Wooden hinges for boxes

I have been making small boxes. I wanted a change in their looks, to incorporate wooden hinges to attach the lids to the box. So I made a little 3-inch long prototype that looks like this:

Prototype of hinge for small wooden box.

I started the process by cutting some hinges by hand, and chopping out the waste. I wanted a more refined look, as a complement to the looks of the boxes. So I tried it using the F3 finger joint template on the Leigh D4R Pro — it was a great excuse to try the F3 on the D4R Pro:

Wooden hinges - cut by hand, and using the Leigh F3 template.

Now that I knew what I wanted, I went about setting up and making a “production run” of several hinges. I start with a wide walnut board in the D4R Pro:

Setup to cut finger joints - these will become wooden hinges.

I tried finger joints in various widths, and finally settled on 5/16-inch wide fingers:

Settling for 5/16" finger joints.

I made sure that the fingers looked good, and that the cut was to the base line:

Checking first set of fingers.

Then I cut the sockets on a second board, and checked the fit. The first cut was a bit tight by about 0.005″ (I use calipers to determine how close I am to the proper fit). So I cut off the fingers, adjusted the eBush to enlarge the sockets and reduce the thickness of the fingers to obtain a better fit. One adjustment, and I dialed in the perfect fit; it is a little loose, by 0.004″ — a perfect fit that allows proper rotation of the hinge:

Dialed in the fit - it is 0.004" loose, and perfect.

I then cut the fingers and sockets on both boards to approximate length at the table saw:

Trimming the fingers to length.

At this point I start to get an idea of the “look” of the hinges:

How will they look?

Another decision: Two sockets and one finger define the short side of the hinge; the short side will be placed on the top surface of the lid:

Trimming individual hinges.

Several blanks are now ready to drill the 1/8″ hole that will accept the oak dowel:

Hinge blanks ready to finish machining.

I made sure the holes are centered edge-to-edge, and along the length of the fingers:

Drilling for hinge pins.

The gnomon in this next photo is 6 inches long:

Ready to shape.

The curvature on the fingers must be smooth and consistent. I achieved this with a cheap four-way file (Note to self: get better files!):

Fine-tuning curvature, to provide turning clearance.

Once assembled with an oak dowel, I rough-shape the ends of each side of the hinge on the band saw:

Trimming to shape.

And I refine the shape using the spindle sander:

Getting the curves just right.

Following some refinement of the shape to achieve a pleasing look, I use the prototype to get similar curves. The process worked! Here is the little prototype again:

The prototype worked!

I have been playing with the shape, but like this one best of all. I will try making some hinges with natural edges, for a more rustic look. Please stand by, as I will be showing the hinges on their respective boxes in future articles.

Al Navas

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  1. says

    Very nice Al!
    What a beautiful little hinge. It leaves me wondering how it will be fitted to the box. Applied externally, inset flush, standing a bit proud like a Greene and Greene joint? All the wondering is because of the rounded ends and surfaces which don’t accommodate you usual 0.0001″ joinery precision. Guess, I’ll wait and see.

    • Al Navas says

      Thanks, Bob! The fitting will be just a simple onlay to both lid and box, using epoxy. I will try it today.