Installing traditional mortise hinges makes some woodworkers want to turn their electric drill on themselves to just end it all.
practice is the best teacher, there are little tricks that can help
when installing hardware. I have a bunch of “dodges” that people have
taught me through the years. This one is ridiculously basic, so stop
reading now and watch this silly video of cats.
you have your hinge mortise cut (an operation that has its own set of
tricks that I’ll detail later), put the hinge in its mortise. If the
hinge wiggles left or right in the mortise you should press it up
against the wall of the mortise that is your “reference wall” – the wall
where all your hinge layout began.
Then take a self-centering
punch and… what? … you say you don’t have one? Get thee to the home
center and get one. The Stanley 58-013 version is sloppier than the
Starrett version, but it’s usually about $6. OK, got the tool? Need
another video of cats before we go on? Alright.
the punch’s cone-shaped tip into the countersink of your hinge and
press the post down with your finger. Sure, you could use a hammer, but I
don’t recommend it. Hammers make a deeper hole, which is nice, but they
also tend to make the tool strike off-center.
After you have
punched in all the holes on your hinge, take a close look at the results
before you remove the hinge from the mortise.
Yeah, frequently some of the holes will be off-center, even if you used a
self-centering punch. So select one of the holes that is dead center
and drill the pilot hole for that screw. Install it. Drill the other
holes for the screws that are on-center and install those. When you are
left with punches that are off-center, stop.
Get your bird-cage
awl, a nail or something metal and really pointy. Press it into an
off-center hole and push and wiggle it to create a deeper hole that is
centered in the countersink. In the photo above the hole was a little too
far away from the camera’s position. So I pressed the tip of my awl
into the hole and wiggled it toward the camera. It looks like this:
Then drill a pilot hole in the bottom of that crater and
install your screw. Isn’t that nice? Not the hinge or the screws. That
has got to be the ugliest hinge we have in our shop. And I really
dislike Phillips-head screws for traditional hardware. But you get the
— Christopher Schwarz
• Graham McCullough’s “601 Woodshop Tips & Tricks” is a nice collection of them.