Canadian Woodworking

Travel mirror

Author: Paul Ross
Published: April May 2005

Sometimes you just need a quick look in the mirror to know everything is alright.


Whether you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, a job interview, or stepping off an elevator, it’s reassuring to know that there is no spinach between your teeth, or lipstick where it ought not to be.

This easy and practical project makes a great gift, and offers the assurance that only a mirror can. It’s simple to make, doesn’t take a long time and is always well received.

I chose exotic wood for my mirror, but you can choose virtually any wood you like, to make yours. It’s an ideal project to use up some of those special small scrap pieces of wood that you’ve been saving.

I use a 2″ beveled mirror because the bevel makes the piece look richer and more professionally made compared to a straight edge mirror. You can also add that special touch by making a fabric pouch to give with the mirror.

Glue a blank onto a spigot

Make a facing cut across the face

Open the recess for the mirror

Make a facing cut

Modified scraper

Scrape to the exact size of the mirror

Dry fit the mirror

Shape the front

Separate the mirror from the spigot

Blend the front and back transition

Roll a bead

Knock the finished piece off the spigot

Getting Started

To get started you will need a 3″ x 3″ x ⅜” piece of your chosen wood. You will also need a 2″ bevelled mirror (Tip: purchase your mirror before you begin the turning). Glue on a waste piece of wood; this is the spigot that you grab with a chuck. I have quite a few of these waste blocks, or spigots, that I keep reusing. If you use cynoacrylite glue you can remove the spigot and reuse it over and over. Once you’ve glued your blank to a spigot we are ready to start turning.

Truing up the Face

The first cut you should do is an outside cut to true up the piece. Make this cut with a ⅜” bowl gouge. The key here is to lead with the flute in the direction of the cut, preferably towards the headstock because that is where the mass of the lathe is, and mass absorbs vibration. “Even on this small piece?” you ask. Yes. And it is a good habit to get into.

Once you have trued the piece and cut to the desired diameter, make a facing cut across the face. Pay attention to the direction of the flute. It is pointing at about 2:00 o’clock towards the centre. As the gouge approaches the centre, lift the handle to bring the flute into the middle.

Fitting the Mirror

Now that the wood is prepared you can fit the mirror. Measure the diameter of the mirror with a pair of dividers and then move the measurement on the dividers slightly in. That gives a little less room for the mirror, so that you will have to cut outside of this to fit the mirror exactly. If your measurement is made exactly the diameter of the mirror, it is likely that you would cut a little bit big and the mirror would be loose. You can always remove wood, but adding it is impossible. Open the recess for the mirror with a parting tool. Next, remove the material within the recess by making a facing cut just as before. To fit the mirror, use a slightly modified scraper. I use a scraper which is ground on the side as well as on the front. This is important because you want a clean cut at both the side and front where the mirror sits. Scrape to the exact size of the mirror and check the fit.

Final Shaping

Now you can shape the front of the mirror. Take a light scrape with a sharp scraper. Sand and finish. In order to flip the piece and turn the bottom, it has to be separated from the spigot. I use a cynoacrylite glue as it can be separated cleanly from the wood. Place a chisel between the wood and spigot and then, with a light tap, knock off the piece.

Glue another spigot (or the same one that was just knocked off) to the front (mirror side) of the piece. Use a bowl gouge to shape the back and then lightly scrape it clean. A square end scraper can be used to clean up any tool marks and blend in the two points where the front meets the back. You can also create a recess on either side of what will be a bead with the scraper, and then form the bead with a parting tool by simply rolling the tool from left to right.

After you have sanded and finished, it’s time to take the piece off the spigot. Because you can’t get a chisel in between the spigot and wood, use a dead blow hammer, which will not mark the piece. Make sure you orient the grain vertically in line with the blow of the hammer. If the grain is running horizontally when you hit the piece it could break in half.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


More Turning/Carving/Intarsia projects to consider
Username: Password: