Friday, March 25, 2011

A February Project Recap "The Hand Mirror"

Holidays are always a love/hate situation for woodworkers. On one hand you have an enormous number of folks asking for gifts to be made, not to mention the fact they usually want it done for next to nothing. The flip side, however, is that you can often whip up a gift if your one of those "wait until the last minute" kind of guys like myself. 
      I took my daughter to Hobby Lobby about a week ahead of Valentines day because she had an idea for a Valentines box for my wife and she wanted some small hinges and a clasp for the lid. I suppose I'm one of the few gentlemen that can tolerate Hobby Lobby. If you can weed through the overpriced, cheaply made furniture and potpourri smell there are some gems to be found. As it turns out I found one of those little gems while scanning the aisles for the box hardware. 
      On the end of an aisle I found several types of small mirrors like you see at Woodcraft (they cost around $8 to $10 at Woodcraft). Each one is an oval about 5" wide and 7" tall. The nice thing about these mirrors are the edges. Rather than the typical flat edges, they have a wave pattern that runs the circumference of the mirror. They had several sizes but I liked the overall look of these.

      I hadn't bought my wife a Valentines present so I did what any respectable woodworker would do...I weaseled out and decided to make her something. I shelled out roughly $2.50 for each mirror and bought the last three they had. I figured that I could make a hand mirror for my wife and one for my mother. Considering I have fat fingers I picked up the third one just in case I broke one.

I had some curly maple that I could use for the body of the mirror and decided a little of the mahogany left over from the oriental chest of drawers would make a nice inlay of my wife's initials on the back.

     Making hand mirrors, as I found, is a fairly simple process requiring very few tools. In fact a router alone could just about suffice in the tools department. 

    My materials for each hand mirror included:

  •   mirror
  •   12"x 6"x 3/4" section of Curly Maple (for the body)
  •   3" x 3" section of Mahogany veneer (for the inlay)
  •   Epoxy  (I bought the small syringe of 2 part epoxy)

     The Hobby Lobby mirrors had 4 small rubber feet on the back which were easily removed with my finger nail. Just take care not remove any of the silver backing which gives it the reflective qualities.
 The extra mirror I bought actually had a small scratch along the back that, when held up to the light, let you see through the glass. I later found out that it wasn't really noticeable once it was glued in place. Of course you could avoid all of this by buying your mirrors at Woodcraft or Rockler for three times the price. But hey, convenience doesn't come cheap.

      Once I had the rubber feet off I laid my mirror on the base material, which in this case was the curly maple, and traced around it with my marking knife. If you've never done inlay work I would highly suggest watching Marc Spaguolo's video about inlay work on "The Wood Whisperer" website. He does an extremely good job explaining the process and it pretty well explains why I chose to trace the mirror with the marking knife. After I had traced the outline of the mirror I went over my score marks with a pencil for a better visual.

     At this point I was ready to draw the general design of the mirror base and handle (I chose to make it all one piece). On the picture to the right you'll notice I drilled three holes prior to drawing the mirror body. Each hole is spaced about 3/4" outside the marks for the mirror placement. These basically acted as reference marks for centering the inlay on the back.

     After I had my mirror design drawn on the maple I was ready to start routing the recess for the mirror to set into. It should be noted at that I didn't cut the mirror body out yet. This gave me the entire piece of wood for support while routing the recess. In fact, cutting out the mirror is one the last steps in the process.
I suppose the best bit of advice I can give on a project involving inlay, especially when you're in a hurry, is to keep it simple. Initially I had planned on using "fancy" font for my wife's initial but after destroying the first few pieces I opted for a much simpler font.

     My inlay pattern consisted of a Single letter C in 72 size font printed from my computer. I taped the paper to the mahogany inlay piece and traced the pattern with an X-acto knife with a new blade. With the inlay in hand I repeated the process. Only this time I traced the inlay onto the back of the mirror. Again, I would highly suggest watching the video on The Wood Whisperer website. It details the entire process much better than I could ever put in words. Or, you could simply do without the inlay on the back. With a highly figured wood it might actually look better without one.

     With my inlay in the back and the mirror recess routed I finally cut the mirror frame out using my band-saw. Cutting wide of my lines, I came back with a spindle sander and finished the shape up. I could have rounded the corners a bit and left it that but, I decided to use a roundover bit to round over one side and then flipped the entire piece and rounded the other side. With a bit of touch up sanding I had a continuous curved edge around the entire mirror.

   I finished the frame off with 220 sandpaper and several coats of Arm-R-Seal, sanding between coats with 500 grit sandpaper. The last step in the process was use a little epoxy and set the mirror in it's recess.

The finished mirror you see here is actually the one I game to my mother. I also made an identical one for my boss to give to his wife. You can also see I chose to make a separate handle and attach it to the mirror rather than make it all one piece on the original. I thought the two piece mirrors turned out a lot better. Although, my inlay work did lack a lot to be desired.



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