Introduction: Light Up Mirror With Cabinet
There is something mystical about light up mirrors! Almost as if they were portals to other dimensions. On the downside, they tend to cost a small fortune. Consisting of just a mirror and a LED strip it is quite easy to DIY one for the fraction of a price. And while at it why not build a modern-looking octagon cabinet behind it as well!
I have been breaking my way into the landlord business over the past year. As a person who loves to design and build furniture this a real dream come true. I can try out all sorts of projects and techniques before I finally start building my very own home. This mirror cabinet was one of those projects.
Follow me along as I show you my techniques for building a light up mirror - it is easier than you think! If you have woodworking tools you could try building a cabinet similar to mine as well!
A few things before we start. I invite you to watch the video! I think it gives a great overview of the build process. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more I welcome you to subscribe on my YouTube channel. I got plenty of furniture/build projects coming up!
A second thing I would really appreciate is your vote in the Make it Glow contest. But only if you think it is worth it! You can find the vote button after the final step. It would really make my day, thanks!
Enough talk let´s get started!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
I am going to break this into two parts. First I am going to explain how I made the mirror because I think most of you are interested in that. The second part is going to cover the cabinet build process.
- A mirror- It really makes your life easier if you find a mirror with a rim around it. This allows for an easy attachment of the LED strip. I found this really lovely 50cm mirror from Jysk for 20€! It Is a company that seemed to be present in most of Europe. If you are looking for the exact same mirror, then it is called "Marstal". (<--- the link is for 70cm one - I have 50cm mirror). Of course, there are ways to make the rim yourself but I think it is quite hard to make it look nice and clean.
- A LED strip- This one is quite easy to find these days. I found 5m one with a power source from my local construction store for 15€. You want to get one that can be cut shorter (usually after every third diode). It is also important to note that if you are planning on using the mirror in a bathroom or any other wet environment then you need an LED strip that is water-resistant. You could check the IP rating on the package or just ask help from salespeople.
- A switch (optional)- This just makes your life easier. I would not recommend wiring mains voltage if you are completely new to this but it is nothing too complicated. I decided to use PIR motion sensor. I would not do it again! More about my mistakes and stuff I would do differently in the later steps.
The total cost for the mirror part was 40€
Tools for the mirror:
- Wire strippers
- Soldering iron
- Glue gun
Tools are only needed if you want to hide the wire like I did. If you plan on just glueing the LED-s to the rim of the mirror and leave the chord hanging then you do not need any tools.
Materials for building the cabinet:
- Plywood - I used scraps of 21, 18, 12 and 6mm birch plywood
- Hinges X3
- Painters tape
- Wood glue and silicone
- Wall anchors with screws
- Power plug (optional)
Tools for building the cabinet:
- Basic woodworking tools - you do not need all the ones I used. Be creative!
- Measuring and marking tools
- Painting tools
- Electrical tools
Step 2: Preparing the Mirror
Skip this if you do not care about hiding the wire!
I wanted a nice clean look so I decided to hide the wires as much as possible. As the quick connection would have required a large hole to fit through I decided to chop it off. The wire itself was super thin (and flat) meaning it fitted nicely through the cap between the rim and the mirror.
The only tricky part was soldering the wire back to the strip. As I had never done it before it turned out not too nice but I worked. I just melted the rubbery part away with a soldering iron to expose the contacts and then soldered the wires to them. To protect the connections from moisture and to make it stiffer I added some hot glue.
Be sure to note the polarity of the wires and the LEDs when soldering!
Step 3: Adding the LED-s
If you have LEDs with an adhesive on the back it is easy! I recommend cleaning the rim with a white spirit to remove any dust or oil residues and to help the glue stick better. My strip had M3 tape on it, that to me seems the leading adhesive brand on the market. Still, though I cleaned the rim before attaching the lights.
I did tape the strip right next to the mirror (instead of on the outer edge of the rim) as this gave me a straight reference surface and I would not get the LED strip crooked.
With that, you could call the project done if you wish. If you are here just for that I hope it helped you! Let´s continue with the cabinet.
Step 4: Plywood Behind for the Mirror
I added this so that I could attach the hinges to the mirror. It seemed by far the easiest solution for it. I did make it out of 21mm plywood by cutting with a router circle jig. This gave me a perfect circle and it only needed just a bit of edge sanding. As the mirror had some welds near the edges I did also use a V-bit on the router to make a chamfer to clear them. After painting the edges I attached the plywood to the back of the mirror using some silicone.
I did use film plywood for this part as I thought it would handle the moisture better. You definitely need to sand the surface before painting as it does not stick too well on the smooth surface.
It is a good idea to also cover the wires with heat shrink tubing on the part where it will bend. Hopefully, this stiffens up the wire and it will not break so easily. I did add two layers to be extra sure.
Step 5: Building the Cabinet
I started that by cutting one long strip of plywood around 10cm (4 inches) wide. This measurement determined the depth of the cabinet. I then cut that strip to smaller blocks with 22.5-degree angles on both ends. I also made a quick Sketchup model to get the measurements for for sequments - easy!
It is 22.5 because octagon has 8 corners - 360/8 =45. Each corner has to be further divided by two so 360/8/2 = 22.5 degrees.
It might take a couple of tries to angle perfect - it took me two. Definitely do a dry fit before adding glue! The easiest I found for glueing up segmented circles is to use painters tape. I just laid a couple of strips of tape with a sticky side up on the table and then carefully laid the segments on that. Added glue and closed it up. Some more tape tightly around really closed the joints.
I let it dry for a while and then removed the tape. Any small gaps I filled with wood putty.
