Fair Woodworking

November 11, 2013

To mortise a hinge

Filed under: Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 6:21 pm

Mortising a hinge is one of those things I think I just figured out on my own. It’s not a complicated task, but having devised my way of doing it, I have to admit that I could be doing it wrong according to some.


Here’s how I do it…

First I like to get my spacing laid out. Working by eye mostly, I ended up with them a little less than 2 inches from the edge. I set that distance with my first marking gauge.

Next I set my second gauge for the length of the hinge wing. I set it so the gauge is just shy of the center of the barrel. I know that some would just fold the hinge over the back like it shows in the first picture for this, but I don’t like how big a gap it leaves when the lid is open.

Here is a mock-up of what I mean. I like the gap of the one on the left better.

Finally I like to set the dept on the bottom side for almost the full amount of the hinge less the second leaf. I’ll then mortice the leaf on the lid flush.

So here are my three gauges. Their settings are now sacred. Well except for the little one. That one will be set to suit the second leaf like I just mentioned.

So I mark the outside, and also the width of the mortise.

Then with my knife registered in the outside mark, I place the hinge against the knife,

and cut a small mark on the other side of the hinge. I now have the length of the hinge marked.

I then register a square against the new mark, and scribe that side of the hinge mortise.

I like to use my saddle square to then wrap the lines along the side of the mortise.

Finally, with the last gauge, mark the depth.

With a sharp paring chisel, I’ll cut a V groove on all three sides. I’m careful to cut the groove down to the depth line but not past it.

Ok. Prep work is done. Time to mortise this sucker!

But first. Let’s talk about what is the best tool for this. Veritas just released their own version of a Hinge Mortising Plane, and LN has had one for a few years. I don’t own either, nor have I used them, but here are my outsider opinions of them. The LN looks like a beautiful tool, but seem a little difficult to set the depth perfectly to the bottom of the mortise. The Veritas has that typical Veritas look that may or may not do it for you, but the adjustment mechanism may be a step in the right direction for getting your depth right where you want it.  In my opinion, the Veritas is the better of the two.

The thing is, a router plane works just as good or in my opinion better than the hinge mortise plane. Beyond that, the router plane has a million other uses that will keep me from ever getting a dedicated hinge mortise plane. Because these hinges are really small, I’m using my Veritas small router plane. I prefer it over the LN version because of its larger base, but I don’t love that it has a round shaft. It’s a little too easy for the blade to twist, and would have preferred it to have a square shaft.

I also prefer to remove the mortise material across the grain. I think it’s faster and risks less wear on the box surface.

See how quick that was?


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