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Which hinge do I use?

Walk into your local Builders Warehouse store and you might find it difficult to find the hinges you need for a project. It's hard to know what hinges are best, and they're not always where they should be on the shelves. Here's how to determine what hinge is best for a particular project.


Before we look at the different types of hinges, let's discuss what a hinge actually is. According to Wikipedia: A hinge is a type of bearing that connects two solid objects, typically allowing only a limited angle of rotation between them. Hinges are commonly used in woodwork projects to connect doors and lids.

Butt hinge
The most common hinge used in woodworking is the butt hinge. These hinges come in sizes from as small as 10mm up to 150mm. They are easy to attach and are reasonably strong but the common type not very decorative. Butt hinges come in steel and brass, the latter being more expensive but definitely more suited for a project where the hinges are visible.





Where to use a butt hinge:

Butt hinges are the most affordable hinges to use and they can be fitted onto most cabinet doors where the door fits inside the frame ( as with out Bedside Cabinet ). We used decorative butt hinges on our Medicine Cabinet. Butt hinges are used to hang interior or exterior doors onto their frames. For a flush fit, a recess - or mortise - is cut into the door so that the hinge flap sits level with the surface of the wood.

It's important when fitting a butt hinge to ensure that the 'barrel' or centre-part of the hinge is placed over the edge of the frame or door. Only the leaf or flap is mounted onto the door or frame. The leaf or flap with the largest number of joints should be the side which is fixed to the door frame.

The cut-outs should be of equal depth, square and plumb, ensuring that the pins are accurately aligned. Timber movement and shrinkage may mean that the hinges need to be re-aligned at a later date. The correct gauge and type of screw must be used and the cut-outs should be carefully made to provide clearance for the door to open.

Flush hinge
A more decorative type of butt hinge is a flush hinge, which are available in vintage brass or pewter finish. Flush hinges allow one wing to fit inside the other and take up less space than a standard butt hinge.

As with a butt hinge, a flush hinge does not require a recess - or mortise - to be cut in the door.

Where to use a flush hinge:

The flush hinge is not quite as strong as a butt hinge and the main disadvantage of this hinge is its availability in different sizes. However, these hinges are ideal for lightweight cabinet doors.

Concealed hinge
Look in your built-in closets and kitchen cabinets and you will no doubt find concealed or Euro hinges. These hinges are popular because they can be adjusted in various ways. There are many different types of concealed hinges, opening from 90° to 180°. Easy to install if you use a drill press and 35mm Forstner or MAD bit.

Euro hinges have adjustment screws that allow you to move the doors up or down, side to side, and front to back after they've been installed. There's a Euro hinge for almost every door: Thick doors, bi-fold doors, glass doors, doors with narrow stiles or profiled edges. Self-closing hinges are most common, but free-swinging versions are also available.

Where to use a concealed or Euro hinge:

Because of their easy adjustment, concealed or Euro hinges are ideal for doors that sit flush on top of the frame. EG. Closet and kitchen cabinet doors. But you can use concealed hinges on any door that needs to sit flush on the frame, if the thickness of the door allows for drilling the hole to mount the hinge.

Tee or t-hinge
Shaped like a letter 'T', a t-hinge can be found on wood or metal boxes, huts, sheds and gates. Because of the long mounting section, the t-hinge provides strength and support to large doors or gates. However, these hinges are not recommended for areas that require security, as they can be easily removed.

Where to use a t-hinge:

Shed doors or timber gates are usually hung using t-hinges because the size of these doors and gates are usually much higher and wider than ordinary doors. The long strap of the t-hinge helps to support the extra weight. The size of hinge used depends on the width of the gate you are hanging and any wooden door or gate measuring over two metres high but under three metres high must always be fitted with three hinges.

Piano hinge
Available in a variety of lengths, the piano hinge was originally designed as a hinge for a piano lid. The length of the hinge allows for even distribution of weight on long sections. Unfortunately, here in South Africa the available types of piano hinge are limited and you may only find plated brass piano hinges.

Where to use a piano hinge:

Because they distribute weight evenly along the length, piano hinges are commonly used for flaps and lids. Use on tables with drop-down leaves, toy box lids, chests and kists. Piano hinges provide a visually neat and high quality solution to the hinging of any lid or door. Use a jigsaw and steel cutting blade, or hacksaw to cut down to size.

Tips of fitting hinges

Always use screws that match the material of the hinge you are using, i.e. brass screws with brass hinges. Make sure the hinge is the right-side up. The mounting holes should have a slight angle to allow for snug fitting of the screw head, ensuring the head of the screw is flush with the face of the hinge.

Drill a pilot hole into the frame or door before mounting the hinge to prevent the wood from splitting. Mount hinges at least a thumb length from the edge of the door to prevent wood from splitting. The size of the hinge should be in proportion to the size of the door or object being hung.

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