Jul 22 2015

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Finishing a Rustic Cherry Mirror

The Mirror Hanging in My Daughters Room

When I reviewed the DelVe square for ToolGuyd, I started to build a mirror frame using the square. I never showed the final steps and the finished product because it wasn’t relevant to the review. So this post takes over where that post left off. Let me apologize in advance, after that long review, I just wanted to finish the project so I don’t have pictures for every step of the process.

Gluing the frame together was a bit of a challenge. I needed to apply glue to all the surfaces of the tenon, clamp the mirror frame together, and clean up any squeeze out before the glue became to stiff to work with. I was especially worried about squeeze out in the natural pocket I incorporated into the upper right side of the mirror. I was afraid that if I didn’t get all the glue cleaned out of that crater, it would be really hard to clean it out later and still keep the natural edge.

So once I got all the surfaces of the joint covered with glue, I squeezed the frame together with a couple of aluminum bar clamps. It took a little bit of dialing in both clamps to make sure the joints on the front and edges of the frame were completely closed. Once I was satisfied that they were, I carefully cleaned all the glue squeeze out of every joint. I even went back 10 minutes later and caught the little bit of squeeze out that occurred after it had sat.

Then when the glue was dry and the clamps were off, I used some 40 grit sandpaper in my orbital sander to level the joints on the front and back side of the frame. While I did a pretty good job measuring and cutting all the joints, there still were some slight mismatches. After I was satisfied that the joints were completely smooth I went back over the frame with 80, 100, and 150 grit discs to prepare the frame for finishing. 

Once I was satisfied with the that all the pieces were smooth, I went over both the inside and outside edge of the front of the frame with a bearing guided chamfer bit in my Colt router. If I did this step before making sure the joints were completely flush, it would have been very noticeable that the chamfer on one side was different than the chamfer on the adjoining side. I didn’t aim for any particular depth, I just experimented with the height of the router bit on a piece of scrap wood until the chamfer looked right. On the inside edge the router bit couldn’t reach the corners so I cleaned up the chamfer with a sharp chisel.

Applying Minwax Tung Oil Using the X-Mat Fingers

My first choice of finish would have been a gloss urethane, but I didn’t have a good place outside my shop to finish a project this large. I didn’t want to use a slow drying urethane in my shop because of all the dust floating around so I went with Minwax Tung Oil instead. This finish is very forgiving. You wipe it on, wait 10 minutes and buff it off. You still have to let it dry a day between coats, but the surface isn’t sticky between coats so dust won’t ruin it. Between coats I like to rough up the surface with some #000 or #0000 steel wool, but I don’t think this is necessary. I ended up putting on four coats altogether.

Using Rope Caulk To Set The Mirror

Because I bought the mirror on short notice, the only mirrors I could find in this size were beveled. This meant that the mirror wouldn’t sit flat in the rabbet. To fill the gap and give the mirror some ability to move when it was mounted in the frame, I used some rope caulk between the mirror and the frame. At first I had way too much caulk in the rabbet, but after I got a feel for how much I’d need, I was able to form the caulk with a putty knife to match the bevel of the mirror.

Securing the Mirror and Hanging Hardware

Finally to mount the mirror I used some wood screws and fender washers. The rope caulk was doing a pretty good job of keeping the mirror in place, but I wanted something mechanical to prevent the mirror from popping out of the rabbet.

* One note, it was very hard to get the camera to focus on either the front or the back of the mirror. I had to put something on the mirror in the focal point of the camera, let the camera focus, switch the camera to manual focus, and remove the object from the mirror. Then I could snap the picture.

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