How Mirror is Made

Adelaide Glaziers repairing a broken mirror in a retirement village gym

The creation of a mirror involves applying a reflective coating to a substrate, which is usually a glass pane. The process has evolved over the years, but the modern method of manufacturing flat glass mirrors is known as the silvering process. Here’s a step-by-step explanation:

1. Glass Preparation:

  • Quality Control: The glass used for mirrors needs to be flat, clear, and free of any imperfections that might distort the reflection.
  • Cleaning: The glass is thoroughly cleaned to remove any dust, dirt, or oils, as even a small speck can lead to imperfections in the finished mirror.

2. Coating Process:

  • Silvering: A solution containing silver nitrate is sprayed onto the clean glass surface. A chemical reaction deposits a layer of silver onto the glass. This is the reflective layer that turns the glass into a mirror.
  • Coppering: A layer of copper is often applied over the silver to protect it from damage and to enhance the durability of the mirror.
  • Painting: Finally, one or more layers of protective paint are applied over the copper layer to seal and protect the coatings from scratches, tarnish, and other damage.

3. Quality Inspection:

  • Inspection: After the coatings have dried, the mirror is inspected for quality to ensure there are no blemishes, scratches, or other imperfections.
  • Cutting and Shaping: The mirror glass can be cut or shaped as required.

4. Finishing Touches:

  • Edges and Installation: The edges may be polished, beveled, or finished as necessary. The mirror can then be mounted or installed as desired.

Historical Methods:

  • Mercury and Tin: Historically, mirrors were made by applying an amalgam of mercury and tin to the back of a piece of glass. This method, known as the mercury glass process, was laborious and expensive, and the mirrors produced were heavy.

The modern process of mirror-making is much more efficient and cost-effective compared to historical methods and produces high-quality, long-lasting mirrors that are a staple in households, vehicles, and various industries.


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