Mirror Frame Pt. 1:  Design, Half-Laps, Assembly, & Curves
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Mirror Frame Pt. 1: Design, Half-Laps, Assembly, & Curves

September 23, 2019

– On today’s show we’re gonna
take a little time for some personal reflection as we build
this simple, elegant mirror. (groovy music) The design of our mirror frame
is pretty straightforward but let me show you a couple
of details I really like. First off, the side piece. It
goes all the way to the top. Now we’ve got that nice,
graceful curve in the top rail but it continues right on
through that side piece, through the end grain,
and gives it a nice, smooth, continuous look. If you look between each piece you’ll see there’s a
little V groove there. Now that V groove is
just a optional detail. If you don’t like it you
don’t have to put it there. But I think it gives the
piece a little bit more visual interest, it makes each
individual part of the frame pop a little bit more. And we’re gonna do a
finishing process later with a glaze that’s gonna
enhance that even more. The other thing is we’ve
got half-lap joints here. This particular design I think
really calls for half-laps. You can certainly do a
mortise and tenon joint if you wanted to, but
half-laps are pretty darn easy and they’re very strong. Certainly adequate for a frame like this. The wood itself here is a figured maple. We’re gonna do a staining process on it, and normally I don’t stain
my projects, especially for ones that are made
from really expensive wood. But this is going into my
bathroom, and it has to match the cabinets, or
at least come close to matching the cabinets
that are already there. So, stained it is. We’ve got a nice lacquer finish, I’ll show you how I applied that. And at this point we need to
go back in time a little bit, jump into the bathroom and
see if we can’t figure out the proper measurements using
the wall itself in the space so we know exactly what we’re
doing with the project parts. All right, so, let’s head to the bathroom. I never thought I’d say that on the show. So welcome to the Spagnuolo bathroom, and this is the wall where
the mirror needs to go. Previously the mirror that was there was one of those frameless mirrors, and it spanned from wall to wall. So what we want to do now
is make it a little bit more elegant by providing
a nice wooden frame that fits the space fairly well. So, the way I’m gonna do
this is using blue tape and a tape measure to mark the
locations, get the overall size, and figure out what the
size of parts will be. Blue tape is nice because
you can put it on the wall and then rip it right off
and not affect the paint. I’m gonna try and keep in
mind the center line here and make sure that
everything is equally distant from that center point, but
I’m just gonna start putting pieces of tape in to represent
what I think looks good. (bright music) So as you can see there’s a
lot of back and forth there, and yes, we’re wasting some tape, but it’s certainly
cheaper than wasting wood. So as the layout is on the
wall we can kind of get a feel for if I’m hitting my target or not. I really just want something
that’s nicely balanced between the lights at the top and the
top of the surface down here. And I think I’ve hit that. So we can use what we have
here to take measurements, and if we’re close to a
whole number, let’s just use the whole number, we have
some wiggle room here. So, my bottom here, if
I take a look at that. It’s about four inches,
little less than four. And the side is three. And I’ll tell you what,
even though that’s at four I think I’d be perfectly
happy making that three so that it’s consistent,
and the bottom will be three inches wide, and the
side will be three inches wide. At the top remember we’ve got
this peak for the curve there so I’m thinking maybe at its
tallest point it would be four inches, and as it
tapers down, curves down we can bring it down to three inches, and whatever that curve happens
to be to connect those lines is whatever it is. Now for the actual mirror
dimensions we’ll just take a measurement and see how close
we are to a round number. I’ve got about 26 there,
which is pretty good. And here I’ve got about
30, 34 to the peak. We’ll just write all these numbers down and now we can head into the shop and actually start to draw this
out in a full size drawing. All I need now is my trusty
drywall square, a pencil, and a piece of quarter inch
plywood to do the drawing on. (bright music) I’m really pleased with
the way that this looks. It’s got a nice simple elegance to it. The proportions look good to my eye and I think it’s gonna look
really nice in the bathroom. Speaking of proportions, a
lot of time when you design a piece like this you
should be thinking about either whole number proportions,
or the golden ratio, if you’ve heard of that, to help you decide on
your relative lengths. In this case I’m kind of abandoning that because I want this to fit
in a very specific location for a very specific purpose. So if I don’t have some
theoretical standard achieved with this piece,
I don’t really care. I just want to make sure
it’s wide enough and tall enough to look good in
the space that it’s going in. So in this case, functionality for me trumps a traditional
