Ready to build a mind-warping, light-abstracting, infinitely deep array of color-changing lights as practical furniture? Then read ahead and get ready for some fun! Pictures are heavily used throughout this guide, hoping you find them helpful and enjoyable :-)
After seeing the movie Interstellar and the incredible tesseract scene near the end, I wanted to create something involving light, mirrors, and have a daily use in my home. There are a few two-plate infinity mirror guides already on Instructables, but I wanted something more complex and striking -- enter six-plates!
The design is fairly straightforward, and can be constructed out of any materials, most commonly wood or metal. I opted for metal because I wanted it to match the silver tint of the mirrors and I had spare aluminum plates on-hand. Darkly stained or painted wood could also make a striking impression.
Hoping you enjoy this Instructable. If you do make use of this work, have any questions, or make improvements on my designs, please let me know -- it is always a joy to see what others create. Enjoy!
Step 1: Tools, Materials, and Parts
Oh boy! A straightforward project with a lot of ways to get the job done. Many of these tools can be substituted for alternative methods. Nothing needs to be expensive except for the tempered glass plate for the top.
You likely already have access to many of these tools -- there are many sad and unused tools on many idle workbenches, ask your friends and family if you can borrow tool X or tool Y, they are often glad to see it put to use!
Jigsaw - Used to cut the metal plates, also works on wood.
Jigsaw T-Shanks (blades) - $10, 5x - You'll need metal rated bits to cut metal or hardwood. Wood-rated bits for wood. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000UMLQ9W
Aluminum Cutting Fluid - $10 - Makes the jigsaw blades last much longer. You can also substitute 3-part oil. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003X3ZKXI
Power Drill - Makes holes. Needed for connecting the plates together via bolts in this guide. If you are using a wood-build, I highly recommend going for Pocket Holes with a Kreg Jig.
Drill Bit Set - Makes different sizes of holes.
Tape Measurer - $4 - Measures distances.
Level or Ruler $1-20 - Measures more distances.
Cloth Rags - For cleanup.
Acetone (1 Gallon) - For cleanup of grime and metal-flakes from plates and for washing hands.
Hot Glue Gun and Sticks (High Temp) - $16 - Get high temp with the large-sized glue sticks, plan to use a lot. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00004YMWF
Plastic Scoring Tool - Used to cut acrylic or polycarbonate mirrors to size. - https://www.amazon.com//dp/B003UHUZ5U
Acrylic Squeegee - $5 - For cleaning the glass plate, and applying the mirror film evenly.
Plastic Card - $0 - Use a credit card or equivalent. Used to remove air-bubbles from the mirror film.
Spray Bottle - Use water plus a few drops of dish-soap. No need for a special mirror-film application solution.
Clamps - Recommend C-Clamps or Bar Clamps - $8/ea. You'll need at least 4.
(Optional) Angle Grinder w/ Wire Brush - For polishing the aluminum plate with swirl patterns to cover up scratches. Also smooths the edges of cut metal. You could use a simple file wrapped in a cloth for smoothing edges if desired, it will just take a lot of sweat and time.
(Optional) Mitre Saw with Grinding Disc - For cutting through the corner aluminum. Can easily be done with a Jigsaw, just makes some cuts easier.
(2x) 1/8" Acrylic Mirror - 4' x 2' - $60/ea - One mirror is on the bottom, the other will be cut into strips for the sides. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GGB0D2Q
1/2" Glass Plate (Tempered) - 4' x 2' - $135 - The most expensive part of the build. Needs to hold up computer monitors and take a small amount of weight, coffee-table thickness of 1/2" highly recommended. Open the box before signing for a shipment. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G3P4VBU
####Option 1 - Metal Build
Aluminum Plates - $60 - 1/8" or 1/4" thickness recommended. I went to the metal scrapyard and picked up a 4'x6'x1/8" plate.
Bolts (Unless you have a TIG Welder) - $5, 50x - I used entirely 3/4" length, 1/4" 20# Bolts.
Nuts (Unless you have a TIG Welder) - $5, 100x - 1/4" #20 nuts.
(2x) 1/8" (Thickness) 1/2" x 1/2" x 4' Angle (90 degree) Aluminum - $4/ea at the hardwood store, these provide the supports for the glass plate. If you are making a wood build, you can use a router bit instead on your edges to inset the glass.
(2x) 1/16" (Thickness) 3.5" x 2" x 8'Angle Aluminum - $10 at the scrapyard. Would probably be $50/ea in the store. Holds the entire frame together, also acts as rounded corners.
