Making Ebony Plugs

Creating the decorative plugs for this mirror requires that you first make two sticks, each at least 12" long, to safely run through your planer. Ebony was the Greene brothers' choice for decorative plugs. Or use black-dyed maple as a more economical substitute.

I made the large 3/8" square plugs first, aiming for a perfect friction fit (no glue) in the mortises. I also made sticks from both ebony and maple, using the maple sticks to get an exact setting before I ran the ebony through my planer. Once the 3/8" plugs fit perfectly, I followed the same procedure to cut the 1/4" square plugs.

An alternative to the friction fit (also known as a press or a tap fit) would be to make the plugs a hair smaller than the mortise and secure them with a drop of poly glue.

Once you've achieved perfect fits, cut each end of your sticks square. Using 220-grit paper, sand a very slight dome on each end. Then put a buffing wheel on your bench grinder and, using some buffing rouge, polish both ends to a nice glossy finish. Slice off a 1/4" thick piece from each end at the band saw. Break the bottom corners of each plug with sandpaper and tap the plug in place with a rubber mallet or a hammer wrapped in cloth. Repeat the whole process until you've filled all 12 mortises.

The 1/4" and 3/8" square ebony plugs add a decorative touch to the mahogany.

Use the Pinup Shop Drawing to make a full-size template from 1/4" hardboard for scribing the top rail shape. There are several sound reasons for making a template here. First of all, it's easier to get lines straight on 1/4" thick material with no grain than it is on a 1" thick piece with grain. It's also a whole lot cheaper to fix mistakes on hardboard or plywood than it is on expensive mahogany. Best of all, if you want to make another mirror, you'll have a template for the most complex part of the project

To make the template, tape a copy of the pattern to your hardboard blank and cut it out on the band saw. Stay just outside the line, then refine the template with files and sandpaper. When you're satisfied with the template, use two-sided tape to attach it to the top rail.

Make this cut with a 1/4" blade in the band saw, staying 1/16" away from the template. Then, with the template still taped to the workpiece, switch to your router and let the bearing on a flush trim bit ride the template as you trim the piece to final size. Take several light cuts to avoid tearout on the end grain, as shown in Figure 2 at right.

The Decorative Plugs

The next step is to cut holes for the decorative plugs (pieces 5 and 6) on the fronts of the rails. The Greene brothers frequently used such plugs to hide screws that held the mortise and tenon joints together. I decided against the screws because they're not needed with today's superior glues. To make the 1/8" deep plug holes, I used my mortising attachment with 1/4" and 3/8" chisels. Just follow the layout shown in the Pinup Shop Drawings. You can now make the matching ebony plugs using the technique described in the sidebar at left.

Cut the stopped and through rabbets for the mirror (piece 7) next. Size the rabbets to the mirror's thickness (mine was 1/4" thick, so I cut 1/4" x 1/4" rabbets). Mill the backs of both large stiles first, then dry-assemble these pieces to the rails. Use the rabbets on the stiles to mark the locations for the corresponding stopped rabbets on the backs of the rails. Make these cuts on the router table (see Figure 3) and square their corners with a sharp chisel.

Sanding and Finishing

To stay true to the Greene and Greene look, I softened all the edges on this piece. Start with 120-grit sandpaper on the decorative stiles — there's no need to use coarser grits first Then use a 1/8" roundover bit in your router table to soften the front edges of the rails and large stiles, making sure the bit's bearing is positioned so it won't run into the plug mortises (see Figure 4 on the next page). Use 120-grit paper to break the outside edges of the back (avoiding the joints) and the top rail's profile where the router couldn't reach. Wrap up this step by finish-sanding all the parts to 280 grit.

Now you are ready to apply a medium reddish brown aniline dye. (For some tips on using aniline dye, see the sidebar on page 70.) Applying the dye now, before assembly, is preferable because it's difficult to get inside those narrow corners after everything is assembled.

