DIY on a Dime: Make Your Own Framed Mirror

I’ve been remiss. I said I’d update soon and I didn’t. But at least I have a great excuse: life happened. We’ve still been chipping away at the house slowly, and now I have over 700 pictures to sort through and several projects to write about. Procrastination leads to heartbreak, kids. With that in mind, let’s jump right in to our mirror project.

Here’s what we made:

That’s a new 18″x28″ mirror hanging over the dresser in our guest bedroom. It took us $13 and an hour to whip that sucker up. (That time can easily be cut down to 5 minutes — more on that later.)

We’ve been scoping out mirrors in shops and online for a while now. The general consensus: holy crap, mirrors are so overpriced! Even the more affordable mirrors at Target didn’t seem worth the cost — the frames seemed so chintzy up close. Besides, we try to avoid buying cheap made-in-China stuff as much as possible. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but in this case, it was cheap and easy to DIY.

First step: make or get a frame.

 

We happened to have this raw handcrafted hardwood frame left over from an old project. We were originally planning on framing some art, but never got around to it. It’s been sitting in our garage for months now.

We love how raw wood helps make a room feel warm and cozy, so we decided not to paint or stain our frame. We also decided to skip the polyurethane because this isn’t really something that will rub or scrape against anything.

This is what happens anytime I pull out the camera now:

That’s what I get for giving her a treat to sit still for the camera. She sees the camera and assumes there’s food behind the lens.

The frame has a deep channel in the back for the glass to sit in. Basically just like a normal frame you’d buy in a store, except it’s unfinished wood. There’s also no hardware to hold the mirror in place and no way to hang it on a wall. We had to create a backing and install hardware — that’s why it took us an hour to make the mirror. To cut that hour down to 5 minutes, all you have to do is go to a store and buy a frame you like. Seriously.

Second step: get a mirror. 

Since our 18″x28″ frame was a custom-made piece, it’s not a standard size. That means we couldn’t march on over to Target and buy a mirror to drop into it. Instead, we had to get a mirror custom cut to fit our frame.

To do that, we simply measured the channel on the back of the frame — subtracted 1/8″ all around to compensate for the wood swelling and shrinking with the weather — and called in an order to a glass shop. It was ready to pick up the next day, and cost about $11.

Third step: drop the mirror into the frame.

If this was a store-brought frame, we would be done by now. We could just snap it all together, hang it, and stare at ourselves for the remaining 55 minutes.

But since, we didn’t go with a pre-made frame, we still had some work to do.

Step four: make a backing for the frame.

This step is going to be different for different frames. The general idea is to make something that holds the frame and mirror together. Store-brought frames usually have some kind of cardboard backing and then some hinges that snap / flip into place. For our frame, we decided to do some thin wood strips that would sit on top of the mirror and nail into the frame.

What we needed were 4 strips of wood that would sit flush with the frame. Bradley measured and cut those. Here’s what it looked like when he finished:

You might notice some small wood chips on the grey back of the mirror in the pictures above. Stuff like that can actually chip the paint, ruining the reflective side of the mirror. To make sure that didn’t happen, we used our air compressor to blow the dust off. Then we cut a protective surface to make sure it doesn’t get any dust on it later on down the line.

Our mirror came wrapped in a sheet of heavy brown butcher paper. We set that on top of our frame.

Bradley scored the paper along the edge of the frame — basically he used his thumb to trace the edge of the channel on the backside of the frame. Then he carefully cut along the edge using a boxcutter:

If you do this, make sure your knife edge goes into the wood frame and not along the mirror. Otherwise, you’re headed to Scratch City. After that, you can peel away the cut paper and leave behind the paper that’s going to protect the mirror:

Next: nail everything together.

The order from bottom to top goes like this: frame, mirror, paper, wood strips. Easy enough. We used finishing nails (they have tiny heads) and gently hammered them to attach the wood strip to the frame.

It helped to drill pilot holes using a really tiny drill bit, but we didn’t take photos of that for some reason.

Finally: figure out how to hang that sucker.

We went with a simple picture hanger clip that we had lying around. We centered it and drilled a couple of pilot holes (carefully, because the drill bit could go right through to the front of the frame!), then used some small screws to hold it in place.

Ta-da! We have a mirror:

To hang our mirror, we found and marked the center spot above our dresser:

We checked to see if there was a stud in that spot, and there wasn’t. So we used a special wall anchor to hang our frame there anyway:

The blue anchor on the right is what we usually use. When you screw into it, the little ridges flare out and help hold the frame up. The green one on the left is a different variation that we like even more.