theoretical design number. The other thing we should
probably think about now, which you might think is a
little early to talk about, and that’s the mirror. We need to know what size
the mirror should be cut to. If you cut the stuff
yourself, good on you. I don’t really mess with glass too much, so I’m gonna have a local
place cut it for me. I’m going with quarter inch thick glass, so it’s not really gonna
warp or distort or anything. And we want to cut it
an inch wider and taller than the dimensions of this interior space because we’re gonna cut a nice
rabbet around the perimeter and that’s gonna give us
the size that we need. So for me that’s 31 and a
quarter tall, and 27 wide. So I just called a local
glass company and said, “Hey, here’s the measurements.” The key is I wanna make sure
I have that glass in the shop before I finalize this
internal cut on the frame. So I’ve got a little work to
do before we get to that point and it’s a good time to place that order. If you’ve ever done a project
with half-laps you know that it’s a real pain in the butt
to glue those things together, but we can make some choices now that will actually make the glue
up a whole lot easier. So, cut your parts a 16th of an inch wider than the plans call
for, and you’ll see why a little bit later when it
comes time for clamping. All right, so, let’s start
rough cutting some wood. I like to use the bandsaw
for ripping rough stock. It’s much safer than the table saw, and I’m not worried about the
cut quality at this point. The chop saw is an excellent tool for rough cutting to length. Now everything is milled
to final dimension according to the plans. With regard to thickness the
plans call for 3/4 of an inch but if you can keep your
stock thicker, go for it. Heavily figured maple is
prone to tearout but the segmented head in the planer
really does a nice job. Remember to cut these pieces
a 16th of an inch oversize. So that’s three and a 16th
for the sides and bottom, and four and a 16th for the top. At the chop saw I use a
stop block to make sure that the sides, and the
top and bottom pieces are cut to their respective lengths. (drumming) Now once everything is milled up it’s a good idea to lay out your parts and get a feel for how these
half-laps are gonna lay out. I’ve got my sides here,
the top and the bottom, and we’ll do one top
joint and one bottom joint just to explain what’s happening. Here’s my top left joint, and
let’s look at the half-laps. The half-lap is gonna take
away half of the material on the underside of the side
piece, somewhere like this. And then we’re gonna remove this material from the top side of the top piece. Something like that, so
when they nest together the side piece just runs
all the way through. Our bottom half-lap is
pretty much the same thing. The side is gonna travel all the way down and it’s gonna overlap the bottom piece. I like to dummy proof the
process by making pencil marks that indicate where my cuts will be. I then use a cutting
gauge to slice the grain and firmly establish my shoulder lines. This cut line not only helps
me with setting up the tools but it ensures a tearout-free cut. There are a lot of different
ways that you can cut half-laps but one of my favorite is to use the table saw with the dado stack. I’ve got my stack set to
3/4 of an inch in width and I’m just gonna use the
miter gauge with the fence to line everything up
and batch out these cuts. So the blade is set to
just under 3/8 of an inch. We’re gonna dial that in second. The first thing I wanna dial
in is the fence position. We’ll start with our three
inch shoulder cuts here. Let’s put the work piece down and try to get everything lined up. I really just wanna get
that cut line lined up pretty close with the outer
tooth of the dado stack. You can see how close we
got, so I’m just gonna nudge the fence until we
are right on that cut line. That’s about as good as it’s gonna get, so now I can remove the
rest of this half-lap and we can address the blade height to get the perfect-fitting half-lap. Now if we take our two test half-laps and put them together
on a nice flat surface we can really see what’s going on here. All right, there’s a nice lip, so I definitely undercut
it, that was intentional, and now I can just sneak up on the fit. Keep in mind though we
have to be extra careful about high we raise that blade, because the effect is times
two, because we’re gonna remove stock from this
piece and from this piece, so be very, very cautious
with your adjustments. And after a couple rounds of adjustments, should have something like this. Mine are just a little bit proud. I’m okay with that because I have ways to finesse the face of this joint. But boy, that is– that’s darn close. Now we can cut the rest of
the three inch half-laps. Now we can adjust the fence
for the four inch half-lap and for this one we’re gonna
leave the blade exactly where it is in terms of
height, it’s already dialed in. All we need to do is move this fence. Now you want to examine
all four of your joints and just make sure
everything fits together the way you want it to. You should have a pretty
gap-free joint up here. The underside is a little
bit less important because you’re not gonna see it, but
