chat transcript
John Lucas
a Special Guest Chat with

Turner, Photographer,
   WoodCentral Moderator

Making Hand Mirrors

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
9:30 pm EDT

Here is the transcript of John's Hand Mirror chat, beginning with the introduction by Stuart Johnson, WoodCentral Chat Coordinator.

Hand Mirror Tutorial:
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  • Download it as a PDF file.

  • StuartGood evening. It is my pleasure to introduce our special guest and WoodCentral moderator, John Lucas, for a chat about one of John's specialties: Hand Mirrors. Before we get started, if you don't have a copy of John's tutorial you can get it here: Having a copy opened in a second window or printed out will help to ask questions in the same order as the steps are presented in the tutorial. John do you have any opening comments before you start answering questions?
    ericjoseph2001Hi guys, Hi John, followed you from WOOD mag :)
    ericjoseph2001Hi Jeff
    John_LucasHi Eric
    John_LucasNot sure if I have any comments. Mirrors are fun and make great gifts. I've been turning them for about 20 years.
    EllisHow many have you turned, do you figure, John?
    EllisAnd how do you turn them? In batches?
    John_LucasWow I don't know. I usually turn them in batches of 12 or so. I have done special orders of 25 every now and then so I probably do about 50 to 75 a year with some years being higher and some much lower.
    John_LucasI got started because I was incredibly broke, Christmas was coming up and Woodsmith magazine had an article on how to make them using a router. I was sort of router guru back then so I made 25. Then I just started figuring how to make them on the lathe.
    John_LucasFor my earliest ones I had the glass cut. That didn't work because the glass was never perfectly round and I diddn't like the edges.
    EllisHow long do you figure it takes you to make a batch?
    darrin_hillare we reflecting on mirrors tongiht?
    AlanZMy bride and I have recently been making compact mirrors (for a lady's purse). We're trying to find a reliable source of quality 2" round beveled 3mm mirrors
    John_Lucas It took a long time to find a source to wholesale the glass. Remember this was before computers. I was in Gatlinburg one weekend and saw some 4" bevel edge mirrors used to display gems. I looked up the company and now order from them.
    EllisYeah, no sense trying to cut mirror yourself.
    John_Lucas Ellis I've never really timed myself but I think I can turn one in under 45 minutes. My first ones took me about 4 hours.
    ericjoseph2001Love to hear you say that John, everything takes me four hours to turn!
    John_LucasAlan I get mine from Tripar Inc. They sell 2", on up but you need a tax # to buy from them.
    EllisTell us more about the reverse cuts, John.
    Lan_Bno red arrows John!
    AlanZThanks John, I'm familiar with Tripar
    ericjoseph2001John you have a specific jig you use to marrk the handles don't you? I saw a video you did on tool useage and you demonstrated on a mirror handle
    John_LucasAlan They've gone up in their minimum order. I think it's about $120 now.
    Chuck_JonesI bought some mirrors from Packard $4.24 for the 4"
    Lan_Bthats a lot of glass John
    StuartI'm curious about the the dowel in the face plate. Is that just for aligning?
    John_LucasEric I have made a special jig to mark the 4" hole. Another one I call a go-no-go gauge for mirror depth and to check the final size, and then another story stick for the handle.
    AlanZThe problem with the 2" mirrors is that so many of them are pretty low quality. The silvering isn't very good, and the edges are rough
    John_LucasYes eric. Early on I didn't have a chuck. I still teach it that way. I use 4" jaws on my chuck which makes it faster.
    John_LucasAlan I have occasioanlly had mirrors with scratchs on the good side but the silvering has always been good and they are bevel edged.
    Galen_VJohn do you always use CA glue over double face tape
    ericjoseph2001what's the most challenging aspect of turning a mirror? Any major corrections that helped you fine tune them?
    AlanZCan I ask a question about an instruction on page 15 of the tutorial, or should I wait for later on?
    John_LucasThe dowel alignment procedure as well as the drill through the hole alignment method has worked well for a lot of projects, not just mirrors
    John_Lucas Probably the most challenging thing is turning beads on the face of the piece. I've worked out a good method using a spindle gouge and raising the tool rest way above center line.
    StuartGo ahead Alan.
    John_LucasAlan I thought I only had 12 pages :)
    John_LucasThat may have been after I reduced the file size on the photos.
    AlanZok, here's what had me scratching my head for a few moments
    AlanZ"Before glueing in the glass I spray the mirror with lacquer. "
    AlanZupon thinking about it, you're referring to the wood, not the glass, right?
    AlanZI couldn't imagine why you would spray the actual mirror
    John_Lucas I completely finish the wooden part of the mirror before installing the glass. The glass is the very last step. I don't spray the glass. Poor editing on my part.
    ed_larsonJohn, how far below the surface do you place the mirror??
    EllisYour editing is excellent, John. Thanks for the greatest tutorial we've ever had for one of these chats.
    AlanZThat's what I thought, just making sure
    John_LucasI just try to cut the wood deep enough so the glas will not touch any surface if layed glass side down. I think the opening is about 1/4" deep 6mm, and the glass is 3. Usually I end up taking the wood down a little when I clean up the glass side so it's probably 4 or 5 mm deep after I get it finished.
    AlanZAlso, when you glue in the mirror, do you spread the glue around on the back of the mirror to avoid any 'bleed through' problems with the adhesive?
    John_LucasThanks Ellis
    EllisI notice that your opening seems to be about 1/8" bigger than the mirror diameter. But your writeup says to make it exact. Do you need to allow some extra clearance for shrinkage?
    DickWWelcome Howard.....SRO
    John_LucasAlan I just put 5 or 6 dots about 1/3 of the way in. Then I push the mirror down on it to squeeze out any air and seat the glass.
    EllisHave any of the silicone bonds ever failed that you know of?
    AlanZI've seen that technique show through the dots (darkening the silver)/ I've also seen this with double sided adhesive tape made for car mirrors if not applied smoothly and completely