That fold down the middle is a hingle. When you drill a screw through the big hole on the right, the entire left side folds up. This turns the anchor into an L shape that helps hold up the frame even without a stud. It works great for hanging heavy things. We’ve found that it’s way less likely to pop out then the standard flaring anchors.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use anchors:

Drill a small pilot hole. Pop the anchor in it, pointy side first:

Gently hammer the anchor into the wall so it sits flush against the wall:

Use a drill to put your screw into the anchor:

Done!

We hung our mirror on that nail and made sure it was totally level. Here’s what it looks like now:

Photobomb!

Yep. Still there.

The light wood coincidentally matched the wood we used for our DIY bed frame:

And both of those match the set of trays we’re currently using to hold our bedside stuff until we build night stands:

It was completely unplanned, but different elements in the room are starting to visually reflect one another. Happy accident!

We’re pretty geeked with how our new mirror looks. And it cost $13 since we only had to buy the mirror and hardware. This is cheaper than comparably sized mirrors we found at IKEA, Target, West Elm and Pottery Barn. And for the price point, it’s of a muuuuch higher quality. Best part: nobody else owns one exactly like it. (Eat that, cute-but-cookie-cutter IKEA mirrors!)

We definitely plan on making more mirrors for our house. We don’t want all our mirrors to look exactly the same, so we’ve been brainstorming some ideas on how to get a different look.

  • Hit the thrift stores to get cheap, pre-made frames.
  • Find an old-fashioned frame and spray paint it so it looks new. Black, white and silver are all good candidates, but we’d also love to do something really unexpected like bright yellow or deep teal.
  • Build a giant frame from the beams we salvaged from our demolition. We have tons of really neat 130-year-old wood sitting around in our garage. Everything is really darkened and greyed and a lot of it has a funky striped pattern because of lathe strips. We’re imagining an oversized full-length mirror that sits on the floor and rest against the wall.

We have a lot of rooms to fill and a lot of mirrors to build. We’d love to hear what you think. Have any ideas you’re willing to share with us?

Stay tuned for a ton more updates this week. We finished a few projects and started a few more. Coming up next: our $20 DIY headboard. It’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s super effing easy to make!

14 thoughts on “DIY on a Dime: Make Your Own Framed Mirror

  1. Glad to see you back! I wanted to tell you that the pictures of Bradley assembling the framed mirror gave me flashbacks from my childhood. My grandfather was a woodworker and he made a frame for a puzzle I put together when I was about 8 (awww, it was kitties) The lighting and set up of Bradleys picture looks just like my memory of helping Grandad in his workshop! I followed him around that whole day collecting the wood and glass, which happened to be from an old window stored in a barn. My mom keeps trying to push that framed cat puzzle on me and I just keep saying “no ma, i think it looks better at your house”!

  2. This is great. I have a large (former bathroom) mirror that I’ve thought of cutting and framing in different areas of my home… only thing is; I’m not sure how to cut the mirror. Thanks for a great post. Very inspiring.

  3. Pingback: How To Find a Find: Our Thoughts on Thrift Stores | Bye Bye, Brooklyn

  4. Pingback: I’ve Been Framed. | Bye Bye, Brooklyn

  5. This is a great project even I, as inept at woodworking as I am, could do, so thanks! Also, just a heads up, if you go the deep teal route, make sure you test, test, test the color to make sure it’s what you want and you can live with it if it’s a big piece. I made that mistake a few years ago and ended up with a wannabe teal media center that added what I like to call character to my room. :)

  6. Pingback: I’ve Been Framed 2.0 | Bye Bye, Brooklyn

  7. Thank you for this post! I’ve been looking and searching the internet for an easy step-by-step project on how to make a mirror from a frame!

  8. I can’t find mirror ANYWHERE here in Phoenix that cheap! The one I want is larger, but the cost is more than 8 times what you stated you paid! Any suggestions?

    • The bigger size might have something to do with the price. It could also be thickness — we went with a thin piece which kept things cheap. We also didn’t get a beveled edge (pricier). I’d suggest calling a few places and asking for something thin with a raw edge.

      • I got a really nice, huge mirror from a hotel remodel. I happened to be staying at the hotel and noticed the 3 mirrors in a large dumpster. Luckily I had a horse trailer with me and after asking permission loaded one up. Check your area for any hotel or motel remodels …

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