it should be nice and flush. Now, feel with your fingers. If you followed my
instructions you’ll notice a little bit of a discrepancy here. The side piece sits proud, I feel a little bit of a lip here. And the same thing with the top piece, it’s a little bit proud of this end grain. That is absolutely intentional
and the reason is when we clamp this together, you’ll
see this in a little bit, we need some pressure
that’s gonna bring it in and close up these two
shoulder areas here. So a built-in way to do that
is to leave a little bit of extra stock that we can plane away later, and that’s gonna help us with clamping. The other thing to look at is to make sure everything is nice and flush. If you find that the pieces
are just a little bit proud of one another because there’s a
little too much material here at this point, if it’s a
tiny amount, you’re probably better off at the workbench
than at the table saw. A surface like this right
off of the dado blade can actually be a little bit rough. You’re gonna have some
high spots, some low spots. So just using a block
plane, or in this case I’ve got a rabbeting block
plane where the blade goes all the way to the
outside of the body. You can take a couple of passes and just remove those high points. Watch out towards the end,
you don’t want to tear out so you might kind of, give yourself a little bit of relief
there, just in case. Try to take even passes
across the surface. Now if it takes anything more
than just a couple of passes you probably do wanna go
back to the table saw. This is only for the purposes
of finessing the fit. So a couple of passes, you can
see we’re nice and smooth now and this should fit perfectly. The next thing I wanna do is
add a little design detail. This is something that’s
completely optional so you don’t have to do it if you
don’t like the way it looks but I do like the way it
looks, so what I’m gonna do is put a little chamfer on the inside edge so when these two pieces
meet, there’s actually gonna be a slight gap
created between there. When we do the finishing later, and you’ll see when we
start to use the glaze, you’ll see how that will actually help us. But you may not like
it, you may just want a totally flush fit here, so
ignore it if you don’t like it, but let me show you how I
do it with a block plane. What I’ll do is just put a light
chamfer on this inside edge and this is one of my side pieces here. And I’m basically just
gonna count the strokes. If I keep that number
consistent I should have the same chamfer on all of my pieces. So that’s about what I’m going for, just a nice, light chamfer. And at this point these
are sort of sharp edges. I just wanna knock them down a little bit with some 220 paper and soften it up. Our top and bottom pieces also
need their inside edge done but before we do that we’re
gonna do the shoulder. The easiest way I know to do this is to just approach it from each side. If I go all the way I’ll
definitely get some tearout there so let’s just try to avoid it. Even with a sharp blade those
end grain cuts can be a little bit rough, so I like to have
a little stick, basically. This is just a little piece of MDF something or other schmutz
that I have in my shop, and I put a little piece
of sandpaper on it, and it works as a little, flat
sanding implement like this that’s perfect for small details. And I can use this to
smooth everything out. Only after both of these ends are done will I go and do the long grain. If I do have any tearout
this should take care of it. You might be wondering, why not just use a router to do an operation like this? Well, first of all, getting
the end grain parts done, that’s gonna be a little
tricky with a router bit because the bit and the
little screw that holds the bearing in place is
gonna wanna make contact, so you don’t have much room to play there. And if I’m gonna use my
block plane to do that I may as well just quickly get it done, and now I don’t have
to set up a router bit. And frankly with one frame it’s just as easy and quick to do
it with a block plane. Sometimes it’s just fun to use hand tools and to incorporate them into your work when you can, when it makes sense. It’s very gratifying, and
it puts a little extra love into the project, there’s
nothing wrong with that. All right now for the fun
part, we can do the assembly. This glue up is gonna take
a little bit of strategy and some forethought, so we’re
gonna have four big clamps. I’m gonna use my parallel clamps, but there are other types of clamps– pipe clamps would work for this to– to apply pressure from all directions to close everything up. But we also need pressure at each and every one of
those half-lap joints, kind of pinching it and
sandwiching it together, so I’m gonna use three clamps per joint and I’ve got all these
little small clamps for that. And because we don’t wanna dent the wood and it’s nice to have something
to spread out the pressure, I’ve got a couple pieces of scrap cut that we’ll use as cauls to apply pressure. And I’m gonna use a long set glue, basically it’s a Titebond
Extend, just gives me a little more working time
for something like this. All right, let’s get to it. Each joint gets a generous amount of glue. And look at how much
