Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Full Length Mirror

My cousin Barry's wife wanted a full length mirror, so a full length mirror she received.

I was given a picture of a mirror with square (possibly round... it was on an iphone) dark wood accents in the form of pegs at the corners of a long rectangular mirror. The frame extended both vertically and horizontally beyond being a simple four-cornered rectangle. The other piece of information I received was an iphone picture of the wood comprising my cousins' bedroom set. Against that photo, I needed to attempt to match species and color.

Matching the species of a wood is much less difficult than the color. Our best guess was that their bedroom set was red birch. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a soul selling red birch in the Greater Southeastern Wisconsin area, so I needed to substitute. I settled on ash for the primary wood species. It's similarly light colored, but has a mineral-infused grain pattern that gives it some subtle grain character without the grain being the first thing you notice.

As for color, I was presented with a few options. First, no stain at all, which I figured would almost certainly finish too light and too golden to match. Second, to go with a stain. Stain can get... complicated. General Finishes (based in Wisconsin) has well over 50 possible stains that I could conceivably have chosen. Each stain has a handy dandy little swatch (like they have in droves for paint) so you can know exactly what it will look like on your project.*

*What it will look like on your project assuming optimal conditions, assuming it's made out of the species of wood that they chose as an example, assuming that species of wood matches the precise sub-type you are using, and assuming that your tree grew in soil and conditions matching the climate and mineral profile of their example piece... so yeah, it's not exactly precise.

Option three was to choose a finish that naturally imparts some color. I opted for amber shellac (it comes in shades depending on how much dye is added to the raw shellac. Of common commercially available pre-mixed shellac, amber is the middle of the road choice. I opted for Zinsser Amber Shellac.  It didn't match perfectly, but getting a perfect match requires a lot of trial and error and essentially means that you end up buying lots of stain you aren't going to use.

The shellac lent a reddish-amber hue to the finished wood. It's known for "warming up" the wood it's applied to. Shellac's weaknesses, deteriorates exposed to heat, and not as hard as varnish, are minimized when used on the frame of a mirror.

The square "pegs" are made of walnut. I joined the ash frame using half-lap joints at the corners, and then cut a mortise through the joint to create a square space for a walnut peg to fill. It offers just a hint of color, and ends up being a nice balance to the overall piece.

The mirror is 1/4" plate mirror custom cut for the frame by Bob's Glass, who always do a superlative job. They sealed the mirror in place as well, making it secure within the frame. As for hardware, I included a heavy-duty portrait hanging wire, just in case they wanted to secure it to the wall so there's zero chance it tips over.

I know its already in place in their bedroom and I hope they end up loving it for years to come.

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