Introduction: Mirror Lighting Retrofit

Picture of Mirror Lighting Retrofit

I was struggling to find an attractive lighting solution for my bathroom remodel: nothing in Home Depot or Lowes appealed. Then I suddenly hit on the idea of using some LED light strips I had around.They were very slim, and lightweight, their power supply would be quite small and easily hidden in the top of the cabinet inside the stud wall.

Unusual Tools needed:

Small Router - I used a Ridgid Trim router from Home Depot, and a template guided bit. A lot of this project would be easier with a CNC router and a laser cutter !!

Soldering iron and wiring tools.

Materials

LED strips - these were a cool white strip I bought on Amazon. I'd have preferred a warmer white - maybe next time.

Acrylic plastic - I used 1/8"

Step 1: Cutting the Pockets.

Picture of Cutting the Pockets.

I'd planned to only put a pair of LEDs on the top left and right of the mirror, but the lighting was uneven and evil looking, so I had to put them in all 4 corners.

The mirror came with a bath vanity bought from Home Depot, and which turned out to have been made from substantial plywood, even though it was stapled in the corners.

I made router templates and cut the pockets with a cheap plunge router. I made a mating template I used to cut the windows from clear acrylic. The end result is a perfect flush fitting.

The acrylic I used was clear, and so I frosted it with a piece of 80 grit sandpaper - you could use pearl acrylic, or even shot blast the finish if you wanted

Step 2: Reinforcement and Wire Chases

Picture of Reinforcement and Wire Chases

Sadly, after cutting so much from the edges, I decided that the panel was likely to have been weakened, and so I had to add reinforcing plates to all the corners. If you're more careful with your choice of mirror, you may not need to add this step. I also rebated the reinforcments into the edges - there isn't a lot of original wood in some place !!

That DID have the benefit that now the LED strips are heatsinked very nicely, so it ended up good in the end.

I used the router again to put shallow grooves over the back of the mirror, these are covered over with plywood strips, as shown in the picture

Step 3: Power

Picture of Power

To power the strip, I discovered that the rated voltage was just too bright, even when the LEDs weren't fully "in your face".

I used an off the shelf 12V supply which usefully had an adjustment pot that allowed me to get to roughly 10V on the LEDs which is acceptable - and quite a lot cooler too. I also deliberately bought a larger power supply than the job needed - this is a 60W 12Vsupply, running at 10W, which will ensure everything runs cool.

The long strips can be cut in any marked position and still only need 12V supplies. I cut two long strips into four pieces, and wired three sets of two into one continuous parallel circuit, leaving one set of two on their own loop.

I found double sided tape did a good job of keeping the strips in their pockets, and transferred heat well to the backing plates.

Soldering needs a decent iron - the LEDs are heatsinked, and their pads take some good warming to get quality joints.

My pictures show two of the cut LED strips in their pockets, the second shows the power supply tucked into place on its own shelf at the top of the cabinet, and the third shows the wire transition from the wall to the mirror - the wires are purely TWISTED, and like that, they'll never break.

Step 4: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

The LED strip insertion idea can be used in any lighting project, it needs a little care to make a professional looking result, but the improvement in light over the vanity is substantial, and under running the LEDs means they will probably last forever.

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Bio: I'm an Engineer, who originally inherited the family business (Thanks Dad (RIP JC Taylor, 1938-2011)) after working in it for 25 years, designing and ... More »
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