If you have an old round mirror kicking around, why not turn it into a beautiful French Country mirror? All you’ll need is some cedar boards and some liming wax. Heck, you may even want to go buy a new one for this project!
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A while back, my mom and dad gave Handan an old round mirror that used to hang in my sister’s bedroom back in the days of big hair and small televisions. It had a diameter of 26 inches, and it was fastened to a thick wooden backing. Like most things we collect, it was sentenced to a mandatory minimum six month stay in our maximum security basement while Handan deliberated on its fate.
It had all the attributes of a fine mirror: it was shiny, it reflected the image of a staggeringly handsome devil each time I passed in front of it, and it never once reflected the image of a vampire. A fine mirror, indeed.
The file was quickly followed with the following text exchange:
H: Hey babes?
G: [looking out the window at the snow and wondering how far I’d get trying to escape on foot before succumbing to the elements] Yes?
H: Can you make this for me?
G: [conclusion: not far enough] Of course I can, my babes 🙂
And so I was roped into making another project for Handan.
Apparently the style is “French country” or some such nonsense. I think that’s just fancy French talk for “farmhouse,” and we all know what that means, right?
Me: “Hey babes, I dropped your picture frame, and now it’s all scratched and broken!”
The Woman: “That’s okay, my babes! Now it’s farmhouse! And rustic! Hey, look, it’s even a little shabby chic! Wow, good job, my babes!”
Me: “Right! I’ll smash some more stuff…”
Okay, it wasn’t the best picture to go on, but who am I to shy away from a challenge? If my babes wanted a French country mirror, my babes was going to get a French country mirror! But that wood….what the hell was it? Bah! No matter! I’d figure it out later.
I went to the basement to see what I had on hand for lumber. Old warped pine from our Garden Shed Organization last summer? Hmmmm, maybe. But I hate working with warped wood, and this stuff was furry. I’d have to plane it, and that would destroy its “rustic charm.” (I can’t even type those words without rolling my eyes.)
I saw three 8-foot boards of 1 x 6 cedar that were left over from the garden beds Handan and I built the year before. Cedar has awesome knots. The color was pretty reddish/yellowish, but I was confident Handan could do something about that. I grabbed those pieces and set them aside.
I unscrewed the wood backing from the mirror and put the mirror aside. First, I’d need to make a template out of cardboard so I could trace the shape onto the wood. Fortunately, we had some old tri-fold poster board lying around from one of Barish’s 6th grade science projects (Which soda will explode the highest when Mentos are added to the bottle? The winner was Sprite, not Diet Coke as you may have been led to believe) Handan, anticipating my need, had already placed the poster board on my workbench. Maybe one of these days, she’ll anticipate my need for a dry martini, and one will be waiting for me when I….Oh, who am I kidding? That’ll never happen.
I then used Handan’s super-easy method to find the center of the circle.
There was a 1/2 inch bevel around the mirror, so I decided to scribe a smaller circle with a 25 inch diameter within the larger circle. This would be where I would cut, so only the flat surface of the mirror would show.
I had some thin strips of veneer lying around, so I used one to make a scriber. I drilled a small hole in one end of the strip, then I removed the bit from the drill, pushed it through the hole I’d just drilled and secured it into the center hole in the cardboard.
I then measured 1/2 inch in from the circle I had traced, drilled another small hole and then inserted a sharp pencil into that hole.
And I had my makeshift scribe. I used one hand to keep the drill bit steady in the center hole (not shown in the picture below, since I was working the camera clicker) and the other hand to scribe the circle.
With the mirror circle done, I moved on to drawing the curves of the mirror’s body. This was hard, since I did most of it freehand. I started with a compass to make the initial semicircle in the middle. From there, I worked freehand on the right side. My plan was to draw one side, cut out the shape and then use the trimmings as a template for the left side.
The outer feet looked oblong in the photo I had, so I made them that way as well. When all was drawn, I used a utility blade to cut out my pattern.
I placed the trimmings on the opposite side and traced.
I cut the left side with my blade, and the bottom part of my template was done.
I re-calibrated my makeshift scriber to mark the upper arch.
I then cut the top with my blade, and the template was almost done.
The only thing left to do was to cut out the center hole. I could have done it freehand, but the possibility of a template-ruining error was just too great, so I decided to take my original makeshift scriber and cut the strip right at the pencil hole. Instead of a pencil, I would rest a razor blade against the end of the veneer strip and rotate the strip around the face. This would have been much easier with two people!
At last, the template was done. Phew! That was a lot of work just for a template! Here it is, turned over to contrast better with the white table.
Click on ‘Page 2 of 3’ below to continue and ‘Page 3 of 3’ to download the template.
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To conserve wood, Handan suggested I build it in pieces, instead of making a huge rectangle from the cedar boards and then tracing the whole piece. Handan is always more practical than I, and her suggestion saved me from buying two more boards. I started with the bottom part. I placed the template on the adjacent boards and marked where I would cut the boards to length.
I cut the boards, then used my Kreg jig to drill pocket holes.