    John_LucasEllis I think I showed how I cut a tapered opening with a spindle gouge. The actual opening is just a hair over 4" but down at the bottom of the opening it is more like 4 3/16 thanks to the spindle gouge that I push straight in.
    EllisAh, yes. Thanks. I missed that.
    John_LucasAlan and Ellis. I have never had a failure that I know of using clear silicone caulk. It hasn't damaged the silver and I've had to replace the glass in brocken mirrors that were more than 10 years old. I had to actually chip out the glass that was still stuck to the caulk.
    StuartHow do you break he CA bond from the mirror side after revearse turning without damaging the turned surface?
    John_LucasStuart That's why I use accelerator. The accelerator makes the CA fragile. If you hit it hard and fast it breaks right at the glue line leaving my mirror and glue block intact.
    EllisYou just used regular silicone, right, not any special RV silicone or anything special?
    Galen_VWould I have more problems with double face tape rather than CA
    John_LucasStuart I should say that's why I do the sequence that I do. I glue the block to the good side of the mirror first so it this side is damaged it will be turned later. The glass side doesn't matter if it's damaged.
    John_LucasGalen, I've use both double stick and hot glue. They both work but are harder to get off. I use a steel guitar string to kind of saw through the glue or tape.
    EllisGreat use for old strings, John. And I love the trick for centering the waste block to turn the show side.
    John_LucasEllis I just use regular clear silicone caulk in the large tubes for about $5 or so. It looks, smells, and probably tastes just like the official mirror adhesive that is about $8 for a small tube.
    EllisHow thick do you figure the wood is behind the mirror when you're done?
    John_LucasMirror thickness varies. I often start with 3/4" stock, take away aabout 1/4 for the glass side, it's slightly concave so subtract another 1/8". Then I end up taking alittle off when I turn the backside so it's probably 1/8 to 3/16 and maybe eve 1/4" thick
    John_LucasHi Michael M, good to see you
    michael_mochoWow! You can see me? Jeez, you must have a super computer .....
    John_LucasIt's my new MAC, that built in camera is great. :)
    michael_mochoHad I known, I would have combed my hiar and but on a better shirt.
    Don_OrrJust got home from a turning club meeting and wanted to stop in and say thanks to John Lucas for the excellent tutorial on his hand mirrors.
    EllisIt seems like you've settled on a basic handle design. What was the design thinking behind the handle shape and details?
    John_LucasThe most important thing about the mirrors is not getting the area where the handle goes too thin and not getting the handle tenon too thin. This makes them weak.
    StuartDoes the grain direction make any difference when drilling the hole for the handle?
    Galen_VSo you try to make mirror side concave not flat, I was not sure in text comment.
    John_LucasEllis I used to make the handles thicker, and still do when I have the wood. The design I use most often now is the double taper. This works very well with 3/4" stock. A thick handle area just doesn't look thick enough with 3/4" wood.
    EllisWhat do these mirrors sell for, John?
    EllisIf I may ask...
    John_LucasEllis In my area I can sell the plain ones for $35 and they go up to $55. We have tried $75 and around here they just sit. I think they would easily sell for $100 or more in the right market.
    EllisDo you ever make any fancy variations, like with fancy veneer on the show side?
    EllisCan you wholesale them to gift shops?
    ed_larsonJohn, have you tried any burning or decoration on the back side??
    John_LucasIf you count my time I loose money on my fancy mirrors. I have done just about every wood working technique on one sooner or later. I remember taking a mirror out to show my friend Graham Campbell. He said it was a complete wood working course in one mirrors. It had bent laminations, segments, glue laminations, carving and I forget what else.
    EllisI might have guessed.
    John_LucasEd Yes, I do initials on the back for custom work. I use pyrography for the simple ones, chick carving for the fancier ones and routed and carved raised letters for the fancier one.s
    EllisMaybe we should have a hand mirror contest on WoodCentral.
    John_LucasThat would be fun. There are some great turners who would have some wonderful designes
    EllisYou'd have to be one of the judges, John.
    EllisAre there any particular woods that you prefer? I assume you must work with dry wood
    John_LucasDry wood is a must because wet wood warps and the out of round turned circle looks terrible compared to a round glass mirror.
    EllisDo exotics sell better than domestics? Or how about exotic domestics like curly stuff and spalted wood?
    EllisI'm already envisioning Christmas presents for all the women in my family... :)
    John_LucasFancy wood sells really well. It adds a lot to the cost of course. To answer your other question I do sell them wholesale to a couple of galleries.
    StuartHave your tried adding school logos?
    ed_larsonIs the 4-inch mirror the most popular or the most practical??
    John_LucasEllis I have turned mirrors for gifts for men quite often. I remember a lady asking me to make what she called a masculine mirrror. I thought about it long and hard and then turned it with Knurling on the handle so it kind of resembled a ratchet wrench. I thought that would be masculine. Then I atually bought a socket wrench and used that for the handle on a couple
    EllisDo they make 5" and 6" mirrors, too?
    Lan_Bcool idea John
    John_LucasI used to make 2", and 3" pocket mirrors to go along with the 4". My galleries didn't like selling them so I quit making them. I tried 5" but they are just too big. I have made them up to 8". If you make a stand the 8" ones look good. For hand held 4" is best.
    Wally_DickermanJohn, how do you market your mirrors?
    EllisSounds like you've scoped it out pretty well
    RayTCan you get magnifing mirrors?
    John_LucasWally I sell through 2 local galleries and then word of mouth. When you work at a University and people get to know you, you get a lot of Christmas orders.
    JohnVRay, go to Wally World and buy a cheap plastic framed mirror. Flat on on side, magnifing on the other
