I’m sharing a tutorial today for a DIY sunburst mirror. I’d been scouting for an above-fireplace feature in the family room to replace the old Victorian one we inherited with the house. I didn’t hate the old mirror, but it was a bit squat and it wasn’t making the most of that wall.
I wanted to retain a mirror in that spot to maximise light in the room. East-facing and painted in the deliciously dark Farrow and Ball Hague Blue, the family room needs all the help it can get on that front. But statement sized mirrors don’t come cheap. (As I found out when I tried to find one for the hall and ended up hacking a convex circular mirror from a hardware store.)
I found myself admiring mid-century style mirrors and asking the question that inevitability precedes a trip to B&Q: how difficult could it be to make one?
In truth, I’d say this DIY was about 3/10 on the trickiness scale. On paper, it’s ridiculously simple. In practice there were some fiddly bits. But I’ll give you some tips to avoid the pitfalls that tripped me up.
By far the hardest part was figuring out the pattern and the lengths to cut the dowels to give the right proportions but avoiding unnecessary expenditure. There are lots of tutorials on Pinterest but most of them are from the US and have imperial measurements which won’t match with UK products. Also, you need to know what lengths the dowelling you’re buying comes in, to figure out the best way to divide them.
So, if you’re UK-based and can get to a B&Q, you can copy this exact formula and save (1) yourself the pain of the mental arithmetic and (2) your kids the embarrassment of you blocking off an entire aisle to lay out 2.5 metre long dowels in a circular pattern.
If you’re not in the UK or you can’t get to a B&Q you can still copy these sizes, or else work out your own to best fit your dowel lengths
If your dowels come in 2400 mm lengths like mine from B&Q you need to buy:
6 x 6mm x 2400 mm
2 x 8.5mm x 2400 mm
These should be cut as follows:
12 x 40 cm (8.5mm width dowels) (6 pieces per dowel length)
24 x 34 cm (6mm width dowels) (7 pieces per dowel length)
12 x 30 cm (6mm width dowels) (8 pieces per dowel length)
The cutting station at B&Q might be able to cut these for you. I didn’t ask because I hadn’t figured out my exact lengths while we there. If they can do it for you, it’ll save the biggest bit of the work involved in this project.
My mirror is a 30 cm frameless mirror like this one.
Cotton balls: You’ll need 12 x 20mm balls like these. (Avoid polystyrene which will disintegrate when spray painted.)
Gold spray paint: I recommend Plasticote. I tried another brand first which didn’t work at all, just sinking into the dowelling. Obviously you could use any other colour of metallic or flat paint you like.
- Hot glue gun: like this one.
- Template: I followed a template I found at at Let’s Make it Lovely and I recommend you visit the site and print it off. In A4 format the template prints two-thirds of the circle, but that was enough to be effective.
- Hacksaw (only necessary if you haven’t been able to get them cut to size at the store.
- Snip/cutters (something like this – might not cut the thicker dowels but much quicker than the hacksaw on the thinner ones)
- Picture fixings: Something like these, or whatever you’ve got in the toolbox that you can glue to the back of the mirror.
- If you haven’t been able to get the dowels cut to size in the store, start by cutting all the dowel lengths you need, to the lengths and quantities described above. It’s not critical to be precise on length; there’s scope to compensate at the gluing stage.
- Using a pencil sharpener, sharpen the narrower (shorter) dowels to a point. I enlisted my son’s help here. With an electric sharpener, it was short work.
- Mask off your mirror face in preparation for spray painting.
- Centre the template on the back of the mirror and tape it on. Precision is important here. There’s a way to find the centre of a circle even if you don’t have a compass – google it. Make sure your template doesn’t come within 3cm or so of the edge of the mirror, so you have enough space to glue the dowels directly to the mirror back. Only an idiot would glue the dowels onto the paper. (Yup….)
- Glue your dowels onto the back of your mirror following the template. The template colours indicate the pattern but it’s easy to figure out anyway. It goes long (thicker dowel), medium, short, medium (all thinner dowels) … and repeat. I used a ruler which I lined up along the template line and marked off with the length I wanted each dowel to be from the edge of the mirror, so that I was consistent all the way round despite some variation in the length (sloppy cutting).
- Stick the cotton balls on the ends of the longer, thicker dowels. I pressed them on the dowel end first, to make an indentation. Then I glued them in place with the glue gun.
- Spray paint the dowels. I did a coat on the back and a couple on the front.
- Glue your fixings to the back.
- Unmask the mirror. You’re ready to hang. At this point it got a bit fiddly. It’s difficult to hold the mirror without putting pressure on the dowels which caused a couple of them to unstick. Cue much exasperated sighing from the Houses Husband who as usual on my DIY projects was roped in for the unglamorous difficult bits. But we got there in the end….
I had bought little circle mirrors in a couple of sizes, to decorate the dowels (like Roopina’s over at Let’s Make it Lovely). But when I saw the mirror otherwise finished, I hesitated because it was looking pretty good as it was. I put it to an Instagram poll and a whopping 82% of the lovely people who responded voted to keep it plain. And so it shall be. For now.
Other than under very close inspection, the mirror looks very much the business, indistinguishable from a “proper” one. In total, I spent less than £20 on materials. (I had the mirror and the gold spray already.) And we sold the old mirror for £25. We got a whole new look for our family room and made a profit. DIYs don’t get much better than that. (Please no one burst my bubble by telling me I could have bought a similar one for less!)
Note: I’m proud to be an affiliate of B&Q and Amazon and links to those sites are affiliate ones. You don’t pay any more, but I get a small commission if you buy the products.