How are mirrors made
From glass to mirror - how is a mirror made?
We encounter the mirror every day in all kinds of everyday situations. In the bathroom, in the bedroom, in changing rooms, in the elevator and wherever else. We can see our reflection in almost any place. But have you ever asked yourself how such a mirror is actually made? How does it come about that we can see ourselves so clearly and reflected? We made ourselves smart for you.
How is it possible that heaven is reflected in this? © iStock.com / mirrorr
The production steps
So that you can finally find out how your mirror is made at home, we will guide you step by step through the production workshop of a mirror.
1. The glass
Normally, simple, conventional glass as everyone knows it is used to make mirrors. However, some companies have made the production of the glass their business in addition to the mirror production. For this purpose, quartz sand, sodium carbonate, sodium sulfate, feldspar, dolomite rock and broken glass are crushed, finely sieved, heated and poured into the shape of a disc. This then has to harden and the glass pane is ready. (Source) But of course it is easier to buy the glass.
The luxury glass variant, which in the end is also reflected in the price of the mirror, is crystal glass. As the name suggests, it is particularly transparent, shiny and has a very high refraction. However, crystal glass does not consist of real crystal, it only bears its name because of its external appearance.
2. Break the glass
The next step is to break the glass to the right size. This is still done by hand, as it requires a great deal of sensitivity and the machines would also have to be readjusted to each size.
The cutting or breaking is often done at the very end of the production chain (see step 11).
If the glass is the right size, it is cleaned with distilled water, because it has to be completely free of dirt so that the following silver layer sticks. The use of distilled and not normal tap water is important as it does not contain ions such as lime, which can leave residues and destroy the subsequently applied silver layer.
The glass plate is then polished with cerium oxide to guarantee that the pane is really as smooth as a mirror. Because the agent compensates for possible scratches.
5. Silver layer
The next step gives an idea of the creation of a mirror for the first time. Because a wafer-thin layer of silver is now applied to the glass (approx. 1 µm / m²), which at the very end should perfectly reflect the mirror image. You can mirror yourself after the silver solution has been sprayed on, but a few steps are still missing before the mirror is completely usable.
6. Protective layer
Since silver is easy to corrode, protection must be applied to the silver layer as soon as it is dry. If that didn't happen, there would be unsightly black spots and the mirror would no longer be usable.
So that the manufacturers are on the safe side, a coating is applied again after the protective coating, which protects against corrosion. This is dried to form a base for the subsequent paint, which is supposed to protect against scratches.
Sprayed this way, the mirror is then dried at 200 degrees for about three minutes.
9. Sanding and cleaning
Once the mirror has dried, the sharp edges are ground and the glass plate is cleaned again so that the mirror can be sold cleanly and flawlessly polished.
10. Last check
However, before the final sale, the mirror is checked again by the human eye. In this way, possible impurities can be identified that a machine would not recognize.
11. Off to the dealer
Now the mirror is packaged unbreakable and starts its journey to various dealers.
12. Cut individually
If the mirror does not yet have the shape that the mirror seller wants for his end product, he will cut it again. We also do this, for example, with our wall mirrors so that they get the ideal size and shape. Then the mirror is embellished either with lights or decorations.
Are there good mirrors and bad mirrors?
© iStock.com / sabatex
In a high-quality mirror we see our reflection in more detail and more clearly than in a cheap mirror. But why is that?
During the production, as shown above, is usually silver used. For the simple reason that it best reflects light falling on it and creates the best picture. However, spraying on real silver is also very expensive and therefore increases the price of the mirrors, depending on the current value of the silver. For this very reason, there are also mirrors that have a Aluminum layer be coated. This is of course cheaper, but the mirror as the end product will not reflect light to the same extent as a mirror coated with silver. (Source)
Goodbye copper, for the sake of the environment
© iStock.com / salajean
Silver or aluminum aren't the only substances used in making a mirror. There are also various varnishes and protective layers that are supposed to protect the silver. In the meantime all the materials used are probably harmless, but that was not always the case. Up until ten years ago, silver was not used in pure form, but rather mixed with copper. Until it was discovered that the heavy metal copper harms the environment or even humans if it occurs in too high a concentration in water, air or soil. Its use in mirror manufacture was therefore banned around a decade ago. (Source, source)
Make mirrors yourself
Making a mirror yourself is certainly a challenge - and not just for DIY fans. However, due to the large number of substances and acids, some of which are harmful or corrosive, it is by no means advisable. Because many of the ingredients that are used to produce the required solutions should, for example, under no circumstances be inhaled or come into contact with bare skin (source). Therefore, due to the high risk of injury, you should be very careful.
And there is also no advantage in terms of price, as all the ingredients (e.g. in the pharmacy) must first be purchased, and in the right quantity. For one gram of silver nitrate contained in a Höllenstein pen available in the pharmacy, you would have to buy two of the pens, which would be around 10 euros (source). Then there are the remaining substances such as ammonium sulfate and nitric acid. So it adds up, so it does In the end, it is not only easier and safer, but also cheaper to buy a finished mirror.
If you are still interested in in-house production: Here are the instructions.
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