How to make a mirror with light bulbs

Updated February 21, 2017

The classic Hollywood lighted make-up mirror works equally well over a vanity or a bathroom sink. You will need to choose a mirror with a wide, flat wooden frame, preferably a square or rectangle, to mount the lights to.The simplest method is with a string of low wattage party lights which can be plugged in. These lights are similar to Christmas lights, with slightly larger, round clear bulbs. Your mirror can then be installed on any wall with a plug and the installation requires no assistance from an electrician, since the party lights are already wired and ready for use.

Cut four pieces of 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) timber -- two to the same height as your mirror frame, two to the width. Mitre both corners of each piece at a 45 degree angle, one right and one left, to form a trapezoid. Make the cuts with the timber on its narrow edge.

Glue the mitred ends of the 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) pieces together to form a rectangle or square the same size as the outside of your mirror frame. Use a pin nail gun with 3.1 cm (1 1/4 inch) nails to drive two nails into each joint. Stain or paint the 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) timber structure to match the mirror frame and nail it to the back of the frame, with all four edges flush with the outside of the frame.

Remove the bulbs from the party lights and store them safely. Count the number of lights. Calculate how many lights will go on each side of the frame to make them evenly spaced around the edge of the frame. Typical party light strings feature ten 2.5 cm (1 inch) round bulbs, so three lights on each long side and two on the short sides of your mirror will work well.

Use a tape measure to mark evenly spaced spots for each bulb. Center them in the frame from inside to outside so that the bulbs are in the middle of the wooden frame. Measure the bulb fittings. They are typically 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) across. Drill a hole for each bulb in the marked spots using a sharp 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) paddle bit.

Fit a bulb socket into each hole from the rear of the mirror. Start at one lower corner. Install the bulb nearest the plug end of the string first, leaving as much cord as possible free for plugging the mirror in. Fit each socket into the next hole around the mirror. Tape the cord to the back of the mirror between sockets with duct tape. Press it firmly to keep the wiring in place. Wrap electrical tape around the sockets if needed to get them firmly fitted in their holes.

Reinstall the bulbs into the sockets and plug the light string into a standard outlet to light it up. Attach a switched electrical cord, the type used for lamps, to make the mirror easier to turn on and off without unplugging.


For larger mirrors, use more than one strand of lights. Simply plug the second strand into the end of the first as you would with Christmas lights.

Things You'll Need

  • 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) timber
  • Tape measure
  • Mitre saw
  • Wood glue
  • Pin nail gun
  • Paint or stain
  • Party lights
  • Drill
  • Paddle bit
  • Switched extension cord
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About the Author

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.