In my house we play a lot of board games with friends, but I didn’t have a great space to lay out the larger games we often used. Last year I decided to give our game area an upgrade and build a table sized for large games. Since I was designing and building my own table I wanted to make it something unique, so I decided to add an infinite mirror to the center for additional light and mood. One year later I decided to make a second table with some aesthetic upgrades.
This instructable details how I put together an octagonal table with an embedded infinity mirror that uses RGB LED strips and glass I was fortunate enough to have available. The same principle and schematics can apply to other sized windows and even to other shapes.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
1×6 Oak – 12 ft
1×4 Oak – 20 ft
0.25 x 3.5 pine – 8 ft
0.25 x 3.5 oak – 8 ft
RGB LED strip (1, 10.98 per)
Controllers (2, 5.97 per)
Power Supplies (2, 9.99 per)
Double sided foam backed adhesive (6.99 per 2)
Octagonal cut and ground glass.
Cut mirror glass
Decorative window film – mirrored on both sides (28.99 per 36inx12ft)
Minwax Puritan Pine Stain
Compound miter saw
Biscuit joiner (optional)
Plate Joiner Biscuits
Power drill (with bit set)
Window film application kit
Step 2: Plan of Attack
To begin I spent some time arranging and sizing components in a CAD package. This was an important step because each piece of the table has a similar shape but different actual dimensions. Once the basic pieces were laid out I took some time to head to the local hardware store and take some true measurements of the boards I intended to use. The prints of the individual pieces are shown here. You can see from the prints that the cuts to make the shapes depend heavily on the true dimensions of the wood. Without accurate measurements there will be overhangs or big gaps in the finished product.
I designed this table to be entirely fabricated with a compound miter saw, a power drill, wood glue, and a biscuit joiner. Aside from those tools all that’s needed for assembly is a large space to work, a razor knife, window film application kit, glass cutting roller, and basic soldering tools if you are feeling inclined to do a bit of custom work.
Step 3: Purchase Materials
Its important to spend some time selecting materials you are comfortable with. I have found that big box stores offer a good variety of standard materials but when you want to make something unique often a local lumber yard will be able to provide you with something more interesting. For this project the most important features of the wood are the flatness of the pieces and their appearance for finishing.
Selecting wood that looks best is heavily a matter of personal preference. Everyone has a favorite stain and finish – mine is Minwax Puritan Pine. Because of the finish of this stain I tend to look for boards that contain lines of high contrast which the stain will accentuate.
Take your time selecting pieces. I recommend visiting several stores to find a set of boards that are straight and fit your chosen aesthetic. The more even your boards are the better the final result will be. This step may involve some math to figure out how much wood you need based on the size of the table you want to build.
Acquire your piece of glass. I happened to have an old table with a nice piece of glass that I decided to use when it was retired. There are plenty of other ways to get cut glass as needed and a square is just as valid as an octagon if you prefer an easier task. The first infinity mirror table I made was a square and was a great build to get techniques set on.
I simply got the LED components online (traditional electronics stores are not what they used to be). Again, just be sure to measure your model and materials to get an idea of how much you’ll need. One roll of LED was enough for this particular project, but larger wells will naturally use more length.
Remember to buy local where you can!
Step 4: Confirm and Adjust Your Model
I spent some time after purchasing my materials to adjust my CAD model and triple check the dimensions. Its always a shame to waste material because of a measurement mistake. The drawings included in this Instructable can be modified without CAD by simply subtracting or adding to the existing linear dimensions. The key part of the drawings is that the large angled edge is the same length as the factory short edge of the board. This will make sure that boards end to end will mate properly when assembled.
I included some adjusted drawings here. While purchasing materials I decided that I’d like the well to be a little deeper to give a more impressive effect for the final infinity mirror. I changed the well components from 2.5 inches wide to 3.5 inches wide and updated my drawings to match. For these well components the change didn’t effect the length of the required purchase materials.
I found that the small differences in true dimensions can affect the final product. I tend to work to some fairly close tolerances so I like to get a good idea of all the dimensions of the material. For good measurements simply make sure to use the same scale for all measurements – the same tape measure will provide consistency even if it doesn’t measure perfectly.
Step 5: Cut the Table-top and Rim Boards to Size
Without question this is the most important part of the project. Careful marking and taking your time are essential. I used an adjustable square with a 45 degree edge to mark clear lines on individual boards. Measure, mark, and remeasure until you are satisfied with your sizing. Err on the larger side for each cut if you’re not sure of your sizing.
