137: Layered Mirror

One of the types of acrylic I work with has a mirror coat on the back surface. It’s a fun material to process, but I don’t break it out all that often. After a recent custom project I had a few leftover bits of mirrored acrylic, and I absentmindedly set one down on the frame of a mirror in my office I was passing by. A few days went by before I noticed it again, and I realized that it kind of hid itself on the mirror surface because both were reflecting in the same direction. It looked kind of neat—almost like an optical illusion, but not really—and it gave me the idea for this project!

The mirror, pre-layering.

I took one of our old square Ikea mirrors (they’re basically just much smaller versions of the mirror I used for the Hylian Inlay project) and measured the mirror portion. For as big as the frame is, the mirror is a relatively small 3.75″ square in the center. It has very slightly rounded corners, and I wanted to “cover” the corners with the design so I knew I’d eventually have to make some prototypes.

Screenshot of the top layer, the middle layer, and a composite of both.

I have a habit of relying on video game imagery for the theme of my laser projects, but this time I just wanted to make a simple geometric design. I had only planned to make one layer of laser-cut mirror to attach to the base mirror, but when I realized that the frame was deep enough to support two layers, I knew I’d be making that happen.

Paper prototypes helped me get exact measurements.

The first paper prototype was a hair too big. It turned out that the mirror is actually 3.72″ squared. One quick resize later and prototype number two fit perfectly. The cardstock I used for the prototypes was just a little flimsier than I liked, making me worry that the much more rigid acrylic of the finished piece wouldn’t fit quite as well. I went ahead regardless with the measurements from the second prototype.

I made sure to use a paper mask on both surfaces of the material—any marks on the surface are doubly obvious, but honeycomb pattern divits on the edges of the silvered back surface can ruin the aesthetic just as easily. The paper mask prevents this, no matter how obnoxious it might be to peel it away from the final cut piece.

The individual layers resting on top of the mirror frame.

While I like how the finished piece looks, there are two things I lament about how it turned out. The two layers are ever-so-slightly thicker in total than the frame, so the front layer sticks out a bit. It’s less than a millimeter, but it’s noticeable enough. Worse by far is how difficult it is to clean dust off of an inset mirror surface. I’m never going to be able to get the base layer clean again!

Thumbs up for a successful project!


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