The following is excerpted from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: 1939-1967” Volume 4, The Shop & Furniture.
Centre hinges are generally used to hang heavy doors and in positions where ordinary butts would be impracticable. In some cases they have the advantage of being entirely invisible. There are, however, one or two complications in their use with which the inexperienced reader should make himself familiar, otherwise the results may be surprising.
DIFFERING from ordinary butts, these hinges are fixed at top and bottom of the door as in Fig. 1. There are two main kinds, the straight pattern (A), and the cranked type (B). In both the top plate is free to be lifted from the bottom one.
A washer is fitted between them to prevent them from scraping. A third kind (C) is used only rarely for antique work. The two parts are not free to be separated.
It should be realised at the outset that as a general rule centre hinges can be used only when there is a loose cornice, otherwise it would be impossible to fit the door into the carcase.
There are exceptions as will be seen later, but the reader is advised to draw a section of the door in full size, plot out the hinge centre, and try the effect of pivoting by tracing the door, sticking a pin through the centre, and seeing that it works.
Door Between Ends (Fig. 2) shows the best method of hingeing when the door is between the ends. The hinges are invisible and the edge is dust-proof. The cornice (or plinth) must be loose, however. Fig. 3 shows the setting out. Draw in the door and end, and mark a line at 45 degrees from the corner. Put in another line parallel with the door a third of its thickness in from the front. The centre is slightly in from the intersection, this to allow a clearance when the door is opened. Mark the curve by putting the point on the centre and using a radius equal to the distance from the centre to the back of the door. The practical method of fitting is given in Fig. 4. Before the edge of the door is rounded
gauge in the centre (A) and bore a hole the diameter of which equals that of the hinge pin. Drop in the hinge upside down, and mark round. The exact slope of the plate does not matter; it is only the centre which counts. Chop out the recess and screw in the hinge (C). A similar method is followed on the carcase. Another plan is to make a template of the hinge plate in tin plate, making a small hole at the centre of the pin, and using this to mark out. The hollow in the end is partly ploughed out and finished off with the scratch tool.
Cranked Hinges. In Fig. 5 the cranked hinge is used. Its advantage is that there is no need to hollow out the ends because the pin is immediately in line with the corner. On the other hand the hinges are partly visible. The application of the same hinge is given in Fig. 6 in which there is a projecting pilaster or moulding. The centre is in line with the front edge of the door and is a trifle farther in than the corner of the pilaster. A loose cornice is needed in both these cases.
The door is in front of the ends in Fig. 7, and as centred no hollowing-out is necessary in the carcase end. It is not essential that cornice is loose. The fittings are cut in and the parts screwed in before the door is in position. The plate at the top of the door is next unscrewed and its pin put in its hole in the plate fixed to the carcase. Then, by dropping the bottom pin into its hole, it is possible to slide in the top of the door so that the hinge plate goes into its slot. The screw holes are naturally revealed when the door is open, enabling the screws to be put in.
Simple Method. Fig. 8 shows how the hinges can be invisible when the carcase end is not hollowed out (the door is between the ends). It means that the door must be slightly rounded, and the appearance is naturally not so good as that in Fig. 2. It is, however, simple. If the cornice and plinth are fixed the recess for the plate at the top must be continued through to the end as shown by the dotted lines. This enables the door to be passed into position in the way described for Fig. 7.
The special hinge in which the parts cannot be separated (C, Fig. 1) is shown in Fig. 9. Queen Anne furniture usually had centre hinges of this kind. The centre stands clear of the door. A loose cornice is not necessary because the hinge can be slid in afterwards. It is always as well to obtain the hinges before setting out the opening of the door. It saves mistakes.
8 thoughts on “The Use of Centre Hinges”
I’ve never used these. I’ve been unfamiliar enough that there was always another solution. I’ll have to rethink them.
I love the installation shown in Fig A. I think it would give a really good look to a cabinet. Now to get the geometry right!
Look at any of Krenov’s books. They are also known as Knife Hinges. Check out the Brusso pages for a bunch of different sizes. Very common in high end Mid Century Modern furniture and commercial and home owner doors.
I have never seen the 45 degree ones.
I must compliment Mr Hayward and Meghan for finding this fine background info and the illustrations which make understanding these hinges much easier than trail and error… LOTS of error.
Study figure 8. It will save a lot of time.
I am/was considering using these types of hinges on the piece I am making now. However I read that the mortise in the carcase should be done before assembly so you can use a router. Totally makes sense. I have already glued up my carcase, so now I’m thinking maybe for another project… I’m not sure how clean of a mortise I could cut with hand tools in this case? Thanks for the article, good visual on how the hinge works in different positions.
C’mon, Pascal. You’re a woodworker. You can cut those mortises by hand. Just take your time laying out your lines with your knife. Maybe reinforce the outsides of the faces with a clamp so there is no blowout. You’re better than a router. Go for it.
You are right Mitch, I can do it. Those euro hinges sure are tempting though.
Euro hinges always show. The advantage of knife hinges is that ther than a little peek of the end of the hinge, they do not show. Euro hinges intrude into the interior of the cabinet. Knife hinges do not. Euro hinges are easy to install, Knife hinges are not.
What is a loose cornice?
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