Project Day: Sunburst Mirror from a Jack Daniels Barrel

img_0413-00000002So before you ask, no, I did not finish off this whiskey barrel in order to use it.  Lowes actually had the barrels on sale last summer and I bought some to use as planters around the yard.  Several in the pile were falling apart so I convinced them to sell them to me for $5 each.  Score!

As often happens, I get smitten with some sort of unique raw material but don’t know exactly what to do with it.  The more-intact ones I used as planters, but that left me with several barrels worth of slats, round bases and rusty iron rings.  I’m not sure exactly when the mirror inspiration hit, but once it did I was obsessed.

So I had a vision, but as with most of my visions I had no idea how to actually execute it.   Luckily, always-game interns (at the time) Fallon and Andrew were up for a project day, and they helped me work out the details.

After spending countless hours figuring out the measurements, several trips to the store and sorely-tested patience of my loyal friends, we finally produced the masterpiece.  I share the process with you here so that our sweat and tears will not be wasted.

Here are some pictures, see detailed instructions below.

You’ll Need:

  • 19 slats from a whiskey barrel
  • Polyurethane and a paintbrush
  • An iron ring from the barrel
  • A piece of plywood a little bigger than the ring
  • one yard of burlap or other fabric
  • 40 sturdy screws*
    • We first used some screws we had laying around, but quickly realized that they were going to be very visible and were worthy of some thought. So we found some interesting screws and replaced them.
  • Wood glue
  • 2 yards of rope
  • Screw eyes and picture  hangers
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • Circular saw with a sharp blade

The Process:

  • First things first. In order to get the characteristic smokey flavor of Jack Daniel’s, the barrels are charred on the inside.  This means that they are a sooty mess.  Coat the back of the slats with poly so they don’t schmutz up your hands and the walls when you hang the finished product.
  • Measure a circle on a piece of ½ -inch plywood using the small iron ring as a guide.
  • Cut out the circle with a jigsaw, and cover with burlap or another material.
  • Glue the mirror in the middle of the board.
  • Arrange your slats around the mirror; they’re different widths so mix them up a bit.
  • Mark where the screws need to go; we did 2” and 4” from the inside.
  • Before you remove them…NUMBER THE SLATS, and also where to start on the circle.  You really don’t want to try to figure out how you originally arranged them when you try to put them back on.
  • Remove the slats and pre-drill holes for the screws.  Oak is really tough!
  • Re-assemble and attach the slats with the screws.
  • Then lay the small ring over the slats, centering over the plywood circle below.  The ring is slightly concave, so make sure you use the same side as you did when measuring the circle.
  • Mark the inside and outside of the ring directly on to the slats.
  • Remove the slats and use a circular saw on a 1/4 –inch setting to cut right between the lines you’ve marked to make a groove.
    • This part is actually pretty hard.  If you’re not super-proficient with the circular saw it might be worth calling on a handy friend to help with this.
  • Reattach the slats (aren’t you glad you marked them?).
  • Try fitting the ring in the groove, if it doesn’t fit then you’ll need to widen it a bit.
  • Once it fits, put a bead of wood glue in each groove and set the ring in.  Put something heavy on top of the ring to hold it in there and let it set for an hour or two.
  • Glue a piece of rope to the inside edge to finish it off.
  • Add hooks and wire to the back to hang.

And Voila!  You’re done, ready to bask in the compliments.  Let us know how it goes if you try it!

* I do not approve of screws that are anything other than standard (one slot) or Phillips.  For heaven’s sake, we literally have 12 screwdrivers in different sizes just to accommodate these two. Why do we also need square, and hex?  If someone can explain to me why these are necessary I will stop complaining, in the meantime I steadfastly maintain that they are just invented to sell more screwdrivers; kind of like printer ink.  I whine because the screws we found had a silly square slot that necessitated a new drill bit.

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