Say what you want, my frame is better than the old paddle
I have just spent almost a year making a frame for a mirror, and I think I'm almost done.
It was late last summer when The Other Person Who Lives At Our House (TOPWLAOH) told me what she wanted me to do with the old beveled family heirloom we've had out in the garage for the last few years.
She wanted a wooden frame put around it so it could be hung on a peculiar little wall that you look at when you walk down the stairs in our house.
She not only described the frame in such detail that even I, with my underdeveloped little brain, could visualize what she meant, but she also mentioned that she had seen a perfect example of what she wanted at the Bridgeport Village Crate and Barrel store. So even though I could picture it perfectly, I drove over there last fall, hunted up a parking space and went in and found it and stared at it for a long, long time.
It was, of course, beautiful, no doubt built by a highly skilled craftsman. And I could tell right away that I could never make something that good.
Now, I don't say this just to get your sympathy or to prompt people to give me encouragement. I have always been unhandy. In freshman wood shop class, when we were assigned to build a pipe rack for our dads, mine was so bad I ended up turning in a wooden paddle instead.
And it was a truly stupid wooden paddle, small and kind of thick.
This is not genetic, though. My brothers built amazing stuff in wood shop - things like gun cabinets and waterbeds. And they went on to build even more amazing things after they got out of school. My youngest brother, Casey, built tables so fancy they remain today in the entrances of fine hotels in Honolulu and in his current position even helped build museum-quality furniture and exhibits.
Eventually, I went to Home Depot and bought molding for my mirror frame. I was promptly informed it wasn't good enough, so I took it back. On a later trip to Home Depot, I bought some 1-by-4 boards with a pattern carved into them. They were deemed acceptable.
Now, I puzzled over this frame for weeks and weeks - until those weeks turned into months. I had no intention of making a frame so sturdy it would support the 40- or 50-pound mirror I was attempting to enclose. And the reason was the mirror already had a perfectly good, strong wire attached to its back, meaning I didn't have to hang the thing by the frame, just make it look good.
Let me take a moment here to explain that there is a long list of handyman tools and gadgets that I do not have. These include a table saw, saw horses, a router and any kind of clamps. I do have Elmer's Glue, a hammer and a handsaw.
Because I knew I needed to cut my frame pieces at 45-degree angles, I borrowed my friend Kevin's miter saw. Not an electric one, of course, but the kind you yank back and forth until you're blue in the face and sore in the shoulder.
By late winter, I had the frame measured and cut and the saw returned to Kevin's house.
I think spring was approaching when I finally worked up enough nerve to glue and nail my frame pieces together. To create a resting place in the back of the frame, I screwed plain 1-by-3 boards flush with the outside edge of the front pieces. This artificially made a hole for the huge piece of glass to fit into.
For the next several weeks, I painted - first a coat of white primer, then three coats of black paint. This, of course, took until well after Easter.
While the actual building was going on, I was awake nights pondering how to get this monstrosity to stay on the wall, knowing it had nothing but sheetrock to support it. I finally found what I needed, at a frame shop: a big gold hook mounted on a molly bolt-type thing that once you screw it into a hole in the wall it flips the inner part sideways and pulls it up tight to the inside of the drywall.
Of course, I broke the first one by hitting it with a hammer, so I went back for a second one.
It did work, though, and once the paint was dry and the mirror screwed into place with some brackets, I persuaded TOPWLAOH to help me with the lifting, and we wrestled the 30- by 40-inch mirror up onto the wall above the stairs.
It didn't fall off or anything. In fact, it looked great. Almost as good as the one at Crate and Barrel.
'I don't really like it there,' said TOPWLAOH. 'Maybe on that wall there?' she posed, pointing at the end of the upstairs hallway.
I've already been back to the frame store, for another one of those nifty gold hooks. Next weekend we plan to take the monster down and move it. I assume we'll then be done.
Meanwhile, say what you want, the mirror turned out way better than my wooden paddle.
Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.