long grain glue surface we have to work with. No wonder these joints are so strong. Now I’ll add a little bit of pressure, and then bring in the
second set of clamps. If you look closely you can see that the 16th of an inch overage
ensures a nice, tight shoulder. Now I’ll loosen and
retighten all the clamps just to make sure that
everything is hitting home. At each corner I’ll drop in a caul and add the small clamps. Now you might think
that the joint is tight, but what what happens
when we apply pressure. That squeeze out tells us that
we’re making good contact. Of course you want to
check for square as always, but if your half-lap
shoulders are nice and square there really shouldn’t
be much to worry about. After a few hours I can remove
the frame from the clamps. I’ve definitely got some
cleanup to do on the frame but before I do the fine stuff I’m just gonna start with a sanding block and remove any of the big
offending glue squeeze out that might be dried on the surface. Now let’s talk about the
curve on the top of the frame. If you’re just making one
of these you’re probably better off taking your measurements, kind of like we did on the drawing, and using a bent piece
of wood or drawing bow to make the curve right
on the frame, cut it, and then finesse it so
it’s nice and smooth. If it’s a one-off project
that’s all you need to do but if you’re building
multiples like I am, I’m actually building two of these, and if you think you might be
building one in the future, it’s a good idea to get a
template, finesse that template and then use the template
to transfer the marks to the other pieces. What I’m gonna do is cut
out of this actual drawing, we’re gonna cut this
top piece out, and then I’ll have a template to store
in the shop for future use. I use the bandsaw to cut the rough curve. And then use a block plane
to work down to my line. Of course, a flexible sanding
strip finishes it off nicely. Now with my template I can just drop it on while my frame’s here.
Make sure it’s centered. You pretty much line it up by eye if it doesn’t reach all
the way to the ends. Now to cut the curve I’m
gonna use the bandsaw but because I’ve got
a full size frame here it just gets a little unwieldy, so I’ve got two roller stands set up and a piece of plywood
sitting on top of it. It’s not super stable, but
it’s gonna get the job done just giving me a little bit
of extra outfeed support so I can focus my attention on making sure I don’t go over my line. (bright music) Now I’m just gonna attach the template to the work piece with
some double sided tape. You might find it as turner’s tape, but it’s a nice pressure sensitive, really sticky double-sided tape. Once the template is where you want it, put down the pressure. I’m just gonna flip this guy upside down and we’ll pinch it between the dogs here. And my router is outfitted
with a flush trim spiral bit. I like the spiral action on
this because the sheer cut gives me a nice clear cut, even
on this really figured wood. I’ve got a little double bearing down here that’s gonna ride up against the template, and this should give
me nice, clean results. (bright music) Anything the router wasn’t able to get, I can just use my rasp to
continue on, and I just have this little piece at the
end that needs to be done. And for the rest of it I’ll just use my flexible sanding strip. Now of course you’ll
remember we left these parts a little bit extra wide to
help us with the clamping. Well, now it’s time to fix that. It should just be a little
bit proud of the end grain on both sides so what we
need to do is make some clean up passes on both
the sides and the bottom, just to make sure it’s nice and flush. I’ve got my jack plane here setup and I specifically have
my 50 degree bevel. This is a bevel-up plane, so if the bevel is a little
bit more severe like that it’s actually going to
be a little kinder to us on a figured wood like this. If you have a real low bevel angle, you might actually end up
with quite a bit of tearout. So you do need to be careful. Other things you could
do, you could probably set your jointer for a
really, really light pass but you have to be careful, because once you get to the end of
the pass you’re gonna hit the end grain of the other part
of the half-lap and you can snap that right out of there,
that can be problematic. So if you do that, be
very careful about it. But I think a hand plane is
probably the safest bet here. Once you’re able to get
a nice clean shaving all the way across and
you’re even at both ends, then you should be good to go. And I’ll do the same treatment for the bottom and the other side. All right, that’s looking pretty good. Now I’m not quite ready to cut the rabbet because I’d like to do a little
bit of preliminary sanding, and plus my glass isn’t here yet. The sanding we’re gonna do is just gonna smooth everything out,
and if you think about it, we still have to do a routing operation, and whenever you run that
router on the surface you have a chance of denting
or scratching the material so if you sand it down
to 320 grit at this point and then you have a
router operation to do, you might have to wind
up sanding again later. So, at this point we’ll do
some preliminary sanding but we won’t go all the
way to our final grit. (bright music)

