Easy. Elegant Wooden Box Hinge #1: I could kick myself

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 06-23-2011 07:26 AM 70609 reads 388 times favorited 61 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Easy. Elegant Wooden Box Hinge series Part 2: A Sketchup Model to Make it Easier (I hope) »

A few months ago I spent many many hours trying to perfectly align a set of “box joint hinges” for my project ” A Little Cabinetree” After I finally got them working I installed them on the edges of the MDF sides and doors and then veneered over the whole works.

The only good part was that there were enough left over prototype parts that I could make a hinge for my next project from the cast-offs

Then this week I was making a tea box for a friend and when the issue of hinges came up, as it will with these boxes, I decided to try to make the hinge integral to the box.

Like this:

This has numerous advantages.:

1) It’s clean. There is only one “added part” – the pin, no protrusions or bumps or screws.
2) You don’t have to install it. No rebates, no unsightly gaps where the hardware had to be realigned.
3) It is automatically perfectly aligned. All you have to do is make the top and bottom the same dimensions and square and they will be perfect.
4) It’s really cheap. (The price of a foot of 1/8” brass rod.)
5) It automatically stops just past 90 degrees.
6) It only takes a half hour to make them .
7) They are sooooo easy.

You get the idea. I thought back on all those hours wrestling with little blocks that didn’t want to be aligned.

I would have kicked myself (If I could)

So here’s how you make them…. So you can kick yourself too.

First, make up or get out whatever you use for a foolproof spacing jig, box joint jig or the like. (I made this one on the Q & D.) Use it to lay out the cuts between which the gaps will be removed.

Run a groove down the edge that will carry the pin. Cool that the pin and the saw blade are both 1/8”, yes?

Round off the edges with a corner round bit on your router.

Chew out the waste areas.

Install the rod in the top part and glue in a little strip to fill in the remaining gap. Make sure you don’t glue the rod to the wood. In this photo the strips are glued in oversize. They will be trimmed to the opening after the glue sets.

Then go ahead and finish making the box as you normally would. The only thing to make sure of is that the line dividing the top and bottom of box is on the centerline of the hinge pin. (Really important).

The half lap recess (if you are using a half lap) for the top to fit over is cut on the outside of the box and extends below that line. That is to say that the actual dividing line is the one you would see from the inside of the box, not the lower one you would see from the outside of the box. This is the only photo I have that shows the half lap.

Completely finish the box and as the last step install the top, glue in the fillers and carefully sand and finish them. In this case I used spalted filler pieces and made them appear to match the pieces into which they were glued. They don’t really match, but the eye wants them to so they do appear to.

I used fish glue to install the last fillers so that they could be easily disassembled at any time by simply getting them wet.

You don’t have to add the last filler pieces in the bottom. The hinge works exactly the same without them, and the top is removable.

Hope some of you will use this idea. I can’t believe that I’ve actually invented it but if I did you have my blessing to use it.

It’s just soooooooo darn easy !!

Thanks for looking in and good luck with your hinges.

New Edition Edit

Edit: Here’s an innovation that you can use if you want to make the box in one piece, cut the top off and then do the hinges.


-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

61 comments so far

View cathyb's profile


860 posts in 4742 days

#1 posted 06-23-2011 07:53 AM

I have a pen box that’s been sitting on my desk with the same basic design, but not as many fingers. For the past two months, I’ve been telling myself, “You need to incorporate this joint into one of your pieces.” As soon as I finish the cabinet that I’m making, which should be early next week, I’ll get to work on my work inspired by you. #1. gotta make the veneer press #2. mill all the pieces for a small chest #3. make sure I use that joint #4. add marquetry design on the face.
Then, of course, post my efforts on Lumberjocks. It should be fun…......

Thanks Paul for sharing your amazing talent.

