Originally, a "swinger" was placed on a dressing table where a woman put on makeup and jewelry or a man shaved. (The mirror predates the development of the bathroom.) My wife and I keep the mirror at eye level where she can check her hair and I can make sure my tie is straight before leaving the house.
Building the mirror is relatively easy. First, you'll saw out an oval form and laminate strips of wood around it to make the frame. Next, you'll cut cross-grain banding and glue it to the face of the frame. Making the stand entails sawing out the parts and joining them with mortises and tenons. You'll need to turn the small button-like decorations called "paterae" that decorate the stand. For the final touch, you'll use a scratch stock to decorate the edges of the stiles and stretcher.
The visible parts of the original mirror (and the reproduction I'm making in the photos) are mahogany. The secondary wood (used for unseen parts) is white pine. You can make the mirror out of any hardwood you choose, but avoid a wood with large open pores that would show on the visible end grain of the feet.
The oval frame of the mirror is made by bending three thin strips of wood around an oval mold or form and gluing them together, as shown in the photo on page 46. The form determines the size and shape of the inside of the mirror's frame.
To make a form, begin by drawing the oval shape on a piece of poster board, as shown in Fig. 2. Check the oval vou've drawn to be sure it measures 14'/? in.x 9 in., and cut it out with a utility knife. Trace this poster-board pattern onto a piece of J/4-in. thick plywood and saw it out.
A backboard screwed to the back of the form keeps the edges of the laminating strips aligned. I made the backboard from a piece of '/:-in. plywood several inches longer and wider than the oval form. Apply a layer of paste wax along the edge of the form and the adjacent part of the backboard. Wax will prevent squeezed-out glue from the laminated frame from adhering to the form or backboard.
The laminating strips must be cut from straight-grained wood without flaws that might make them bend unevenly. The outside lamination of the original is mahogany. The inner laminations can be a less expensive wood. (They're white pine on the original, but there is no reason why you can't use the same wood for all three laminations.)
Prepare the two inner laminations first. Begin with a straight-grained piece of wood at least 42 in. long and wide enough to give you two V»-in. wide strips. Plane it to a thickness of 3/j2 in.
A piece of wood this thin is best slit into strips with a cutting gauge (available from Woodcraft Supplv, P.O. Box 1686, Parkersburg, WV 26102. (800)225-1153) rather than a saw. Set the gauge's fence to Va in.
FIG. 1: FEDERAL DRESSING MIRROR
Vhn. MA. PATERA
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