Mirror, mirror on the wall (of the thrift store)

Never discount the quality, worth, or worthiness of an object because of its physical location. Ever.

This is a mirror picked up by a friend of mine at a local thrift store:


The starting point.


Another look.

As you can see, not the prettiest of specimen, but it has a hidden secret behind the out of date style, funky floral flair and matronly stance. Just wait and see what it is.

The first step in refinishing a piece of furniture is to do your homework.  You don’t want to be the guy who refinishes a Stradivarius, do you?  With no maker’s marks on the outside, I proceeded to the next step, to carefully disassemble and take pictures for reassembly.  Here is what I found on the back of the glass mirror:


The back of the mirror is stamped “Donnelly Kelley Glass Company – Holland, Michigan January 24, 1935”

Going back to step 1 with this new information, here is what I found out:

The Donnelly Corporation was founded by Bernard P. Donnelly in 1905 in Holland, Michigan, as a manufacturer of mirrors for the then-thriving Michigan furniture industry. Founded as the Kinsella Glass Company, the company was later renamed the Donnelly-Kelley Glass Company. Donnelly’s main products in the early years were engraved mirrors for use on furniture as well as freestanding engraved wall mirrors. These ‘art’ mirrors, featuring scenes from nature as well as ornate decorative motifs, became very popular for home furnishings through the early part of the century and, as a result, Donnelly’s business flourished. The engraving of the mirrors was done primarily by hand, but the precision grinding and polishing that this craftsmanship required formed the basis for much of the glass technology that Donnelly would later develop. Being in business in Michigan during the 1920s meant watching the phenomenal growth of the American automobile industry. Although decorative mirrors remained the core of its business, Donnelly also jumped on the automobile bandwagon and began production of rear windows for touring cars.  Today, the company, now named Donnelly Corporation, produces windows and glass for automobiles.

A rich, albeit not very valuable, history to be sure.  This new information made it possible to continue with the refinishing.  And we are off!

Organized disassembly with a limited number of tools and personal protection equipment (PPE).


Removed the mirror CAREFULLY, cleaned and stored it in a safe location to be reinstalled later.  The frame was sanded down to remove the old finish and paint (the top portion was painted).  The new owners wanted a yellow stain, so I went with Mirawax Natural Stain.

The most difficult part of the refinishing was getting the paint and stain out of the flourishes in the frame.  It turns out the Dremel is handy, but not for sanding because it takes out divots in the wood, even on the lowest speed.  Nope, this was a job for hand sanding.  Don gloves and stretch out your arm muscles for the job because it’s going to be a long haul.

After the stain was all removed and the new stain applied, I thought it would benefit from glazing.  For those of you who don’t know, glazing is the art of faux finishing which adds age by darkening the low spots simulating age and use.

Here’s how it goes: apply the glaze.  Wait a couple minutes, then wipe down the massive excess with a wet paper towel.  Wait ten to fifteen minutes and then wipe off the undried glaze.  Glaze adds age with the exact opposite ease and quickness of Oil-of-Olay.  Let’s just say, dark wrinkles look good on furniture.


Glazing the stained frame.

After glazing the frame, it’s onto protection which means polyurethane.  This time I used a spray-on because of the ease of it mostly.  Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just simpler to spray it on in four easy coats.

The coats of poly are dry, time to reassemble, step back and gaze upon the finished product. This old girl is lovely!


This entry was published on September 8, 2014 at 9:19 pm and is filed under Construction. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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