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While at times she can be hard to buy for, your mother deserves something special and unique for that upcoming birthday or Mother’s day. Why not give her something that will remind her every day just how beautiful and loved she is? In this video we’ll show you how to construct a customized mirror frame using some basic wood joinery methods and some design flair that can only come from the kids.

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Every year it’s the same thing. Whether it’s Mother’s Day or her birthday, you know is coming, but you and the kids just don’t know what to get her. Why not try something different this year and build Mom something special that will put a smile on her face every time she sees it.

Today we’re going to build a mirror frame that your kids can decorate. We’re going to refurbish an old mirror that was about to be thrown away. We’ll custom build the frame to fit our mirror using some power tools in our workshop, and we’ll learn how to cut miter joints and join them using pocket screws. Then we’ll turn it over to the decorating pros who will transform it into a family keepsake for years to come. So let’s get started.

The first thing we need to do is to measure the thickness of the mirror. This is the thickness we will need to recess into our mirror frame. To create this recess, we’ll use a router at a router table. We’ll set the depth of our router cut to just over ¼", following the router manufacturer’s instructions. Then we’ll mill all of our pieces, including the rails and the stiles, at the same time from these ¾" thick by 4" wide poplar boards that we picked up at our local home improvement retailer. The cut we made here is called a rabbit, or an "L" shaped cut in the corner of a board. This will accept our ¼" thick mirror.

Our 4" wide poplar boards each 8-feet long, which will more than accommodate both sides (which are called stiles) and the top and bottom of the frame (which are called the rails).

Using a miter saw, we’ll cut the 45-degree miters for the corners on the top of our frame. First we’ll adjust the saw to 45 degrees. Then we’ll make our cut for the first stile. We’ll repeat the same step for the other stile.

There are three points of the cut we’ll need to reference. The long point. The short point. And the short point within the rabbit cut. Since our mirror will rest within the rabbit, we must align it with the short points of our stiles. With the mirror resting in the rabbits of both of our stiles, we can measure the length of the top rail of our mirror frame, by measuring from long point to long point with the mirror in place. It’s always a good idea to measure your pieces one at a time with the mirror in place, then cut them one piece at a time instead of all at once.

Next, we’ll measure the length of the stiles, again, with the mirror in place. Be sure to mark the direction of the miter for reference.

Place a mark where the mirror ends. This will be the short point of the miter. Then transfer this mark to the other side of the frame. Again, place an arrow in the direction of the miter cut for reference. It’s easy to cut the miter the wrong direction if you don’t have these arrows as guides.

Using a speed square, draw the actual cut line from the short point. Then cut the piece at the miter saw. You’ll repeat this same step for the other side.

To join our miters, we’ll be using this pocket hole jig and these pan head screws. For more information on joining wood using pocket hole joinery, see our video "Basic Wood Joinery Techniques."

Just clamp the board down and drill the pocket holes. Then insert the pan head screws, add some glue, clamp it with a face frame clamp, and drill it home. Repeat the same procedure for the other four sides.

Now we’ll bring in the design crew and let them do their thing. Mom will absolutely love the personal touch. We’ll even glue on some shapes we cut out and painted from leftover scraps of wood.

Back in the shop, we’ll insert our mirror once the paint is dry and fasten it to the fame using these mirror clips we picked up at our local independent home improvement retailer. We’ll drill some pilot holes first so we don’t split the wood. Just be careful not to drill through the frame. A few clips on each side should do the trick.

We’ll also need to install picture hanging wire on the back of the mirror. We’ll start with a couple of eye screws located on both stiles, equidistant from the top. We’ll turn the eye screws with a pair of pliers. Then we’ll cut our picture hanging wire a few inches longer to account for the knots at both ends, as well as some slack. This mirror is heavy, so make sure those knots are tight. This should help keep our mirror hanging straight once it’s hung on the wall.

With a mirror this heavy, it’s a good idea to find a stud to drill our pan head screw into. We’ll use a stud finder to locate the stud. If you want to hang it between studs, you’ll need a toggle bolt rated for the weight of the mirror. For more information, see our video, "Wall Hanging Basics."

There you have it. Now just hang it where mom will see how special she is, not just on Mother’s Day, but every time she walks past.

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  1. 1.measure mirror

    Measure the thickness of the mirror. This will be the depth of the recess in the wooden frame.

  2. 2.set depths

    Set the depth of the router cut to the same depth as the mirror. Cut the recess into one side of each board.

  3. 3.cut corners

    Use a miter saw to cut the corners of the frames. Use 45-degree angle setting on the saw.

  4. 4.measure

    Place the mirror on the two side boards and measure the length that the top and bottom boards should be. Measure from the outside.

  5. 5.draw

    Mark the outer cut and the inner cut with a pencil.

  6. 6.cut boards

    Cut the top and bottom boards. Cut a 45-degree angle with the miter saw.

  7. 7.join boards

    Joining the boards: Cut pocket screw joints. See our video on Wood Joinery Basics.

  8. 8.paint

    Allow the kids to use their creativity using paint, stick-ons, glitter, etc. Let everything dry.

  9. mirror

    Place the mirror into the recess (back) of the frame.

  10. 10.attach clips

    Attach clips to hold the mirror in place.

  11. 11.hang mirror

    Use picture hanging wire if you plan to hang the mirror on a wall. Follow the instructions that come with the hanging materials.


Project Faqs « back to project

I don’t have a router and router table. Can I fasten the mirror directly to the back of the frame without recessing it into a rabbit?

Yes, you can use mirror clips fasted to the back of the frame. Just be sure to select the right size clips for the thickness of your... More »

Besides a miter joint, is there another type of joint that I can use to make a wooden frame?

Yes. You can also use a butt joint with pocket screws or with... More »

Can I make my own screen frame?

Yes. Screens are easy to make using screen stock. Cut the pieces to length to fit the window and connect using corner connectors. Then cover the... More »

My door is rubbing the frame at the top, what do you recommend?

You can shave off the top with a block plane, which is often the right tool, when you need to trim wood but not enough to use a saw. Block... More »

Are there advantages of a wood frame over aluminum on a sliding patio door?

Wood is stronger and a better natural... More »

What type of joinery method is best for mitered corners?

When gluing miters using biscuits, you need a way to clamp the joint until the glue dries. While there are a variety of miter clamps available, the... More »

Do I need to use glue on wood joints when using pocket screws?

While most manufacturers of pocket screw joinery kits say you don’t have to, it certainly can’t... More »

I have an old house and am not sure if the walls are square. How do I check for this?

Use the 3-4-5 method. Measure along one wall for three feet (or a multiple of three—the bigger the better). Mark this point. Next, measure along... More »

Are there any power tools I should own?

A power drill is a must for general maintenance. A drill, a circular saw, and a saber saw can handle most household repair and carpentry... More »

How do I measure for my replacement window?

Remember that windows that are custom built can’t be returned, so measure carefully. To measure the width, raise the lower sash and measure the... More »

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