Step 6: Holes and Shelves
Next up, I drilled a hole for the motion sensor. It was placed on the top right as it was right where the electrical compartment would be and it would also see anyone who enters the bathroom. The hole itself was an oddball 40 something mm so I had to use my cheap adjustable hole saw from eBay.
The shelves I did cut from slightly thinner plywood (18mm) to save some space. The angle on the ends of the shelves was 45 degrees. I attached them by glueing and clamping them in place. I later did also add a few brad nails to make extra sure they would not come loose. On the top shelf, I did also cut a hole for the power socket and routed a groove. (more about that in the next step)
When cutting these holes it is important to make sure you have enough clearance for whatever you want to install in there.
Step 7: Back Wall and Grooves for Wiring
The groove was also routed all around the top third to allow for a back wall (so it would be flush). This served many purposes. Firstly, it made the whole cabinet quite a bit stronger. Secondly, it allowed attaching the cabinet really neatly without any visible hardware. And finally, it helped to create a somewhat moisture-proof compartment for the electrical stuff. Of course, one could add a back wall all around the cabinet but that would take away some useable space.
The grooves were routed with a small router. As could not find the guide bearing I did it freehand and finished it off with a chisel. The back wall itself was made from 6 mm plywood and was glued and nailed in place.
Step 8: Painting It and Adding Som More LED-s
After that, I puttied imperfections and sanded all the surfaces with a random orbital sander up to 120 grit. Then I painted everything with a brush and a roller. I did 3 coats to make sure everything was well protected from moisture.
When I started installing the cabinet I realised I had quite a bit of LED strip left and wanted to install it inside the cabinet. I wanted these LED-s to turn on when the door is opened. I could not really figure out a good solution to do that so purchased and installed another PIR sensor but it did not really work. The problem was that it was wired to the main PIR sensor and when it detected a person nearby it also turned on the lights inside the cabinet. The timer on the second sensor was also around 50 seconds and I could not change that.
In an attempt to find a solution I visited my local furniture hardware shop. They conveniently had a product for that. A proximity sensor specially meant for furniture doors. The problem was that it would not work without a dedicated LED driver board so I had to purchase that as well. The board, wires and the sensor cost me a total of 45€. Quite a bit since it increased the total price of this build around 50% but I really liked the result. The system is really high quality and is plug and play. The lights now also have a soft start which gives it a really high-end look.
Step 9: The Hinges
Adding the hinges was not too complicated. I did spray paint the hinges black to match the look. First attached the hinges to the mirror part, then fed the wire through the hole in the cabinet (I made that before painting) and then attached it to the cabinet. I recommend attaching the hinge with just a few screws at first to see if you got the right location and when satisfied adding the rest of the screws.
In the second photo, you can see the wire and how it is fed through the mirror and the cabinet. Note the heat shrink tube on the part where it bends!
Step 10: Mounting and Electrical
As I mentioned earlier the back wall acts as a place to mount the cabinet. I did attach it with four anchors and drywall screws. This seemed to be plenty strong. I did also have to drill two holes through the back wall for the wires (one for power socket and one for lights).
Now, I am not gonna explain how I did the wiring. I am not a trained electrician and I do not want anybody getting hurt because "some dude on the internet taught how to wire mains voltage." If you know how to do it, fine! If not, I highly recommend getting help from someone who knows what he/she is doing!
I did not mention it in the earlier steps but I also made a door from 12 mm plywood for the electrical compartment. I first thought I would have to make some sort of mechanism (with magnets or something) to hold the door in place but it was a really nice friction fit so I did not have to do any of that. The get it out I just have to push in one corner and the one opposite pops out. On that front cover, I also installed the proximity sensor that would sense if the door is open or closed and turn on the LED-s accordingly.
To finish it off I installed two glue-on rubber feet on the cabinet and a magnet to hold the door closed. Both I got from the furniture hardware shop.
Step 11: Mistakes
So, this project did not really turn out so that I would be 100% happy.
The first thing I would change is the PIR sensor. It works great but it is still somewhat inconvenient. I have set the timer so that it stays on for around 2-3 minutes. This time is great when you want to use the toilet or brush the teeth but when showering or doing longer rituals the light turns off. As the sensor can not see you in front of the mirror you have to physically wave or stand in front of it so that the lights would turn on again. And as I usually like keep the bathroom door open it also picks up movement in the living room and even in the communal corridor. If I were to build it again I would definitely add a regular switch! The same company that does the proximity sensor and the LED driver also does really nice switches that you do not have to physically touch. You just hover near it with your hand and it turns the lights on. You would have to manually turn on the lights every time you want to use them but I think it would still be better.
The other thing I am not too happy about is the small section on the rim of the mirror where I did the wiring for the LED strip. I did cover the spot with hot glue to protect it from moisture but it is definitely not the prettiest. I thought about using Sugru white moldable glue but as I could not find any locally and ordering some from Amazon would have been quite pricy (with shipping) I decided to leave as is right now. Once it starts to annoy me enough I will definitely do something about it!
Other than these two mistakes I am quite happy with the results!
Step 12: Thank You!
Thank you for following me on this build! I really appreciate you being here!
If you have any questions, suggestions or just comments be sure to leave them down below! I would love to hear your thoughts!
Once again, I invite you to watch the video! I think it gives a great overview of the build process. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more I welcome you to subscribe on my YouTube channel. I got plenty of furniture/build projects coming up! Here is also a link to my Instagram if interested.
A second thing I would really appreciate is your vote in the Make it Glow contest. But only if you think it is worth it! You can find the vote button after this step. It would really make my day, thanks!
This is an entry in the
Make it Glow Contest