A tremendous amount of things are making a comeback these days, even a craft as quirky as lath art got revamped. Beach and rural scenes most popular for this folk woodworking art gave way to fresh and simple geometric patterns. Use of lath in interiors has become increasingly popular in the past few years, with master makers such as Ariele Alasko, Jacquelyn Wrafter and Elana Taubman emerging on the scene.
Recently we had a chance to experiment with this material as well. One of our latest projects was a conversion of a 1901 blacksmith shop into an Air BnB rental. We designed and built two lath wall panels to cover the openings left by removing the original swinging barn doors.
For this particular projects we designed the panels on site as we were building them, not prior to. We wanted the flexibility of deciding on the pattern as we went, that way we could make immediate adjustments based on the existing conditions. Below are the steps we took to construct the panels, together with some tips for those of you considering making a panel or a furniture piece for yourself.
1) Sketching out designs first won't be a bad idea. As a rule lath varies in width, landing somewhere around 1.5" - keep that in mind when designing your piece.
2) Once the pattern was figured out, we found the center of the design and started working from there out toward the edges. We found that marking and cutting each piece separately was more time-effective and mistake-proof then cutting all the pieces at the same time.
3) Once all lath fragments were cut and the design was laid out, it was time to attach it to the backing (in this case, a 1/2" think sheet of MDF, painted black). We used wood glue and also secured each piece with a couple of small nails - for a lighter application you can just pick either one.
4) After all lath boards were securely attached to the backing, we carefully sanded the surface to prevent splinters. Take care to not strip away too much of that wonderful texture.
5) Next we taped certain areas of our design with painter's tape to prepare for staining.
6) Last step was to stain selected parts of the panel to enhance the pattern. We used Benjamin Moore ARBORCOAT Semi Transparent Deck and Siding Stain in Black and a large rough brush. Instead of evenly coating the wood with the stain, we applied it irregularly with generous brushstrokes in some places and nearly dry brush in others. As a result, we ended up with a weathered look that is in line with the rest of the unfinished boards on the panel.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below and look out for the photos of this wall panel featured in one of our finished projects!