####Option 2 - Wood Build
Plywood - $40, or Hardwood ($100-200) - Recommend 1/2" or 3/4" plywood, probably about $40 worth of material.. If you are going with hardwood, I recommend using maple, walnut, cherry, or mahogany, prices vary, probably $100+ for the good stuff from your local hardwood supplier.
Screws - $5, 100x - $6, length depends on your wood thickness. If you've never tried Torx screws, I highly recommend them (much harder to strip the heads or slip).
Router Bit - $10 for a set at Harbor Freight, used to edge into your frame to inset the glass. Cut doesn't need to be deep, 1/4" or 1/2" depth is perfect.
LED 5050 RGB Strip - $9 - Very pretty lights. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006LW2NJM
LED Controller and Remote - $7 - Remote control to select the colors, and a controller chip to change the patterns / colors. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0188JN9HA
Power Supply - $8 - 12vDC Out, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019Q3U72M/
Privacy Mirror Film - $28 - 3' x 15' - Provides a one-way mirror for the glass plate on top. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000H5XTKG
Step 2: Schematics - Option 1 - Metal Build
Diagrams, tigers, and bears oh my! Nothing like starting with good schematic materials. This contains the metal-schematics.
The five plates (4x sides, and 1x base) are held together with the angle aluminum and bolts/nuts. Schematics are color-coded to make it easier to separate them from one another.
There is a 2' x 4' acrylic mirror that sits direct on top of the base plate, and 4" x 48" mirrors that are attached directly to the sides. Finally, the top plate (tempered glass) has a one-way mirror with privacy film to let you see into the reflection chamber.
Step 3: Schematics - Option 2 - Wood Build
More schematics, lots of fun! Hopefully this gives you some ideas.
I highly recommend using pocket holes with a Kreg Jig if you go with a wood-build, simple, strong, and discrete.
Step 4: Measure Once, Cut Thrice -- Getting Started
Now that you've got your materials acquired, schematics customized to your needs, and tools ready, it's time to build. I highly recommend having a friend assist if you can, nothing makes for good progress like ready hands.
These instructions will only cover the metal build from hereon as that is what I constructed. The process is the same throughout:
- Build the frame and base plate.
- Measuring, cutting, and polishing/smoothing.
- Make sure everything measures up correctly by laying the pieces next to each other.
- Assemble the frame
- Bolts from the base-plate to the angle aluminum were installed head-side up, to allow for even contact with the Acrylic Mirror base. Ensure they are inside enough to allow for a 1/8" Acrylic Mirror to be hot-glued directly to a side frame-plate.
- Cut the mirrors to size
- Using the scoring tool, swipe at LEAST 8 passes along the entire length of the Acrylic. You may need to practice cutting five or six scrap pieces befor getting the hang of making an even break.
- Install the LEDs and wiring
- Hot glue gun to the rescue, hold everything in place.
- Install the Acrylic Mirrors with Protective Coating
- More hot glue and a little friction
- Apply the Mirror Film to the Glass
- Make the glass spotless first, then use the squeegee and credit card to remove any water or air bubbles.
- Remove protective coatings and assemble
Please see the photos above for references. We started out with a simple ugly metal plate, cut the angle aluminum, excess of the plate (sides), to size, and propped up everything to confirm it fits
Step 5: Mirror, Mirror-Support on the Wall...
The top plate of glass is mighty heavy, and we need a support to suspend it at the height of the desk. In addition to service as the mirror support, it will hold our LED strip on the inside as well.
Three bolts connect each frame-plate to a piece of 1/2" x 1/2" angle aluminum. The angle aluminum is installed "upside down", so the glass rests on top of the angle aluminum rather than "inside" of it. Please see picture for example.
The mirror supports had their bolts installed at a height that sets the angle aluminum 1/4" from the top of the frame. Since the mirror is 1/2", this is stable enough to inset the glass, while still having it rise above the frame.
Step 6: Nuts and Bolts
Everything is bolted together, the corners, the base to the angle aluminum, the mirror supports to the plates. We used about 20 bolts to hold the desk together for base plate to framing, sides to corners, and mirror supports to the sides. It's important to reduce the pressure spots on the bolts, the goal is to keep the acrylic mirror as flat as possible.
There was little measuring done for where to put bolts aside from spacing them evenly. Along the length of the base, we did every 6 inches. Eyeballing it is fine as no one will see the majority of the bolts anyways -- they will be covered up by mirrors.
Step 7: Scoring Acrylic Mirrors
This was surprisingly the hardest part of the entire build. All I can say is to go slow, score more than you think you should, and practice before going big.
