Monday, September 29, 2014

repurposing an old mirror


Kathleen and I had been hunting around for a large mirror for a living room mantle, but since we were looking for a pretty specific size, we kept coming up short. Kathleen had wanted to try frame-building for a while and we had a frameless mirror that was 36" x 72" that had been removed during some renovations that was just sitting in the basement. So we ordered a glass cutter and set to work on building our own mirror. There were a few hiccups along the way (like accidentally buying one pack of the wrong size mirror clips) and a hardware store employee who was doubtful that we were capable (jerk), but we managed to pull it off and didn't get cut along the way. The final mirror is 41"x 45" so this was a pretty large-scale project, but it only cost about $30, which is a lot less than a store-bought mirror this large.


Supplies used:

- 4- 3" x 1" x 48" pieces of pine
- Stanley miter box
- 1/4" mirror clips
- D-ring hangers
- 100 lb. picture hanging wire
- corner brackets
- corrugated fasteners (we found these at St. Matthews Hardware)
-  3/4" wood screws
- glass cutter
- wood glue
- Minwax oil-based stain in Espresso and Ebony


We bought two 8-foot pieces of pine at Home Depot and had them cut down to 4 feet to make them a little more manageable. Then we used the miter box to cut the pieces to exact length at a 45ยบ angle. We cut two pieces to 45 inches and two pieces to 39 inches. If you use a miter box, clamp it down to your work surface, or have someone (carefully) hold the sides down. This will make sawing a lot easier and the cut will be more precise.


Next we laid out our pieces and glued the mitered edges together. We used a moving strap to squeeze all of the pieces together. We let the glue joints dry for about 20 minutes before hammering in the corrugated fasteners. We had to move the frame from the wood floor to a tile floor to hammer the fasteners in because the floor was causing the frame to bounce back, making it impossible to drive in the fasteners. We used two fasteners for each corner.


Next, we took off the straps and sanded down the frame with 120 grit sandpaper. Then we stained it with one coat of Minwax oil-based stain in Espresso and two coats of Ebony. Once the frame was dry we applied a couple coats of our favorite Minwax Satin Wipe-On Poly. Make sure you stain or paint both sides of your frame so that you don't have to do so after you put the whole thing together and realize that the raw edge of the frame is reflected in the mirror. (This may or may not have happened to us...)


Since we had never cut glass before we decided to do it outside in case there was a lot of glass dust or tiny shards. There were, and we are glad we did. We also didn't know what the ball on the end of the cutter was for when we started (always do your research before you start a project...) so the first piece we tried cutting ended up being a bunch of broken chunks. We set a flat door on two sawhorses for a work table. We clamped a drywall t-square to the mirror and table for a straight edge to make sure we got a nice, straight cut. We highly recommend doing a couple test cuts before trying to make your final cuts, especially if you are working with double-strength glass. We also recommend wearing work gloves and doing this with two people if you are using a large mirror. I didn't get any good pictures, but you hold the glass cutter with the toothed-edge of the cutter facing down. You want to apply enough pressure as you drag the wheel along the glass that you hear a ripping sound. For the double strength glass, we had to use the ball on the end of the cutter to hit the scored line from underneath to make the crack propagate through all the layers of the glass. Then you want to remove your straight edge and position the scored line just a couple inches past the edge of your work table. Hold the glass down to the table firmly with one hand and grip the edge to be broken off with your other hand. Pull down on the free edge and the glass should break in a relatively clean line. We vacuumed our glass and covered the cut edges in masking tape before bringing the pieces inside.


We laid the frame right-side down on some cardboard and positioned the cut mirror over the frame. Then we removed the masking tape and applied some electrical tape to the cut edges. Next we screwed on the corner brackets. Then we screwed on the mirror clips. Since our mirror was enormous and heavy, we used four clips for each side of the mirror. I did not get a picture, but next we screwed on the D-ring hangers and attached the picture hanging wire. We attached the hangers close to the top and the wire was not very tight so that the mirror could lean on the mantle, but so it would also not tip off the mantle and crash on the floor.


Hanging the mirror was a bit of a doozy since it weighs a truckload and the mantle is about 4 feet off the ground, but once we hoisted it up there we were very excited to see the final result. The fireplace under the mantle needs a makeover and the built-in shelves surrounding it need some cleaning and styling, but the mirror has made a huge impact on the room and makes the paneling look a lot less dated. We'll be sharing some more updates to this room soon!

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