If you know a carpenter or do-it-yourselfer, you have a readymade source for wood scraps, and therefore the perfect opportunity to recycle wood scraps into unique mosaic paperweights. Odd ends of two-by-fours, small scrap pieces of plywood, dowel ends, and other things that would ordinarily go straight into the trash bin can be made into beautiful works of art.

The ideal paperweight is not too wide or tall, so as to perform its function of holding down loose paper while remaining unobtrusive. A size of 4 by 4 by 2 is ideal, but choose whatever size you feel comfortable working with.  If you have several smaller scraps of plywood, consider stacking them and gluing them together; your 3-D paperweight will have that much more interest! However, if you glue together scraps of wood, make sure that you still have enough surface to apply the mosaic pieces.

Prepare your base by thoroughly sanding to eliminate any pesky and painful splinters. Giving the base a coat of primer will help the mosaic pieces adhere better. Assemble your materials: white glue such as Weldbond, whatever tiles or mosaic pieces you desire (I like to use unusual shapes and colors, such as gold-colored minis or ceramic rounds), some nonsanded grout in a complementary color, pieces of heavy cardboard, disposable gloves, paper towels, and clean rags.

Plan your design. Sometimes the simplest pattern is most striking; for example, the pictured project is a two-by-four end covered almost completely in a dark blue 3/8-inch tile, with a contrast band of orange winding across the top and dipping down each side, to add interest all around the piece, and a single white half-marble to provide a focal point.  

Start gluing the pieces onto the wood base. White glues set up in about a half hour, so plan to spend a few hours, off and on, for this project, since you'll have to cover all sides and keep each side facing up while you attach the pieces. Alternatively, cover just the top and sides, which you can do in a few sessions, and glue a piece of felt or cork onto the bottom when you're done. Equally as important as preventing splinters is protecting the papers you will be holding in place!

For the most polished look to your piece, plan on mosaicking the top by setting the pieces so they just slightly overhang the edges, and setting side pieces just underneath the overhang; this avoids a large gap at the edges where you'd have to add a lot more grout.

After all sides have been covered in mosaic, let the piece sit for several hours or overnight; white glue dries very hard, but the effort of pushing grout into the spaces can sometimes pry up small tile pieces if they have not thoroughly set.

Mix up grout according to package directions, and push it into all spaces with pieces of heavy cardboard or your fingers. Wear disposable gloves to protect your hands; grout can be very drying. Let the piece set for about half an hour, then wipe off excess grout with paper towels. After another hour or so, buff the tile with clean rags to remove the white grout haze. Glue a piece of felt or cork to the bottom if you've chosen not to tile all sides.

Blue and orange paperweight
Credit: Patricia Rockwood
Paperweight in mosaic
Credit: Patricia Rockwood