Lady’s Hand Mirror

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 28 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Make this outstanding gift and learn valuable techniques along the way.

Designer/Builder: Bill Sands
Designer/Carver: Wayne Barton

Overall dimensions: 4 5/8"w × 5/8"d × 11 1/4"l

Here’s a project destined to receive daily use. Made from a single piece of wood, this lady’s hand mirror offers utility and great looks in one pleasing design. Better still, you’ll learn about router templates and a few super-handy bits. Choose basswood or butternut and enhance the shape with the attractive chip-carved design and instructions from expert Wayne Barton. Or go with a figured wood, such as a bird’s-eye or tiger maple if you’re not into carving. In any case, you’ll end up with the perfect heirloom gift.

Note: See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide on page 63 for project supplies.

Thread the blade through the blade start hole and cut just inside the oval cutline.

Lower the template and workpiece over the bit and rout the perimeter of the recess in small increments to a depth just  beyond the mirror’s thickness. Clean out the waste.

Using a narrow bandsaw blade, cut around the patterned blank, creating the hand-mirror template. Carefully sand the cutout to complete the shape and remark the index lines (Inset).

Make the hand mirror in 10 easy steps

1 Plane a 6"-wide piece of stock (we used basswood) to 5/8" thick. Rip and crosscut a blank from the stock to 5 × 12". Draw a centerline down the length of the blank and an intersecting line across the grain 31/2" in from one end. Continue the lines onto the edges.

2 From scrap 3/4" MDF (medium-density fiberboard), cut a hand-mirror template blank to 5 × 12", and a mirror-recess template to 5 × 7".

3 Next, strike centerlines across the length and width of the mirror-recess template and extend them onto the edges. Now center your beveled oval mirror over the top face of the template blank and scribe the mirror shape. (Doing this customizes the recess to your particular mirror, because they are not all alike.)

4 Drill a blade start hole in the mirror-recess template and scrollsaw out the oval waste, cutting just inside the scribed line as shown in Photo A. Use an oscillating spindle sander or a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand to the cutline.

5 Use double-faced tape to adhere the mirror-recess template to the hand-mirror wood blank, aligning the indexing lines on the edge and flushing  three edges. Then chuck a pattern bit with no more than 3/4" cut length into your table-mounted router. Raise the bit and rout the recess in 1/16" increments in the mirror blank using the template as a guide as shown in Photo B. Carefully remove the template.

6 Make two copies of the full-sized Chip-Carved Hand Mirror Pattern on page 76 and spray-adhere one to the MDF hand-mirror template blank, aligning the index marks. (Save the other pattern for later.) Now bandsaw the hand-mirror template to shape, cutting just outside the cutline as shown in Photo C. Sand to the cutline then reestablish the indexing marks on the template’s edges as shown in the Inset, below.

7 Peel the paper pattern from the MDF hand-mirror template and place the template on the recessed face of the wood hand-mirror blank, aligning the index marks. Transfer this shape onto the wood blank with a pencil. Now, bandsaw just outside the cutline on the blank. Next, align and adhere the hand-mirror template to the wood hand-mirror blank with double-faced tape.

8 Install a double-bearing flush-trim bit in your table-mounted router, raising the bit’s bottom bearing just above the table. With the template on the bottom, rout with the grain in a downhill direction to avoid tear-out as shown in Photo D. Stop when you’ve routed all the downhill grain. Lower the bit until the upper bearing measures 3/4" above the surface. Flip the template and workpiece so that the template is on the top, and complete routing with the grain. Remove the template from the hand mirror.

9 Lightly sand all the edges of the face of the mirror.

10 Using a 1/4" round-over bit in your table-mounted router, rout around the back face of the hand mirror and around the front hand-mirror handle only, stopping where shown in Figure 1.

Note: If you made the hand mirror out of a figured wood and don’t intend to chip-carve it, apply a finish of choice to the exposed surfaces and install the beveled mirror with mirror mastic to complete the project.

Using a double-bearing flush-trim bit, template-rout the hand-mirror workpiece, raising or lowering the bit and flipping the pieces as needed, so you only cut with the grain.

What Wayne Uses

The hand-mirror carving was executed entirely with the two WB Premier Chip-Carving Knives (“cutting” and “stab”) designed specifically for chip carving. Like other chip-carving knives, they are both made of high carbon tool steel (not stainless) and tempered to hold an edge longer. The cutting-knife blade is angled downward for a more comfortable carving position and tapered to easily execute tight corners while maintaining blade strength. All chips are removed with the cutting knife. The stab knife has a notched tip and long cutting edge for precision stabs or incisions. Rather than remove wood, the stab knife decorates, enhances, and accents the designs made by the cutting knife. Both knives have easily-held cocobolo handles for hours of comfortable carving.

There are three criteria for chip-carving knives to function at peak performance: the cutting edges must be maintained straight and sharp, the blades must be shaped properly, and they must be highly polished (honed) to be able to flow easily through the wood. See The Complete Guide to Chip Carving by Wayne Barton for more on this subject.

