In the 1800’s and even before then almost every home had a mirror. The mirror was usually large and either framed and hung like wall art would be or it was a stand up mirror that had a wooden base which rested on the floor. The wooden frames were usually made of cherry, oak, maple or pine. Fancier mirrors were made from chestnut or walnut. Most were stain or varnished.
If you are the lucky owner of one of these types of antique mirrors you may notice that time has taken it’s toll on the wood’s original finish. You can restore the mirror by refinishing it. Like an antique car, refinishing does not decrease the value it actually can raise it.
Prepare the mirror for being refinish using newspaper and painters or masking tape. Place the newspaper over the entire glass surface. Use the painters or masking tape to hold the newspaper in place and to make sure that the glass is covered all the way to the edge of the frame.
To begin refinishing take the mirror outside to your work shop or garage. The first step is to sand. Sanding releases dust and the dust will contain chemicals from the old vanish which could be toxic. Wear a facemask while sanding to avoid inhaling it because it could make you sick.
It is best not to use an electric handheld sander for this project. Mirror frames and stands are not large surfaces. They are narrow and long. The best thing that you can use to sand with is a piece of rough grit sand paper the first time over and a piece of fine grit sand paper for the second sanding. The first time you sand the mirror the rough grit will remove all of the old finish. The second time you sand the fine grit will create a soft, smooth surface for your new finish to adhere to.
Use a dry cloth to dust off the wood. All dust particles must be removed or they will flaw the new finish. Once the wood is clean and dust free it’s time to decide whether or not you want to stain.
Cherry wood, and oak wood and naturally rich in color. So are walnut and chestnut. You can choose not to stain if you like the look and color of the natural wood. If you would like to restore the mirror back to it’s original state you will need to find the exact shade of stain that you removed. The old finish must be replaced with a matching finish. If you want to change the color from it’s original you can, just choose a different color. However, a different color than the original may decrease the value.
Apply the stain using a soft dry cloth. Rub it on in a circular motion the quickly remove all excess using a clean dry cloth. If you are not satisfied with the richness of the color of the stain you can rub on another coat.
When you have finish with the staining it’s time to apply polyurethane. The poly protects the wood from moisture and dirt. Pour polyurethane into a tray, slowly. Do not stir or shake the poly as air bubble will be create and will be transfered to the surface of the wood. Apply the poly using a small foam paint brush. Allow the poly 25 minutes to dry then apply another coat. Let the final coat of poly dry for 24 hours before bringing the mirror back into you home. The tape and news paper can be removed half an hour after the final coat.
The wirror should be washed once it is brough back into your home. Use paper towels and a window cleaner to remove any newspaper ink, dust or fingerprints.