This build called for (2x) 4" x 48" mirrors, and (2x) 4" x 24" mirrors. No one sells 4" x 48" strips, so you'll need to cut them yourself.
Recommended practices for scoring:
- Leave the protection film on the entire time. It stays on until final assembly.
- Place the mirror acrylic side down on a flat surface with the portion you want over-hanging the edge, leaving the grey, vulnerable surface facing up.
- The gray backing is extremely easy to damage, a scratch on the back will show up on the front. It's thinner than aluminum foil.
- Place towels or fabric over the mirror, and clamp down a level on top of the cloths.
- Drag your scoring tool along the level, use at least 8-10 full scores before attempting to break the plate.
- Do not snap quickly, if you force it all in one go, you'll get a split somewhere no matter how many scores you do.
- Start at on end, and work your way slowly to the other end.
- Whille pulling down on the outside edge to "snap it off", push upward directly under the score line. Just enough until you see or hear the cracking noise along the score line.
- You only want to crack about 2-4 inches at a time along the score line. Once it's completely cracked along the score line, the piece should just fall off (unless you need to cut the protective film).
Step 8: Installing the LEDs
The LED strip itself it connected along the vertical side of the 1/2" x 1/2" angle aluminum mirror supports -- wow that was a mouthful of words. You want this as straight and even as possible. Because I used bolts/nuts to connect the mirror supports to the frame plates, I had three "bumps" where the bolt threads stuck out. I decided to just hot glue a nut to the support every 3 inches, and then hot-glue the LED strip to the bolts themselves, effectively raising them off about 1/4".
The LED strips I recommended in the start are extremely simple, it's literally just connect the pieces together and on they go.
Power <> Controller <> 4-pin plug <> 4 pin LED strip.
Step 9: Installing Acrylic Mirrors and Mirror Film
I recommend installing the base Acrylic Mirror first. Because it may be slightly bent due to the rim of the base plate having bolts in it, I recommend hot-gluing a few nuts around the middle of the base. This evens out the weight distribution of the plate to reduce bending.
The base acrylic mirror just sits in place on top of the metal base plate.
The side acrylic mirrors are help in place by hot-glueing them along the side plates. They are wedged inbetween the downward facing bolt-heads, and the side plates as well.
You may need to trim one Acrylic Mirror to allow your wire through to reach the LED strips. Depending on your cuts and install this cutoff amount can vary.
The Mirror Film was not hard to apply, just very slow and tedious.
I recommend standing your mirror up vertically. Clean it with glass cleaner. Now clean it again. You was ZERO smudges, any defect of any kind will be apparent when the lights are off. With the lights on, they are much less apparent, but still visible if you know what to look for.
Unroll and cut your mirror film to size with scissors, just under 1" extra along each edge.
Spray down the glass with mildly soapy water (just a few drops will do it). You want water in-between the film and the glass itself.
Separate the the mirror film from the protective "sticky" backing. This is easiest to do by putting a piece of scotch tape on each side at a corner and pulling them apart.
Apply the first exposed inches of mirror film to the top of the glass plate. Slowly squeegee your way down as your unpeel the rest of the film. Keep the glass and mirror film (both sides) wet with mildly soapy water.
Now that the entire mirror film is applied to the glass, squeegee off the majority of water/air bubbles. Spray down the outside of the mirror film, and incredibly slowly and tediously, use a plastic card to squeeze out the air bubbles. Don't press too hard or you can scratch the film. Keep going until there is smooth reflection looking back at you.
Once complete, use a razor blade to cut the edges off the mirror film.
For an idea of the time estimate, this process took me about 30 minutes for a single 4' x 2' mirror.
Step 10: Let There Be Lights, Inset the Glass
Now for the easy part. Since you've already tested your LEDs, glued the acrylic mirrors into place, and applied the mirror film, all you need to do is remove the Acrylic Mirrors protective coverings, lay down the glass, and press the power button. Fun stuff!
Step 11: Make a Frame, Enjoy and Have Fun
To hold up the desk, I recommend creating a 26" tall support of any kind. You can use a pipe-thread / steel-pipe w/ Hex Locks desk, filing cabinets, cinder blocks, whatever you name it. A frame is beyond the scope of this instructable.
Woohoo! You made it this far, hoping you enjoy the optical trickery that this desk will provide to impress your guests. Give yourself a pat on the back and some much deserved rest. May this desk provide you plenty of satisfaction and pride in your accomplishment.
Thank you for reading this Instructable, I genuinely hope you found it interesting or helpful, feel free to leave a message or comment, it's always great to see what the community is up to. Shine your light bright!