Elevate your hand mirror with a chip-carved design

A hand mirror serves as an excellent chip-carving project that you can easily hold when carving. It features an interesting shape with many design possibilities, and decorating a functional object like this defines what chip carving is all about. This particular design illustrates a contrast of positive motifs. The chips defining the area around an image—such as the leaf—are removed, giving the appearance of the leaf being relieved with negative motifs. The design is incised, or cut, into the wood. This mixture of contrasting motifs gives a delightfully interesting design to a well-proportioned hand mirror. Better still, you can carve it all with just two chip-carving knives. (See sidebar, “What Wayne Uses,” on page 60.)

1 Center and trace the second full-sized chip-carved pattern on page 76 onto the back of the hand-mirror blank using graphite paper (which can be easily erased) under the pattern. Avoid using carbon paper, for it is not easily removed from the wood. Define the lines as needed with a pencil (as shown in Photo E) and a compass employing soft lead. Grade B does nicely. This layout is the road map that will guide your carving along smoothly.

2 Remove the larger chips first with the cutting knife as shown in Photo F, holding the blade at an approximate angle of 65°. To hold this approximate angle constant, keep the first knuckle of the thumb against the knife handle at all times. Do not carve in a “potato peeling” fashion. A shallow angle does not show the carving well while an angle that’s too steep will make removing chips difficult. With a little practice, you’ll soon be able to determine the difference. With the exception of the smaller three-cornered chips, the piece being carved is normally rotated for each cut made, to relieve a chip. In this design, the larger chips are within the circle defining the flower. It is recommended to remove these first. When preparing to cut a chip that is next to one already carved out, make the first cut next to the removed chip with the point of the blade aimed away from the removed chip. This helps prevent cracking or splitting wood intended to be kept 3 Carving from the inside of the design outward, remove the three-cornered chips comprising the border around the diamond next. Cut from corner to corner on each of the three sides. Remove the larger of these chips first (closest to the circle) and the smaller ones second, as shown in Photo G.

4 Switching to the stab knife, thrust downward to make the flower accents, holding the knife as shown in Photo H. The length of the stabbed impression is determined by how far the knife is rocked back into the wood. Return to the cutting knife. Because the cutting angle is held constant, the width of all chips will determine the depth of all cuts. Avoid cutting any deeper than necessary to remove chips. Cut too deeply and you’ll undercut and lift out wood meant to remain.

5 Next remove the waste around the positive leaves as shown in Photo I. Again, to prevent splitting the wood, make the first cut around the leaf itself, tracing its edge with the blade. The relieving cut that will release all the chips surrounding the leaf is made by cutting along the geometric shape in which the leaf is contained. When cutting the leaf veins, remove the center vein first, then the side veins leading into the lobes.

6 Carve the outer ring by making the outer cut first. This avoids the risk of splitting the wood closest to the decorative pattern. Now, make the opposing inside-angled cut as shown in Photo J to create the oval V-groove.

Copy or trace the pattern on the back of the hand mirror, making sure you center it on the workpiece.

Remove larger chips first, making angled stop cuts and opposing slices with the cutting knife.

Remove the triangular chips in the border by cutting out the larger ones first, then the small ones. Cut only as deep as is necessary to remove chips.

When using the stab knife, thrust downward deep enough to make a strong impression and then rock the blade back to the desired length.

7 Finally, chip-carve the handle design on both sides of the workpiece. This motif is in the form of a negative or incised fan, contrasting nicely with the positive-image leaves. Make the first cuts at the top of the fan nearest the oval as shown in Photo K. These cuts will act as the stop cuts used in Step 8.

8 Make the relieving cuts of the handle fan designs, ensuring that you don’t cause the wood to split while running with the grain when removing chips (Photo L).

9 Clean off all leftover pencil lines, and then apply three thin coats of satin polyurethane, lightly sanding between coats with 220-grit sandpaper to remove raised grain. Wayne chose polyurethane for its hardness and durability, since the mirror will likely be handled frequently. Now, press the beveled mirror in the recess, securing it with a few small dabs of mirror mastic. Weight the mirror down for a solid bond. 

Slice along the curving outline of the leaf first, then back-cut to relieve the leaf and remove the chips.

Cut out the V-groove oval ring, doing the outside angled cut first.

Begin cutting the fan, making the cuts at the top of the fan sections first.

Relieve the fan designs by incising the wood at opposing angles and lifting out the waste chips.

About Expert Chip-Carver Wayne Barton

Wayne Barton of Park Ridge, Illinois, was introduced to woodcarving at age five by his Norwegian grandfather. He received formal training in Brienz, Switzerland, the woodcarving center of that country. For more than 30 years he has devoted himself to the advancement of chip carving and is recognized as the driving force behind this carving style in the United States.

Wayne authored seven best-selling books on the subject and has developed two of the most popular chip-carving knives used today. In addition, Wayne is the founder of the Alpine School of  Woodcarving, Ltd., the oldest establishment in North America dedicated to the education, teaching, and encouragement of chip carving. His carvings are sought-after by collectors and can be found in private collections around the world.

For more on Wayne’s techniques and patterns, pick up his illustrated books, The Complete Guide to Chip Carving and Chip Carving Design and Pattern Sourcebook.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page