Weekend Projects – Retro Inspired Mirror

Monday 9 July 2018

For this project I wanted to make a mirror frame in a retro design which could be hung on a wall in any room of the home to give a functional, as well as a focal point of interest, beyond that of a traditional round mirror frame.

I have based the project on a mirror that I remember seeing as a child, in the early '70s. Many of these retro designs are now back in fashion, in one form or another, with the structure/design of the mirror frame being the main focus with the mirror itself becoming only a small part of the overall design.

Previously these mirror frames were made from thin plastic coated metal sections bent in various shapes, which were then coloured to suit.

This project lends itself to the practising of the skew as there are 16 spindles to turn to a basic profile, so this is a perfect opportunity for you to perfect your planning cut.

The colours have been kept simple with a black and tan theme, which allows the natural colour of the wood to become part of the design. Originally any contrasting bright colours would have been used such as black and orange, blue and yellow. Equally your own tastes can be included within the design.

The project has a central section into which the mirror fits, and around this are 16 turned spindles that fit into equidistant holes. Two of each spindle is turned out of 30 x 30mm dimensioned sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) of varying lengths – refer to the cutting list.

The holes around the circumference are drilled using a drilling jig that fits into the banjo of the lathe. However, if you do not have one of these then the points can be carefully marked onto the blank using a protractor, and the holes can then be drilled using a pillar drill. The blank should be held in a vertical plane in a vice with protective jaws. Each hole is drilled individually and the next one is subsequently aligned.

For the hanging of the retro mirror, a small picture 'D' ring is used. To attach this, it is simply screwed into a hole drilled into the back with a Forstner bit. This allows the fastening to sit below the surface so when hung, it sits flat against the wall.

Tools used:

10mm bowl gouge

25mm spindle roughing gouge

6mm spindle gouge

6mm parting tool

12mm skew chisel

25mm square-end scraper

Timber requirements:

1 x cross grain round sycamore blank measuring 150mm dia. x 40mm

Sycamore spindle blanks:

2 of 30 x 30 x 260

4 of 30 x 30 x 240

4 of 30 x 30 x 210

6 of 30 x 30 x 190

End grain blank from a leftover project measuring 70 x 70 x 100mm


Fix the blank on a suitable screw chuck and clean up the outside and face of the blank using a 10mm bowl gouge. Then, mark the diameter for a recess to suit your chuck jaws – a depth of about 6mm will be fine


Refine the finish of the base using a 25mm square-end scraper. Sand the base and recess down to 320 grit abrasive by hand. Here I slightly rounded the edge/entrance to the recess with abrasive, which removes the sharp edge and enables it to join with a bung/insert


Reverse the blank onto the jaws and clean the face using a bowl gouge, taking the blank to a thickness of approximately 40mm then mark the external diameter on the front face and the diameter to suit the mirror. Turn to the finished external size


Using a 6mm parting tool and spindle gouge, produce a recess slightly deeper than the mirror using the line as a guide. Part in up to the line marked with the parting tool and remove the remaining material using a 6mm spindle gouge. Offer the mirror up for fit and open out the recess. Using a 6mm spindle gouge, radius the corners of both the front and back face


Mark a central line and the position for the 12mm groove on the outside edge. Using a 6mm parting tool, part in to a depth of around 3 x 12mm wide


Drill out eight equidistant holes around the circumference to a depth of approximately 12mm. I used a drill jig and the lathe's indexing. As the indexing system is in 24 steps, I drilled eight holes indexing through three positions each time. Before starting the drilling, mark the position of two points by rotating the indexing and pushing the tip of the drill into the outer edge to leave reference marks. Measure halfway between these points and mark using dividers – prior to drilling. Drill out the first eight holes then loosen and rotate the blank to line up the drill with the next position previously marked. Tighten the blank and repeat drilling a further eight holes indexing again through three steps to complete the 16 holes. Finish the groove by hand to 320 grit abrasive


