Monday, February 22, 2010

The difficult way to make a mirror

Remember my last post when I teased you about out latest project?  Well, by now I've obviously given away what it is. 

I've been dying to get something on our blank dining room wall, but it's been taking a backseat to other priorities for the past two years. Even when I did shop around, trying to find some inexpensive artwork, mirror, or wall decor was proving difficult. Plus, I just didn't know how the heck to fill that big space. Let's remind ourselves what I was dealing with:

Well, that was before I started blogging and getting all these great ideas from you creative peeps! Enter the Pottery Barn Mirror Knock-off over at Starter Home to Dream Home. Love at first sight. It's a substantial piece, but I like how the mirror is visually broken up with the framework for added interest. So immediately I put it on my list of DIY projects to copy someday. And eventually, I mentioned it to Luke enough times that he agreed to help me make it so I'd shut up about it. :)

Our version, however, differs quite a bit from Mikael's version, but the end result is similar. The main reason is because we wanted to make it weigh less instead of mounting the mirrors to a big piece of heavy particle board. But it still needed to be sturdy. I kind of left the logistics of this design to Luke, with some sprinkles of input here and there. Basically, the idea was to cut a groove into our framework so the mirror tiles could slide into said grooves. Then simply piece the framework together with some wood glue and angle brackets. But would it all turn out as we envisioned it?

First, here's the materials list (all from Lowe's):
Poplar board
12" x 12" mirror tiles with plain edge (9)
Minwax Stain - Ebony 2718
2 1/2" zinc plated corner brackets (4)
Eye hooks (2)
E-Z wall anchors (2)
2 1/2" screws (2)

I wish I could tell you how the exact measurements for all of the framework and cut-outs were determined, but I think these drawings by Luke sum it up best:

Clear as mud? That's what I thought. Again, I put my trust in Luke to figure the mathematics - that's not my forte.

We borrowed his dad's table saw to make all the cuts, including the channels in the inside edge of what would be the four outer pieces of the frame (which were eventually mitered for a cleaner finished look).

Then, we cut a groove in both sides of the four inner framework pieces (and when I say "we," I mean Luke). The architect in him also decided it would look cooler to make the four inner corners of the framework overlap so the mirror would technically have no top or bottom (or something to that effect... I took his word for it). This made things a little tricky, but essentially we (Luke) ended up cutting out sections of the four inner pieces so that they would lock together into a square.

When we had completed all the cuts, we laid everything out on our handy worktable ping-pong table in the basement to dry fit the pieces together. This is when we hit our first little hiccup. How in the world were we going to get the center mirror in those grooves? The way the pieces locked into each other and overlapped wouldn't allow for us to slip it in.


Solution: Cut two of the pieces so that we could pull the center square apart to insert the mirror. Because of the location of the cuts, they would only be visible from the backside anyway. Crisis averted!

So here's the mirror after the practice assembly:
I was very excited to see it all coming together!

Next step? Staining. That part I could handle. Conveniently enough, I already had some Minwax Ebony stain from a previous project. I sanded down the boards, and after three coats of stain, finally achieved the desired darkness (or close enough anyway; I was getting impatient). A coat of poly, and we were good to go. The rest would be cake, right?

Not quite. When we slipped a mirror tile into one of the grooves, we realized the edge of the mirror reflected the light part inside the groove that I hadn't seen the need to stain. Oops again. A black Sharpie could have solved this problem, if only we could get it to fit inside that narrow groove. Then my resourceful hubby had an epiphany:

A syringe!
It was a little tedious, but it did the job without making a huge mess around the parts I had already stained. Crisis #2 averted.

So after a few more hours of drying, it was finally time for assembly. This time we put it together face-down, since we had to add the angle brackets on the backside. We started in one corner, making sure it was square and securing it with a bracket, then worked our way out.

By the way, here are those four inner corners I was telling you about earlier, if you can see how they fit together:

 It took a little (ok, maybe a lot of) tweaking here and there to get everything to fit, but eventually this is what it looked like on the backside:

We added an angle bracket to the four outer corners of the frame and that seemed to be enough to keep it all held together tightly. We might go back in eventually and add more brackets or other cross-bracing if we think it needs extra stability, but it should be fine just hanging on the wall. Well, as long as no one bumps the frame, nothing hits those mirrors, and we don't have an earthquake here (not likely in KS).

