February 9, 2015

DIY Wood Slices Without Wood

Have you ever looked at your black-hole-of-a-fireplace and wished
that you had a wood slice cover to hide it like this one?
By Virginia at "Live Love DIY" blog

But you knew in reality that you, like me, do not have the wood-
working skills to accomplish that so you were excited when you

Only, when you tried to get the fabric to make the faux wood
screen you found out that the fabric cannot be ordered online
 and the closest store to buy it at is a 2.5 hour drive away? 

Well, you come up with "Plan C" for a wood-slice-look 
fireplace cover. The "wood slices" are made with insulation
foam in a can. Any (even slightly) crafty person can do this.

You do not have to find a wood source, or slice wood, or 
cut another piece of wood to attach the slices to, or bleach
 slices, or look for bugs, or worry about the bark falling off,
 or be concerned with how much it weighs.

I was trying to re-create a insulation foam heart-shaped wreath
form for a tutorial but only needed one. With almost a whole can
of spray insulation foam left, I thought I would try to make faux
wood slices with the remaining foam so it would not go to waste.

I like to use my newspaper for crafts...it is my way of recycling.

Of course, the main purpose of the spray foam is for insulating,
not crafting. Follow all of the safety precautions listed on the can
(which can be found at home improvement and hardware stores)
PLUS do not let your pets or children near this stuff for 8 hours.
It sticks to whatever (or whoever) touches it before then. 
Looks like piles of  pale pet poo-poo.  

The temperature and humidity plays a big part in how 
much the foam will eventually rise up. 

If you are a control-freak or perfectionist, this project is
 not for you. The foam just kinda does what it wants to do. 

I squirted out different sizes of foam piles close to the 
eventual sizes I wanted the slices to be. The foam gives 
a unique edge to each slice...not a perfect round.
Think "rings of trees" as you are squirting out circles of  foam. Have a center then circle around like a lollipop. 
Maybe because it is Winter (?) these piles did not rise up very much. 

After 8 hours, you can pull the piles of hardened foam off of the
paper you have sprayed it out on. Expect the paper to be stuck
to the bottom...it will be. 

Here are some tips I learned (the hard way)...

Tips for Making Faux Wood Slices From Insulation Foam
1. The foam will stick to whatever you spray it on.
Use a solid colored paper to spray the foam on
if newsprint bothers you. Newsprint can be
 covered up with paint, however. 
2. If you spray the foam on a fold/crease in the paper,
it will stay. Keep away from fold/creases to increase
the chance that the slices will look more real.
3. If you encounter air pockets when you pull the paper
off of the foam mound (and if you don't want your
faux wood slices to have that look) glue another
scrap of paper on top of the air pockets before
4. If some of your foam mounds have freaky/
not-found-in-nature edges, you can cut them 
off with a serrated knife. Cut edges are
 harder to paint then non-cut edges so try to
 be as tolerant of abnormalities as possible.

Pull whatever paper you can easily off of the mounds.
It will not even soak off...I tried. 

My assumption in the beginning is that I would cut the rounded
top off of the foam mound and then use the cut flat surface
to paint and use it as the "good side" of the faux wood slice. 

I had bought a real birch wood slice at Michael's to use as 
a "model" to paint the faux wood slices. I found out in
experimenting that the paper side (non-cut) of the foam slice 
was easier to paint, smoother and looked more like the real
 one than the cut surface. I went the paper side as the "good side".
Real slice is the largest one. Cut surface of foam wood slice is top left; paper side of faux wood slice is bottom.
This one real slice was $7. A whole can of foam is only $4 and you can make lots of faux wood slices with one can.

So, I went with cutting off the top of the foam mound to make 
the "slice". A serrated kitchen or steak knife works great. 
I guess I should tell you to never ever use that knife again for anything else but crafts...consider yourself warned.

Most of the slices turned out about 3/4" high...more or less. 

Here are the faux wood slices after being "sliced"...

Now, an interesting thing I discovered is that pictures from the
newsprint stuck and looked pretty darn good on the faux slices.

This made me start to wonder if these foam slices could 
intentionally be sprayed out on photocopied pictures, images
or text and be used as name tags, ornaments or banners. The 
edges of the faux slices could be painted like bark and leave 
the images intact to give the illusion of a real wood slice. 
Another project for another day (or month or year). 

