Few days before I went to a pottery exhibition with a friend and I was amazed to see some beautiful terracotta flower vases decorated using sea/river pebbles. So I thought of making one of the similar vase and started looking for pebbles. A day later I saw a mirror in a local store which was decorated using sea shells. Well that did not interest me much until I went to a fish aquarium store for pebbles and saw purple pebbles, they are not real and artificially colored but I loved them since purple is my favorite color and suddenly I thought of making a pebble mirror instead of a vase. I will still make a vase some day but I know I should make a mirror first and thats how I came up with Purple Pebble Mirror.
So that was inspiration, now no more stories, lets get our hands dirty (and I mean it ;-))
Step 1: Stuff You Will Need.
- An old round mirror about 10 inch (Mine was 11 inch).
- A MDF Board about 20x20 inches in size and about 15mm thick. You can also use a plywood. I chose mdf because its lightweight and sturdy.
- Some cardboard about the size of mirror and little thicker.
- Plaster of paris about 2kg (Its always better to keep more).
- About 2kg of purple aquarium pebbles of medium size (rougly little smaller than size of almonds).
- A small plastic bucket of size about 2Litres or a container.
- A hook to hang the mirror.
- 4 clips to lock the mirror back with cardboard (I got it from an old photo frame)
- Some old newspapers . (I made a lot of mess, you may too :))
- A piece of white cotton cloth.
- Some old cotton cloth or towels for our hands to dry.
- A small painting brush.
- 5-6 OHP Sheets (you can also use thick plastic sheets if you have.). I chose OHP because I had them already.
- OHP marker pen.
- A craft scissor.
- A cutter or knife to cut the cardboard.
- A measurement scale.
- A stapler
- Super glue or instant 1drop glue.
- About 6-8 screws of size 1/2inch.
- Sand Paper No.120.
- Some hand and body lotion.
- Our best friend patience :)
- OPTIONAL but can be very helpful. A helping hand.
This is my first ever project with plaster of paris(POP) and I have learned many things about POP while working on this project. I also figured out my own ways to work with POP which may not be simplistic or professional, but they worked for me. I am sure you will have better methods if you choose to make this.
Lets start by preparing our mirror frame
Step 2: Making the Mirror Frame
I asked him to cut the outer circle about 18inch so that I get roughly about 3 inch border around the mirror.
If you have the right tools, you may want to do this on your own.
Now proceed as follows:
- Draw a circle on the cardboard using the mirror.
- Cut the cardboard circle using the knife or cutter.
- Now screw the hook at the back of the frame (Image 1).
- Screw the clips as shown in Image 2
- Put the mirror inside the frame and cover it with cardboard and make sure clips are tightly fit when moved over the cardboard.
- Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, remove the cardboard and mirror.
Step 3: Making the Casting Bed for POP
We want the depth of casting bed to be about 1cm (0.39 inches). Lets see how we can make a casting bed using OHP sheets.
- Measure the thickness of the board + 1cm (See Image 1). Roughly about 3 cms(1.18inches).
- Draw 3cm wide lines on the OHP sheet (I got A4 size sheets so I had to use 3-4 sheets) (See Image 2)
- Cut along the lines to make strips and join them using instant glue (see Image 3).
- Make 2 strips, big and small. Big one should be able to cover the outer circle of the frame. Smaller one should cover the inner circle. (see Image 4)
- Wrap the big strip around the frame as shown in Image 5 tightly and staple the ends.
- Insert the small strip in the inner circle such that it fit inside securely. Staple the ends.
- The casting bed should look like Image 6.
Before we get our hands dirty in POP, Lets interview(meet) Mr. Failure in the next step :)
Step 4: Meeting the Failure
POP is a interesting material, fun to work with. However it is easy to get frustrated while working with POP. During the making of this mirror I failed twice and learned many thing during my failures which helped me achieve success. I hope you will find this information useful:
- Fill water in the container first and then slowly add POP. Don't do the opposite, this will help you avoid lumps in the mixture.
- When you add pop in water don't get tempted to immediately use your hands to mix it. Sometimes POP becomes hot and can burn your skin. Use a wooden dowel or stick to mix for few seconds and then you can use your hands to mix and crush lumps if any.
- Do not stir to mix water and POP, this will speed up curing and you don't want that.
- Use refrigerator cold water, this will delay the curing. Hot water cures the POP fastest.
- If you have a ceiling fan, switch it off while working with POP.
- Weather conditions also affects curing of POP, hotter the weather, faster the curing. When I made this mirror it was 104F in India (40C). I had a hard time.
- The consistency of the POP depends on its usage. Thick consistency is ideal for POP modeling or sculpturing. For this mirror the consistency was like little thinner than white glue.
- TEST TEST TEST. Take a small portion of POP, mix with water. Apply on a wooden surface, start a stopwatch in your cellphone, stick your finger, continue till you feel firmness. Calculate the time. This is roughly the time you get before POP starts curing. NOTE: This is not a accurate method, you may have to repeat tests.
- First time the mixture was thick and dried very quickly
- Second time I thought it was ok but then it started curing when I was 75% done.
Step 5: Making the POP Mixture and Sticking Pebbles
NOTE: The images of the POP mixture above might be misleading because it looks very thick, in reality it should be thin and less viscous
SELECTING THE PEBBLES
- When you buy pebbles they might not be of same size, its a good idea to sort pebbles of similar sizes (Image 1).
- Select and test arrange pebbles on the frame for inner and outer border (Image 2). Keep these pebbles aside.
Ask your friend, brother, sister or spouse to help you arrange the pebbles while the POP is still wet. I was alone while I was making this and had to face two failures.
THE DIRTY JOB
- Place some old news paper on your work table or floor. Wherever you are working.
- In the plastic bucket added cold water about 500ml (17oz).
- Add some POP in water , mix it with wooden stick for 5-10 seconds and then using your hands to crush the lumps and mix. DO NOT Stir.
- Keep adding POP and repeat #2, till you get the desired consistency, remember the glue, the mixture should be easy to flow. (Image 3)
- Pour the mixture in the casting bed, it should flow like a river and cover the entire bed. It might leak a bit from the bed but thats OK. Keep pouring till the bed is about 90% full (Image 4).
- Start placing the pebbles starting from borders and continue till you fill the complete frame with pebbles (Image 5)
- If you notice that POP is disturbed while you are placing pebbles, use paint brush with water and make it even (Ask your helping hand to do this.).
- Leave the arrangement for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the OHP strips.
Wash your hands with soap and apply some moisturizer on them.
Leave the arrangement to cure overnight. It may take longer depending on atmospheric conditions. Once the arrangement is cured fully.
WARNING: The mirror with frame becomes about 5 times heavier, lift it carefully.
if you notice any rough edges, sand it gently.
If you notice white patches on the pebbles, which is obvious. Make the white cotton cloth moist and gently rub the pebbles to remove the white patches or spots.
Purple is always beautiful to me but I am so glad that this came out very well and looks very beautiful. You think so too ?
TIPS from the Internet and experience.
- When you do the POP test and if you notice that its not holding the wooden board, you may apply a thin coat of wood glue on the mirror frame before you pour POP.
- POP holds fairly well but it not shock proof and may get cracks or broken due to jerks. Hang your mirror on the wall that is not vulnerable to jerks.
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