For many woodworkers one of the fascinations is creating things from parts and pieces, such is the case with this mirror project. I had picked up package of small mirrors at some sort of a swap meet for a couple of dollars. They were in good shape and didn't even look like they had ever been used. I remember at the time, wondering what I might do with these, but for what was about the cost of a cup of coffee ... I should purchase this pack of mirrors ... and I did.
Roll forward 2 or 3 years and it seems every time am looking around for something in my shop, this package of mirrors shows up. I have been ignoring them for years, so time to get them out of my shop, make something and get them out of my way. I decided to ask for suggestions on what to do with them, to which my wife promptly announced we needed an entrance way mirror, why not make that ... and so, and entrance way mirror it is!!
The mirrors were a bit of an odd size, all 5.5 x 7.25 inches. The only other thing I knew was that I wanted the mirror to look like an old window frame so the outside rails and stiles would need to be at least 1" thick and would need to be about 3" wide. This would give the mirror a nice 3 dimensional look as it would stand out from the wall a bit.
I decided the best way to figure out my sizes more accurately would be to lay out the mirrors on a flat surface, which is what I did. As soon as I saw them laid out, I started moving them around a bit and checking with some scrap woods to see what size spacers I would need between the panes. As it turned out, I liked 3/4" the best, and it was a handy size.
With this information, I could no start making the mirror because I knew what the rabbet sizes needed to be for the rails and stiles, as well as for the spacers between the panes, all of which were 1/4".
I am learning to do what ever glue-ups I need to do early on so that as the glue dries I can still carry on with the rest of the build, which is what I did here in gluing the mirrors to a backing. Some of you may be wondering why I didn't make the mirror the say way windows are made and the answer is 2 fold. First of all by gluing the mirrors on a flat surface, they are quicker and easier to work with (and there is less chance I will cut myself with the mirror edges) AND ... the other reason I like to use a flat surface is to make sure the mirrors are all mounted in the same plane. I have seen old windows that have hand mirror panels used to replace the glass in the window and they look beautiful .. BUT, almost always the mirrors are all on slightly different planes which makes the mirror hard to use because often the mirrors are at slightly different angles.
I decided to use a construction grade adhesive to glue the mirrors to the 1/4" plywood backing sheet, and it worked very well. Next I set it aside to dry and cure and went on with making the rails and stiles.
There are a variety of ways to attach rails and stiles ... lap joints, mortise and tenon, pocket hole technology and even box joints but I finally decided to use my doweling jig because it is quick and easy, and one of the strongest joints.
I gave each joint 3 dowels, then glued the frame together and clamped it to ensure that as it dried it would remain square.
After the frame was dry, I sanded it and laid on a coat of dark, water based dye to give the mirror a darker look. While that was all drying in began making the spacers for that area between the panes. These were easily cut on my router table using a rabbeting bit, and when one edge of a boards was done, I only needed to flip the board over and could then route the second side. after cutting the rabbets, I took the wood to the table saw and set up a jig to cut the strips of wood .. then dyed them with the same dark wood dye.
Assembly was very easy, I started off by attaching the mirrored backing plywood to the inside rabbets of the main frame, then it was was time to attach strips. These were glued on, using yellow carpenters glue and left to sit overnight.
Because all the wood was pre-dyed a darker color and pre-finished (I used Osmo on this project) there was no lag time it getting all the pieces glued on and again, left to dry overnight.
The next day, the mirror looked great, with the exception of all the fingerprints, but with a bit of Windex cleaner, it looked amazing. The dark color frame really sets off the mirror and the because the mirrors are all mounted on a single sheet, all the mirrors are oriented the same way and the cross members almost disappear. A simple but very effective project.
Copyright Colin Knecht