After making the mounds look more like slices, it was time to
put some paint on these puppies. For a base coat I chose a light
neutral color of paint. Chalk paint covers the best but acrylic
craft paint works fine too. 
You could make your faux wood slices in darker colors. I have a light color fireplace so I wanted light slices. 

Chalk paint covers the newsprint in one coat. 
Acrylic craft paint takes two coats to cover the print.
If you want an inexpensive small batch of DIY chalk-y paint, my "recipe" is included in this blog post.

After experimenting with the paint process, I decided that an
"assembly line" process would be the quickest way to get these
faux wood slices looking as real as possible (for me). I am the
only person on the "assembly line". 

Operation One on the Assembly Line
Paint A Base Coat On Each Slice

This would be like putting a primer on the slices. It makes 
putting the following paint layers quicker.
I found that it worked better to paint the main flat surface
first, let it dry and then pick it back up to paint the sides.
The cut surface did not get paint since it will not be seen for this project.  You could paint it if both sides will be seen.

Operation Two on the Assembly Line 
Paint The Inner Rings of the Wood Slice

The "assembly line" was moved to two card-table-type tables 
smack in front of the TV so I could watch the Super Bowl AND
do a craft project. Even though I did not "have a dog in the fight"
I enjoyed the game, the commercials and the half-time while
painting faux wood slice faces. 

When I got up the next morning I was surprised to see that 
the wood slice faces did not look as good as I thought they did 
the night before. Too much Super Bowl partying? The rings
 needed to be more obvious before moving on to the next operation.

Hoping that a quick fix would be a brown Sharpie or art marker
to make rings, I tried those....

Ummmm...not terrible but not the look I was after. 

I painted watered down acrylic paint over the drawn rings
 so that the the drawn rings are slightly visible but painted
 on rings mute them. The slices are about a day old now in the
photo below. Note that the foam "draws up" the paper some
and makes wrinkles...more on the smaller ones than the larger.
I personally don't mind the wrinkles and other irregularities of the foam slices...they just have more personality.

In the light of day and drinking only coffee, I continue in 
"Operation Two" of getting rings painted on the top of the slices.

You can Google "Images of Wood Slices" to get good pictures 
of what actual wood slices look like to give you a guide in
your painting...lots of variety there.

I just kept adding watered down paints in wiggly circles on top
 till each slice looked enough like a wood slice at a distance. 

Whew! That "operation" took the longest time of any process.

Operation Three on The Assembly Line 
Paint the Bark on The Slice

In real trees there is a layer called the phleom or "bast" that is 
the inner bark. It is between the tough outer bark and the tender
inner layer called the "sapwood". In different trees, these layers
are different thicknesses. The top part of the slice with the most
rings is the sapwood. Now the other two layers are needed. 

The inner bark is usually a different color than the other two
colors...like a distinctive ring around the other inner rings.
The tough exterior bark will be the outermost ring and its
 color will continue down the sides of the slice.

Depending on the look you want the outer bark can be light
or dark. If you don't want a solid color, you can layer washes
of other colors once you get a base color on for the bark.

Don't be like me and spend too much time on painting the bark
layer if you are using these faux wood slices for a fireplace cover.
They barely show once the slices are mounted on the board.

If you are using your faux wood slices for a project that
 might be seen from both sides, you might want to give
 a quick coat of paint to the "bad side" of the slice too.

 Since the back of my slices will not be seen,
that part of the slices did not get painted.

Operation Four on The Assembly Line 
Arrange & Glue Slices On The Board

Here is my stash of  finished faux wood slices ready
 to go on the board that will be the fireplace cover...

The mounting board that I used is just a black foam project
board that you can find in craft stores. It wasn't quite long
enough to fill the whole opening of my seldom-used 
firebox but the side screens help hide that fact.
You could use other products to mount your foam slices on too. Heavy cardboard would probably even work.
 Having a dark background behind your slices gives a feeling a depth so I would recommend making the board dark.

I had been trying to think how I was going to make it stand up
but the whole thing ended up being so lightweight that just
slipping it under the flue handle (at the top) holds it up.
(Let me know if yours if more difficult and you need help...I have some ideas that I didn't need to use.)

To cover up more of the board, mix large and small slices.