It was then time to cut out the pattern. For a piece this size, the bandsaw would have been unwieldy, so I decided to use my trusty old jigsaw. I don’t think I had laid a hand on it in two years, but it did a great job with this project!
When I finished cutting, I sanded the edges until they were smooth.
It was then time to start building up, piece-by-piece, until I had enough wood placed to trace the rest of the template.
I then laid the template over the cedar and traced the pattern with a pencil.
Once more, I fired up my little jigsaw and cut out the rest of the pattern.
I placed the mirror over the hole and moved it around until I was reasonably confident it was centered, and then I traced around it with a pencil. This would be the 1/2 inch that would hide the mirror’s beveled edge. Since the mirror was 1/4 inch thick, I set my plunge depth to 1/4 inch as well and used a 1/2 inch diameter straight bit for the cut. I routed it freehand, since this was the back, and it didn’t need to look perfect.
Next, I made the little “hat” that sits atop the mirror. I made it in the same way as the frame. I first drew one half of the shape, freehand, on a folded-over piece of cardboard and then cut it out while still folded over. I glued and screwed the wood together in the same way as well. I then placed the template on the wood and traced out the pattern in pencil.
I again cut out the shape with the jigsaw and sanded it until smooth.
I affixed the hat to the frame using wood glue. Due to its shape, I could only use clamps on part of it. For the part the clamps wouldn’t reach, I used my trusty OHRIPH (Obscenely Heavy Rusty Iron Pulley Hook). I bought OHRIPH at a warehouse sale for $50. Why? I have no idea. I guess I thought that something so irrationally heavy and covered in rust just had to be worth more than $50. Perhaps it is. I’ll never know. But it makes one hell of a clamp!
It’s also a great age barometer. The day I can no longer lift it is the day I can officially admit that I’m old. Until then, I’m a spry spring chicken!
Once the glue dried, I hand-sanded the entire piece with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper. I then took it upstairs so Handan and I could work out how to make it look like the mirror in the picture.
By this time, I had some more information on the original mirror. Handan found another image of it for me, this time on countryliving.com.
Okay, look, I know what you’re thinking, madam: Well, that picture clearly shows round feet, but yours are all weird shaped!
Madam, must you be so impertinent? I understand that you prefer the round look, but my dear, adoring wife actually prefers my oblong feet! And if they are good enough for my babes, they are certainly good enough for me.
But fear not, madam! The template I’ve included for download at the end of the post has been carefully redesigned with the full, round feet!
So I learned that this mirror came from a shop called Bobo’s Intriguing Objects. It is no longer sold, but I did learn that it was made from reclaimed Azobe wood. Azobe wood, or Lophira alata as it is known in Latin, is a species of incredibly dense hardwood found only in equatorial Africa. It is used extensively for outdoor constructions that require strength and durability such as railroad ties or bridge planking. The wood is so hard, that it is know for quickly dulling the tools used to cut it. But perhaps its best use (in my opinion) is as an analgesic. Apparently headaches are cured by sniffing the bark. I imagine on New Year’s morning and the mornings after other local holidays, throngs of bark-sniffing natives can be found draped over Azobe trees in the hopes of dispelling the aftereffects of their carousing.
Handan’s first thought was to try white liming wax on the cedar. She tried it on a test piece, and it came out great, because the grain was raised on the test piece, and it created really cool striations of white. But I had just sanded the whole mirror frame to a uniform smoothness. How could I get that grain back? I knew that water can help raise the grain, so we wet the whole piece. But because of my sanding, it didn’t raise enough. Then it hit me: we needed fire. I grabbed my propane torch and started burning the whole face of the mirror frame.
Click on ‘Page 3 of 3’ below to continue and to download the template.
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I was going for a light-medium char.
When I finished torching the frame, Handan scratched off all the char with a stiff wire brush. The brush took away the charred soft wood, while leaving behind the denser, harder areas, which then stood out in relief against the eroded softer wood.
Now the frame had some awesome relief for Handan to wax. She applied the wax with a brush…
…and then rubbed it off with cheesecloth.
It gave just the look we were after.
She did the same to the edges.
Handan then filled the recessed edge of the circle with E6000 glue. That stuff is awesome, but the smell makes me dizzy, so I left the room. Once she had the glue applied, we placed the mirror and weighed it down with whatever we could find. We further secured the mirror by screwing on four “L” brackets, just in case the glue would ever fail.
To make the little circle design in the middle, Handan gave me some upholstery tacks that she had in her craft room. To ensure that all of the tacks were equally spaced, I first determined the diameter of the circle that I wanted (3 1/2 inches), then I searched online for “clock face with dots.” I found a simple pic, downloaded it, then resized it so the distance between 12 and 6 was 3 1/2 inches. I then printed it and cut it out with scissors. I placed the clock face where I wanted the tacks to go and then pushed the tacks through all the hours on the clock face. When all the tacks were in place, I pulled off the clock face and hammered the tacks fully into the frame.
And with that, Handan’s French country style mirror was done! I removed Handan’s beautiful vase from the mantel and placed the mirror there instead.
And here is the cut template with the full round feet for your personal use only.
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