In the mid 18th-century, looking glasses became a regular part of home decoration. Some of the wealthiest families showed at least one, and sometimes two, looking glass per room. Back then, however, looking glasses were for more than simply reflecting one’s face. Homes during the period also had looking glasses hung to better reflect light – candles, as you may know, were the light-bulbs of the day.
Known as Chippendale, although the majority of which were built during the Queen Anne period of furniture history, fretwork looking glasses have a classic overall design. There’s the cresting located above the mirror frame, an apron found below the frame, and four ears, one placed at each of the frame corners – sometimes the ears fit to the cresting and apron, while other times they fit exactly at the frame corners.
In building this fretwork looking glass, we take a few liberties when it comes to construction. Each of those liberties, at least in the authors opinion, are improvements, and most likely would be accepted by makers of the day if their understanding of wood movement were as keen as ours. And if they were subjected to the fluctuations in humidity levels that we experience in modern times, I’m sure construction changes would have been common, everyday building methods.
Construction adjustments you’ll discover during this project include:
- a two-piece frame design in which the back section uses half-lap joints – a major upgrade in construction
- laminated pine substrates made from quartersawn materials for a highly stable backer
- veneer work on both faces of the cresting and apron (ears are cut from solid stock)
Plus, you’ll learn three different methods you can use to cut your fretwork, each with a brief explanation, guidelines for blade selection and few general tips to help make the technique work its best. The choice is up to you based on your type of woodworking and what tools or machines you have at your disposal.
My hope is that you’ll learn something new to add to your woodworking skill set.
A downloadable Plan Packet (complete with front view, exploded view, full-size patterns and cut list) and a 15-page PDF of Step Photos with Captions are found within the lessons.