I did end up cutting a few slices in half to try to cover odd
spaces but that exposes the fake foam inside. Guess I could
paint that but by now I am tired of painting these.
Do the slices look like cinnamon rolls? I hope folks don't think "Why does she have cinnamon rolls in the fireplace?"

Some glues will melt foam but I had done a trial run with this
Elmer's glue and it did not. It did a fine job of holding also.

Put a generous amount of the glue on the back of the slice on a
 flat surface. To not mess up the arrangement of slices, I just 
picked up one slice at a time to add the glue and then put it 
back in its spot on the board. Let it all dry flat for several hours.

Here is the faux wood slice screen in the firebox when I still
had up the Winter-themed mantle and bookcases...

I like it much better than looking at fake-y gas logs or the 
big black firescreen that had been used to hide them.

I put the real wooden candle holders (that my son and 
daughter-in-law made for me a few years ago) nearby
 hoping it will increase the chance that folks might think my
 slices are real too. Plus, I like the candle holders. 

I'm not an artist so the slices don't look exactly real...

...but I kind of like their individuality and quirkiness..

Now that I have my Valentine Mantle up, I like that the screen
gives a much lighter feel to the fireplace area instead of blackness.

Speaking of light...the screen only weighs 1.5 pounds.
It can easily be stored away (only about an inch thick)
when I want to have a plant on the hearth instead. 

The monetary cost was $10 ($4 for the can of foam,
$6 for the board) since I already had the paints and glue.
The glue is $3 and craft paints are around $1 each or so if you need to buy some
The main investment was my time. It did take longer
 than I thought it would to paint the slices but 
I was experimenting along the way

If I do more faux wood slices in the future I won't 
worry so much about trying to get them close to real
 and just go for quirky and fun 'cause that's how they
 turned out in the end anyway!

Let me know if you make some faux wood slices too...
I would love to see them!

I am sharing this post at the February edition of
Best of The Nest hosted by Dimples and Tangles and others


  1. You did SO MUCH work! Well worth it I see - your fireplace looks fantastic!
    Shelly @ http://100things2do.ca

  2. OMG! What an awesome job, your fireplace looks amazing, although it took quite sometime to achieve the look, but well worth it for sure!
    Have a lovely week.

  3. You did an amazing job with this project, and it looks incredible! I never would have thought of that. :)

  4. This looks totally awesome! Who would have thought to make faux wood slices out of foam insulation. You need to send your ideas and pics to the company who makes the foam insulation. They love seeing other uses of their products. Btw, there is a pic in HGTV's magazine of a floor to ceiling stack of wood in a 18 inch wall niche. I love the look and making faux wood slices on a piece of wood (floor to ceiling) would make a great re-creation of this.

  5. This is amazing! I can't believe you made and hand painted all of those. I've wanted to make one of those screens for years... you've got my wheels turning about some alternatives!

  6. Oh my word, this is unreal. Great tutorial too and what a fabulous look. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me.

  7. this is aMAZing! like, truly. even though i will never attempt this, i enjoyed reading along to see how you so perfectly captured the wood slices. enjoy your hard work!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hello from The Pink Tumbleweed! This project is just absolutely amazing! I love your artistry.

  10. Wow! Those look so real, you really did such a fantastic job. I'm featuring your post this week on Masterpiece Monday. Thank you so much for sharing this and thank you so much for all of your kind comments, they're very appreciated. Mary

  11. These look so real! Gayle, you are seriously talented.

  12. Seriously, I am astounded by how you did this? never in a million years would I have thought that you could have created what you did with spray foam. Awesome job! Thanks for sharing your project on Best of the Nest!

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. With Ipe decking, California residents enjoy the look and feel of real wood on the decks of their homes and the lasting natural beauty that it brings. You can get the Ipe boards in lengths of 6 feet to 20 feet, although if you need planks longer than that for your decking, you can place a special order for them.buyipedirect.com

  18. There are a few little woodworking projects for amateurs accessible for buy from web based woodworking retailers. Aluminium ramen

  19. Despite the fact that laser frameworks cost a lot of cash, maintaining an etching business doesn't need high running costs like in different organizations. Hispeed Laser

  20. Home of the weekend rental, our team is fast, efficient, courteous and passionate about having fun.​great site


Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to comment on my blog!

Latest Instagrams

© Miss Kopy Kat. Design by FCD.