This Instructable was prepared as a project for the Fall 2018 offering of INTEG 375: Hands On Sustainability, a third-year course in the Knowledge Integration program at the University of Waterloo. I entered this class with the hope of adding a few new repair skills to my fairly minimal repertoire. I wanted to gain the confidence to take broken things in my home and make them into things of value, rather than contribute to the unnecessary growth of landfills.
On a rainy day driving around town, I noticed a mirror lying face down in someone’s trash pile. The glass of the mirror was completely intact, although dirty. There were a few small holes in the wooden frame where a floor stand had originally fit. I believe that the mirror was discarded because it had broken off from the floor stand, which I could see lying next to it. My original intention was to rescue both the mirror and the floor stand and work to reattach the two pieces. However, the stand was too large to fit in my small vehicle, so I decided to repurpose the mirror as one that could hang on a wall.
Step 1: Tools, Materials, Skills
Drill + Drill Bit
Screwdriver (type will be dependent on which screws you choose to use)
2 Screws (size dependent on the thickness of your mirror frame)
2 Screw Hooks
White, brown, and yellow paint
Wood grain finish
Step 2: Clean the Mirror
If you have rescued a mirror off the curb or from the garbage, it's a good idea to give it a clean before you begin with any other repairs. My mirror had accumulated a bit of dirt from sitting out in the rain, so I cleaned the glass with Windex and wiped down the frame with wet paper towel.
Step 3: Fasten Hangers
While I originally thought of stringing a wire across the back which could hang off of a wall hook, I quickly realized that this mirror was likely too heavy to hang on a single wire. Instead, I attached two screw hooks that could be hung on a nail in the wall. Because these hooks are screwed into the frame itself, they provide a stronger support on which to hang. The hooks need to be attached about 1/3 of the way down the frame in order to support the mirror in an upright position. If the hooks are placed too far down, gravity will work to tilt your mirror away from the wall.
I measured from the highest centre point of my mirror to a point 1/3 of the way down the frame. I confirmed that my holes would be level by using the iPhone measurement app.
To create the holes, use a drill until you are about 1 cm from breaking through to the opposite side. A handy trick to ensure that you don't drill all the way through the frame is to measure your screw against the frame. Place a small piece of masking tape at the height that you want your screw to enter the wood. When the drill reaches this height, the tape will stop your screw from entering any further.
One you have created your holes, place the hooks over each hole and use the screwdriver to tighten the screw into place. Once the hooks are attached to the frame, you can continue to repair aesthetics.
Step 4: Repair Previous Holes
The broken stand had left a few holes in each side of the mirror, which required filling. To accomplish this, spread a small amount of Spackle onto the wood. In my case, I used about the size of a pea; however, this will vary depending on how deep and wide your holes are. Pass the spreader over the wood to create multiple layers until the filling is level with the frame. Don't worry too much about getting Spackle around the edges of the hole, we will clean this up later. Leave the Spackle to dry for at least 12 hours.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
After the Spackle had dried, I needed to cover up the remaining white spots. To accomplish this, I mixed up a few colours of paint to closely match the wood. I was using latex paint which dries darker than it applies, so I looked for a colour slightly lighter than the wood. I ended up mixing white, brown, and yellow to add in some golden hues and got a colour quite similar to the wood of the frame. This tutorial is a good resource for understanding how to improve colour, intensity, and hue when mixing paint. The final step in refurbishing the mirror was to use a very small paint brush to add some brown finish over the painted sections to mimic the grain of the wood.
Step 6: The Recipient
I began this project with the intention of offering the mirror to some friends of mine or donating to the ReStore. Considering that I didn't have a specific stakeholder or purpose in mind, I repurposed the mirror in the most general, widely adaptable way possible. This approach meant that I kept the natural wooden frame, rather than repainting it coloured as I had originally considered. By the time I had almost finished my work on the mirror, a new audience had emerged. A peer will now be using the mirror as a prop in a drama exhibition. She will donate it to a place of her choosing when the show has been completed.
If you undertook a similar project and do not want to keep the final product there are many great resources that accept donations. Thrift stores, online communities, and charitable organizations are great places to start.
Step 7: The Learning
This class has exposed me to the realities of society's current consumption habits. We seem to use things with reckless abandon, knowing that a replacement is easily available. There is a shocking amount of "trash" that can easily be repaired or repurposed. As we become more dependent on technology, we have become less reliant on our own skills and abilities. However, anybody can make simple repairs with a little bit of effort and access to materials. So despite these saddening realizations, I have also learned that there are plenty of people, groups, and organizations that are working to change this and to help make this type of activity accessible to all. I strongly encourage you to research the resources in your community and challenge yourself to minimize your waste stream contribution. If you do not have access to the time or monetary resources required for repairs, reach out to other members of your community before resorting to the landfill. As the old saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure".
In more technical terms, this mirror repair has taught me some basic skills that can be easily translated to a variety of projects. Some things, as simple as operating a drill, are skills that I can and have improved upon. Other skills, like paint matching, were completely new to me. Repair is often easier than you first assume. If you don't have the required knowledge, ask around and you can likely find someone who does.
Step 8: Further Resources
If you are looking for a workshop space to take on a new and exciting project, check out the Maker Map. This open-source map uses your location to identify workspace near you. Many communities have organizations dedicated to helping people create, repurpose, and upcycle projects. And of course, Instructables is full of tutorials on practically every project you can think of!