Remove from the lathe and drill a 30mm hole into the back to a depth of 5mm. Into this screw a small 'D' ring picture hook/fixing. The fixing is recessed below the surface of the face so when it is hung, the back will sit flush to the wall. Mark this centrally and in line with one of the holes drilled in the outer edge. Finish the lifted grain around the hole with abrasive down to 320 grit. Apply acrylic spray sanding sealer to both sides then allow to dry. De-nib with wire wool or fine abrasive by hand, if required


Apply several fine coats of black spray lacquer, allow to dry, de-nib if required, and repeat until there is good coverage. Finally, spray with several fine coats of clear satin lacquer then allow to dry fully


Produce a disc to fit into the chuck recess by roughing a piece of end grain sycamore to the round and mark the diameter of the recess on the front face using a 10mm bowl gouge. Check the fit and slightly concave the front face. Finish by hand down to 320 grit abrasive and spray with sanding sealer and lacquer. Allow to dry and mark the thickness of the disc on the outer edge to be slightly thinner than the depth of the recess and part off using a 6mm parting tool


Glue the disc into the recess. Here I used medium viscosity Cyanoacrylate glue. Screw the 'D' hanger into the drilled hole. Mark the screw hole with a bradawl to aid the process. Next, glue the mirror in place using hot melt glue

Marking the spindles


Mark one of the spindle blanks and place between centres. Using a 25mm spindle roughing gouge, rough down to the round. Blanks need to be prepared so they are slightly over size with the final diameter being taken to size using a 6mm parting tool and callipers set to 30mm. The blank is then taken to finished size with the spindle roughing gouge


Using a pencil and rule, mark all the dimensions on the blank. The blanks are processed with 10mm waste at either end to give clearance from the drive and tailcentre for working


Using a 6mm parting tool and callipers, set to marginally smaller than 9mm, part in at both ends to define the length and spigot, which has been positioned at the tailcentre end. The 9mm dimension for the spigot is important as it needs to fit into the 9mm hole in the main body with glue. Use Vernier callipers set to 8.8mm here


Using a 25mm spindle roughing gouge, rough the profile of the spindle working from large diameter in towards the 9mm diameter at each end. Work from the 30mm diameter x 40mm dimension towards the tail and drive centre. Rolling the tool over when nearing the waste wood will prevent a catch on the exposed wing


Refine the profile with a 12mm skew chisel. As the spindle becomes thinner you may need to gently support the spindle to stop flexing


Using the toe of the skew, produce a small defining groove at the highest point of the 40mm. This will be used to help with the later masking/spraying procedure. Continue along the spindle aiming for equally spaced grooves. Continue to a distance of 10mm from the narrow end of the spindle. These I produced by simply lining up the toe of the skew and lifting the handle so that I could slice down and produce each groove. Use the same procedure when producing the centre of a 'V' cut with the skew


Finish the spindle by hand to 320 grit. Do not apply too much pressure here


Using a 12mm skew chisel, gently blend the point as fine as you can without cutting through. Set the lathe to a slow speed, and with your left hand around the spindle, support the cut/spindle


Cut the spigot from the waste using a fine hacksaw-type blade, then blend the point by hand with abrasive to 320 grit


Repeat this process a further 15 times taking into account the differing lengths of the spindles. Place the spindles into a waste piece of wood into which 9mm holes have been drilled. Spray with acrylic sanding sealer as before and allow to dry. Mask around the base and tip of the spindle using the first and last defining grooves as a reference. Spray with several fine coats of acrylic black spray, as before. Once dry, remove the masking tape and seal with several coats of satin spray. Once dry, carefully remove the masking tape


Assemble the spindles into the main body. I laid the body down with the spindles arranged around the outside so I could double check the order before assembly. Apply a small amount of PVA glue into each hole before pushing the spindles into place. Do not use too much glue; you do not want it to squeeze out. A small drop in the bottom of each hole is all that is needed. Align the longest spindles so that the axis runs in line with the 'D' hook at the back. The retro inspired mirror is now complete and ready for hanging