Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to make a pallet wood mirror...if you already have the back and some Webster's Chalk Paint Powder.

This project idea came about from some very disparate sources. In fact, this whole post came about through the odd juxtaposition of me having too much crap stuff with "potential" in my studio, (surprise, surprise), an unexpectedly generous donation, and me tripping over a piece of wood. 

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? Julie Andrews thinks that's "a very good place to start." 

Jump back 2-3 years, when one of my friends was moving. I had been helping her clean walls and bathrooms, while she was prepping for several weekly garage sales to pare down the amount she would have to move. After the third or fourth garage sale, she started to get a little desperate. Knowing I was "crafty", she brought over some things that hadn't sold, but were pretty nice. In the pile were two kits to make smashed tile mirrors. Think wooden board with molding around the exterior edge, then an open place all the way around the mirror and molding framing the 8x10 in  mirror in the center all made out of raw pine. The idea was to smash the cobalt blue and white tiles and then thin set and grout them in some pleasing pattern around the outside of the mirror, circa 1997. All I saw was a woman who needed someone else to deal with all this stuff, so I took the mirror frames and a bunch of other stuff as an act of mercy. I'm sure I just shoved them somewhere out of the way in my studio and forgot about them.

This is an "in process" picture, as I forgot to take a "before" pic. 
But at least you all can see what I'm talking about now.

Let's fast forward to February of this year. A fellow designer friend and I get this great idea to do a nest and egg painting workshop where we will teach how to make chalk paint from latex and then use various glazing techniques to make the faux eggs look real. I love this idea and start shooting emails to all the chalk paint companies I can think of to get samples for my students to try. Of the eight companies I emailed, only one even bothered to respond. Webster's Chalk Paint Powder.

And respond they did. They sent free samples of their Chalk Paint Powder mix-in for each of the 14 potential student as well as a large tin of Fiddes & Sons wax to be shared among the class. Folks, this was an amazing corporate response for this little blogger. And it was so perfect for my workshop!

But I had to cancel the workshop, for reasons too numerous and annoying to discuss here.

In an effort to repay the good people at Websters for their generosity, I started wondering what amazing project I could do to post about their product. I thought of redoing vintage frames, or boxes, but that just didn't seem sexy enough. And I didn't have room for another piece of furniture. 

One day,  I was mad at my kids for something, so I went into the studio and started whacking away at a pallet I was trying to break down. If you are mad at your kids, I highly recommend this way of releasing negative energy. It is so satisfying to beat the crap out of the wood rather than the child. After removing several boards by brute force and discarding them randomly, I took a step back. 

You know that moment in a James Bond movie, when the villain accidentally steps just a hair too far off the edge of a cliff and you see the whole weight of his body shifting towards the abyss? And you know at that second he is going to go careening off the edge to his doom? 

Yeah, that's what my foot and body did as I tripped over one of my hastily discarded boards and came crashing to the floor. It was so gloriously out of control and completely awkward, that I just burst out laughing. While I was cracking up, my eyes fell on the box Webster's had sent me. My mind put two and two together and I thought, "I could use the Chalk Paint Powder with all this latex I have laying around and all this pallet wood and make super cool mirrors to sell at Lucketts!"

So that, friends, brings us to our project today.

How to make a pallet wood 
surround for a mirror:

1. Have a desperate, moving neighbor dump a bunch of craft supplies in your lap. 

2. If this isn't likely to happen and you still want to make a mirror like this, go buy yourself a sheet of Masonite or thin (apx 1/4 in) MDF at Lowes or Home Depot and have it cut to the size you want the whole piece to be when you are finished.

3. Choose whether you want to use an existing, pre-framed mirror (you could get one really cheaply at a thrift shop or a garage sale, or there's always clearance at Target or Home Goods). The simpler the frame the better this will look, and the easier it will be to match the molding. If you decide to build from scratch, it would be easiest to purchase a pre-cut mirror at a craft store. Get whatever size you want. You could also use a larger size picture frame for the outer frame and have the backer wood cut to fit that.

4. Get a length of small, simple molding, as this will let the pallet wood be the star of the show. Decide whether you are going to use butt joints or mitred joints. Butt joints are easier and stronger, but mitred joints look better. If you are making everything from scratch and using a craft mirror, figure out the lengths you need for both the interior and exterior frames, based on the joints you are going to use, the backer board you already had cut, and the size of your mirror. I would use Loctite Wood construction adhesive and some clamps and just glue everything together. I love that stuff. 

I would lay everything out, including your mirror, before you start gluing. Get it where you want it, and then trace the outside of the mirror with pencil. Glue this down first. Then glue the mirror molding down. Then the outside frame.

