Friday, June 15, 2012

Building Mural Panels

I finished building the panels for the mural today. This part of the project grew a little more complicated than I thought it would be. (Sound familiar, all you DIY-er's?)

I knew sheet goods like plywood and hardboard were manufactured in sizes larger than the standard 4' x 8' of the building trade, so I assumed it would be fairly easy to get ahold of 1/4" board in 5' widths to cover the nearly 54" I needed for each side panel. Boy was I wrong! After hours online, on the phone, and in consultation with local and faraway lumber yards, it became clear that it would be easier to obtain Russia's nuclear code.

I entertained other alternatives. Honeycomb-core aluminum seemed an attractive possiblity--until it priced out at over $700 per sheet. A custom manufacturer of composite panels in Washington state looked promising before I found out they had a 3-month backlog.

In the end, I decided to piece the surfaces together with 4 x 8 stock from a local supplier. Keeping it local is good, right? I built backing frameworks out of finger-jointed pine 1 x 2's on edge. The panel material is 1/4" cabinet-grade maple veneer over an MDF (medium density fiberboard) core--a very flat, stable surface. In the photo above, the side frameworks are leaned against the wall while the center panel is in process on the floor.

Here I've already attached a narrow sheet and am laying a bead of Elmer's wood glue for the 4' panel that will butt to it.

Along with the glue, very fine wire brads (#18 x 3/4") were used to secure the panels. With this method no clamping is necessary. They were placed about 8" apart, tapping the heads just flush with the surface. They'll all but disappear when the panels are primed.

Here's the back side of the center panel. The backing framework was built to accommodate the hanging system, which I'll explain in a later post.

The finished panels. The butted joints are pretty tight, but I forced some modeling paste with a putty knife wherever there were slight gaps, sanding the joints lightly when dry. Boy am I glad this tedious part is done. Now we're ready for priming.


Gary L. Everest said...

Morning Don,
Wow! I feel like I just watched an episode of a show on HGTV! Who knew how challenging this would be-just to construct the ground!
If I ever get into the mural business (highly doubtful) this post will be the first place I visit for "how to do it yourself".
Thanks for sharing, Don, and good luck.

Don Gray said...

Yeah, Gary. I'm like the home remodel guys on HGTV who decide to do it themselves, then quickly fall in over their heads!

Thanks for the note.