Making A Custom Bathroom Mirror Home Improvement
Continuing work to finish my bathroom, I built the vanity cabinet and stained it a dark colour that would provide some contrast to the otherwise white room. This was a recipe of wipe on stain and a sprayed on toner to even out and enrich the colour the stain gave to the wood. And since it’s a process that must be followed exactly to get consistent results, I figured it would be smart to finish the other items that would have to match. That includes the mirror that would be mounted on the wall above the vanity.
Since the vanity cabinet is made primarily from plywood, I decided that I would use the same material to build the frame for the mirror. This was mostly a cosmetic choice, since the veneer that is on plywood will often take stain differently than the same species of solid wood. Also, the frame doesn’t need to be super strong or durable – it’s just hanging on the wall, after all.
Plywood has other benefits: it’s dimensionally stable, which is very helpful for mitered corners. Typically, it’s also less expensive than the same species of solid wood. On the downside, you need to do something to cover the edge. I used iron on veneer edge banding.
After I had made the four parts needed for the frame, I stained and left them to dry overnight:
I used a Minwax product called “Red Mahogany”. The stain went on evenly, but as with most things like this it’s not hard to see that it is stained wood – there would be no mistaking this for real mahogany. Part of that is the way the stain sits on the wood. It’s a pigment, very much like a paint and it really doesn’t penetrate the wood to the point where it would look more natural. Something that I try to do when using stain is to remember its limitations and work within them.
The next day I took them outside to spray on the toner. The toner is just a tinted and thinned oil based polyurethane and what it does is it adds a translucent layer of colour on top of the stained wood that will really improve the evenness and consistency of the colour. Here’s how it looks after three coats:
Much better. And even though you wouldn’t mistake this for mahogany either, it does look like a premium wood. I topped off the toner with several thin layers of clear satin poly to finish.
I ordered the mirror in the exact size I needed from my local glass place and waited until I had that before cutting the parts for the frame. Better to have the mirror in hand to measure yourself, rather than making a frame that it won’t fit into:
Next, I cut the parts to the right length:
Always trickier to handle wood that is already finished, especially when cutting miters than need to be tight:
This pic gives a look at the miter and a better look at the finish.
It is possible to completely assemble the frame before finishing it, and that would be most people’s first instinct, but it would be next to impossible to get results like this. Glue can seep up out of the miter joint and that will show when stained. A very slight gap in the miter will draw in more stain and that will show. Sanding after the miter is assembled can create cross-grain scratches that the stain will magnify.
With pre-finished wood, even if the miter is not absolutely perfect, it will still look good, since it is what we are used to seeing from manufactured products.
I cut biscuit slots in the miters before glueing and clamping the frame together with my big, homemade clamps. I used polyurethane construction adhesive and let it cure overnight:
The next day I installed the mirror using more construction adhesive:
This mirror is 3mm thick, so if it ever breaks that means that something catastrophic has taken place and mostly the frame will be broken as well, so no need to mess around making it “repairable”.
To hang it on the wall, I cut key slots with my router:
Perfect for #8 flat head wood screws:
To mark the location for these on the wall, I used shorter screws and used masking tape to hold them in place:
I could then push it up against the wall where I want it to be and the screws will make a divot where I need to install anchors. I then drove in longer screws and left the heads sticking out far enough to engage in the key slots.
Here’s the mirror after it was hung:
I took it down again to finish painting the room and installed the light fixture:
I made this video showing the project from the first cut in the plywood to checking myself out in the newly installed mirror: