Here's another peek at the finished product from my bedroom makeover, although of course you can use these instructions to age any kind of mirror.
So. You will need:
- cheap mirrors (Ours are 12X12 plain-edged squares, available in a 6-pack at Home Depot for $9.99) Buy extra, just in case.
- paint stripper, any brand (about $10 for a quart, which is more than enough)
- mineral spirits
- Pure muriatic acid, available at pool supply stores (less than $10 a gallon)
(Some tutorials try to avoid using this stuff, but trust me, it's the cheapest and most effective option.)
- plastic spray bottles
- Safety equipment: heavy rubber gloves, goggles, and face masks, if you have them
To begin, we'll be removing the the backing on our mirrors using that paint stripper:
Pour out a big glob and brush it around with a disposable chip brush or rag:
Your paint backing might start to bubble up immediately, or it might stay kind of streaky even after several minutes. Even in the same packs of mirrors, we saw a lot of variation:
See how the one in the center is hugely bubbled up, and some of the others look crackled like alligator skin, but others just looks streaky? I don't know why it does that. But no worries; that just means some of the backings will come off a bit easier than others.
It's very important that you not scratch the backs of your mirror, so remove the stripped paint as gently as possible:
Once all the gunky bits are off, pour a little mineral spirits on your mirror and wipe off the rest of the residue with some paper towels:
When you're done, your mirror should be equally reflective on both sides - so be careful not to get the back and front mixed up. (The easiest way to tell? Press your finger to one side of the glass. If there's a space between your finger and its reflection, that's the front. The back will have no space.)
Again, there's a lot of variation among mirrors - even from the same manufacturer - so some might still have a bit of residue and streakiness after you're done removing the backing. Some might even have a gold film, like the one on the extreme left up there. THAT'S OK. Remember, we're aging these suckers, so we can chalk any imperfections up to "character."
Ok, your mirrors are clean! TIME FOR THE SUPER DANGEROUS FUN STUFF.
First, gear up like you're cosplaying the guys from Breaking Bad. Then clear yourself a workspace outside or in a well-ventilated garage. Next, when you're ready, pour some muriatic acid into your plastic spray bottle:
Now, here's the thing about muriatic acid: it eats through stuff. That's good for our mirror backing, which we're TRYING to beat up, but bad for that plastic bottle you just poured the acid into. Don't worry; it's not going to eat through your bottle and start dripping all over your toes or anything, but it WILL destroy the spray nozzle innards in about, oh, 20 or 30 minutes, give or take. SO GET MOVING. (If you have a lot of mirrors to do, like we did, then buy extra bottles. We went through 3 or 4 bottles for about 24 mirrors.)
After a lot of trial and error, here's the best method we found for applying the acid. Please, learn from my frustration:
1) Spray a light, even mist of acid onto the entire mirror
2) Immediately wipe that mist around with a paper towel
3) Wait a few seconds, and then spray on heavy, irregular splotches of acid however you like
4) When your splotches turn transparent (usually within a minute or two), rinse the entire mirror with water. (I recommend using the garden hose.)
Those first two steps are crucial for removing any last bits of mineral spirits or stripper still clinging to the back of your mirror. If you DON'T do them, here's what your mirror will look like after you apply your acid splotches:
And here's the mirror AFTER those first two steps, and with the bigger acid splotches applied:
The acid application is where your artistic side comes in; you can add as much or as little as you like, but try to keep it random and somewhat natural looking. The edges tend to wear first on antique mirrors, so concentrate your sprays there - but don't be afraid to add some huge patches wherever; randomness is your friend.
Also, remember that with those spray bottles a hard squeeze gives you a nice even mist, while a weak squeeze will dribble out big splotchy areas. Experiment a bit; you'll soon get the hang of it.
Here are our acid-splotched mirrors reflecting the sky - which is why they look so black-and-white.
And here they are reflecting the garage:
John and I spent two nights stripping & spraying our 20+ mirrors, since it was too hot to work during the day in August. We set up big construction lights in the driveway, geared ourselves up like meth-making cray-crays, and sprayed clouds of acid all over the front yard at 2 o'clock in the morning. (The neighbors love us. Honest.)
So now you've got a bunch of splotchily transparent mirror panels. Time to replace the paint backing!
Now, here's the thing: every tutorial out there will tell you to paint your mirror backs black. BO-RING. I say, have fun with it! Experiment with different colors! Like, you know, brown. :D (In all seriousness, I've seen a gold & fuchsia backing on aged mirrors that was TO DIE FOR.)
Actually, after a lot of experimenting, here's what I did:
First, I sprayed gold (yes, GOLD) spray paint randomly in small sections on all of my mirrors:
This results in a slightly warmer, sparklier, and less severe finish than straight black paint would give you:
See the gold speckles? Again, subtle, but quite nice in the light.
And with that, your mirrors are done!
Now here's how we (or rather John) built the actual wall panels:
First, figure out your sizing. (Actually, you should really do this before anything else, so you know how many mirrors to age. So, go back in time and do that.) We used large butcher paper to help us visualize the panel size on our walls:
We glued our mirrors down using construction adhesive (aka Liquid Nails):
Again, there's a gap between the mirrors and the slightly raised edges. Why? Because the decorative trim wood we applied next covers that gap perfectly, just barely overlapping the mirrors:
This is actually a finished shot, after we painted the trim. John installed the trim using ultra-tiny furniture nails (with no head) and a pin-nailer, and then we taped off the mirrors and painted the trim with my favorite chrome spray paint:
Once we finished peeling off that painters tape, it was just a matter of adding super heavy-duty hanging hardware (with short screws, of course - don't go cracking your mirrors!) to the back, and hanging each panel in place on our walls:
And there you have it: two antiqued mirrored wall panels for about, oh, $100 in materials. SHINY.
I hope this helped someone out there, and as always, link me up with pics in the comments should you decide to try this yourself, guys!
Oh, and Happy Friday!
(For my Pinterest peeps.)
Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!
Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!