Cherry Folding Mirror Vanities - Matched Set

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Project by Mike_D_S posted 12-21-2015 08:21 PM 610 views 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I originally started on these as gifts for my daughters 3 years ago. They are cherry vanities of my own design roughly based on a picture my wife downloaded from the web as an example.

Due to several factors including a job change and the relative difficulty of this project, these were in storage for a 3 years. I’ve actually pulled them out several times and worked on them but due to different life events and construction challenges, I would end up putting them away again. Life has finally settled down and I had more or less sorted out the design failures so I decided to push forward and finish them before Christmas.

These started out as a request from my wife for the girls to use. She had pulled up a picture on the internet to show me generally what she wanted. I used that picture as a guide a drew up some plans on graph paper. I’m still consider myself at a modest skill level, but when I designed these it’s fair to say my skill with a pencil was much greater than my skill with a saw. Things like practical joinery, drawer design, etc, were just not things I thought much about early on. I roughed out the major dimensions, sketched in some ‘here there be monsters’ areas where I knew there would be future challenges and got busy cutting wood.

The entire process was a huge learning curve and for much of the time it was a definite two steps forward, 1 step back experience.

Some major things I learned:
1. I chose cherry as I had only worked in oak and pine up to that point. Cherry is nice to work, but you can burn it fairly badly if you aren’t careful. Sanding out the burns without leaving a noticeable spot is not so easy.

2. Hand cut mortise and tenons make up most of the case joinery. Strong stuff but along the way I became an expert at scabbing patches into too wide mortises and too narrow tenons. My cutting to a line skills are still not exactly awe inspiring, but I can now fake it fairly convincingly.

3. If you are going to install drawers, then you need to leave some volume inside the case for runners, slides or other mounting hardware. Failing to do so creates some unique challenges if you don’t want your drawers to simply fall on the floor. I ended up making a set of sliding dovetail guides for the drawers. I give them a 6 out of 10 for fit, but waxed and sanded, they work pretty well.

4. Pay attention to the grain for more than how pretty it looks. I ended up making the tops for these twice. Between warped tops and mistakes on my part I ended up ruining the first set of tops.

5. Folding mirrors look simple, but not so much in practice. Getting the mirror framed into the top section, getting the hinges mounted with even gaps and a number of other challenges along the way made this finicky and very frustrating.

6. Finishing is part art and part science. I had originally started out wanting to leave the vanities as natural cherry, but the girls both asked for stain. In hindsight, I should have insisted on the natural finish, but I gave in and let them pick a stain. I now understand why people insist that cherry should be natural. The finish looks good now, but it felt like the finish work took as long as the construction sometimes. One of the tops I had to sand down to bare wood due to a blotchy finish due to my mistake in application. At the end, the color is beautiful and the cherry figure it still highly visible. Most importantly, the girls love the color.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty good. The lessons I learned have certainly made me a better woodworker.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

3 comments so far

View endgrainy's profile


234 posts in 1306 days

#1 posted 12-22-2015 02:04 AM

Great job! I love the tapered legs and the functionality of the piece(s). I think the finish looks awesome.

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View david38's profile


2365 posts in 1761 days

#2 posted 12-22-2015 02:00 PM

nice work

View tnwood's profile


247 posts in 2504 days

#3 posted 12-23-2015 01:35 PM

Nicely done and a great design. I’ve pulled projects from storage after 6-7 years and finished them. I wasn’t being persistent, just frugal.

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