Once I discovered the simplicity of hanging
doors with European hinges, I was
hooked.Unlike butt hinges,European hinges
are totally adjustable and very easy to install.
With the help of a simple drill press table and
a marking jig, you can hang a door in just a
few minutes. Sound good? Read on.
European hinges are part of a standardized construction
system developed over 50 years ago in Germany. It radically
changed cabinetmaking by streamlining production and
reducing costs.The resulting European hinge is a beautifully
engineered precision product (Fig.A).There’s a hinge for nearly
every application. I’ve used Grass brand hinges for years with
flawless results. Major brands such as Grass, Blum and Mepla
make a great product that lasts for years. Expect to pay about
$8 to $13 per pair.
Setting up for European hinges is very simple and quite
inexpensive.You only need a drill press, a boring bit and
a screwdriver. The drill press is a must for drilling a
straight hole.While you could drill the holes by hand, it’s
riskier. A drill press ensures success.
If you have a lot of doors to hang, I recommend a 35
mm carbide bit, a self-centering drill bit and a magnetic-
tipped screw bit.A $25, 35 mm carbide bit keeps a
sharper edge and outlasts steel bits, especially in tougher
materials such as MDF. An $8, self-centering drill bit, such
as a Vix bit, is great because it centers the screw hole and
controls the drilling depth. In addition, the bit’s outer
housing protects template holes from damage. A magnetic-
tipped screw bit ($4 to $5) holds screws so well it’s
the next best thing to an extra hand. Finally, consider
spending $10 on a PoziDrive screwdriver for the adjusting
screws. It delivers much better control than a standard
If you have only a few hinges to install, you can save
some money. Use a 1-3/8-in. Forstner bit or a 35 mm,
high-speed steel bit (costs less than half the carbide).A
Phillips screwdriver is fine for installing a few screws
and adjusting the hinges.
I always apply finish to the cabinet and doors before I
install hinges.For an inset application (as shown in these
photos), cut the doors leaving a 1/8-in. gap at the top,bottom,
sides and at the center division between two doors.
Just follow Photos 1 through 8. With all the parts
ready to go, installation of European hinges is as easy as
eins, zwei, drei!
Fig. A: Parts of a European Hinge
hinges allow complete
adjustment of a door
after installation. In
addition, doors can be
quickly released from
the cabinet without
removing a single
screw! The hinges
keep their settings
Fig. B: Drill Press Table
This easily made jig saves time and helps you achieve
Fig. C: Baseplate Template for Inset Doors
Instead of measuring and marking the cabinet for
each door, make a template to locate the
baseplate holes.This one is for inset doors. For
overlay doors, the first hole would be about
3/4 in. from the front edge, with the other
distances remaining the same.
This template is dimensioned for Grass hinges.
However, each application and each brand can
have a different drilling pattern, so be sure to read
the specs for the hinge you are installing.
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Drill a hole for the hinge cup. Clamp the drill press
table in position (Fig. B). Hold the door against the fence,
butt it up to the pin and drill the left hinge-cup hole. Pull
out the dowel pin and insert it into the right hole of the
jig.Then drill the right hinge-cup hole.
2. Screw the hinge to the door. First, insert the hinge and
use a square to align the hinge’s arm perpendicular to the
door. Drill pilot holes into the door using a 7/64-in.Vix bit.
(A Vix bit automatically centers the pilot holes at a fixed
depth, so you won’t accidentally drill through the door.)
Install the screws.The soft pad under the door protects
3. Drill pilot holes for the baseplate. A simple
template automatically locates all four holes (Fig. C).The
Vix bit centers the hole,without damaging the template.
4. Fasten the baseplate to the cabinet. Install the
baseplate with all four screws. A magnetic bit makes it
easier to hang on to such a small screw!
5. Clip the door onto the baseplates. Attach the
upper hinge first.This allows the door to hang so it’s
easier to handle.
6. Engage the front of each hinge first. Then push on the
back of the hinge arm until it clicks in place.
7. European hinges make on-site adjustments a
snap. Uneven floors and walls can move doors out of
line when cabinets are installed. Imagine trying to fix
these misaligned doors if they had butt hinges!
8. Ganz getan (all done!).