In the June 2018 Issue of Popular Woodworking, I wrote an article on building the Blacker Entry Mirror. While I was writing it, a funny thing happened. I got a little carried away. For those that know me, they understand that “going all the way” or “jumping into the deep end” isn’t all that unusual for me. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm for anything I do. So, when it came to putting the article together on the Blacker Mirror, I naturally took it a few steps further.
Normally an eight-page article would need around 2400 words and a few dozen photos. Working on it for five weeks, I took a different approach to writing it. I wrote it as if I was teaching a two-day class on the project — which I’ve done several times. You go into a lot of detail in a class that you couldn’t do in an article. The result was a rough manuscript of over 8,500 words, and 1,300 photos taken. Obviously, that’s way too much for an eight-page print article. So, I cut it way back and submitted it. The result was the article you see.
But, after completing the piece, I started to think that all extra work might be useful to Popular Woodworking readers who wanted even more information to help them build their own mirrors. After all, I wrote it as if I was teaching a class, so why not take the extended version I created and turn it into something else, entirely. Though print publications always have to deal with space limitations and deadlines, online and electronic versions don’t have to think about either.
With that I mind, I made a decision to edit my original manuscript down a little and add additional photos and drawings to create a new version of the Blacker Mirror project. But, there was no conventional way to package it.
My background is in design and being comfortable with most professional design and publishing tools, I set out to create a special template that combines features from both print publishing and electronic publishing. It’s a kind of a hybrid electronic book or “eBook”. It can be printed out in regular page form if that’s what you prefer or viewed and used electronically on computers, tablets or smartphones.
The result is a 54-page electronic edition of the article called: The Complete Guide to Building the Blacker Entry Mirror. It’s in PDF format so it can be downloaded and printed out if you’d like. But, I suspect that because of length, a number of readers will just read it on their electronic devices. As an aid, there are a few hyperlink navigation tools embedded to help you find your way around the long article on your phone, tablet or computer. I’ve checked it out on my iPhone and it works.
The contents of the extended version are arranged in more of a step-by-step format as the article was originally written. And, there are many more detail photos and captions to go along with the copy. In addition to the extended version, I created a downloadable PDF of the mirror parts on a grid that you can print out on a printer to make your own templates by hand. By using the tiling feature common to printers, you can print out overlapping pages you can splice together to make a full-size print of the mirror’s main parts. By spray gluing it onto a piece of 1/2” MDF, you could band saw close to the line and using rasps and files to smooth out the lines before removing the paper.
For those that crave even more woodworking details, I created a CAD file in standard DXF format of all the mirror parts and plus the design details needed to make all the jigs. All these are downloadable, here. With either, you could use a CNC or go to a CNC service to machine super-accurate patterns of the mirror parts. Patterns help. In my quest for students to build perfect mirrors, I always include them in my classes.
Putting together The Complete Guide to Building the Blacker Entry Mirror on a whim was a bit crazy, even for me. Yes, it took an insane amount of time, but if the extended version is helpful to readers and the results are that a lot of people start making Blacker Entry Mirrors and giving them away as gifts, it will be worth the effort. I’ve done my part. Now it’s your turn. Show me what you got.
What’s next? With all the work involved creating the new format and template, it would be a shame for this to be a one-time thing. Looking ahead, I’m working on for a radical new workbench design that will debut in a Popular Woodworking article later next year. It will be quite a project with many new features, details, options and more. That sounds like the perfect place to try it again.
Blacker Mirror Classes
Note: Due to a scheduling conflict, the previously announced fall Blacker Mirror class at BARN has been canceled.