How to Make Simple Shelf Unit for Wall Mirror
Reflecting on a Gift
A friend gave me a new mirror because when he had it bespoke made for his bathroom he got the measurements wrong; I wasn’t over enthusiastic about having it because we already have mirrors in every room. Nevertheless, taking the mirror off his hands was better than letting it go to waste; and I was confident I could find a use for it.
After checking all the rooms in the house my wife and I opted to use it to replace a smaller mirror in our bedroom. The mirror we were replacing was about 18 inches square, and this new mirror is about 2 foot square.
Swapping the mirrors over was easy enough, it was just a case of taking the old mirror and shelving down and re-drilling four new holes in the brick wall to fit the mounting brackets.
The more interesting part, and the subject of this article, is the making of new shelving to fit under the mirror. Something my wife was keen for me to do because it adds to the décor and functionality of the mirror; and gives her more shelving space for all her knickknacks.
Reflecting on the Criteria
The main functions of mirrors are to:-
- Make the room look bigger,
- Reflect light to make the room lighter, and
- To see your reflection e.g. to aid washing and dressing.
Another function can be, dependent on where the mirror is situated, is to justify additional shelving e.g. a glass shelf below a mirror in the bathroom.
Design and Outline Plan
Before embarking on making the shelving unit for our new bedroom mirror I needed to be sure of it’s:-
- Individual shelf heights and depth
- Available space
- Position below mirror, and
Upon speaking with my wife (the client) the purpose was primarily for her knickknacks; a foregone conclusion, but it’s always worth double checking.
Shelf Heights and Depth
Knowing what’s to be displayed on the shelves enabled me to measure them, taking into account the tallest items, to determine the optimum shelf height, and depth.
The location for this shelving unit is part of a walkway between the bedroom door and the other side of the bed; passing the radiator for access to the bed. Therefore, so the unit wouldn’t infringe on that space, I needed to keep its depth to a minimum.
The space available to fit the unit in is restricted by the space between the bottom of the mirror and top of the radiator; allowing sufficient space for ventilation on top of the radiator (convection heat), and room for the two fixing brackets on the bottom of the mirror.
After toying with various ideas, I opted to design the unit so the:-
- Sides would butt against the sides of the mirror
- Top shelf would butt up to the mirror’s fixing brackets; leaving just a small gap between the top shelf and the bottom edge of the mirror
- The bottom shelf would be a few inches above the radiator; to allow adequate space for air flow (convention heat).
Unlike older radiators (that just radiated heat) modern radiators tend to be two side panels with a gap between and a grill on top to also produce convection heat; which helps to maintain a more ambient room temperature. Therefore, with modern radiators, so as not to impede air flow and thus there efficiency, it’s advisable not to obstruct the top grill.
A Place for Knickknacks
Shelves can be for functional use or displaying ornaments. The one detailed here is designed specifically for my wife’s knickknacks that were previously displayed on a radiator shelf in the bedroom.
I had to remove the shelf when I recently replaced our old radiator with a better but slightly taller one; and when I fitted the new radiator I couldn’t reposition the shelf higher because of insufficient space due to the recessed built-in cupboard above.
A Reflection on Mirrors
Do You Put Mirrors Wherever You Can?
Using Recycle Wood to Make the Unit
Having taken all the restraints, requirements and available space into account, I could then make all the appropriate measurements to work out the dimensions, and then calculate what wood I required.
Always keen to recycle wood, rummaging amongst the scrap wood in my workshop, I found an old teak drawer ideal for the side panels, wooden slats salvaged from an old pine bed for the shelving, and a piece of scrap wood ideal for the wall fixing bar.
Preparing the Shelves
I used three wooden planks for the shelving; originally slats from an old pine bed. Two of the planks would be the top two shelves of the new unit, and would be fixed in place with butt joints, dowel and glue. While the bottom shelf needed to be a little longer as it would be fixed to the side panels with half joints.
- The planks were a little too long and about half an inch too wide, so I cut each one to the length and then trimmed them to the correct width using a bench saw.
- The planks were also a little rough, so I smoothed them with my belt sander.
Preparing the Side Panels
The front of the teak drawer was more than twice as long as the height of the side panels that I would be making; so I decided to use that to make the side panels, preparing the wood by:-
- Unscrewing and removing the two drawer handles.
- Gently knocking the drawer apart with a wooden mallet; quite easy as it was only held together with half joint, dove joints.
- Cutting the wood to length, measuring from each end to make the cut so that both pieces retained the dove joints.
- Placing a square above the dove joints, marking a straight line and using a hand saw, cutting down to the depth of the dove joints.
- Using a chisel to knock out the dove joints, leaving a near readymade half joint, almost the same depth as the thickness of the shelf.
Curved Profile to Side Panels
Rather than just straight corners I wanted the tops of the side panels to be curved, therefore I:-
- Placed a small tin in the corner of each side panel, and used it as a template to mark out of curve, and then
- Used a jig saw to follow the pencil line to cut the curves.
Once all the pieces were cut to size and shape, it was a simple case of just sanding it all smooth and rounding off all the edges with a sander; in preparation for assembly.
Dowel and Glue
The top two shelves were fixed to the side panels using dowel and glue:-
- Measure and mark for two drill holes at each end of the two shelves.
- Transpose the measurements to the correct positions on the side panels.
- Drill each hole the same size (or fractionally larger) than the diameter of the dowel; making sure to only go halfway through the wood on the side panels.
- Place a blob of glue in each hole.
- Push dowels in each hole on the ends of the shelves, gently tapping in place with a hammer.
- Push and tap the doweled ends of each shelf into the corresponding holes on the side supports.
Having fixed the top two shelves in place, glue and pin the:-
- Bottom shelf in place, and
- Top wall fixing bar at the back, on the underside of the top shelf; which had been pre-drilled with 4mm holes for fixing to the wall.
Then, clamp the whole unit, making sure it’s all square, and leave overnight for the glue to harden.
Finishing and Varnishing
The following day, once the glue is set hard, I needed to do the finishing touches before hanging the shelving unit in position under the mirror on our bedroom wall.
- The first thing I needed to do, as the side panels were originally part of a drawer front and still had the holes from the handle fixings, was to fill the holes with wood filler. The wood filler I used on this occasion has to be mixed with a hardener before use, and sets within 10 minutes; after which time it can be sanded smooth, painted, varnished or stained.
- Once I’d filled the holes, and the wood filler had hardened, I gave the whole unit a final quick sanding; and then cleaned off all the surplus sawdust with white spirit.
- I then left it for half an hour for the white spirit to dry before giving it three coats of oak coloured floor varnish; leaving it for two hours to dry between each coat.
Fixing to a brick wall
I prefer to use a 7mm drill bit with standard brown wall plugs and 4mm screws. I aim for a depth of at least 40mm (1.5 inches), as anything less tends to loosen overtime. The wall plugs should be snug fit, a good sign being if you have to gently tap them home with a hammer.
The following day, using a spirit level to ensure it was straight and level, I fixed the shelving unit under the mirror (you may need an extra pair of hands for this):-
- Place a screw in both the pre-drilled holes in the fixing bar.
- Hold the unit level, against the wall, in the correct position.
- Gently screw or tap the screws just a fraction of an inch into the wall, to mark the spot to drill.
- Put the unit down and using a masonry bit with a hammer drill, drilling suitably sized holes in the wall to an appropriate depth.
- Put the wall plugs in, and finally
- Firmly screw the unit in place.