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    Build a Traditional Mirror Frame

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    Tools and Materials

    This mahogany mirror frame, with attached shelf, offers beginner-intermediate woodworkers a project that can be easily finished in a single weekend.

    Learn how to build it with the step-by-step project plan.

    CLICK HERE to download the complete plan and cut list.

    How to Make

    Make the Basic Frame

    click to enlarge

    Mill the parts for the top and bottom rails and stiles. Cut half-lap joints on the tablesaw to connect the stiles and the top rails. The half-lap recess in the bottom rail is essentially the same as the socket for a half-blind dovetail joint. Use a sharp dovetail saw to begin cutting the two sides of the recess, then use a wide chisel to chop and pare away the waste. Glue and clamp the frame together. While the glue sets, begin shaping the remaining pieces.

    Cut the Top Molding and Shelf

    The top molding and shelf are shaped with the same techniques: First, you remove most of the waste on the tablesaw, then you use handplanes to put a fair curve on three faces. If you prefer, you can shape these pieces with router bits. After cutting the stock for the top molding to size, use the tablesaw to cut a 1/2-in by 5/16-in. rabbet. Use a rabbet plane and sandpaper to create the curve. Removing waste on the shelf requires two rabbets. The first is 7/8 in. by 5/16 in., which removes most of the waste. The second is 1/8 in. by 3/16 in., which creates the reveal below the curve, as you can see in the photo and the plan. Once you've removed the waste, use handplanes or a router to create the curve.

    Shape the Remaining Pieces

    Cut the cove molding that fits below the top molding. The easiest way is to use a router to cut the profile on a piece of wider stock, then rip it to size on the tablesaw. Likewise, rout the bullnose profile on the bottom trim piece and cut it to size. Cut the thin cleat that fits below the shelf and cut matching ogee curves on the ends. The plan gives the radii used for this mirror frame, but feel free to make changes to suit your own style.

    Assemble, Sand, and Finish

    I use biscuits to attach the top molding to the frame. To attach the cove, use glue and a 23-gauge pin nailer. If you don't have that tool, glue and clamps will work just fine. Attach the shelf and the shelf brackets with glue and screws driven through the back of the frame. Glue the cleat in place before attaching the brackets. Finally, attach the bottom trim with glue. I sand the mirror, beginning with P150-grit paper and working up to P220-grit. Then I raise the grain by wiping on just a bit of water, and hit the wood again with fresh P220 paper. After that, I apply four coats of hand-rubbed polyurethane, with a top coat of wax. When the finish has dried, install the mirror. Use glazier's points and small dabs of silicon caulk to hold the glass in place. Cover the back with kraft paper to protect the mirror.