Introduction: How to Install Box Hinges
Hinges tend to flummox so many woodworkers. I get it; they can be a pain in the butt to install if they aren’t something you do on a regular basis. I had to install brass hinges on a watch collection display case that I made for a client. I thought that it may be helpful for others to see my hinge installation process. It is the process that works for me and maybe it can be a good guide for you too, or at least provide a few tips so you can fine tune your own process.
In my instructions, I’m installing Brusso box hinges (not sponsored). I use them because I like the quality and you can see the difference in thickness compared to regular brass hinges that I bought at a woodworking store. These particular hinges have a 100 degree stop too, which is helpful for improving the overall functionality of the box.
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Step 1: Score Reference Lines
I start off by placing the hinges where I want them on the box. I flipped the hinge over so I could use the hinge barrel as a reference. I put the barrel of the hinge against the side of the box, and using a marking knife, I scored a line around each side of the hinge. The particular knife that I use isn’t very expensive and I really like it.
To know how deep to cut the mortise for the hinges, I used my combination square. I set my square to the thickness of the hinge, and once again, use my marking knife to score a reference line.
Step 2: Deepen the Reference Lines
Using the widest chisel that I have, I put the end of my chisel into the score marks around the perimeter of the hinge and lightly tapped it with a mallet. This is just to deepen the reference line a bit. Often times, I will remove the material close to the reference line first, that way I don’t accidentally remove wood past my reference line.
Step 3: Remove Wood With a Chisel
I then use a chisel to remove a thin layer of material up to my score lines. I find that a smaller chisel works best for me to remove material, and then I like to switch to a wider chisel to fine tune the fit and make sure the surface is even. When I get up to my score line, I once again put my chisel up to the line and lightly hammer it with a mallet to deepen the line, and then repeat the process of removing material until the hinge fits into place.
Step 4: Mark Mortises on the Box Lid
To mark corresponding mortises in the lid of the box, place the lid on the box bottom and use a marking knife to score the corners. These are only reference points so that I know where to place the hinge on the box lid.
Step 5: Cut Mortises in the Box Lid
I then repeat the same process as before. Score the perimeter of the hinge with a marking knife, use the combination square to mark how deep I want the mortise, and then use a wide chisel to deepen the score lines. Paring with a chisel up to the score line quickly gives me a visible reference so I know not to remove material past my line.
I make multiple passes with the chisel until I have removed enough material that the hinge fits into place.
Step 6: Drill Screw Holes
Cutting the mortises helps to keep the hinge into place, but it is also important for me to drill my screw holes as centered as possible. I use a centering bit to drill my pilot holes. Since my hinges are brass and brass is soft, I use a steel screw to thread the holes before screwing in my brass ones. Another tip is to put a little bit of wax on your screws. It really helps to reduce the friction when screwing them into the wood.
I didn’t use a lot of tools for this project. I used a few chisels, a marking knife, a combination square, and every once in a while, I stropped my chisel to sharpen the edge. Hopefully this tutorial helps with your hinge installation. If you have recommendations for a blog topic that you think can help the woodworking community, please let me know in the comments section.
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