Curse you--you skinny, non mortise hinges! Help!

bayareafrancyAugust 1, 2008

[I also posted this in woodworking]


Background: we have been restoring (not renovating) our 1929 kitchen for 2 years now. We are finally, FINALLY almost ready to paint the cabinets (after 2 weeks of prep work--and I'm only painting 1/2 of the kitchen right now).

Last year I attempted to restore the original hinges. They were coated in multiple layers of paint, and turned out to be a poor quality, plated steel, non mortise hinge. The plating came off with the paint. They were rusty under the paint. And lots of ball finials were broken off. Soooo, I gave up, and reluctantly ordered about 16 pairs of non mortise hinges from Horton Brasses.

We are finally trying to install them. What a NIGHTMARE! I can't understand why non mortise hinges are advertised as easy to install.

The main problem: the new hinges are much narrower (front to back) than my old hinges. In order for the inset cabinet door to close all the way, the hinge has to jut out about 1/8 (maybe a teeny bit less). This is how all the old hinges were done--jutting out a bit.

But the new hinges are so narrow, they cannot jut out. If they do, the screw holes would be ridiculously close to the edge of the door and also the face frame.

I asked a very nice man at Horton Brasses about this, and he said that usually doors with these types of hinges are back bevelled. He said he hadn't heard of jutting them out, but, come to think of it, that would work too. If the hinges are wide enough.

Arrrrrrrgh! I wish it had stated something about back bevelling on the website. Do most DIYers who are doing their own hinges actually have back bevelled doors? I've never even seen a back bevelled door before.

Ok, my choices, now that I've spent all this money on all these hinges:

1. Install the hinge snug, with no jutting out. If we do this, the doors do not close all the way on their own. They boing open. However, we have cabinet latches that will hold the doors shut. I guess this adds stress to the hinge, but is that a problem? TheHusband doesn't want to do this because it is inelegant, and he thinks it looks like a hack job. He wants things to be done properly.

2. Back bevel ALL the doors. I don't want to do this. What if we mess up? The thick, fir 80 year old doors are irreplaceable. Besides, I've just finished priming all the doors. I don't want to lug out the primer yet again. This is TheHusband's choice.

3. Mortise all the hinges? Probably way more work than back beveling. And TheHusband hasn't done this before, so there is that whole 'learning curve' thing.

One last question: Assuming we just go with option 1. Is there a trick/method to installing these hinges? Each door seems to be a careful custom job to get each wonky door centered in each wonky frame. Nothing is 'standard' in this old kitchen. Is there a basic measuring technique we can use? A template? Or is each door going to be a new experience in positioning. Our test door looks like swiss cheese, it has so many holes in it.

(I can try to post pictures if I have failed to explain any of this clearly.)

That was long. If you made it this far, thank you thank you for any help you can offer!!!


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You can swage the hinges. That means putting them in a vise and pinching the leaves together with a small shim or spacer between them nearest the barrel. That effectively warps or bends the leaves so when closed they have a gap between them.
Backbeveling is a very good idea for inset. After years of resistance on philosophical grounds, I now am a practitioner of that technique. I am reformed.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 8:19PM
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Thanks for the reply Casey.

I was pondering this as I was up til 2am painting parts of the kitchen. I just couldn't visualize it, so I finally googled "swaged hinges." I don't think this will help our problem, because these non mortise hinges are fully swaged. That is, both leaves lie completely flat and snug when closed. There is no gap. seem to be describing the opposite of swaging. That is, *make* a gap that isn't already there. Is that right? If so, how would that help the doors-not-closing problem? I just can't visualize it. Actually, I can't figure out why they won't close right now. The hinges are flat. They slide right into the gap when the door is sitting in position. But when attached to the door, it boings back open. I can't figure out why.

Backbeveling: sounds like the way to go, but golly I don't want to cut off any part of these precious doors. TheHusband is probably qualified, but he's not a pro.

Argh--I just need wider hinges! Mine are too skinny.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 12:41PM
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Hi again,
You could also add a paper shim under the hinge where it meets the door or frame- whichever has the single contact point. That will be just as good to cure the hinge-bound condition, unless it makes the door rub on the opposite edge. The thickness of a file folder may be just enough.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Here are some photos to clarify. I'm sorry some came out blurry:

The hinge:

Profile, nice and flat:

Installed, with barrel right at door:

Interior view:


Cabinet with original non mortise hinge jutting out (door closes all the way):

If only the new ones weren't so skinny. We could just jut them out like the originals.

Can anyone explain why these "easy to install" non mortise hinges won't close all the way?

Thank you,

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 2:33PM
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Like I said, you need to shim the hinge out with some thick paper _only_ under the leaf. The hinge itself is binding against the frame, not the door against the frame; you can see the slight mark in the frame where the screw head left its imprint.
Those are cast/machined hinges, there is no way they could be swaged without ruining them, or at least marring the heck out of the plating. It looks like for the same money you could have got real hinges, avoided this mess, and gotten them deeper too.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 7:35PM
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I have no input on the hinges - I can't wrap my brain around it other than to wonder if the problem could be solved by some inexpensive interior latch hardware?

I am responding mainly because I was remodeling my kitchen in January and was always on the kitchen forum, and I remember your countertop saga. Without getting into the details, what did you end up doing? Do you have any almost finished pics?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 11:35AM
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Ok CaseySmartyPants: you were right! Give that man a prize! (Or if you were in my house, a paycheck!)

It never occurred to me that the part of the face frame where the hinge installs might not be perfectly flat and smooth after 80 years of hard usage. And I just sanded all the paint off it 2 weeks ago. But it is very wonky and uneven.

Sooooo, I simply hung a hinge all by itself (no door) on the face frame as a test. Guess what? The hinge wouldn't close! Casey's solution is pretty much working: a teeny shim on the face frame part.

The catch (no pun intended)? Now some of the doors won't close because they are "too big" after adding the teeny weeny cardstock. So we need to plane them down a bit.

Is it hard to plane for a tired, wimpy gal like me? TheHusband is worn out with rewiring our old house, and I can't get him to plane the doors. Do I start planing in the middle of the door? Or at one end?

[acc0406: the fast answer is that because of the permanent epoxy used to bind the counters to the cabinets (a mistake!), the cracked area couldn't be removed without risk to cabinets or fireclay sink. Also, my soapstone was hard to rare and not readily available. So, we are living with the crack, and I try to pretend it happened in an earthquake long ago. I'll post more updates on the whole kitchen in that forum soon. Feel free to email me if you have more questions or need help with any counter issues.]



    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 1:27PM
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I remain infallible. I have a perfect record. (Right. sure.)
Scrape as much paint as you can off the door edge before you plane- paint is abrasive and dulls plane irons in short order. Plane where the door strikes. You need at least 1/16" of clearance to allow for swelling, unless you feel that it won't get any more humid than it is right now.If you wish to back bevel you can attempt it now.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 9:19PM
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Ok Casey--I've meant to ask you forever now--what does your username mean?

Planing the doors: shoot! That wasn't how I was thinking about doing it at all. Since I've already spent 2 weeks sanding and priming, and since I've just got one thin coat of paint on the hinge side, here was my plan: Plane the hinge side (not the side where the door strikes). And just plane the paint and primer right off (who cares about dulling TheHusband's plane. He doesn't know that I just used his rubber mallet to pound meat for dinner either...)



    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 10:07PM
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