If you are using a pre-framed mirror, do your best to match the molding your mirror came with, but don't stress about finding an exact match. Once you paint them the same color, a lot of the differences will disappear. All you need to build is the outside frame for the whole board. Once your frame is cut, line it up, but don't glue it down. Lay out your pre-framed mirror in the center and make sure the whole thing looks like you want it to. Trace the outside of the mirror onto your backer board with a pencil. Then glue the mirror down first, applying the glue to the mirror back and using the pencil outline to guide your placement. Once the mirror is in place, then glue the outside frame together, suing the edge of the backer board as your guide line.

Once you have the frames all measured, cut, placed checked, and frames and mirrors adhered to the backer board, you can start doing funner stuff like painting and cutting pallet wood.

5. Figure out which pieces of pallet wood you want to use and how you want them stacked around the mirror. I get weird about things like how nails line up and having the same grain patterns together, so this is an important step for me. If you're more laid back than that, then pick your boards and go on to then next step. If you have no idea what to do with a pallet, read this post first.

6. Figure out how your boards are going to fit around your mirror. Do you want them to run horizontally or vertically? I did horizontal, because I felt it showed the most of the varieties of pallet wood I was using. (ie. most of the pieces just seemed bigger that way.) I would recommend trying to avoid notching around the inner frame unless you really know your way around a table saw and jig saw. Just try to choose a stack of board that are the same height as the mirror frame. You will be able to cut the top and bottom boards width-wise to fit what's left.

See how the white board just rests right on the inner frame and the blue wood comes right up to the edge? This is the easiest way to do it. The brown board was cut thinner to accommodate everything else lining up.

7. Start measuring the boards that go next to the mirror first. I measured from the inside of the outside frame to the outside edge of the inner frame. Mark the wood carefully. Then use a mitre saw or table saw to cut your pallet wood to size. Please be very careful to avoid nails!!! Swap your wood around or turn it another way, or just remove the nail if it is in your cutting path. It could ruin your saw or kick something up in your face while cutting. The "character" of having that one nail is not worth losing an eye or replacing a power tool, I promise.

I repeated this process for all the smaller pieces of wood, placing them in the frame as I cut to be sure they fit nicely. If the were just a hair too wide, I sanded them with a 100 grit sandpaper until they fit like I wanted.

8. Once all the smaller "side" pieces are cut, get out your end pieces and cut them to length. You will adjust the width once they can fit in the frame. Measure from the inside of the outer-most frame to the other inside edge of the same frame. Remember, we are not working with the mirror frame right now. Cut your wood to fit. Repeat for all pieces that will be above or below the mirror.

I know this mirror has notched pieces and I told you not to do that (I got help from a woodworker friend) , but it also shows you how the green piece was cut thinner to accommodate the orange piece's width.

9. Once you have all the wood cut to length, figure out how much you need to take off the width. put all the pieces, short and long, in the frame where they go. Slide in all the wood that will be full width. Whatever space is left over is the width you need to cut your wood to. The easiest way to do this is with a table saw. Use a stationary guide rail and a piece of scrap wood (rather than your finger) to push your piece past the blade. Check for size and sand or re-cut if needed.
Repeat for all remaining pieces until mirror surround is full.

10. Sand all wood until smooth enough to handle. Pallet wood loves to give you splinters. I used 150 grit and then 220 grit to make it silky.

11. Now you get to paint! Woo Hoo! 

Choose your colors for the frames and the boards. If you are using regular chalk paint, like ASCP or Fat Paint, etc, then paint, wax and distress away. I didn't prime anything first. I did, however decide to try something new.

This is where the Webster's Chalk Paint Powder comes in.

I had a bunch of sample size latex "oops" paint that a friend had given me, as well as some really great wall colors left over from various projects in my home. I thought this was the perfect time to give "The Powder" a try. 

I used all different brands of latex from Valspar to Behr to Benjamin Moore Aura to Sherwin Williams between all the wood on the two mirrors. I also used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, because I liked the colors and I had it on hand. The samples were nice because they are roughly a cup. (I didn't measure and the people at Webster's may be cringing right now. If so, sorry guys!) If it makes any difference to anyone, it worked just fine.

I am super anal about how my colors relate to each other, so I take each of the paint cans or jars and place it over the board I am going to use it on, to be sure I like how they all relate to each other. Often I think I'll love one color, only to hate it next to another one. I tweak and replace and readjust until I'm happy, then I paint the wood. But that's me. If you're lower key, just have at it.

12. Mix your latex and chalk paint powder. 

 This is super easy. You take 2 Tbsp Chalk Paint Powder and dump them in a container. Then you pour in 1 Tbsp tap water and mix them until the powder dissolves. This is a terrible picture, but it looks like this when it's ready:

Then you just pour the water/powder solution into the pre-measured paint and mix away.

