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Peter appreciates my hard work. 😅

One goal I set for myself before turning the big four-oh was to learn how to do something new. I wouldn’t begin to say that I’m an expert at anything (except maybe diaper changing, mucking stalls, or washing dishes), but I do feel like I’ve dabbled in a lot of things. Life’s experiences have given me enough courage to give new endeavors a try, especially when I can do it from the comfort and safety of my own home. That way, close inspection and judgemental comments are reduced to family members who visit, and generally know they’d better not look too closely and DEFINITELY not make judgmental comments ). While trying to figure out exactly WHAT I wanted to do for my goal was almost as challenging as the challenge itself, so it wasn’t until a few months before my birthday that I actually started my project. A few years ago, a friend moved away from Indiana and didn’t want to take a big, beautiful mirror with them. I did not put up a fight when she offered it to me. Then, it sat in our basement, tucked behind a bed, peeking out at us every time we walked past. It took a while, but the epiphany eventually came–I was going to build a frame and hang that mirror, darn it.

The old fencing we’ve been harvesting. Not much to look while it’s hung, but it’s gorgeous underneath!

If there’s one thing that’s embedded deep in my DNA, it’s my loathing of waste. I just can’t stand to see something perfectly good not have a chance to fulfill a secondary purpose. A new life, if you will. To that end, I have slowly been harvesting pieces of our wood fencing, which have started to crack and fall down, and reusing them to build things around the house. So far, it’s mostly been small shelves, which are beautiful and functional, but not particularly challenging to build. A frame for a big mirror? That required some different skills that I hadn’t yet tested. Before building even began, we had to pull down the wood we needed. I tried to pry it off, but it’d inevitably make it crack worse. So a Sawzall tool made quick work of bringing them down. Then it was a matter of planing it, trimming it to width, cutting it to size, all before it would be tacked together.

My faithful little helpers.

One of my favorite things about working with the old wood is skimming off the aged patina to see what’s underneath. Once in a while, I’ll leave the rustic, lichen-y face on so it can tell the story, but for this project, I wanted it cleaned up and smooth shaven. There were still plenty of cracks and gouges to give it some character, and it revealed beautiful tones in the wood that are so lovely. Old wood can be incredible if done right. It’s also a HUGE pain in the butt. As gorgeous as it is, it’s also often warped, tougher than nails, and cracks and splinters angrily, just because it was handled wrong. I suppose there’s some analogy that can be applied to people here–that age toughens us or we’re all beautiful underneath. Interestingly, all the metaphors would be correct.

It wasn’t hard to convince the boys to vacuum up the sawdust.

Once we had the pieces all ready to assemble, the boys and I made a quick trip to the store. I bought a pocket drill set, and let me tell you, it’s oddly satisfying to use it. It drills a hole into the wood pieces at the exact angle so everything’s flush–no cracking wood, no screw heads poking out. It requires some finagling, calculating, and YouTube-ing, but I eventually got it. Skill one mastered! Wahoo! By some miracle, I also put the wood pieces together perfectly(ish) square, a skill that has challenged me during my many years of trying to become a better woodworker.

Yay! More sawdust for the boys to vacuum up!

What REALLY intimidated me was using the plunge router. Basically, it’s a machine that precision cuts while simulatneously drills out pieces of wood at a pre-determined depth. That’s not a guarantee that it’ll be a straight line either–that’s another learning experience all its own. When I finally realized that eyeballing it wasn’t going to do it, and many YouTube videos later, I got the hang of the plunge router and figured out the appropriate method for jury-rigging a jig onto the frame to make a straight line. Router-ing, too, became an incredibly satisfying task that I can see myself enjoying in the future.

Of all the parts of woodworking, I am a pro at staining and sealing wood. It’s a messy job, and a smelly one, too, so I took advantage of our unseasonably warm weather at the end of October/start of November to get it done outside. By some miracle, I found a shade of stain that fit the previously stained accent wood that was already in the home. I love how it brought out the grain of that grumpy old wood. What was old was definitely looking new again.

The hook wall is another wood railing project of mine!

When all the messy work of putting the mirror together was finished, I brought the frame inside and inserted the mirror. It was a perfect fit… or was after I routered a few more edges. Close enough. The back is secured with a thin sheet of pseudo-wood, brackets, and a generous bead of silicone caulking. All together, that mirror and frame weighs a ton. Fingers crossed no one ever cracks the mirror because if they do, I’m not sure I’ll be able to hoist it back downstairs to fix it. That, and I’ll probably be too busy crying. I don’t like waste, remember?

Mounting it on the wall was a team effort. Thank goodness for clever people who’ve invented easy and secure methods for hanging heavy mirrors on walls because there was very little guess work on figuring out how to hang it while making it centered. Zoey helped me attach the bracket and Jack spotted me while I heaved it into place. Kate washed it to get all the grimy fingerprints off, and the rest of them admired my hard work by noticing there was a gigantic reflection of themselves now when they walk toward the kitchen. Pleased to have accomplished my goal and happy to make the house a little bit more personalized. So if you come over, A) don’t look too closely at the mirror, and B) understand why I proudly point it out to you. 😄


2 Responses

  1. Rachael:
    I wonder if there is anything you cannot do? Did you make that beautiful cabinet that was next to the mirror? I also cannot believe that you are now 40, you do not look it?


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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