-- cathyb, Hawaii

View peteg's profile


4438 posts in 4321 days

#2 posted 06-23-2011 08:30 AM

Love watching a craftsman going about his business, cleaver stuff Paul, thanks for sharing your endless skills, even turners like to try things different,or, they maybe just plain curious. : )))))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View cloakie1's profile


204 posts in 4053 days

#3 posted 06-23-2011 11:14 AM

great idea…..i have a certain stepdaughters birthday coming up soon and she is the only one i haven’t made a jewerly box for yet…will try this idea of yours. thankyou

-- just get stuck in and have a go!!!

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6883 posts in 5478 days

#4 posted 06-23-2011 11:36 AM

Very nice work Paul.

I like the integrated hinge.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 4642 days

#5 posted 06-23-2011 02:03 PM

11 times favorited (12 now that I’ve done it), and only 4 comments? If only to say “Thank you Paul, for sharing this new strategy with us”. Come on, people, show some Love!

I really do mean it, Paul, thanks a lot. I don’t have a RT yet, but I will, and one of the first things I will be doing on it will be a box with wooden hinges.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5380 days

#6 posted 06-23-2011 02:13 PM

OK Paul, you have my vote.

I like a lot of things about this, you know these, but I am repeating for my own info.

Having the pin ride high above the base (instead of in the line separating the top and bottom) has a few advantages. The 90 degree stop, ease of making, and only the bottom/back needs to be made taller than the rest of the sides (the top is it’s normal size). Sweet.

Being able to finish the box without the hinge installed is great.

I also really like the idea/possibility of not installing the bottom plugs and having a hinged and removable top.

This is so cool. Thanks.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12648 posts in 4927 days

#7 posted 06-23-2011 02:23 PM

The products of your fertile mind continue to amaze.
Thanks for letting us watch it at work.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View sedcokid's profile


2738 posts in 5097 days

#8 posted 06-23-2011 02:29 PM

I am going to try this and see what happens Paul, Your ideas are always great and helpful!

Thanks for sharing sooooo much!!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4302 days

#9 posted 06-23-2011 02:59 PM

thnx for your expertise Paul. Also, that I’d luv to see how you made the “Cabinet-Tree”......really just the tree part. Thnx. Everything you do is just awesome. Thnx for sharing

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4807 days

#10 posted 06-23-2011 05:09 PM

Great idea and design for your hinges Paul. I would not have thought of doing it this way and it is really clever.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4535 days

#11 posted 06-23-2011 05:38 PM

I do believe you’re right about integral hinges. This is a far easier way to do them though, Paul. Well thought out.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Randy63's profile


252 posts in 4390 days

#12 posted 06-23-2011 05:55 PM

Wonderful blog! Fine photos and details of the making of this hinge. I too appreciate you taking the time and effort to detail the making and to share with us. Interesting note about the fish glue for the fillers. I use hot hide glue and have become quite fond of it, but haven’t ever used fish glue.

-- Randy, Oakdale, Ca.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4768 days

#13 posted 06-23-2011 06:00 PM

Excellent blog and the info is very useful, thank you. I can see that others think so too (when I favorited it…there were 31 ahead of me).

This is why I love this site…great folks…excellent info.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View rance's profile


4282 posts in 4659 days

#14 posted 06-23-2011 06:30 PM

I really like this method of hinges. Clever idea of using your TS to cut for the pins. Thanks for explaining it all.

As I was reading where you talk about the spacing for the fingers, it occurred to me that I could stack both boards together and cut them with the scroll saw using the tiniest blade. The kerf would be just enough for movement but not sloppy. Then you open yourself up to the possibilities of finger spacing like no tomorrow since you don’t have to conciously match the top with the bottom.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View shipwright's profile


8822 posts in 4296 days

#15 posted 06-23-2011 06:39 PM

Thanks for the response everyone

I am very happy to have been of some use to you and I hope to see these hinges on lots of projects in the future.
Once you make a set and move the hinge up and down…....... so smooooooth…. you’ll be doubly hooked.

Yes Rance, there are endless possibilities. The central idea is the table saw cut for the pin. That frees you up to design all kinds of things that you couldn’t begin to drill accurately.

I have several variations in mind but then I’ve got a lot of other ideas too and I’ve already done this one. :-)

Thanks again

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

showing 1 through 15 of 61 comments

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