Let me start by saying that this is something I've been wanting to do for a very long time. I have a book by Norm Abram in which he demonstrates how he made a Chippendale style mirror frame. After reading up a bit on the man himself, Thomas Chippendale, I was even more inspired to take on this project. Of course, I had to put my own spin on it, so I used the mirror frame as a door to a medicine cabinet style shelf unit. I'm always trying to make my shop more and more organized, and stylish, so this was a great addition.
Check out the video above of me making this mirror shelf, hopefully it will clear up any questions you have about the process. It's a relatively easy build, and if you don't have certain tools that I use, just think about Thomas Chippendale making a shelf like this back in the 18th century. He certainly wasn't using power tools. Amazing.
Step 1: Gather Resources
There are plenty of resources on the web to find different templates and styles of Chippendale mirror frames. Just google it. After you find the one you like, print it up and find some wood that will work for your dimensions. Being the resourceful guy that I am, I designed mine around a mirror that I found to save me from having to purchase one. My mirror was square, making the frame process that much easier.
The scroll work on this design is divided into six pieces. The top, the bottom, and four wings on the sides, two at the top and two at the bottom. So you will need to find some wood for each of these individual pieces.
After I cut my wood to the right size, I used spray adhesive to glue the template down. I modified the template I was using for a couple of reasons. First, to fit the mirror that I had. Second, I wanted to set my frame apart from all the others out there.
Before taking it to the scroll saw, I used the band saw to cut away the bulk of the material that would otherwise just get in the way and make it tough to work with.
Step 2: Scroll Saw Time!
This step is pretty straight forward. Sit at the scroll saw for a while and cut along the lines of the template. This is your opportunity to put your own spin on the design. If one spot is pointy and you want it rounded, go for it.
For those of you who are into scroll saw projects, this one is super easy, because there are no inside cuts. For those who don't know, inside cuts are the ones where you have to drill a hole, take out the blade on your saw and feed the blade through the hole, then put the blade back in the saw to make your cut. This project has none of those, so it's a pretty quick and smooth process.
Step 3: Build the Frame
With your scroll work done, you can get started making the frame. I set my miter saw at 45 degrees and set up a stop block to make sure all four sides would be the exact same. After cutting those, I ran my planer over each one, then gave them a light sanding.
The inside of the frame on the back needs a slight recess for the mirror to sit in, so I ran each piece of the frame through the router table with a straight bit. Next the outside of the frame on the back needs to be run through for the scroll work to go in. A little bit at a time is the answer here. Pass each piece through, then raise your router bit just a tiny bit and put each piece through again. Then do the same thing to each of your six pieces of scroll work. After each pass check the fit of the scroll work and the frame until you have a nice flush fit on the front side.
Once you have the fit you desire, flip it all over and assemble. I used wood glue and brad nails on all the joints. Then I let it sit overnight before giving it a good final sanding. After sanding, I took it out back and painted it solid white.
This part is totally up to you, but after the paint had dried, I used a chamfer bit in my dremel tool to put just a tiny little edge all the way around the frame. This edge I left unpainted, which gave it a really interesting depth that I felt it was lacking.
Last, but certainly not least, you can now finally put your mirror into its frame. There are tons of ways to attach it, but I decided to use hot glue all the way around the mirror.
Step 4: Build the Shelves
I used a 2 by 10 for the base of my shelves. I made a thirty degree cut for the front. To make sure that my mirror frame would be able to swing open on a hinge, I used a cup to draw a circle at the top of this piece, then cut it out on the band saw. Next I cut my shelves from some scrap wood, 17" for each side, 14" for the top and bottom, and 13" for the middle shelf, accounting for the 1/2" wood on each side.
The bottom shelf I simply glued and screwed it to the base pieces. For the sides, I used pocket holes as you can see in the picture above. The middle shelf was installed with pocket holes as well, ten inches up from the bottom shelf. Then I simply attached the top shelf with glue and screws from the top.
For the back, I cut a piece of 1/4" plywood to the size of the cabinet. Then I glued it down and brad nailed it in place.
Step 5: Finish It Up
For the finishing touches, I decided to stain the shelf a really dark stain, closely matching the color of my walls. That way, the white mirror frame will contrast it and really stand out. Next, I painted the inside of the frame the same color white as the outside.
After those were both dry, I attached two hinges hidden away on the side. That's all there is to it.
So it's not a really tough project to make, just a little time and patience is required.