As a woodworker, I believe that woodworking projects should be well designed as well as functional. I also believe that the look of “certain projects” can benefit from using materials that complement each other including different species of wood along with the use of metals and stone. But trying to combine these aspects into a project can be harder than it looks. While it may be easier for woodworkers to reproduce established designs, it’s quite another thing to step out on a limb and design something unique or even, off-the-wall.
At first glance this wall shelf and mirror might seem a little difficult to build, but it’s actually very simple to build with common woodworking tools. The final look of this shelf and mirror combination can be substantially changed by using different combinations of wood species or a single wood species for the entire project. I chose Zebrawood and Wenge for this project; these woods are two of my favorite exotic hardwoods. I planned all of the material used for this project down to a final thickness of 3/4″.
This project consists of two major assemblies joined together, the shelf &back and the mirror. The back of the project is a 41 1/2″ long piece of Zebrawood, paired with an 18″long shelf. They are connected using a 5/16″-deep dado milled 5″ up from the bottom of the back.
The mirror frame is made up of two pieces of 2 3/8″ wide Wenge, mitered at 45º and joined with a #20 biscuit and glue. This L-shaped assembly cradles the mirror in a groove, leaving two edges of the mirror exposed.
I ripped the Wenge to width and proceeded to cut the miter joint along with the 20* angled cut on the shorter section of the Wenge mirror frame assembly.
The miter was then assembled with a #20 biscuit, glued, clamped and left overnight to dry. Before cutting the groove to house the mirror into its Wenge frame, I procured a small sample of the mirrored glass I’ll be using for this project from my glass supplier. I wanted to make sure that the cutter I was using matched the thickness of the glass before I committed to cutting a slot into the Wenge. Both the slot cutter and the mirror I’ll be using for this project is 1/8″.
With the mirror frame removed from the clamps, I used a slot-cutting bit mounted in the router table to cut the mirror groove in the assembled frame. I made one pass with the slot cutting bit centered on the 3/4″ stock, resulting in a groove 1/2″ deep. I then raised the bit, ever so slightly and made another pass increasing the width of the groove by just a hair. I did this so I’ll end up with a groove that is just slightly over-sized and will accommodate the mirror and the adhesive I’ll be using later. If the groove and the mirror fit snugly, there’ll be no room for adhesive.
Using a square I laid out the position of the 3/8″ aluminum rods that connect the Zebrawood back piece to the Wenge mirror frame and positioned those holes at 1″ intervals. I’ll maintain a uniform 2″ gap between the Zebrawood back and the Wenge mirror frame.(see plan for details)
When all the holes are drilled, I removed the dowel jig and ran the same drill bit into the holes again, this time using a cordless drill. I relaxed my grip on the cordless drill slightly letting the drill bit “wander” a bit in the hole making the holes slightly larger, so the rods install easily while making room for epoxy. I then test-fit a sample of the rod to make sure I’ve got the hole diameter just right.
Next, I cut six pieces of 3/8″aluminum rod to 5″ lengths, polish them with #0000 steel wool and then inserted them into the edge of the Zebrawood back. I then set the Wenge mirror frame into place, leaving a uniform 2″ gap between the two parts and if I needed to make adjustments to rod length or the holes I drilled, now’s the time.
Knowing that the assembly will go together without binding and while it was still together, I turned the whole assembly over, located the 1″ diameter holes for the hangers, pulled apart the assembly and drilled those holes. Next I installed the shelf using a 3″-long bead of glue placed in the centre of the shelf dado, to allow the back to expand and contract with seasonal movement. I also drove a # 8 x 1 1/4″ wood screw into elongated holes drilled at each end of the glue bead to hold the shelf firm.
Because I cut the mirror slot with a router and a slot cutting bit, there is a rounded interior corner left by the slot cutter and a square-cornered mirror just won’t fit. So with that in mind, I made a 1/8″-thick template from hardboard complete with a rounded corner that fits properly in the frame to mimic the correct size and shape of the mirror I wanted to install. I brought this template to my mirror supplier so they can use it as a template to cut the mirror, with its rounded corner. I had the mirror supplier “round over” the exposed edges of the mirror to remove any sharp edges. With the mirror cut perfectly to size and shape I was ready to finish this project. I sanded to a final grit of 180, coated the entire project with a coat of de-waxed shellac and then three coats of oil-based polyurethane, sanding between coats with 240 grit sandpaper.
Once the finish was dry, I installed the hangers on the back of the piece, installed the 3/8″ diameter aluminum rods with epoxy using a 2″ block of wood as a spacer between the Zebrawood and Wenge to achieve a uniform gap and allowed the epoxy to cure.
Finally I placed a bead of clear silicone adhesive in the mirror slot, installed the mirror and let it cure. The project is now complete and hung on the wall.