Monday, February 7, 2011

tutorial: large mirror frame

Drum roll, please....

Today, 4 years (to the day) after I got this large mirror with plans of making a frame for it, I finally finished the frame. With much help from my assistant husband, of course. Thank you, Christian!

I don't claim to know how to make a frame, but we did it anyway, so here's a little tutorial on what we did. I wanted to share since I could not, for the life of me, find a tutorial online for making a huge frame. Small picture frames, sure, but a big leaning mirror frame had to have strength that those little frame tutorials simply didn't possess.

We bought 10" vintage outdoor redwood siding from a demolition salvage warehouse, Whole House Building Supply and Salvage. If you have a salvage store in your area, stop by and have a look around. It's kind of fun to see what they have.

I borrowed my parents' miter saw, but it wasn't big enough cut the redwood planks, so I used my brother's table saw instead. I knew if I waited until I found someone with a large miter or swing saw, I would never finish the project.

Some of the edges were uneven and/or cracking, so I cut half an inch off of the outer edges of the wood. Yes--I'm wearing pajamas.

However, do you know how hard it is to cut a perfect 45-degree angle on a 6-foot plank using a table saw? Christian had to hold one end of the plank while I carefully ran the other end through the saw. Because of this, the edges of each cut ended up slightly off, so I spent a couple hours in front of the TV one night manually filing down the tips little by little until the frame fit together correctly. It was quite the process.

I wasn't sure about the strength of the redwood siding, so I didn't want to rabbet the back of it in case the leftover edges were weak. If the rabbeted edges cracked off, it would ruin the whole frame. Plus, I didn't have the tools to rabbet the back. Instead, we set it up like this:

First we put down a large piece of plywood as the backing. Due to the large size, we had to use 3 pieces, one large piece in the middle and two smaller panels on the sides.

We glued the mirror onto the backing and glued 1/4" thick plywood strips (the same thickness as the mirror) around the mirror, creating a flush surface. We then drove small finishing nails through the strips to the plywood backing. This secured the mirror into place much like rabbeting would.

As a precaution, we secured the bottoms and tops of the 3 plywood backing planks to each other using corrugated joint fasteners. (We obviously only had to do this because the mirror was too big to just use one piece of plywood for the back.)

We weighed down all the pieces with our dumbbells (and soy milk and kitty litter--whatever heavy items we had within reach) and let the glue dry.

After a few hours, we glued the frame pieces on top, weighed them down, and let them dry.

The following morning, we flipped the entire thing over (no easy feat--with all that wood, this beast is heavy!)and drove finishing nails through all 3 layers of wood, securing everything together. We flipped it back over and I filled in any spaces in the corner joints with wood putty.

As a final step, I painted the frame with a clear polyurethane coat (per my mom's suggestion). Because the wood is old, I can't guarantee that the paint doesn't have lead, and the paint has lots of character--meaning it's peeling and chipping off everywhere. The clear finish sealed things up and put my mind at ease with a toddler who LOVES to bang on mirrors.

Important note: Be sure to secure the top of the frame to a stud in the wall using earthquake straps. If this thing somehow tipped over forward (which would really only happen in a big earthquake since it practically takes superhuman strength just to pull it away from the wall), it could absolutely kill a child and seriously injure an adult.

I predict that some day I will tire of the yellow paint and strip it all off down to the bare wood. I look forward to that day, too. It will be pretty.

And just like that, it's finished! Stay tuned. Tomorrow I will post a picture of the finished mirror in its rightful place--leaning up against our wall.


Ashley said...

Holy crap. That's crazy work, I didn't have a clue what you were talking about (rabbet?) but it just looked hard. It seems like it turned out amazing though--I can't wait to see it in it's glory!!! (P.S. I'm hiring you for my next D-I-Y.)

Julia Wade said...

you two never cease to amaze me .... awesome! cannot wait to see the final product

Packet of Seeds said...

You should send your post to Design Sponge..I am certain they will post it!

Looks oh so lovely!

The Carters said...

Ummmm...why do you have Kitty Litter?

(very impressive perserverance with equally impressive results!)

Molly said...

I figured someone might ask about the kitty litter eventually. We used it to clean up oil on the driveway. :)

Amy Carter said...

Congrats on finishing it! I love the wood! and can't believe you're making me wait to see the final product. You did such a good job!

'and just like that'... ha ha, i don't think you can use that phrase if it took four years to make! :)

ps, i don't even know who you are after reading this post. miter saw, rabbet, corrugated joint fasteners...?

Mer said...

Look at you with that saw! I'm impressed. Final product looks fabulous! :)

Lindsay said...

Nice! I've got a saw you can borrow next time you need to cut 45 degree angles on 10" redwood planks. I love DIY posts!

Sally Teeple said...

In one picture, it looks like you used a sea turtle to help weigh down the mirror! :)

Molly said...

Sally--That would be the beach towel we bought in the greatest place on earth: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. :)

Makson lazia said...

That's wonderful stuff you have got on your blog. Been looking for this all around. Good work
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