Building Mirror Frames

This entire process was so not fun, it almost pains me to write about it and relive the horror. To be honest, if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably just go buy some framed mirrors.

But, I owe it to you all to share my experience if anyone would like to tackle this project on their own.

To recap, here are my mirrors now and the frames I built last weekend:

Here are the same mirrors, as I purchased them:
They looked so naked, right? Everyone thought I was crazy and told me to leave them frameless, but I didn’t care. It had to be done.
I couldn’t do it by myself though.
And that’s where Dennis comes in. I met Dennis at a West Elm/Etsy collaboration event a few months ago, where ended up purchasing one of my maps. I later found out he was a master carpenter and invited him over for dinner and crown molding installation. He also offered to help me with this framing project that I had been trying to figure out how to do on my own for months.
You see… you cannot just buy flat pieces of trim or wood and glue them to the mirror. This means they would be floating on top of the mirror, instead of up against the wall as they should. I figured this out right before I was leaving to go to Lowe’s to pick up the lumber.
This is what you need your wood to look like:

And to do this you need a router (at least I think that’s what it’s called, correct me if I’m wrong Dennis).

Anyway, I did not have a router and certainly did not want to buy one for this project. So I consulted my master carpenter friend (that’s Dennis), and gave him my drawings:

and he was like “Psh, no problem” and then he did this:

Then I took the freshly routed wood and stained it (using Minwax’s Ebony, great stuff)

These are the fronts, the back have the routed edge

So they sat like this in the garage for weeks while I gathered up the courage to try and assemble them without screwing it all up.

On Saturday, I finally went for it. I grabbed my mirrors, measured as best as I could, and very carefully made each cut. It was definitely a long process. A few times I forgot to put the lock down on the saw so the angle shifted and I ended up with some not-45′ angle cuts… oops. Luckily, some of my measurements were too long so I was able to go back and re-cut them at the correct angle.

Here’s a shot testing the fitment one last time after everything was cut:

Close up of how they fit together:

I really had to get these perfect because there was no room for error. In my previous wood-cutting projects, I could always caulk, spackle and paint over the gaps to hide it, but not this time.

Luckily, my patience paid off and they turned out better than I had thought.

But they weren’t 100% perfect. And this is where I messed up. Bad.

What I should have done was place the mirrors in and then secure the frames. But since they seemed to fit perfectly around the frames, I figured it would be easier to assemble them first, and then place the frames in.


But I didn’t know, so I began assembly with wood glue and our nail gun to hold them in place before the mirror went in:

Once they were joined together, I touched up the stain in the seams:

And admired my handywork.

The admiration was short lived, however, after I took my liquid nails…

Applied a bead all the way around the routed edge, and attempted to set my mirror in. It was stuck.

Fortunately, it just needed a bit of coercing from the rubber mallet, and it wedged into place. Whew, disaster averted there.

Not so lucky with mirror #2.

After a generous amount of liquid nails, I tried placing this mirror in and one corner would not budge. Not even close. I frantically tried to pull the frame open enough to allow it to slide in, but nope… I had already nailed it together. So I had no choice but to take the mirror out and figure out a plan B.

Also, these mirrors are HEAVY. It was not easy lifting it out carefully, and it made a huge mess:

I had to sand the edge down to allow a big enough opening for the mirror to fit in, so the first thing I grabbed was a metal file. I sanded for about 20 minutes and I still wasn’t even close. So I grabbed the electric sander, but only the very edge could fit into the angle of this small routed edge that I was working with. So I grabbed a smaller metal file and began to chisel away. And I’m sitting in this hot garage, all sweaty, sanding for like an hour straight, with globs of liquid nails drying all over my hands and clothes, thinking this is never going to work, all while being attacked by mosquitos.

Finally I busted out a screwdriver and hammer and just started hacking pieces off.

Eventually, I took enough out to where my mirror FINALLY FIT!

Then I sealed it up with more liquid nails.

Those babies aren’t going anywhere.

Then I had spend an hour scraping liquid nails off both mirrors (it somehow got all over the second one), and off the wood frames, and resand and stain where it dried onto the wood.


But, I suppose it was all worth it…..

Here’s a couple tips for those of you who still want to try this at home:
1. You need a router.
2. Make sure your cuts are all at an *exact* 45 degree angle, and lock your saw so it doesn’t shift.
3. Assemble your frames *while* your mirrors are in them, not before.
4. Use a *thin* line of glue/liquid nails (it’s better if it’s clear), because you’ll be able to see the excess reflecting back at you from behind the frame.
5. Make sure to stain (or paint) the routed edge on the inside, because you’ll see the reflection in the mirror.

I realize the liquid nails I used was not specifically meant for frames, however, these mirrors are hung from brackets on the actual mirrors. This means the frames do not have any weight or load on them at all so the bond doesn’t have to be especially strong to the wood. Trust me, those things are in there for the long haul.

That concludes my adventures in mirror frame-building. Hope you enjoyed.

PS—I was planning on making my upholstered headboard this weekend, but it’s been rescheduled because I’ve been working 24/7 on the launch of my new website. I am SO, so excited to share it with you all…  it is my greatest project yet.

Here’s a sneak preview:

I plan to wrap every
thing up and go live within the next 2 weeks…. so stay tuned! I’ll be giving out some fun bonuses to the first customers 🙂

21 thoughts on “Building Mirror Frames

  1. Wow, the frames on the mirrors look great. I really feel like it brings in that dark brown that you wanted in the bathroom. The new site design also looks great! Do you use any tools for coding your site, or do you do it all by hand? Just curious b/c I'm about to embark on a site redesign and just wondering what direction to go in.

  2. Hi Julie—I used the BigCommerce platform, designed the layout, and had someone do the backend coding to get the style I wanted (they did a great job). I can give you their info if you'd like!

  3. I think it came out great. You should have called me when you were ready to assemble, I would have came over to help. Oh, and master carpenter I think is a bit strong. Lol. Amateur is more fitting. Thanks for letting me help out though. It was definitely a fun adventure

  4. well, they look beautiful, at least! I never would have thought of assembling the frames with the mirrors in them (I would have been afraid of breaking the mirrors). New site looks great, can't wait to see it!
    btw, I found your site via Young House Love, and bookmarked it! Love your style!

  5. That bathroom looks amazing. The frames add so much – good call. Sounds like a lot of work and frustration but it looks like it definitely paid off. The mirrors look great!

  6. Hi Jenna, I just clicked on your Florida House tab and was taken back at your home tour. We also live in Florida, and bought a home in foreclosure back in October 2010. There wasn't much here, so we had alot of work ahead of us and we are still 'in progress' in some areas, although the 'gut job' is done we have remodeled the entire house. I was so reminded of the process looking through your photos, our home also has those vaulted ceilings like yours. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your reveals.


  7. Ugh what a pain! But they turned out good so it's all worth it. Your new website looks AMAZING! Literally the wanna be web designer in me is drooling over that layout.

  8. You could have used a mitre box to cut the 45 degree cuts or a compound mitre saw, your carpenter friend probably woulda had one if he had a router. The mirrors look great though and I am planning on putting frames on mine. Great job!

  9. Knowing that you are cutting the wood at an angle how should u measure it before hand… And although it may be more difficult is there any other way to route the wood without that machine?

  10. Knowing that you have to cut the wood at an angle how should I measure it before hand to make my measurements more precise?… Also is there any way other than using that machine to route it although it may be harder I think I would be okay

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