I HIGHLY recommend using a positive stop where possible so that each piece is as close to the same size as possible. A positive stop can be nearly anything. Most saws have a sliding gate on the backstop which provides a nice place to clamp a piece of scrap wood. Once you line up your first cut add that piece of scrap to the end and clamp it in place.
Most chop saws will have an angle setting. For this project the only angles you’ll need are 45 degree angles, so the settings are pretty easy. Once you cut your first piece compare the edge to your chosen piece of glass. It should be obvious whether or not the wood is properly to size of if you’ve made any mistake. A little longer is better than a little shorter, so bias long if you’re unsure of your measurements.
Once you are confident in your cuts it is a quick matter to cut the remaining pieces.
Step 6: (Optional) Biscuit Joiner!
The biscuit joiner is an excellent tool to attach thin edged components. If you’ve never had the opportunity to use one I recommend getting a few cheap scraps and a few scraps of the material you’ve chosen to practice on. The technique is easy but takes a couple of tries to understand. The most critical parts are to keep your height consistent piece to piece and to make sure the base plate is flat against the work material.
I used the joiner to make slots in the short edges of each of the table top pieces. The joiner plates (biscuits) helped to align the tabletop boards during gluing. Clamp your work piece in place and be sure that your guard has enough material to rest on.
Step 7: Check Your Measurements and Glue the Table Top
I took this time to line up the cut boards around my piece of glass. This let me know if the fit was too tight or too loose and have the opportunity to adjust.
Glue the wide boards end to end including the biscuits using any standard wood glue. Lay the second layer of boards on the table top (assembling up-side-down) with glue between the layers. After adding the glue you can use a ratcheting shipping strap to hold the pieces tightly together while the glue sets.
Use whatever weights you have available (sandbags, lead shot, dumbbells) to apply some pressure to the glue joints as they set. Make sure to glue on a flat surface!
I added the second layer of rim edge after gluing the first down. The method is the same, but the strap I had available wasn’t quite wide enough to hold three layers at once. I finished this layer using some standard wood screws around the rim for extra strength (probably not necessary but I build things to last)
Step 8: Size Your Well Pieces and Cut
The well is the area between the glass and mirror in this infinity mirror (Pink in the CAD image). I recommend waiting to this step to cut the pieces for the well because changes in the table-top can change the desired size for this well. Allowing the inner edge of the well to be slightly smaller than the glass is OK, the design accounts for this with a second layer of wood inside the well (Green in the CAD image).
The cuts for the well components require the use of the “compound” function of a compound miter saw OR simply use a table saw with a tilting blade. Just as before the use of a positive stop and careful measurement is important.
Step 9: Repeat the Use of the Joiner and Glue
Using the joiner in this stage is a bit tricky. The joiner I used had a tilting base plate that let me select the angle of the cut. I adjusted the height of the slot using thin cardboard to give me the position on the board I wanted without having to change settings continually. These biscuits will help keep the boards aligned during gluing.
Again, the use of a shipping strap can make this step a bit easier. The strap is a good method for applying pressure to all the joints simultaneously. Remember to set this on a flat surface and weight the ring so that the edges remain flush.
Step 10: Attach Mounting Blocks to the Well
I added some mounting feet to the well so that it would be easier to attach to the table top. To do this I lifted the well a few inches using some foam and a board – just enough height to fit a power drill in the area. The blocks are made from scrap oak I had, but any wood will work. I used two screws per block (overkill) and gave myself extra hands using some clamps and weights to control the well as I worked.
Step 11: Attach the Well to the Tabletop
Position the well against the tabletop and clamp the well in place. For this step I balanced the tabletop on a couple of sawhorses to give myself space above and below the table. Take your time and pre- drill holes in the blocks before driving screws into place. If you have it available, a countersink can help with this step.
Make sure that your clamps hold the well tightly against the tabletop. Any gaps at this stage will keep for the rest of the build and will ultimately affect the flatness of the final product.
Step 12: Paint the Inner Well Boards
I used a black latex based primer/ paint combination to cover the inner boards. This black coating will improve the look of the final well and make the illusion more pronounced. Simply apply as directed and make sure that if you use a paint that is toxic you do so in a place with plenty of air movement.
Step 13: Screw the Inner Well Boards in Place
Lay the table on a flat surface and insert the glass so that it is flush with the tabletop. This will allow perfect placement of the inner well pieces. These pieces hold up the glass and there should be a seamless transition between tabletop wood and glass. Once the glass is in place you can simply put the inner well pieces in place and clamp them. Once the boards are clamped screws can be placed by eye. The heads can be pained over later so being a little messy at this point won’t hurt you.
