MATERIALS: Wood Boards, 1/8” Glass Mirror, 1/8” Plywood, Wood Glue, Misc. Adhesive, Hanger Brackets, Drywall Anchors, Finish: Stain, Oil, or Clear Coat
TOOLS: Lots of different tools. Please skim the following steps and see if you can substitute my tools for what you already own.
TIME: 2-3 days to build the honeycombs depending on how many, plus 2-3 days to stain and finish (and wait to dry), plus 1 half day to hang.
GOAL: To put together a hexagon shape from six pieces of wood with a groove in the back, stick on a mirror and plywood backer, and hang the assembly with hanger brackets.
1) PLAN YOUR SHAPE:
I recommend making these hexagons with side lengths between 5 and 9 inches and depths between 2.5 and 6 inches. (I made one that had 11-inch sides and over 7-inch depth. That’s too big.) For this project, I built six honeycomb shelves in a variety of different sizes.
2) CLEAN THE WOOD:
I used 5/4 White Oak boards from the hardwood supplier. 5/4 boards are a little over an inch thick and I wanted the edges to look pretty solid for the size of the hexagon. 4/4 or 3/4 wood seemed too thin. The boards I bought were not perfect, though, so I needed to plane and sand the wood first.
3) RIP THE BOARDS TO WIDTH
Decide how deep you want each shelf to be and rip the boards to width with a table saw (or circular saw). I recommend choosing depths of 2.5 inches to 6 inches.
4) CARVE THE GROOVE
With my router in the router table and a 1/2 inch straight bit, I carved out a groove for the back of the shelf where the 1/8” glass mirror and 1/8” plywood will go. (Make the cut in several passes, it’ll be easier than forcing through a deep cut.) The depth of the groove (from the back face) should be about 1/4.” The width (from the inside faces)should be big enough to rest a mirror without it falling through, but less than half the width of the wood, because you’ll need space for the hanger bracket holes.
5) CUT THE WOOD TO SHAPE
Set the miter saw to 30 degrees to cut the six pieces of each hexagon. There should be a 60 degree angle on each end of the piece. Getting this angle perfect is imperative. It’s worth it to do a test cut first and measuring, or assemble one shelf and then make adjustments as needed.
To prevent the miter saw from tearing out the wood through the back, use a scrap piece of wood behind the cut. Make sure the scrap piece touches the fence on both sides of the gap.
I struggled to find a good system to clamp the wood when I had a short piece to cut. I tried everything I had. Perhaps you will find a system that works for you. The important thing is that the wood does not shift, move, or lift off the table when you’re cutting.
You may also be able to make the same cut using a table saw or another tool.
Before glueing up the assembly, I pre-finished the exposed faces with Teak Oil. This is to repel the eventual glue squeeze-out. It worked well. Any finish that I apply after that should be oil-based. Do not finished the faces where the glue will go, but do finish inside the groove where the mirror will go. I noticed afterwards, that you can see inside the groove in the mirror’s reflection.
7) GLUE, THEN STRAP IT TOGETHER
Apply glue to the edges, create a rough hexagon shape, and slowly tighten a ratchet strap around. These ratchet straps cost me $15 for 4 straps at Home Depot. There are more expensive straps out there, but cheap ones work fine. Straighten out the edges and measure across from corner to corner to get the hexagon even. Wipe the glue squeeze-out as you go along with moist paper towel. Leave the assembly to dry for a few hours or a day.
8) SAND AND FILL
When the assembly is dry, sand the outer faces and front face and check for gaps. If there are gaps, you may want to fill them with wood filler in a matching color, which will require time to dry. Always good to test the color first.
9) DRILL HANGER BRACKET HOLES
I purchased 3 inch by 1/4 inch hanger brackets from Rockler Woodworking. You can also find these in a hardware store in the specialty hardware bins, but their stock is thin. Better to buy the eight-packs from Rockler (in store or online).
