Back to Building Furniture

Hinge Morticing

It is said that the devil lies in the details. That is, a project can be made or broken by the way small details are handled.

I was installing the hinges in the cabinet doors today and it occurred to me that my way of doing so may not be the best way. I think the method works OK, but I do wonder if others do it differently, and if so, how?

So I put together a detailed sequence of photos for the examination of the wise heads, and await a critical review.

We begin with the doors adjacent to the side frame.

I mark the position on both frame and door with a small knife stroke. This lies in line with the lower edge of the bead.

The work proper begins with knifing both sides of the hinge ..

Then the baseline of the hinge is set on a marking gauge. This is the width of the leaf.

Now I set for the depth of the mortice. This is more critical since too shallow a mortice and the gap between door and frame is too large, and too deep a mortice and the door will not rotate. The full thickness of the hinge (including the joint) is 6mm. I have set the gauge for a depth of 2 ½ mm. That will leave a gap of 1 mm between the door and the frame.

Knife the outline as deeply as possible. Use light strokes at first as a sharp knife will want to follow the grain. Increase pressure as you increase depth.

Now chamfer the inside edges of the mortice. This is to move all chiselling inside the mortice and away from the sidewalls (which you want to preserve at all costs).

This is what it should look like (
well, I’ve had it a lot crisper looking – this Tassie Oak has a high degree of interlocked grain going in all directions, and walls crumble just where you do not wish them to – keep an eye on grain direction as you knife the lines) …

Next, kerf the surface with a chisel (I aim to go about half the depth of the mortice).

Note: I think that hinges look better when they end up flush with the surface, but in this case they were required to be set deeper to accommodate the wider-than-average barrel.

I remove this – carefully! – with a paring chisel ..

It is possible to go directly to a router plane, which I use next, but the chisel is easy enough to use and the aim is to remove the kerfed surface. This defines the area to be cleared.

From here on I use a router plane. It is important that you set the blade depth at the start, and then work by taking thin shavings until you reach this level. A sharp blade makes this easy.

This is the completed mortice. Not my best work at the rear side – as I noted earlier this Tasmanian Oak is interlocked and a bit crumbly. Well, you get the build along warts-and-all …

With hinge in place and an awl for marking the screw holes. The holes are made centre or very slightly forward of centre to pull the hinge against the rear end. I have also found a centre punch to be a useful tool here (that is the one with the spring-loaded pin).

Drilling the holes – I prefer to use a brace as this provides more control for angle and depth. Hence building the one in use below …

Here is a hinge with screws in place. Really awful screws that came with the hinge. The hinge is fine but the screws have slots which are all off centre. It is hard to avoid buggering up these slots. I shall replace the screws once the hinges are fitted.

The frame is joined to the door ..

Here is the full length temporary fit (the frame is still to be joined to the carcase) ..

Here are a few tests as to the quality of the fit ..

Firstly, the hinge is centred between the door and the frame, and the gap is the size I wanted ..

Secondly, the two pieces lie in the same plane ..

So this side is now complete ..

Last shot of WIP ...

Regards from Perth


December 2009