Lady’s Purse Mirror

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This article is from Issue 23 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Reflect your woodturning talents with these eye-candy creations.

There’s no end to the patterns you can assemble when you glue up contrasting wood scraps into pleasing blanks for these simply turned purse mirrors. They definitely put cheesy plastic compact mirrors to shame. See the “Three Colorful Blank Ideas” sidebar on page 71 for glue-up blank considerations, or choose solid stock such as birds-eye or tiger maple, or fanciful exotics such as zebrawood, bocote, lacewood, or wenge.

Though we’ll begin with a 3/4"-thick blank, for a delicate look you’ll want to achieve a final thickness of 5/16" to 3/8", with a 1/4"-wide border around the mirror insert. For the mirror or any of the special tools or materials in the instructions, see the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide. Now let’s get busy.

Note: Our expert, Tom Schottle, can complete a mirror in half an hour. Consider making a batch for quick and easy gift-giving.

Make and mount a glue block

1 Bandsaw a piece of 2"-thick scrap stock to a 21/2" diameter disc and mount it to your chuck. Turn it down to a 2" diameter and form a tenon sized to fit your chuck as shown in the Glue Block Profile in Figure 1. (We used a Nova G3 woodturning chuck; see the Buying Guide.) Unscrew the faceplate.

2 Mount your chuck on the lathe and insert the glue block you turned in Step 1, tightening the jaws on the tenon. Turn on the lathe and flatten the face of the glue block with a parting tool.

Prepare and mount the mirror blank

1 Scribe a 4" diameter circle on a 3/4 x 4 x 4" or larger glue-up or piece of figured stock as shown in Photo A.

2 Bandsaw the mirror blank to size as shown in Photo B.  Sand the blank flat, then use a compass to mark a centered 2" circle on one face as shown in Photo C.

3 Spread CA (cyanoacrylate gap-filling) glue inside the alignment circle on the face of the mirror blank and spritz the glue block with accelerator. (See the Buying Guide.) Then, using the alignment circle, center and adhere the mirror blank to the glue block as shown in Photo D,  holding the piece in place with the tailstock. Let the glue set up a few minutes before proceeding.

Turn the mirror blank front and edge

1 Bandsaw or scrollsaw the Mirror Recess Jig in Figure 2 from 1/4" plywood. Mark the centerline where shown.

2 Using a 1/4" gouge and maintaining a comfortable speed (from 750 to 1,000 rpm), rough the mirror blank face to just over 3½” in diameter and round over the front edge. You want the reveal or mirror border curving in toward the recess.

3 Stop the lathe and, holding the centerline of the jig to the center of the mirror blank, mark the perimeter of the mirror location as shown in Photo E.  Turn the lathe on and continue the mark with a pencil, establishing a perfect cut line circle.

4 With a parting tool held just above the workpiece center and 90º to the face, establish a recess depth equal to the thickness of the mirror at the cut line as shown in Photo F. Switch to a 3/8" gouge and remove the waste between this cut and the center of the recess, creating a flat or slightly concave surface. (Our mirrors required a depth of 3/16".)

5 Check the width and depth of the mirror recess using the jig as shown in Photo G. Also, check the bottom of the recess for flatness. You do not want a hump in the middle as pressure on the edges may cause the mirror to break. At some point, you’ll also want to test-fit the mirror in the recess. Be careful not to force the mirror into a snug-fitting recess. The mirror could prove difficult to remove, or worse, it could break.

6 When satisfied with the fit, continue rounding the front face and edge of the mirror blank with a gouge. Remove any excess to achieve a 31/2" diameter.

7 Now sand the face and rounded edges of the mirror blank, starting with 120 grit and working through a schedule of 150, 180, 220, and 320 as shown in Photo H. Shine light on the subject to ensure no sanding lines remain.

8 Aiming for a 3/8" blank thickness, mark the back edge with a pencil. Next, using a thin parting tool (see the Buying Guide), make a parting cut at the line, creating a flat back to the mirror blank as shown in Photo I. Work down to a 1/4" tenon. Finish the cut by turning the lathe off and freeing the blank with a fine-tooth handsaw (see the Buying Guide) as shown in Photo J.

Shape the back and complete the purse mirror

1 Expand the chuck jaws to grip the inside edges of the mirror blank recess as shown in Photo K. Avoid overtightening or you’ll damage the wood rim.

2 With a 1/4" gouge and the tool rest 1/4" below the center, round the back edge of the mirror blank and form a straight or slightly convex back as desired and shown in Photo L. Add any beads, grooves, or texture to the surface at this time if desired.

3 With the lathe on a low speed, sand the edges and back using the same grit schedule mentioned in the previous  Step 7.

4 Apply a lacquer or other finish, coating the blank 5-7 times and sanding between coats with super-fine grits. See “How to Apply a CA Finish”.

5 Remove the mirror blank from the lathe. Mix up a small batch of 5-minute epoxy and dab it in the mirror recess, keeping it away from the edges, as shown in Photo M. Next, insert the mirror and keep pressure on it until the epoxy sets up. Finally, if you haven’t done so, take a second to determine the perfect recipient of your turning talent. 


Using scrap stock to make exciting glue-ups for mirror blanks equals the fun you’ll have turning the blanks. If you don’t own a stash of contrasting woods, check out these ideas for guaranteed good looks.


Edge-glue four wine-stopper blanks together, then resaw into two blanks. (Woodcraft #834843, set of 4 hardwood laminations, $15.99)


Edge-glue two 3/4×21/2×24" blanks and cut 4" square blanks from them.  (Woodcraft #142792, purpleheart and maple lamination, $14.50; #142793, padauk and walnut lamination, $14.50)


Edge-glue 25 (3/4 × 3/4 × 5") pen squares together in a square, then crosscut several 3/4" blanks. (Woodcraft #131185, African pen blank assortment, 32 blanks/pkg., $42.99)

How to Apply a CA Finish

When you think of the abuse items in a woman’s purse must endure, you might consider a finish that’s up to the task. This issue’s turner, Tom Schottle, likes using a CA (cyanoacrylate) finish because it’s fast, attractive, and super durable. 

1 Wearing protective gloves, wipe on a thin coating of CA (Hot Stuff Adhesive) over the exposed surfaces of the mirror blank with a shop towel while it’s still held in the chuck as shown at right. Quickly spray the surface with accelerator. (Find both items in the Buying Guide.)

2 Repeat Steps 1 eight to 10 times to build up a coat of CA.

3 Sand the finished surface lightly with a schedule of Micro-Mesh (see the Buying Guide), working through all the grits from 1500‑12000 as shown at left. You don’t want to sand through the coat of CA you just put on; you want to smooth it and bring out the shine.

Further protect your purse mirror with a small cloth pouch like the ones shown here . Make your own or see the Buying Guide for a source.

Tom Schottle, a retired career Navy officer, Vietnam veteran, and former software development manager, now enjoys demonstrating woodturning and selling his efforts at Tamarack, in Beckley, and other fine West Virginia galleries. You can email him at


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