Dressing Table Mirror archive

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Nick Arnull creates this functional dressing table mirror with turned spindles which would make a perfect gift


I wanted this project to have a classic design feel so I didn't apply any stain or colour, which allowed the natural colour/grain of the wood to shine through. Over time it will develop a deep and rich colour.

The finish on this piece has to look and feel right. It needs a durable finish - I used Melamine and paste wax - and all the elements are seen even though the focal point is the reflection. I had to consider how to fix/install the mirror securely; I used special mirror adhesive - using this will avoid damaging the silvered backing of the mirror.

Another consideration was how/where the mirror would eventually be placed; the base needs to make economic use of the space it occupies, which meant that it required a rectangular base. I added a detail to the edge of the baseboard, using a cove bit in my router table. You could, if you choose, add a drawer below the base which would add storage and height to the project. This mirror will delight any wife, partner daughter/granddaughter, and it certainly makes a change to turning another bowl.

Tools used: 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, parting tool, 6mm (1/4in) skewchigouge or round-nosed scraper, 6mm (1/4in) point tool, 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, 6mm (1/4in) bead forming tool, 10mm (3/8in) bead forming tool, 10mm (3/8in) round skew chisel, 12mm (1/2in) traditional flat skew chisel and 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge

Turning the mirror frame

Step 1

Centre and mount the blank on the lathe using a backing board and double-sided sticky tape. With the tailstock in place for added support make the blank round using a 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge

Step 2

Using pull cuts, true the face and mark 230mm (9in) diameter or the same diameter as the mirror being used. The mirror needs to be a loose fit into the final recess created. Now, plunge into the blank with a parting tool to create a shoulder for the mirror to sit upon. As the tool goes deeper into the blank, remember to cut a wider slot to allow clearance

Step 3

Use a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge to turn the rim detail. It may be necessary to remove some of the waste timber at the centre to allow access

Step 4

Using a 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, reduce the centre to allow the mirror to be fitted - this needs to be as flat as possible. A round skew or a flat scraper can be used to produce the flat surface required

Step 5

Create a dovetail recess to match your largest chuck jaws, but remember to add an undercut with the point of a skew chisel to allow the chuck to hold securely. Next, add grooves across the surface to give the mirror adhesive a little extra to adhere to

Step 6

At this stage you can sand, seal and polish. You also need to remember to seal the centre area

Step 7

Reverse chuck the blank, measure 15mm (9/16in) and reduce the diameter of the blank at this point by 3mm (1/8in) using a parting tool and a 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge. This will help to hide the fittings used to mount and pivot the mirror

Step 8

Using a 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, cushion/radius the back

Step 9

At this stage you can now sand, seal and polish the project

Step 10

Using the indexing head, divide the blank accurately into two, then add masking tape to protect the finished surface. Centre, mark and drill the holes for the fittings being used to mount the mirror

Turning the spindles

Step 11

Mark the pommels and spigot for the spindles then mount the spindle on the lathe. Create the pommels using a 12mm (1/2in) flat skew chisel, then make the sections between them round using a 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge. Use the side wing to allow access along/into the area up to the pommels

Step 12

Make saw cuts at the end to relieve the square section before making round with the 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge. Size the spigot using a 14mm (9/16in) spanner; alternatively use a set of callipers

Step 13

Create the beads against the pommels, using a 10mm (3/8in) bead forming tool at the base and a 6mm (1/4in) tool either side of the top square

Step 14

Set the key diameters of the spindle using callipers

Step 15

Shape/refine the spindle with a 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge. Or alternatively, you can use a spindle gouge

Step 16

Now turn the coves with a small skewchigouge/spindle gouge before turning and refining the ball at the top of the spindle using a 10mm (3/8in) round skew chisel

Step 17

Sand, seal and polish. You can use a soft brush to polish the spindles; the bristles will get into all those small details

Step 18

Using masking tape to protect the surface, use a soft pencil to centre and mark the holes for the post fittings, then drill the holes and attach the fittings

Step 19

With the spindle removed from the lathe the end can be removed, sanded and polished using a sanding arbor mounted in a Jacobs chuck at the headstock

Creating the base & measuring the spindle position

Step 20

To create the baseboard I recommend cutting a prototype to check the position of the holes for the spindles; this measurement will be dependent upon the final diameter of the mirror frame. Assemble the frame and posts carefully flat on the bench and measure the outside of the square section - add 60mm (2 3/8in) to this number - this will provide the overall measurement of the board. Position the spindles 30mm (1 1/8in) from the edge and back of the board, as shown in the drawing. Draw a 35mm (13â„8in) square and find the centre - this is the position where the hole needs to be drilled for the spindle. Sand the board and drill to depth with a 14mm (9/16in) drill bit - this is best done using a drill press with the board clamped to the table. I decided to add a routed cove to the edge of my mirror base but this could be left plain if you choose. Remove any pencil marks then apply the finish


Step 21

With all the components completed the mirror can be glued in place using mirror adhesive and the spindles also glued in place. Take care to ensure all the joints are clean, then allow to dry before final assembly. The dressing table mirror is now complete

Tegan Foley

Tagged In:

Nick Arnull , Mirror , spindles , woodtrurning , dressing table

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About The Author

Professional UK woodturner, author and demonstrator Nick Arnull produces decorative turned wood art and also turns spindles for furniture makers, cabinet makers, joiners and builders. He has demonstrated at symposiums all over the world and also offers tuition to those who are looking to improve their woodturning and explore decorative techniques.
Email: nickarnull@hotmail.co.uk

Time Taken & Cost

Time taken: 4 hours
Cost: £1.95 for mirror fittings, plus cost of timber

Timber Requirements

European walnut (Juglans regia)
Mirror frame: 290 x 45mm (11 3/8 x 1 3/4in)
Spindles x 2: 35 x 35 x 290mm (1 3/8 x 1 3/8 x 11 3/8in)
Base board: 430 x 120 x 20mm (17 x 4 3/4 x 3/4in)

Health & Safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times, and work at a speed that allows you to feel both comfortable and safe
2. Always reduce lathe rotation speed when using wood that is not round and when using alternative chucking methods that you are not familiar with
3. Keep the toolrest between you and the work - NEVER let your fingers cross over to the other side

Handy Hints

1. Leave a small gap around the mirror; this will allow for any movement
2. Use kiln dried timber to minimise any movement
3. Use mirror adhesive to attach the mirror
4. Seal all parts of the project to avoid warping
5. Make a prototype baseboard to check whole positions before drilling the baseboard
6. If you are not applying a stain to even out the colour then use timber from the same board
7. Use masking tape and a soft, sharp pencil when marking out details like the mirror mounting holes; this will avoid damage to the surface
8. Use a clamp to secure work at the drill press
9. When using double-sided sticky tape, use the tailstock for added security
10. Avoid oversanding details on the project

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge