Best way to frame a 36x48" mirror in the DC area?
August 21, 2006 9:29 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to frame a 36x48" mirror in the DC area?

I have a 36x48" mirror that I'd like to frame. There are no holes in the mirror. Ideally I'd like to frame it in a dark-wood frame.

Any suggestions on how to do this relatively inexpensively in the DC metro area would be appreciated. I am open to suggestions re: places to bring the mirror to be framed, as well as do-it-yourself solutions involving buying a frame, although I'd prefer the latter.
posted by cahlers to Home & Garden (2 answers total)
Exactly what did you have in mind for a frame? I'm out by Dulles Airport and my darling girlfriend and I have what I call "our marginally cash-positive hobby," Nice Mirror. If you liked any of our designs we'd certainly be willing to build something to size, however I doubt you'd consider us 'inexpensive' given what we'd charge for 3'x4'.

If you want to do it yourself - and have the woodworking expertise - I'd be more than happy to talk to you over a beer about how I assemble the frames and mount the mirrors.

In a nutshell you have two issues. One is making the frame itself. The second is mounting the mirror to the back of it.

Dealing with the second first, you have 3 choices. One, you flush mount it to the back of whatever frame you have. For a one-off this is pretty easy - Home Depot or Lowes will sell you little metal mirror-holders for a buck and a half a pair. Get six and you're well-set. It's not economical for what I do but it would work fine. When I mount that way I instead use mending plates and nylon standoffs that I can buy in bulk. (for some reason McMaster-Carr doesn't sell the metal mirror mounts) If you want to do that I'll happily give you a few standoffs, I have hundreds in a bag.

Another choice is routering out a channel in the back, which is what I do most time. Makes a nice flat rear side of the construction. In exchange you have to have bought a $50 bit and it makes a godawful mess - a 1/2inch by 1/4 inch channel in 16' of plank makes a LOT of sawdust. I only use this method in the summer when I can router outside - even with the shop vac on the mess is too horrid for my basement.

Third choice is you build your frame with an inside marginally larger than the mirror and put some molding around the inner diameter to make a lip for the mirror to rest against. I don't do this with the Nice Mirror stuff for personal aesthetic choice reasons, but I've seen it done successfully on a number of products. If you do it this way you can then adhere the mirror to that space by using some caulk/adhesive around the edge behind the mirror.

Drop me an email if you'd like to chat about it. Probably the best way would be for you to come out to Eastern Market on Capitol Hill the next Saturday we're there. If you're looking for plain wood you might sweet-talk me into some simple cut&assemble for the price of materials and a case of beer.... catch me in a good mood.
posted by phearlez at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2006

I can't speak to DC specifically, but I did used to work in a framing shop. There are typically three framing options; premade, by-the-inch, and custom. Premade only works if whatever you want framed is a standard size, fortunately 36"X48" is standard. Premade frames are going to be the cheapest, but typically you have to do the work yourself.

By-the-inch (different places use different names here) are usually frames where the shop carries a couple of varieties (three different metal and a couple of different wood) in one or two inch increments from 8" to 42". These tend to be popular as they don't require to frame shop to chop the material themselves and they assemble quickly.

Custom is just that, whatever you want, any size. Custom is going to cost a lot.

If you can find one that works, go for premade, just be aware that they are usually designed to hold the weight of the artwork and the plexiglass sheet that they come with. Mirrors weigh a bit more, so get one that's robust enough to handle the weight.

Don't ignore the by-the-inch stuff. Sometimes it costs very little more than the premade stuff, and you get higher quality materials and since it's designed to use glass, it will be more than strong enough to handle the weight of a mirror.

Hopefully someone can point you to a specific shop, but you may want to just hit some craft stores. Lots of them in my area also do framing. It will probably cost less here than a place that does custom work as well.
posted by quin at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2006

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