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Do you have a preferred online supplier for exotic hardwood like that? Just for anyone that doesn't have a local dealer to choose from

  2. Such a treat to get this level of detail from you for free. You instruction has helped me so much in my woodworking journey, thanks a million!

  3. Excellent work! The curve on top is subtle yet it adds a lot to the overall "theme" of the mirror. Thanks Mark!

  4. Twenty minute videos are usually way to long for me. But you are living up to the Wood Whisperer name because I watched the whole thing. Awesome project. But I kept staring at the worn out Spidey shirt. Very cool.

  5. I really enjoyed the pace of this; sometimes I like build videos because they're a little zen, but they can be hit or miss on whether I learn anything. A walk through project like this, where things are explained and discussed, but not belabored, strikes a great balance between education and entertainment. Can't wait to watch part 2!

  6. Great info and awesome video Marc, I really appreciate the longer, detailed format you mentioned on your article and the WT show as well!

  7. Great job Marc!! Definitely glad to see you kicking it old school. These are the quality of videos that got me started in woodworking

  8. This is awesome. Details and small secrets really make the difference. I reckon I'll join the gild soon.
    Oh and I forgot to mention that is really great that while many succesful channels go for 3 minutes video you keep going for quality.

  9. Loved the pace of this video.  It felt much shorter than 20 minutes.  The attention to detail was superb.  The difference in this and other "long" videos that people say they don't like is that you were consistently teaching something different: how to sneak up on the cut, what type of plane to use, how to avoid tear-out, etc.  The "boring" 20 minute videos are ones where a guy shows every single cut, every single sanding stroke, etc.  Thanks for the quality.

  10. I really like your mixture of old and new tools that you use. Too many people are one way or the other. Great video!

  11. I really like the level of detail in what on the surface is a very simple project. I am a fan of half-lap joinery, but have never thought of that trick of leaving an extra 1/16" for clamping purposes. I'm glad to see the free offerings return to this more detailed style. Hopefully I'll be a paying customer in the near future!

  12. I really enjoy your videos. The fact that you explain technique and how to do something is something I really appreciate (and want to see more of). Thumbs up, love your videos, keep it up, both of you!

  13. Really enjoyed watching this Marc. I'm sat with my 8 week old daughter and she seems to find your voice very soothing. Top quality content and production as always. All the best. Alex.

  14. Awesome video! Check this video out, i no longer use double sided tape anymore, i find this method allot cheaper and easier to work with. I got the video from ben crow from crimson guitars


  15. Awesome video. I was waiting for this since the last woodtalk.very easy to follow even for a super low skilled guy like me.makes me wonder if I could pull of the chest of drawers guild build…

  16. Nice. Good to see you pop out some free content again. You were one of the first woodworking youtube channels I stumbled across, (in late 2012), that inspired me to get back into some hobby woodworking, (after about 20 years). I heard you mention in your podcast, (which is also some easy listening), about video styles. Not everyone can pull off a quality video of value, with out verbally rambling on and repeating them selves. Must be a gift. LOL Your are easy to watch and listen to. Id like to see more but unfortunately, I cant financially justify getting involved with the guild. Keep up the awesome work. Looking forward to seeing more. Thanks!

  17. Marc,
    Keep doing the videos this way. This type of video is the reason I started following you originally and I think you lost a little bit over the past year or so. Glad to have this type of video again.

  18. Nice project, Marc.  I like the stain (there, I said it!) on that maple.
    I really like how you start in the bathroom explaining how to design the piece to fit the space.  Let's all put the "custom" in custom woodworking!!