A point worth noting is that aniline dye will bleed into some finishes, especially waterbased polyurethane varnish. I used Bartley's Satin Topcoat (after assembly), but you can apply any finish over the dye, as long as you start with two coats of the appropriate sanding sealer.

Figure 2: Final shaping of the rail is completed with a flush trim bit. The bearing rides the template to provide a clean surface. Be careful with the end grain on the curves. Several passes will help eliminate tearout.
Figure 3: To hold the mirror, both rails have stopped rabbets on their back sides. Alignment marks on you fence and rails define the starting and stopping points for these cuts.

Figure 1: For safety reasons it's best to use a jig when cutting tenons vertically like this. It's also a good idea to install a zero-clearance throatplate to keep thin offcuts from slipping down into the blade area.

Aniline Dye Tips

By Mike McGlyini

Mix Jacobean And Ebony

I mixed brown and red aniline dyes for the Greene and Greene mirror, testing different mixtures until I achieved the color I wanted. An alternative would be a pre-mixed medium reddish brown color.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when using aniline dyes:

  1. Using a sponge and some warm water, lightly wet all the surfaces just enough to raise the grain before applying the dye. Then sand lightly with 220-grit paper, just enough to take off all the fuzz.
  2. Keep aniline dye away from mortises and tenons. Because aniline dye is waterbased, the dye won't affect the polyurethane glue that holds these joints together, but it can build up in the joints and could bleed out into the wood later, altering the color.
  3. Mix the powdered dye in warm water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Let the mixture set for an hour so the dye totally dissolves before you apply it.
  4. Aniline dyes have an almost indefinite shelf life, if you store them in airtight containers.
  5. Add a little liquid dish soap — about one teaspoon for each quart of water — to your dye mixture. The soap helps break the surface tension of the water, allowing the dye to fill in all the grain. This is especially helpful when dyeing oak.
  6. Mix and store your dye in plastic or glass containers. Don't use steel containers because they'll rust, changing the color of the dye.
  7. Use a foam brush to apply aniline dye. Wear rubber gloves; aniline dyes will stain your hands.
  8. Before you stain your project, figure out how you're going to set the pieces down after wiping off the surfaces. Rest the tenons of the mirror stiles on some scrap pieces of wood. Rest the back sides of the rails on the points of nails pounded through scrap, as shown above.
Figure 4: When rounding over the outside edges of the rails, make sure the bearing on the bit is positioned to avoid the decorative plug mortises.

Drive several nails up through a piece of scrap to support your workpiece while it dries.

Drive several nails up through a piece of scrap to support your workpiece while it dries.

  1. After you've applied the dye with a foam brush, use a soft, clean, lint-free cotton cloth to wipe the dye off. Wipe off any fingerprints that may end up on the pieces during finishing so that moisture from your skin doesn't cause blotching.
  2. If you apply the aniline dye before you assemble your project, wear thin rubber gloves during the assembly process. Any water, including sweat, that touches the dyed but unfinished surfaces will leave a spot on the wood.

Gluing Everything Together

After the aniline dye dries (at least two hours), glue the parts together. You can't use yellow woodworkers glue with aniline dye because both products are waterbased and they will react with each other, creating a dark line. I've had good success using polyurethane glue. Because it's not waterbased, it won't react with the dye. It's also ideal for gluing dense imported woods, where surface penetration is somewhat restricted. Another advantage to this adhesive is its long open time, which helps reduce anxiety during the clamping process.

After the glue is dry, you're ready to install the mirror. Check your yellow pages for glass suppliers who specialize in mirror glass, and have one of them cut your mirror 1/8" smaller than the opening in the frame. Remember that wood will expand and contract with the seasons, but glass won't.

Install the mirror using at least six tapered retainer pads (pieces 8). You'll also need to use strong picture hangers (pieces 9), as this is a heavy mirror. Finally, attach some cabinet door cushions (pieces 10) to the back to keep the mirror from scratching your walls. ^

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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