The hanger bolts can go almost anywhere in the back, but I chose to place two of them, one at 10 o’clock and the other 2 o’clock, approximately.
I used a doweling jig to get a centered, straight hole. But that’s because I don’t have a drill press yet. A plunge router might work. The important thing is to make the hole perfectly straight down.
10) CUT THE PLYWOOD
Place the hexagon on a sheet of 1/8” plywood and trace inside the groove with a pencil. Cut out the shape with any tool you like, keeping within the pencil line. Doesn’t need to be perfect. I used a jigsaw and made sloppy cuts.
11) CUT THE MIRROR
Place the hexagon on a piece of 1/8” glass mirror. You may align one of the inside edges with a finished edge to save a cut. Trace inside the groove with a marker, but don’t mark the wood.
Cut along the lines, but make sure that the final piece is not bigger than the space you’re putting it in. Err on the small side.
You will need a glass cutting tool, which can be purchased at a hardware store for $5.
To cut the mirror, place a non-slip straightedge along the line. I used a wide wood board, but a ruler with cork backing is fine. Dip the cutting tool in lubricating oil, and score a line. Start with the cutting tool close to your body, push down hard on the thumb press part of the tool, and score one straight line all the way across, keeping pressure throughout.
DO NOT RETRACE THE LINE!!!!! This will screw up the snap.
Then place the scored line over a dowel, take a deep breath, and press down on both sides of the line. It should snap straight. If it doesn’t maybe you can nip at it with pliers, but it’s probably a good idea to just practice a few more times on scrap pieces. I went through double the amount of material I thought I’d need, but by the end I was snapping all six sides without screwing up.
12) FINISH THE WOOD
Resist the urge to install the mirrors, and finish the wood first with desired coats of oil, stain, or polyurethane. This may take days. I sanded with 600 grit sandpaper after the polyurethane dried for a satin smooth finish.
13) PUT IT TOGETHER
Clean the mirror with glass cleaner, and place it inside the groove. Squeeze caulk around the edges to hold everything in place. Clear caulk works well because it’s flexible, dries in 30 minutes, and is clear when dry. Any kind of adhesive that holds its shape and is somewhat flexible would work.
Then stick the plywood on the back.
14) HANG THE SHELVES
Finally. Create a loose layout for how you want to hang these shelves. You may need the flexibility later on. I started with the big one in the middle and worked my way out.
Draw a level line on the wall with a pencil where you want either the top or bottom of the hexagon to land.
Next, stick the hanger bolts into the holes in the back of the shelves to use to mark the walls. However, instead of trying to mark the walls with long bolts that can move around, I bought two shorter bolts of the same diameter from the hardware store, and used those to mark the wall instead. Shorter bolts will make a more accurate mark.
Line up the hexagon to the pencil line and press the assembly into the wall, making impressions with the pointy ends of the shorter bolts.
Drill holes into the wall at the marks and place anchors inside. Pick a drill bit that seems too small for the anchor size. It will create a tighter fit, which is important because there will be a lot of pushing and pulling and we don’t want to lose the anchor inside the wall or rip it out. (I did this several times.) Also, choose the green anchor with ribs, not the blue smooth ones.
Sometimes when drilling the hole, you may hit a stud, or worse, the side of a stud. If you want to use the anchor, still, widen the hole behind the drywall to make space for the anchor.
Tap the anchors into the wall and screw the long bolts into the anchors, pointy side in, using pliers. Make sure to keep he bolts perfectly perpendicular to the wall.
Slip the assembly onto the bolts. If it doesn’t slide in, the holes are probably too small and can be widened. Be careful of the glass mirror though, when attempting to cut a bigger hole. Or, the bolts are not aligned, in which case, you may be able to straighten them out. If the bolts are grossly misaligned, then you may need to pick a new spot and start over.
Lastly, if the shelf sticks out a little bit because the collars of the anchor stick out where you mounted the shelf, then you can stick a rubber or cork bumper on the low side to even it out.