Flawless Hinges in Fine Furniture
Install precise butt hinges in projects of all kinds
Synopsis: Although a butt hinge consists of little more than two pieces of metal connected by a knuckle joint, it can provide a lifetime of service in anything from cabinets to small boxes. And the low-profile look is hard to beat. But these hinges can be fussy to install. You need to mortise them carefully into the door and cabinet, making sure to leave an even gap around the door and a perfect fit around the hinges themselves. Luckily, Steve Latta has years of experience teaching students how to install flawless hinges, and he’s sharing his time-tested method here.
The butt hinge is the most common type of door hardware, and for good reason. It provides a lifetime of smooth service in everything from large cabinets to small boxes, with a low-profile look that exudes class. Although the butt hinge is a simple device—just two pieces of flat metal connected by a knuckle joint—it can be fussy to install, especially for beginning woodworkers. You have to mortise the hinges carefully into the door and cabinet, with a nice, even gap between the two and, at the same time, no unsightly gaps around the hinges themselves.
The job doesn’t have to be scary. I’ll show you my time-tested method for installing top-quality, brass butt hinges, from laying out each mortise to cutting them precisely for a door that looks as good as it swings. You’ll need a combination square (preferably a small one), a small router, a marking knife, and a basic set of chisels.
Before you start, you need to have the door fitted to its opening on three edges (see Fundamentals, “Fitting an inset door,” on p. 20). You’ll fine-tune the last edge, called the striker stile (opposite the hinge stile), once the…