Custom Mirror




This Instructable shows you how to build a custom Back-lite Mirror . I was looking for a large mirror for a while but could not justify a custom frame for over $400.00 so I decided to make my own.

I don’t have a picture for every step (I was not planning on posting it here) but this should get the message across. Also, I did not bother including specific measurements since this can pretty much be any size you want it to be. My mirror is about 30”x 45”.

Steps I took:

• Made the supporting frame.
• Installed/wired the Fluorescent fixtures
• Made and finished the frame molding from stock lumber.
• Put it all together.


• 2 Fluorescent light fixtures. I bought mine for about $20.00 each. If you have a couple lying around, that would work as well since you will be taking them apart.
• 1x3 stock softwood for the structural frame.
• 1x3 stock hardwood for the frame molding (I used Maple)
• Mirror
• ¼” plywood
• “Liquid Nail” adhesive ( READ THE LABEL! you need the recommended type for mirror installation)
• Screws

Step 1: Basic Design

The basic idea is to have 2 frames, one bigger than the other. The smaller of the two will act as the support system and the light fixture. The bigger frame sits on top of the first one and covers the first frame and fluorescent bulbs.

Step 2: The Supporting Frame / Wiring

This is a very basic frame.
Sidewalls of the frame are wide enough for the Fluorescent bulb and the ballasts. Wide enough, to be able to change the bulbs in the future, while the frame is attached to the wall.

Once the frame is put together, drill holes to run the socket wiring through.

Step 3: Making/Finishing the Frame Molding

Making of the molding is as easy as 1, 2, 3 , as long as you have access to a table saw.

You will be making two parallel cuts into the plank, making room for the mirror and the plywood and a third cut to remove the excess.
Here is a tip, once you set the saw’s fence for one cut, continue the same cut on all pieces before you do the next cut. This will ensure you will have a uniformly cut molding at the end.

Once you have the molding cut, it is time for “finishing “.

First, sand the heck out of the molding with 220-240 Grit to get rid of any minor imperfections etc and then, dust it off with a cloth i used an old T shirt.

After that

1. One coat of Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
2. Three coats of Minwax Wood Finish oil-based stain
3. Two coats of Minwax Wipe-On Poly. This stuff is FANTASCTIC! Just rub it on with a cloth no brush or brush marks to deal with and the result is great.'

Step 4: Attaching the Mirror

Now it’s time to attach the plywood to the first frame and stick the mirror to it.

• I cut the plywood 2 ½ ‘(all around) larger than the supporting frame to allow enough overlap to cover the fluorescent bulbs without obscuring the light too much.

• I centered the frame on top of the ply and outlined it from the inside and out. Then, I drilled pilot holes between the lines.

• After that, I reversed the positions (ply on top of the frame) and used the pilot holes to center the frame again and secure it with screws. Make sure the screws sink in below surface of the plywood. The mirror will be glued on top of them.

I cut an old closed door mirror to size for this project and used a whole tube but Liquid Nail to glue the mirror to the ply wood.

Step 5: Final Step

Almost there!

Once the mirror is in place and the adhesive has cured, it’s time to cut the molding to size (at 45 degree) and put it all together.

The trick is to attach the molding to the plywood so that it frames the mirror without any sign of screws. The simplest way achieve that is to screw the molding from the back side of the plywood.

Just drill pilot holes every few inches, place the molding on top and secure in place with a clamp and drive in a small screw form the back and work your way around.

How the heck you hang it now?

As you might have imagined this thing is pretty heavy. To secure it to the wall, I took a 1x3 and cut the top 1/3 at a45 degree. Then, I screwed the smaller piece to the top side of the support frame and the bigger piece to the wall. Check out the drawing, it will make more sense

That’s about it!

I did this project in about 20 to 25 hours over 2 weeks and spent just about $100.




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    17 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Just a concerned Electrician here. I think the idea is awesome but I will tell you right now that this instalation violates the NEC in a couple ways. Inaccessible splices, individual conductors traveling through a penetration, open splices, exposed line voltage, no ballast disconnects. Junction your splices at the very least! I am not saying I would do it any differently in my own home, my only advice would be to maybe substitute the hand wired devices for some low voltage led lighting, you can still hide the ballasts in the mirror and you can splice the wires properly. Feel free to message me if you have any questions I would love to give any advice where I can to perfect what's already an awesome instructable. Thanks for the idea. I just recently came across a nice new mirror I may expand on this plan and make my own instructable. (with credit to you for. Inspiring me of course.)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Good call. LED sets from ikea are cheap. 1/2" EMT Conduit and a couple junction boxes would makes this safer and up to code.

    Also will makes this so the back is bolted to the wall and the front actually hangs on the back frame.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I love that...thanks nice project. I just reconstruct my bathroom so this is an excellent idea for ambient light.....5/5!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    reminds me of those really nice tv's that turn into a mirror when youre not using them. smooth stuff, could make you feel 10x richer with a bathroom like that


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm in the process of designing one of these for a circular mirror... does anyone have any suggestions? um... I gotta go, my Sierra Mist can is making funny noises...


    12 years ago

    Good Job! I already bought some of the materials I need, and make one just like yours, but with LEDs!

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago

    HI, looking forward to seeing your finished project. LEDs sound like cool idea! keep us posted


    Reply 12 years ago

    "Code schmode" 'till your house catches on fire :P I'm not disagreeing about the wiring, I'm just pointing out why it is there... However, I feel that the wires do look a little on the thin side, and I don't know about those connectors for the voltage used to light the florecent light bulbs. But again, thats just me looking at it from what I think, not knowing any code at all :P


    Reply 12 years ago

    i'm not seeing anything in the wiring that woudl mess with the UL listing for the ballast or sockets unless i'm missing something there. wire nuts are standard(and often code required) for the interconnect between ballasts and sockets. now the unit as a fixture would not be rated, but depending on what the feed for the ballasts is coming from there could be an issue there with local code requiring or prohibiting specific items. as a rule though that would be considered 4 fixtures permently mounted in a cove, and unless you've got some wierd code, looks ok to me (n.b. i am not a code official, or lic. sparky)


    12 years ago

    Excellent work too!


    12 years ago

    Nice illustrations! They clearly show what's going on, and more than make up for the number of in-process pictures.


    12 years ago

    Looks great. I want one.


    12 years ago


    Couple of things, the picture with the wiring was the first run test and the final set is a bit tidier. That being said, unjust is correct in saying “he unit as a fixture would not be rated” hence the code does not apply.



    12 years ago on Step 4

    But what about the banana stickers?!? Who speaks for the banana stickers?!?


    12 years ago

    Beautiful job!