Wooden Hinges

I've been experimenting making wooden hinges. I have a few projects I've been thinking about that might use them. One is a drawbridge for my son's wooden track and the other is another decorative box.

On my first attempt I used some 1/2" aspen scraps. I started out modestly with only a single wide finger. Marking the locations of the finger on the two pieces, I clamped them together and used my pull saw to make the vertical cuts. Then I cleaned out the spaces where the fingers would mate with a chisel.

This hinge is only supposed to bend one way, so I only rounded one side with some sandpaper. Then I clamped the hinge into a drill press vise with the fingers interlaced and drilled a 1/8" hole through the hinge. Finally I drove a 1/8" dowel into the hole to use as a the pivot. While a 1/2" hinge is the right scale for a drawbridge, it's a little bulky for a decorative box. With this hinge under my belt, I decided to try something more delicate.

Using 1/4" maple for the second hinge led me to use the setup on my router I had developed for making box joints. I rounded the edges of the hinges before making the fingers because I didn't want the unsupported fingers to tear out. The pieces were too small to handle with my fingers so I clamped them to a larger piece of scrap and rounded both sides with a 1/8" radius bit.

Then I cut the fingers just like I did for my decorative box. The fingers were nice and tight and the amount of friction between the fingers wasn't too high so the hinge would turn. So far so good. I didn't have any dowel small enough to make the pin so I planned on using a finishing nail that was about .100" in diameter, but I found out that a drill bit this diameter flexes too much.

When I tried drilling thought the hinge the bit didn't travel straight, it veered of to the side which made the hinge unusable. Taking the hinge apart you could see the hole wander a little father off each consecutive finger. Next time I think I'll try a little thicker pin (which means using a thicker bit which hopefully won't flex as much). Also, I'll only drill halfway through the hinge then flip it over and drill the other side. Another thought would be to make a hinge drilling jig where I drill each half separately and use some steel bushings to guide the drill bit true. That would involve much more labor though, so hopefully my first idea works.

Tools: hand saw, router table

Tags: box joint, Hinge

Materials: aspen, maple