The Bad Luck Project

When we bought our house, we were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to tackle everything – all at once.  About two weeks later, we realized that we both were working overtime at work, Brien was still in school, and the very-generously-given wedding gift cards were only going to get us so far.  In an attempt to have fun with a project and save some cash, we decided to buy plain mirrors and frame them out for the bathroom.  A wood frame base with tumbled marble applied to it- sounds great, right?  At the first of many 9 pm trips to Lowe’s/Home Depot, we picked up the supplies (wood, tiles, mirrors, liquid nails, brackets), wheeled them out to the car, and proceeded to break one of the mirrors.  And thus began the bad luck project.

We built the frame, then ran out of materials.  Plus it wasn’t even that square, since it was all bracketed together.  The plan was to glue some thin strips of wood to the frame to act as spacers, and then glue the tiles on top of those frames.  Another trip to Lowe’s got us a new mirror, but by this point in the project we were feeling a little burnt out on home improvement (courtesy of the foundation) and when Brien left on a long-term business trip for 2.5 months, the mirrors got shoved into the back corner of the garage permanently.

Fast forward about a year, and we acquired a table saw that had belonged to both of my grandfathers before being passed down (and driven cross-country) to us.  The garage shop was born, and our woodworking ability increased tremendously! New and improved projects could be done!

These projects did not include finishing the mirrors.

We then began to doubt our original mirror design, and the frames currently bracketed together in the garage.  Would two layers of glue around a strip of wood really hold up the tiles?  Wouldn’t that new dado blade purchased for something-or-another be perfect for making grooves in that the mirror could rest in?  We’ve put it off for so long, wouldn’t now be a great time to start over?

So we did.  Pulled apart the half-built frames and went back to Lowe’s for more lumber, with our new plans (very well measured) drawn up on the back of the receipt. The gist would be that most of the mirror would be held together with glued lap joints, and we would notch out a dado channel 1/4″ wide for our 1/8″ thick mirror to sit in, with a cushion of weatherstripping on the back.   This is where things really started going wrong:

  • Brien got carried away with his notching, and accidentally cut four identical side pieces instead of the two matched sets.  Oh well, just more patching to do, we are good at that.
  • While the nominal wood size was the same width as the tiles, the actual width was thin.  Thus we would have a bit of an overhang with the tiles.  My OCD is not pleased.
  • Oh, and we had calculated all of the tile amounts and spacing for a frame that would sit completely outside the mirror.  Take off 1/4 inch around for the mirror, and now we had a lot of tile trimming to do.  And mitering the edges of the tiles.  Good thing we bought that dremel tool.
  • Cutting marble tile with a dremel tool is a huge pain in the butt.  Good thing all of the tile is rough edged anyhow.  My OCD is relieved.
  • Liquid nails is not meant for marble.  We know this because after we finally glued down all the tiles, we picked up the mirror frame only to have one come crashing down onto the garage floor and shattering.  The mirror was then set down very carefully and the rest of the tile just popped off by hand.  Eek.  Luckily we had spare tiles  (thanks to the previous measuring mistake, I guess it was useful for something).
  • Glue round two worked much better, but had to be done inside for temperature reasons, and dang it stank.  In our hurry, we made a small mistake in gluing tiles down.  But the marble glue really stuck, so the mistake has been covered from my OCD with a houseplant.
  • About now is when we realized that we had bought two different types of mirrors.  The originals were both beveled edges, but we picked up a polished edge mirror as the replacement.  Beveled edges are 1/8″ thick.  Polished edges are 1/4″ thick…
  • We decided to go buy another polished edge mirror (having forgotten the previous design thought that the channels were sized for 1/8″ thick mirror).  This worked out just as poorly as you might think.

And so in the end, the mirror frames were practically broken open to be able to “persuasion fit” (a la this comic) the mirrors into place.  We stupidly decided to finish the mirrors the night before traveling when we should have been packing, but I’m pretty sure Brien made the right call there.  Because instead of getting home to a pile in the garage waiting to be finished in a month or so, we were greeted with this:

They are giant.  They are beautiful.  And most importantly, they are done.