    John_LucasRay I have failed miserably when trying to buy the maginifying mirror glass. I can find the whole mirrors and have bought a few and destroyed them to get the glass.
    JohnV2 for 1
    ericjoseph2001John talk about your process for raised lettering and textures, such as knurling or techniques for pyrography
    RayTThanks JV, I'll try that. Wife can't see without the magnifcation anymore
    John_LucasThe downside of wally work mirrors is they are 5" with rough edges and look like crap. To get around that I turn a filler ring to cover the edge but that of course takes a lot more time and raises the price of the mirror
    Wally_DickermanJohn, ever done any painting on mirrors?
    JohnVBut for Ray's wife , nothing is too much
    RayTThat's what she said
    John_LucasTo do raised letters what I do is actually lower the background around them. I use a trim router with a 1/4" bit to waste away most of the wood and change to a 1/8" bit when getting close to the letters. I clean them up with carving tools. Then I texture the background with leather stamps.
    StuartThat sounds very time consuming.
    RayTI assume you freehand the router work.
    Galen_VDo you sell more with a softer look to finish or high gloss
    John_LucasWally I've painted quite a few but they don't sell anywhere near as well as the fancy or even plain woods. Textureing with Sorby tools or othe texturing techniques works better than paint.
    John_LucasRay It is freehand routing.
    John_LucasGalen I choose the finish gloss based on the wood. Some woods just look better with a gloss. I don't really like the plastic gloss look but most are pretty shiny.
    StuartDo you caution them about possible damage to the finish from cleaner?
    ericjoseph2001Does the knurling happen with a chatter type tool for knurling? I've seen knurling tools but wasn't sure exactly how they were used
    EllisAre you careful about the balance of the finished mirror? How thick is the glass?
    Dave_PeeblesJohn, do give any thought to most mirrors end up in the bathroom, a high humidity location? Sorry I must have missed your finish procedure
    John_LucasStuart That's why I now use lacquer for my finish. I used to use some of the rub on finishes or shellac. I found out that Windex sprayed on the large mirror in the bathroom will let little dots float in the air and land on the hand mirror and leave dots. It doesn't leave dots on the lacquer. I also want a finish that is repairable easily if I get one back for repair.
    John_LucasDave Hope I just answered that. Eric, what I called knurling was really more of a texturing that sort of resembled knurling. I have done knurling on really hard woods but your limited to Boxwood, Osage orange or other woods that hard.
    ed_larsonJohn, are the mirrors in the three sources equal in quality?? Any preference for one over the other??
    Dave_PeeblesYou did John. :) Thanks
    John_LucasEric you can't use the chatter tool on handles because they are side grain.
    ericjoseph2001I never thought of that, have never used a chatter tool
    ericjoseph2001still real new at this.
    John_LucasEd I think they are all the same.
    John_LucasEric Chatter tool works on end grain so in theory you could do a little chatter on maybe the side of a bead on the handle.
    ericjoseph2001makes sense
    EllisWell, I'm going to try making a mirror as soon as I can get out to the shop.
    Jim_EvansJohn, have you ever used a needle scaler for chattering side grain?
    StuartEllis, your idea about a mirror contest sounds good but maybe after the first of the year when the Christmas turnings for this year are done.
    John_LucasI used to make mirrors that resemble what Terry Scott is doing now. I was bicycling one day and saw a bent metal sign laying in the woods. It had to corners lower than the other two. I though, hey I can do that, so I made a few. Terry of course took this style to the next level.
    John_LucasJim No I don't have needle scaler. But what I do use is a Dremel engraver. I removed the factory tip and installed the shank of a 1/8" drill bit. I ground it into a round edge and then simply scribble on the wood with it. Looks similar but you have much more control of the texture.
    EllisI think everyone should take good photos of their finished mirrors and keep them for the contest.
    EllisHmm, Dremel engraver.
    Jim_EvansMy dremal engraver doesn't seem to give me enough texture.
    John_LucasI learned that from an old time turner. It's a wonderful texture. It looks great on raised bands.
    Jeff_WJim, try using a finish nail with the head ground off in your engraver.
    Galen_VTime to go. Thanks John Lucas and Ellis. I did just order a few mirrors now just must finish other work first. Oh and I need more printer ink after making prints for shop use!
    JohnVThanks for a good chat and turorial John, night all
    John_LucasThanks everyone for coming. I'll hang around a little longer for any questions on turning
    Chuck_JonesI posted my first attempt at a mirror on the turning forum earlier. My wife says she likes it but can't lift it. Guess I have to try for thinner next time.
    John_LucasJim Try changing the switch on the top from 1 to 5. I use about #3 I think.
    Chuck_JonesGood tutorial John and good chat. Thanks.
    StuartJohn, thanks for the tutorial and answering our questions. It has been a great chat.
    Dave_PeeblesJohn, Thanks for a great chat. Biggest crowd since David Ellsworth I believe. Looking forward to next week too
    ericjoseph2001Hey John, thanks for posting the invite over on the WOOD forum, you've been a huge help in my progress and and a major inspiration for turning.
    John_LucasCHuck You bring up a good point. I do prefer to use lighter woods if I can. It makes the mirror less top heavy and balances in your hand better.
    RayTSome great ideas tonight, gotta try them out....just as soon as I get the Xmas tree done.
    BillTGood show. Nite all
    StuartBefore everyone leaves, don't forget Cindy Drozda is scheduled for next week.
    Howard_Nnight all
    michael_mochoThanks John- they should double your pay ........
    Jim_Evansjohn, OK, thanks for the chat.
    EllisJohn, I just want to say thank you for doing a great service for our turning friends. You're a born communicator.
    John_LucasThanks Ellis, now time for some Rum
    EllisSounds like a plan. You earned it. :)
    John_LucasNite all, Have a good evening.

