Warning – No Hummingbirds were harmed during the creation of this blog post.
Ever since my wife and I bought our house 15 years ago we’ve both hated the kitchen. The initial catalyst was the hand-painted tile backsplash behind the stove. At the time the kitchen was a recent remodel and the appliances were new and good quality. Since then we’ve grown to hate the cabinets and loathe the appliances. The ‘fridge especially, when it dies we’ll have to rip out part of the cabinets to be able to get it out of the kitchen because of how everything was constructed.
It’s going to be a couple of years before we’re ready to overhaul the kitchen, so we’re living with it. Truth be told, I’d trained myself not to see the butt-ugly tile behind the stove. It was a sort of zen thing, or maybe a Star Wars thing (“These are not the tiles you’re looking for…”, Jedi hand wave). And I like hummingbirds, we have a flock of them that regularly feeds on our deck. It’s just the cheesy tile rendition I dislike.
U G L Y !
But this morning my lovely wife announced she had found the solution to our tile problem — Tile Tattoos, Stickers that overlay tiles to add a design or change their color. Unfortunately, this brought the hummingbirds and flowers back to the forefront of my brain, ruining whatever zen tricks I’d invented. And, at the same time I just couldn’t see putting stickers over the tile. I thought about running down to the home center and getting a case of tile and replacing the ones behind the stove. I had a suspicion that replacing the tile wouldn’t be as easy at that. Every time I’ve worked on our house I’ve had to go further than I expected, re-doing the shoddy work the previous owner did.
Instead I decided to cover up the ugly with something I could make out of junk I had on hand. My personal aesthetic runs to retro, industrial, deco – and lately Greene & Greene. When I was designing and manufacturing chopper parts I used early sports-racing cars as part of my inspiration. After poking around in the shop I settled on an approach based on junk I had on hand — some copper rivets, steel flat bar and aluminum sheet. I really wanted copper, but I didn’t have any pieces big enough to do the trick.
I cut four pieces of 1″ x 1/4″ cord rolled steel bar (I really prefer cold-rolled, the hot rolled has mill scale and mashed edges). I welded and ground the four pieces to make a frame, and drilled it for 3/16″ solid rivets. The rivet holes are deeply countersunk on the back so I could form the back of the rivet flat over the countersink.
Steel bar ready for welding
I cut a piece of .062″ aluminum sheet to fit the frame, plus a 1.5″ tab at the bottom to fill the gap between the wall and the stove. I clamped it in place and match-drilled the holes for the rivets. I dropped rivets into the holes as I went to keep the sheet and frame from getting out of alignment.
Match-drilling the aluminum sheet
Then I sprayed the frame with some black paint, deburred the holes in the aluminum, gave it a sanded texture, and riveted the parts together. I supported the rounded head of the rivet on the front with a steel block that has a dimple in it, and drove the back side of the rivets flush with the sheet. The aluminum sheet and the tail of the rivet deform into the countersink. It’s super strong, and flush.
One rivet driven — backside
Honestly, the hardest part of this project was installing it, I had to make two trips to the hardware store because two of the anchor bolts I bought didn’t work out. One stripped (and I had to hack saw it off and poke the back half thought the wall) and the other just collapsed the drywall and I had to get a different kind of toggle.
My wife and I are both happy with the change. I think it slightly more industrial than she wanted, but at the same time it’s significantly less cheesy that what we had.
Tomorrow I plan to get back to the Underhill nail cabinet, I have all of the stock for the drawers milled, and one test drawer made. I think I can do the other 20 in a day, they are pretty simple.
New Backsplash In Place