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Thread: My Take on Wood Hinges

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    My Take on Wood Hinges

    Materials and tools used

    - 3.2mm straight router bit
    - 1/8” round-over router bit
    - Flush-cut straight bit (with bearing on bottom)
    - Finger-joint jig
    - Round-over jig
    - 2mm brad-point drill bit
    - 75mm x 22.4mm x 6mm ebony blank
    - scrap plywood for mortising jig
    - 3.2mm spacer x 2
    - 2mm diameter brass rod (material is optional – I prefer brass for this)

    In this tutorial for making and installing wooden hinges I use ebony blanks cut and milled to a specific size related to the size of my cutting bit. I use a 3.2mm (1/8”) cutting bit mounted in my router table. The width of the blank will therefore be 3.2 multiplied by the number of fingers and slots. I want a hinge that has 4 fingers/3 slots and the mate will have 3 fingers/4 slots. So the width of my hinge will be 3.2x7=22.4. (You can also make them a little wider and cut to size on the table saw after slotting the finger joints). The length of the blanks will be any length desired but should be around 75mm (3”) for ease of clamping and cutting on the finger joint jig. The thickness of the blank will be 6mm or if you are working in inches 1/4” will work well. (Here also you can use a thicker blank and re-saw later for a production run).

    1. Make a finger joint jig like the one pictured in Pic 0. I use a quick and dirty jig so the face is a throw away piece for this use only, screwed on from the back. The faceplate height is cut to the same height as my blanks (this is important). Place two spacers between the fence and faceplate and rout a slot through the face (Pic 1). Flip the faceplate end-for-end and do the same (Pic 2). Remove the spacers, move the faceplate against the router fence and cut another slot only on the bottom this time. Screw the faceplate onto the jig. Place a 3.2mm key in the first and second slot (Pic 2). Depth of cut should be about 0.1 mm over thickness of blank.

    Pic 0. Quick and dirty finger joint jig


    Pic 1. Using two 3.2mm spacers to cut first index key slot


    Pic 2. With top and bottom index key slots cut


    The blanks and the faceplate are cut to the same length for ease of cutting and stability. Because the blanks are long and narrow stability is an issue. Of course a clamp does hold the blank in place but having the extra key slot makes the job a lot easier, a little less fumbled and more accurate.

    2. Place a blank in position (Pic 3) and begin cutting the joints. Flip the blank end-to-end and cut right to left until last slot is cut (Pic 4).

    Pic 3. With blank in first position.


    Pic 4. Cutting the last finger joint on the first blank


    3. As in step 2 cut the slots for the matching hinge. Start the first cut with a 3.2mm spacer between the key index and the blank, flip end-to-end and continue cutting right to left until the last slot is cut. Note: it is at this point you will see how much you have to trim the width to size if the blanks were over-size to begin.

  2. #2
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    Pic 5. Slotted blanks ready for round over


    4. I do the round over after I cut the slots as I am using a flush-cut bit with my hinge held in a vertical position in a round-over jig. This way there is no chipping on the sides as there would be if you ran the blank over a round-over bit in a horizontal position and you have more control over the profile of the round over. To make the jig use a piece of scrap about 30mm thick by app 50mm wide and long enough to hold the blank. Round over the left side edge of one end and cut a rabbet to depth the same as the thickness of the blank (Pic 6 ). Round over with flush-cut bit (Pic 7).

    Pic 6. Round-over jig with rabbet cut and round over on corner


    Pic 7. Round over with flush-cut bit.


    5. Now we are ready for the last step; drilling the 2mm hole for the brass pin. A note to bear in mind here it is crucial that the hole is center top to bottom and side to side as the hinges or lid can bind or the lid will lift away from the box unevenly and be unsightly. Set-up your drill press and drill a couple of test holes to make sure. When you are confident all things are right, place the hinges in the together position with a spacer so they aren’t touching. (I used a piece of letter paper folded once. This is app 0.15mm) Pic 8.