When it's all mixed, you use it the same you would use and boutique brand of chalk paint. You can distress or wax or glaze or whatever your little heart desires. And it keeps for a while. I started fiddling with it about 2-3 months ago and my air tight sealed samples are still fine.

I applied one coat of each color to my pallet wood boards. 

See? The Webster's paint covers just like chalk paint. This is one coat.

I used a little different treatment to my bases, depending on whether it was the dark set or the white one. The dark set I stained the pine first. Then I painted over the stain and the whole background with blackboard paint. My plan was to rub off some of the paint with a wet rag, so the stain could show through without being sanded off. Apparently blackboard paint is harder than chalk paint. Very little came off with the wet rag. So I distressed the tar out of it with 100 grit sand paper, and sanded off all my stain, but exposed the right amount of wood. Undaunted, I just stained it again over the paint. Then dark waxed the whole thing. Whew.

This is a terrible picture again, but it give you an idea of the technique used on the darker frame. And staining over sanded paint works great!

For the white mirror backer, I used one coat of ASCP for the base and then distressed it to just reveal the wood underneath. 

14. Once you have painted everything and let it dry, it's time to distress. I usually use 150 grit and then 220 grit for this process.  I did find that the cheaper paints like Glidden mixed with the Chalk Paint Powder were a bit harder to distress than ASCP is. But I just switched to a lower grit paper and it worked fine. Keep in mind, I did not measure how much paint to powder I was using, I eyeballed it. This may make a huge difference. If it matters to you, measure to be sure you have the right proportions.

15. Once everything is distressed to your liking, wax it. I used only a single coat of matte clear wax on the white mirror pieces.( I used a matte wax on the white set called Renaissance, because I wanted them sealed, but not shiny. It's pricey though. I already had it for re-waxing my antique armoire. But you could use any wax and be fine.) The dark mirror pieces got Annie Sloan clear wax, then dark wax, then clear wax.

I was also careful NOT to wax the back. I have no idea how construction adhesive would do with wax and didn't want to find out.

16. Let the wax dry. Then glue everything together. I let the waxed pieces sit overnight, mostly because my kids had come home from school and my project time was over for the day. When I came back to it, I made sure I loved how everything looked and then started gluing. I used a board turned vertically to hold all the side pieces in place with one clamp and one clamp on each end of the top and bottom boards, because I didn't want any warping and the board already had a hint of a buckle to it. If you don't have clamps, anything heavy, left overnight would help the glue set nicely. I left the clamps on overnight.

17. Take the clamps off and add D-ring hangers and a wire so you can hang your new mirror. Drill pilot holes a little smaller than your D-ring screws into the back of the mirror, being sure BEFORE YOU START DRILLING that your screws are short enough not to come through the front of the mirror. Once you have your pilot holes, you can place your D-ring and then screw in the screw. Repeat on the other side, being sure that the two rings are level and the same distance from the top of your mirror. Add a wire between them if you wish. 

And you're done!

Can you tell which of these boards I used Webster's with and which ones are ASCP? 
Neither can anyone else. And it's way cheaper.

I can't decide if I like it better this way, or with the blue on the top. 
Turn your head upside down and tell me what you think.

These mirrors will both be available at the Luckett's Spring Market this weekend. 
Come check it out Saturday and Sunday 10-5 in Luckett's, VA. 
I promise it's worth the drive and the entry fee. 
Plus I'll be giving away free samples of Webster's Chalk Paint Powder for you to try.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw

PS: I was not paid for this post in any way. Webster's Chalk Paint Powder company sent me the free samples for my class and one for myself, but did not ask for a post or provide any other incentive. I just liked that they acknowledged me and and I found their product insanely useful. All opinions are completely my own. 

Does that sound like the Queen of Hearts in Disney's Alice in Wonderland?
 "All ways are My ways!"


  1. Wow, Websters that was so generous of your company, very impressed!

  2. Absolutely gorgeous!!! The colors are perfect and I personally love it with the blue on the bottom ;)

  3. Both your mirrors are stunning, they were the one item that caught my eye/heart at the whole fair! If I'd had more cash, I would have snapped the white one up in a heartbeat, but I'm very happy with my eggs. :) Websters, I will remember you, your product looks so easy to use and right up my alley, thanks!

  4. I absolutely love these mirrors - great idea! I am pinning these for sure for inspiration. I can see one on my outdoor bar, another in my back entrance, etc. So glad I saw your link at the Furniture Feature Friday Party.
    Marie@The Interior Frugalista

  5. Love this my sweet friend. Hope you are doing well. Miss ya! Sharing this on FB today!!