Canadian Woodworking

Accent mirror

Author: Steve Siddall
Published: April May 2003

Accent mirrors add to your décor by brightening up a wall that would otherwise be stark.  This little mirror with its wagon wheel theme can do just that in your home.  


accent mirror
accent mirror

Start by selecting your wood, as listed in the materials list. I built this one out of red oak, but you can use your favorite wood with similar results.

Cut the 60-degree ends on the pieces that will make up the arch as shown in the drawing. A mitre saw is the preferred tool for this task, but a table saw, or mitre box will do the job too. Join the three pieces together permanently, in preparation for cutting the curve. I used a pocket hole jig, screws, and glue. If you prefer, you can use dowel pins, small biscuits, or a spline, for equivalent strength.

Cut the centre hub of the mirror with a band saw, scroll saw, or jigsaw, and finish-sand it. Prepare the bottom 24” board and finish-sand. Glue the hub to the bottom board, being careful to contain glue squeeze-out.

Now it’s time to draw the arch. Place the bottom board, with the hub attached to it, against the bottom of the three-piece assembly. Centre it on the assembly, and fasten it there with the pocket screws. If you are not using pocket screws, prepare the joint as you need but don’t glue it together. Clamp it down to your bench top so it won’t move while you draw the arch. If you have a large compass, draw the two arches, using the centre of the small half circle as your centre point. If you don’t have a large compass you can do the job just as well with a thumbtack and string.

Don’t unclamp your pieces, as it is time to mark the spoke locations. Two of them are at the glue joints in the arch. The other three are found by marking the centre of the three boards making up the arch. Draw a line from there to the centre of the hub, as shown in the drawing. Draw these same lines on the hub for all five spokes.

Unclamp your pieces and cut the arch. You’ll want to drum sand the cut edges.

Once you have it smooth, transfer the spoke locations to the edge of the arch with a square. I like my combination-square for this because the body sits nicely on the top of the material, while the blade hangs down the side to make the mark. Transfer the spoke locations to the hub.

I picked up hundreds of arrow-back spindles at a chair factory that was shutting down and I am using some of them for my spokes. Don’t panic … if you want to make them, they can be made in a couple of ways.

The easiest method is with a wood lathe. Unlike regular turnings, your spindle blank is not square or round; it’s rectangular, so you end up with the flats remaining on the spindles. Take care to keep your fingers away from the spindles while they’re turning.

Another method that is not as easy, but just as effective, is to cut the spindles with the same saw that you used to cut the arch. Then, with a drum sander, shape them to that of the turned spindle. It’s easier than you think. Of course, if all else fails, you can use dowel. It does have its advantages because more of the mirror is visible when you use dowels.

Whether you use spindles or dowels, sand a substantial round-over on both ends, as shown, to ease assembly.

Measure the diameters of the ends of your spindles, and drill their mounting holes into the hub and the arch. A setup on a drill press will ensure accuracy. You can also simply use a hand drill and line up the bit with the lines you drew to mark the spoke locations. Do not drill too deep, 3/8” to 1/2” is plenty. If the ends of the spindles are too long, you will have difficulty installing them because you are installing them between two half circles. Disassemble the pieces that are not glued and finish-sand. I removed the sharp edges, to avoid chipped edges and slivers.

Now it’s time to assemble. It’s best to do a dry run (no glue). Start the spindles into the arch. Then line up the hub/bottom board assembly onto the other end of the spindles and push together. If the spindles “challenge” you, remove them and sand the ends again. If all looks good, pull it apart, sparingly glue the spindles and re-assemble. Fasten the bottom board to the arch. Turn the spindles so that they line up best for grain and orientation of the flat sides. Once the glue has had time to dry, do one last inspection, and finish in your usual way. Take your frame to your local glass shop and have them cut the mirror to suit. They will also have mirror retainers. Use these to mount the mirror and you will be able to remove them for the occasional cleaning. If you want to protect the silver from scratches, place a piece of thin cardboard on the back, prior to fastening in place with the retainers.

Attach a small hanger at the top centre of the arch for hanging it on the wall. Now you have a nice, little accent mirror.

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