Two eye bolts and two wall anchors later, and this is the end result: 

This project had its frustrating moments (as usual), but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out! It's roughly a 38" square.  So what do you think? Do we still need something else to jazz up that big wall?

Let's recap:
32 feet of 1x2 poplar board - $25.60
Mirror tiles - $17.96 (still have three left)
Corner brackets - $2.97
E-Z wall anchors - (already had on hand)
2 1/2" screws - $1.25
Eye hooks - $1.18
Total cost - Under $50

So there you have it. Another DIY project, another lengthy post. Hope it was worth the wait for the reveal! :) Thanks again to Mikael (and Pottery Barn, of course) for the inspiration!

UPDATE: Some of you have suggested to put a console table underneath the mirror. I think this is a terrific idea; however, our dining room is pretty small and I'm afraid it would make for a tight squeeze when the chair at the table is pulled out (especially if we pull the table out to its 8-person size). But I am going to keep exploring my options!


micah @ the yellow front door said...

It looks FABULOUS!!! You (Luke) did a great job.... haha!

Was that left over stain from a bookshelf project, perhaps?

Amanda @ Little House on the Corner said...

Why yes, yes it was. ;)

Danielle and Clint said...

OOooo...! I like it! It almost looks like a window! Great project :-)

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

It was soooo worth it. You got a day with Luke and a mirror. Looks great!

Marleah said...

Love it! You know, you may run out of blog posts and have Luke just make stuff so that you have more ideas. :) Not that you would EVER do that ... and if you did, we'd love to see it!

I think the mirror would like nice with maybe some sconces of some sort on each side ... Great job of using that space!

The Brick Cottage said...

Wow! That does not look like a DIY project at all! It's really beautiful--you all did a great job!

Amanda @ Little House on the Corner said...

Thanks everyone!

Marleah - I agree. I'm thinking either sconces or perhaps a bud vase on each side... nothing too heavy or distracting.

Amanda said...

It looks awesome! I think it's a great focal point for the wall. I like the sconce idea too. Congrats on a major DIY project!

Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

Amanda, it is wonderful! Two things:

1. This mirror is practically begging for a narrow little console table under it. And you could probably build it very easily, too! I wouldn't put anything on the sides of it, it would take away from it.

2. Make your pictures bigger, please! Just click the 'large' button when you insert them, or edit the size manually. Email me if you want help!

Mrs. Chic said...

The mirror looks amazing, you two put it together perfectly!! It looks so nice - I agree with Sara, maybe a console table under it our a buffet. Or some ledges, just keep playing around and you'll find somthing you like.

Again WOW

Heather @ McKinney Living said...

WOW!!! I would NEVER guess this wasn't a super over-priced mirror at Pottery Barn. Perfect!!!

The Persimmon Perch said...

It turned out great! Thanks for sharing with Made it Monday! Jules

dolores @ "Welcome to My Humble Ablog" said...

Holy moly, you guys should go into the mirror making business! Simply impeccable work. Looks great on the wall.

Hillary @ The Sweet Maple Life said...

Love it! I am glad that your project turned out so amazingly... you have left me inspired to find somewhere for one of these in my home :)

PS- I finally finished my project!! Stop by and check out the finished product!!

Amanda @ Little House on the Corner said...

dolores - You're so sweet! But I don't think we'd be very profitable, considering this one took us about a week from start to finish! haha

The mirror does have its imperfections, but they're probably only noticeable to me and Luke.

Lauren @ withTWOcats said...

Looks great! I love that PB mirror, but I wouldn't pay for it either ;)

Meg said...

Crazy good!! You did such an incredible job! I agree with Dolores! Quality not quantity. :)

Kim at Yellow Brick Home said...

Beautiful, Amanda! It looks very pro. So when can you start taking orders? ;)

Kristi W @ Life at the Chateau Whitman said...


The Handyguys said...

What a great project!! Nice job. I better not let my wife see it.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Yay!! Job well done. :)

Danielle @ Transforming Home said...

Looks fantabulous! WOW!


Amy @ Design-Aholic said...


I simply love this. In FACT- I'll probably make it! Yay for inspiration!



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