Step 14: Cut the Mirror and Install
WARNING – working with glass can be hazardous. Cut glass is very sharp. Glass dust is hazardous to breathe. Glass dust and shards are a hazard to bare feet. Always take proper precautions (gloves, masks, eye protection) when cutting glass. If you don’t feel comfortable with it try to find someone who has worked with stained glass or special mirrors to help you. If you don’t have those kinds of resources I recommend purchasing a cut mirror. The extra expense is worth it to stay safe.
If you choose to cut your own mirror I recommend using a plastic straight edge to steady your path. I also recommend placing the mirror on a supporting mat to keep the pressure even and to make the area easier to clean. Break the corners along a stiff edge and clamp support above the score line to make sure that cracks do not propagate. Glass cutting works best with a single medium score and is very different from methods for cutting other materials.
Once your mirror is cut it should slip easily into the bottom of the well. Cut and add your support pieces (thin layer of wood to hold the edge of the mirror). I added a layer of MDF below the mirror to support it and bring it closer to the bottom of the inner well pieces in order to improve the illusion.
Step 15: Install the LED Strip
Flip the table over and get ready to put the finishing touches on the well. Using the foam backed tape carefully lay out a ribbon around the inner rim of the well to place your LEDs. The height of the strip will affect the final illusion, so if you plan to use a single strip of LEDs place the strip halfway up the inner rim. If you plan to use two strips of LEDs place the first strip ¼ of the width of the inner rim from the glass. Place the second strip ¾ of the width of the inner rim from the glass.
The LEDs I purchased had their own adhesive already on the back. I removed this adhesive using a plastic scraper because I have found that it fails when subjected to continuous heat. The LEDs generate a bit of heat and the well will become a closed and well insulated space, so heat will not dissipate. Once the adhesive is gone apply the LEDs to the tape ribbon. Keep in mind where you will connect the LED controller. I drilled a hole in one of the octagon corners below the tape strips to push the connectors thorough.
Step 16: Apply Reflective Film to the Glass
The best advice here is to watch a video from the manufacturer about how to install this window film. The process takes time and its important to keep the glass clean before applying the coating. I also highly recommend having a friend help you with this step. You need to peel the backing off the film, spray the area with soapy solution, and then lay the film out smoothly. It takes two people to do this easily so bribe a buddy for twenty minutes of help. Smooth out any bubbles and then cut the excess off the glass with a razor knife. I cut about ¼ inch extra in towards the center of the glass to prevent the film from peeling off as I handled the edges of the glass to install it in the table.
This film is designed to be applied to the inside of residential windows. This means that its important to find a film that is reflective on both sides equally. I have run across films that are a mirror on one side and simply a deep tint on the other. Tint films will not work because the mirrored side is designed to be attached to the glass so the film would have to be exposed on top of the table in order for the illusion to work (not great for long term use).
Step 17: Check Your Work!
This is probably the most exciting part of the project. Plug your LEDs in! Turn them on! Bask in the majesty of your hard work! If you’ve followed the steps above what sits in front of you should be a very sturdy and very beautiful optical illusion that will wow pretty much any house guest. From here the only things left are sanding edges, adding legs, and staining the surfaces.
Now is the time to decide what kinds of modifications you’d like to make to the assembly. I personally added some through holes for the LED electrical connections and dressed the wires with black tape to hide them. Feel free to make this project your own here.
Choose a place for your LED remote receiver and test it. On the table I built I put those receivers inside the well with a sight line to the glass. This works well and fits with guests natural inclination to point at the glass to adjust the lights.
Step 18: Tidy Up
Add some legs: I used some cheap pine 2x2s as temporary legs so that I could adjust the height of the table, but you can buy finished table legs at a hardware store. If you prefer a different design I recommend using eight thin boards that have been modified using a table saw (shown in the CAD pictures).
Sand and stain: This is the last and in some ways most important step. The surfaces need to be sanded smooth and then sealed and stained to your preference. Follow manufacturer’s directions for the sealant and stain. Prepare your surfaces by sanding away any wood glue evidence, splinters, and sharp corners. Finish with 400 grit sandpaper or finer to get a nice feel to the final product. Add your stain and sealant to protect the table from errant spills or dirty fingers. I recommend testing your chosen stain on a scrap piece from your earlier cutting.
Tidy up: After all your cuts, gluing, assembly, and staining what you’ll have left is a very beautiful table with several wires hanging out of the bottom. Power supplies and extension cords can be hidden under the table top behind the rim. Use of more foam tape can make this job quick and easy.
Step 19: Blow Someone’s Mind
Everyone I’ve had over since building my first table has been totally enthralled with the infinity mirror. Play with it, tweak it, and make it perfect for you. Show your friends and let them play too. Every good project is only as good as the joy it brings by sharing it!