  19. Question, by using the TriForce while measuring out the dimensions in the bathroom, did you only need to measure once?  Awesome work, as always.

  20. This was a fantastic video. I loved how you went into every step for this process. It makes me want to build one (even though I don't need it) just to build one. Thanks for what you do!!

  21. Marc, at 10:20 how did you deal with the tearout you got on the corner?  I'm guessing it came after doing the dado cuts.

    Great video btw!

  22. Great video, I enjoy the details that you provide.  Your videos never seem long, for me you provide just the right amount of explanation, so I hope you continue the detailed explanations. Looking forward to part 2!

  23. Great example of a hybrid attack on the wood… Now I need to invest in more tools! Incidentally my 4yo immediately noticed your shirt changes I would have never noticed I was intent on the wood the whole time!

  24. Marc, I feel like the quality of my own work ebs and flows with the quality of work in the videos I watch. Your attention to detail gets replicated in my own work. I for one really appreciate the level of quality instruction in your videos. I'm still trying to save my pennies to afford the split top lumber and hardware but I'm excited for when that day finally comes.

  25. I love that you went back to longer more detailed videos. Your "slow down" approach is very much appreciated. Keep up the great work.

  26. Awesome content as always.. More evidence that a guild membership will be a great investment once some tools are in my shop! 🙂 Thanks, Marc!

  27. Thanks for the video Mark.  After watching all of your videos I almost started thing I could do woodworking.  Better judgment moved in  So  I'll just continue watching you
    do it.  Ya make it look too easy man.  Be safe.

  28. Hello Mr. Wood Whisperer, 
    let me tell you why I like some of your videos more than videos from some other Youtubers: 
    You seem to go further into intricate details and you seem very eager in improving your own skillsets and your knowledge over time. Also, I think your hybrid woodworking methods are showing, i.e.I got the impression that you try to be good at using both hand tools and power tools without neglecting either.
    All this leads to some higher level both in building and in the complexity of your projects. Not everything has to be super easy that you're showing us, rather you seem to concentrate on using the right tool for the right job.
    You seem to take care that you don't bore your audience with trivial projects and I very much like your attitude of improving your own skills over the years.
    I think there are only so many simplistic projects you want to watch, a day will come when as a viewer you want to see some finer (for lack of a better word) projects. You are one of few to deliver.
    Thank you for taking your audience seriously.

  29. Really great video Marc. It's been a while since I've sat through a "longer" woodworking video and this went by in a flash. The mark of quality content! Looking forward to part 2.

  30. What do you think about using Sketchup for the final design rather than laying it out on a piece of plywood?

  31. 🙂 feels great to sit n soak in a detailed video from you again.. awesome project!! looking forward to part two.

  32. Man, it's awesome to see this level of content return to the free site! It's what got me to join the guild and invest in the hobby. Love it!

  33. Really loved this video Marc! The sped up videos are good fillers for when I can't be out in the shop myself, but I've always loved your teaching style! Been watching your stuff for years.

  34. I see behind you, there is a large router bit set. do you have any recommendations for a decent set to get started? I know there will be some that you use all of the time that you can purchase a higher quality, but I am looking for a medium grade set that will cover all of my bases. thanks!

  35. Awesome. Love the look. I hope one day I will be able to have the skills you have and the tools in your shop Mr. Spagnuolo! I have learned a lot from your channel. Thanks for the great videos.

  36. Love all your videos, I really like the layout tool you used for the top curve on the mirror. Do you have the name of it? Thanks

  37. Great video.  I appreciate not only the woodworking, but the production quality of your videos.  I look forward to signing up for the guild to get a bit more of your content.  Thanks.

  38. I'm just starting to get into woodworking, and your videos have been great! Now you're doing a show wearing a Triforce t-shirt. Best channel ever.

  39. Hi great video, what is the name of the tool you used to draw the curve with. I need a simple tool like that! Thanks!

  40. Marc – Thanks for the time you obviously put into this video. Also appreciate that you include what happens AFTER the cut/route is done, ie how one then sands, smooths, and planes. There is a dearth of woodworking videos that show that part, most just gloss over and assume viewers alreadh have that knowledge. I think many viewers would benefit from seeing the sanding and planing techniques in action. Thanks!

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