Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Making a Mirror

Somewhere amongst making wall installations, school store cabinets, and helping during the courses, I was taught how to make hand mirrors. It was no big surprise to me to realize that I love making hand mirrors. They are small projects but functional and beautiful (as is the Lohr Woodworking way).

We've all owned hand mirrors. Most of them are brightly colored plastic heaps that we glance at to adjust our hair before we run out the door. But, the mirrors that come out of our shop make me stop to admire the mirror itself more than my face being reflected in it. I had only seen Lohr Woodworking mirrors in pictures (like the one to the right) so I was excited to attempt one myself.

The process started with the design of the mirror's shape. Jeff sat me down with a piece of planed cherry, a circular cut mirror, and a set of traditional French curve templates. He told me to draw out a hand mirror that would be practical and comfortable for someone to hold while being aesthetically pleasing and interesting.
From there, I used the plunge router to hollow out the sunken space for the mirror to be glued. Lucky for me, Eoin had created a template for the router to ride on so, it took me nothing but a few minutes and a bit of double-sided tape to router out the circular space.

You can see the template as well as all the other assorted tools I used to start off this project in the picture. Notice that the holes in the template gradually get bigger so that base of the router always has something flat to ride on.
I used relatively simple curves since it was my first attempt. I cut the basic shape out using the band saw and then took to the belt sanding machine to shape the edges into smooth curves. I took special care to make sure the curves were symmetrical and that they were conducive to being hand-held. At that point, the shape was roughly what I wanted it to be but, there were still sharp edges to deal with.
Using a combination of files, sanding sticks, block planes, and sanding bits in the drill press, I rounded the edges down. My favorite of the new tools I got my hands on was the rasp; that thing can tear wood up like crazy.

Eventually, the mirror looked like a rough version of the image to the left. But then, although the edges were rounded, they were a mess from being torn up by the rasp. So, I took to them with a file and sand paper.
The sanding process is always longer than I anticipate but, eventually it looked smooth and I managed to get most of the marks out. Then, it was finishing time. For this first mirror, I was on a time constraint so Jeff recommended that I finish it with lacquer so that it would dry quickly. After a few coats of lacquer, I wiped it down with mineral oil and a steel wool pad. The final stage was to take to it with some Rottenstone soaked rags. The Rottenstone makes the surface incredibly smooth and dyes your hands an awesome dark brown color if you don't wear gloves.

Finally, I used a special mirror adhesive to glue the mirror itself into place. Because we make practical pieces here, the mirror is completed with a leather loop attached at the bottom of the handle making it easy to hang/store. Although it's far from perfect, I am pleased with the final result. And, I can say that I finished my first (of many, I'm sure) mirror!

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