    Pic 8. Hinge ready for drilling a 2mm hole


    6. Once the hole is drilled put a pin through and check hinge action. Look at the space between the end-points and mating hinge. As you move the hinge does the space stay the same distance or can you see lift or binding? It should stay parallel. The hinge should open to just over 90 degrees. Finally if all things are right take the pin out and cut to size with a backer board to prevent chip-out on the corners. I cut the ones pictured in Pic. 5 to 20mm. Put the pin back in and file and sand till flush.

  3. #3
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    7. Now the hinge is ready for installation. For this we use a hinge-morticing jig (Pic 9). Again I use a quick and dirty, throwaway style jig, nothing fancy. What is important here is the guides are square all around and the correct distance apart. The distance between the two guides on the X and Y axis will be router base size minus router bit diameter plus width or length of hinge.

    In my case
    - 160mm – 3.2mm + 22.4mm = 179.2mm for the width
    - 160mm – 3.2mm + 40mm = 196.8mm for the length

    The underside of the jig has a cleat positioned with a distance from the cleat to the center of the mortice equal to the distance from the bottom of the box to the center of the hinge pin. In other words you want the hinge pin to be centered on the opening line between the box and the line.

    Pic 9. Hinge morticing jig


    8. Clamp the lid to the box and position the mortice jig into place. (Here I have marked center on the jig and box. Now it is a simple matter of lining up the two and clamping the jig into place (Pic 10)).

    Pic 10. Hinge morticing jig clamped in position with box and lid clamped together


    9. With a plunge router set to a depth half the thickness your hinge rout the mortices (Pic 11).

    Pic 11. Hinge mortices cut


    10. Now there is the option to square the corners of the mortices or round off the hinges. I prefer to round off the hinge corners. I do this on a disk or spindle sander. I routed out the mortises with a 3.2mm straight bit so the corners have a 1/16 radius. Careful you don’t take too much off.

    11. Check the fit and if everything is okay glue the hinges into place (Pic 12). I use Titebond PVA glue careful to avoid excess squeeze out and overflow into the fingers. Apply clamp and let glue dry.

    Pic 12. Check the fit is tight, glue and clamp


    Finished


    You can download this pdf file to print for use in your shop.
    http://mokkou.jp/woodhinges/MakingWoodenHinges.pdf

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Boy Alex, that sure is a lot of work, but man, are those hinges COOL!

    You got some very innovative solutions to some problems, way to go, and thanks for the step by step tutorial!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
    I was thinking the same thing. A lot of work...

    After seeing all that...and I hate to bring this up because it was a lot of work and a lot of set-ups...I think the hinges would look a bit better with some rounded over edges or at least a chamfer on them. They look good, but I think they just look unfinished without eased edges of some type.

    Just my opinion. Of course with all the set-ups you did, I think a little rounding over would be a pretty easy thing to do.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  6. #6
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    Travis,

    Thanks for the input. I also think a beveled edge would look good. I thought about doing it and would have done it if I squared out the mortices. In this case I ended up rounding the corners instead, which I also like.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Reid View Post
    Travis,

    Thanks for the input. I also think a beveled edge would look good. I thought about doing it and would have done it if I squared out the mortices. In this case I ended up rounding the corners instead, which I also like.
    Yeah I like that as well. Personally I have a like for chamfers. I like the crisp transition from 90 degree surfaces to 45 degree surfaces in between which of course is what a chamfer does. Round overs are nice too, but I prefer chamfers.

    I never really noticed this small detail before until I worked on our last yacht. The boat owner liked chamfers and not round overs and after a year or so, I guess I ended up liking them too. When I have my druthers, chamfers take the nod. I sneak them in on other yachts now and then when I think I can get away with it
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Wow, it looks great Alex. How about a full set of pics of the finished project that you built?
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  9. #9
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    Drew..........

    Keepsake Box
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  10. #10
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    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
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    Thanks for the great tutorial. Wooden hinges are yet another item that I would like to make some day. If and when I do, I will certainly be referring back to this thread.
    Cheers, Frank

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