork. We almost decided it was too beautiful to walk on and thought about hanging it on the wall or using it as a trivet for cooking, but we liked it so much by the front door we decided to leave it there. Plus, its a great conversation starter when we have company over!
Runner Up in the