    About John Lucas:

         I've been working in wood since I started college in 1973. Even in these early days, I was turning wood. I used my electric drill to make cabinet knobs and some handles for my files. I eventually graduated up to a Shopsmith and started doing segmented turning as well as other styles.
         Around 1990,the Tennessee Association of Woodturners had a symposium at the Appalachian Center for Crafts. I was invited to be the photographer and it was my first exposure to other woodturners. I couldn't have been exposed to a better group. The demonstrators were Rude Osolnik, John Jordan and Betty Scarpino. I was hooked, and I joined the TAW and the AAW that year. It's been a wild ride ever since. I read and studied all the books I could find and subscribe to way too many woodworking magazines. I have attended many symposiums and demonstrations to try to learn all I can.
         I have built and rebuilt several lathes and many other machines and tools. I am a member of three turning clubs and have served as an officer or board member for each one. I demonstrate frequently at clubs around the South and have written articles for American Woodturner, Woodturning Design, Woodturner and More Woodturning. I have demonstrated at local, regional and national symposiums.
         I am currently a photographer for Tennessee Technological University, where I've worked for the last 25 years. Because the Appalachian Center for Crafts is a part of our university, I have had the opportunity to photograph a lot of artwork of all types. I shoot juried slides for many artists and have had photos published in the Fine Woodworking Design Book, Woodwork, Ceramics Monthly, Craft Reports, Woodwork, and many other journals and books that feature artists.
         I currently turn almost all kinds of work, from spindle and faceplate work and hollow vessels to segmented, off-center and inside-out turning. I turn all sorts of materials, from metal and bone to tagua nuts and banksia pods. Of course no piece of wood is safe around me.