Canadian Woodworking

Mirror frame

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: August September 2004

As an Intarsia project it is fairly straightforward. The challenge begins when you add the mirror.


All of the projects that I have done for you to date have been decorative, so I thought it about time to offer a functional piece that you could use either for your home, or as a gift for someone else’s.

I’m not quite sure if I have cleverly disguised this frame to appear as an intarsia piece, or this intarsia piece to appear as a frame. I’ll let you decide.

Flap sander

Flex all


Small wire brush

Attach holders for easy mirror removal and cleaning


Whenever a mirror is set in a complex wood frame, it can be a real pain to clean. My wife has explained this to me (in no uncertain terms), and has given me the coordinates of where I could hang any more complex framed mirrors if I ever made them. I’ll spare you the same treatment in your home by providing instructions on how to make beautiful intarsia frames that are easily removed for cleaning.

Choose your woods carefully. The pattern provided makes suggestions, but feel free to use your imagination. Your choice of woods is what gives the look and feel of your project.

Transfer the pattern to the wood with one of the following methods: trace with carbon paper, make a template, photocopy the pattern and cut out the pieces and glue them on the wood with spray glue or a glue stick.

Make sure your blade is square to the table, then cut out the pieces. I like a #7P/S blade or a #5H/T. Take your time and cut carefully. Try for as good a fit as possible.


Assemble the pieces and check for fit. Spend some extra time on the fit. The more area that pieces touch each other, the more glue surface there will be. Try holding two pieces together and running a blade down between them.

Raise and lower any pieces as the pattern indicates or as your imagination suggests.

Shape the pieces with whichever tools you prefer. I like to use a small pneumatic sander and a Flex sander. Be aware of the wood dust and wear a good dust mask. I spent extra time on the piece of Pine I used for the water. I wanted to exaggerate the grain, so I sanded out the soft part of the grain with a small wire brush tool, and finished it with a star twister.


When the pieces are shaped, sand them with a flap sander or star twister. I don’t sand past 220 grit. That way I cut down on the amount of dust created.

Start the glue-up. Set the project up on a very flat surface and glue it up as if it wasn’t going to have a backing. Clamp the long side pieces in place so it will be easier to hold the rest in place. Use as much glue as you can on the side of the pieces. Make sure it doesn’t come through to the surface of the pieces. Give the project at least an hour to dry. Then, turn it over and squeeze glue into any gaps between pieces. This will add strength. Make sure the glue doesn’t squeeze through to the good side. Insert 1/8″ dowels were indicated on the pattern for extra reinforcement.

Apply your choice of finish.

Use the dotted lines on the pattern as a guide for the size of mirror required. Cut, or have the mirror cut, to size. Use either ordinary 1/8″ blade glass mirror or 1/8″ mirrored acrylic.

With acrylic you can cut it yourself with a scroll saw. Then, drill some holes, and attach it with some small wood screws (#4s). Acrylic is a bit more expensive, but I think that it saves enough time to make it worth it.

Attach mirror to the frame with holders, making for easy removal and cleaning.

Use a hanger that can be glued onto the back of the mirror.

I sanded this project on a 6″ belt sander to get it as flat as possible. You have to be very careful sanding the back. This project requires more caution with the glue-up. Handle it with care.

I stained a piece in this project but this is optional. I thought the water would look good stained blue with the rest of the project natural wood. It’s a matter of taste, so do as you wish.

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