GERMAN ENGINEERING RESULTS IN A CLEAN LOOK AND ADJUSTABILITY
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.
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 35 mm carbide bit keeps a sharper edge and outlasts steel bits, especially in tougher materials such as MDF. A 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 holds screws so well it’s the next best thing to an extra hand. Finally, consider spending getting a PoziDrive screwdriver for the adjusting screws. It delivers much better control than a standard Phillips screwdriver.
These sophisticated 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 when reattached—a wonderful feature.
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
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 $10 and up per pair.
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.
Figure B: Drill Press Table This easily made jig saves time and helps you achieve consistent results.
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 the finish.
Drill pilot holes for the baseplate. A simple template automatically locates all four holes . The Vix bit centers the hole, without damaging the template.
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!
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.
Clip the door onto the baseplates. Attach the upper hinge first. This allows the door to hang so it’s easier to handle.
Engage the front of each hinge first. Then push on the back of the hinge arm until it clicks in place.
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!
Side to Side
Adjust the door left or right with the front screw. This changes the gap between the door and the cabinet side. This is a direct-action screw, moving the door 1/16 in. per turn. Clockwise rotation decreases the gap between the door and cabinet.
Up and _Down
Loosen the middle screw. This adjusts the gap between the door and the top and bottom of the cabinet. Loosen this screw on both hinges. Move the door to the desired location. Retighten both hinge screws.
In and Out
Loosen the back screw. This adjusts the door so it will be even with the side of the cabinet. Move the door in or out, then retighten the screw.
Buying Euro Hinges
CONFUSED BY ALL THE VARIATIONS? HERE’S HOW TO FIND THE HINGES YOU NEED
Euro hinges have revolutionized the way American cabinet shops mount cabinet doors. Originally developed as part of the European frameless cabinetmaking system, Euro hinges work equally well in traditional face-frame cabinets. Also called concealed or cup hinges, these high-tech marvels offer several advantages over traditional hinges.
They’re really easy to install. You simply drill holes and pop the hinges and mounting plates into place. Cabinet shops use sophisticated boring machines for production work, but all you really need is a drill press, a 1-3/8-in. flat-bottom boring bit, and a 3/32-in. twist bit.
They make doors mountable in seconds. You just snap Euro hinges into place. Removal’s a snap, too.
You can dial in a perfect fit. Euro hinges have adjustment screws that allow you to move the doors up or down, side to side, and front to back after they’ve been installed.
There’s a Euro hinge for almost every door: Thick doors, bi-fold doors, glass doors, doors with narrow stiles or profiled edges. Self-closing hinges are most common, but free-swinging versions are also available.
They don’t show. Euro hinges mount behind the doors and inside the cabinet, so they’re hidden when the doors are closed.
They’re cost-effective. Euro hinges cost more than traditional hinges, but they make installation go a lot faster. Some pro shops charge per door to install traditional hinges.
If Euro hinges have a drawback, it’s that there are so many variations it’s hard to figure out which ones are right for your project.
Catalogs and Web sites commonly present diagrams and charts to help you choose. Unfortunately, they’re almost always loaded with dimensions, unfamiliar terms and installation details that just make things worse. The fact is, you don’t have to know a lot about Euro hinges to choose the right ones.
Euro Hinge Basics
Euro hinges vary widely in appearance, but they all share the same basic two-part design and they’re all installed the same way. The best Euro hinges are loaded with user-friendly features.
Snap-on attachment. Spring-lock hinges snap on and off the baseplate with finger pressure. Avoid hinges that clamp to the baseplate with a screw. They can work loose, leaving you with floppy doors.
Screw-on fastening. Baseplates that mount with regular flat head screws are most economical. All the other fastening variations, like Euro screws and expanding dowels, are aimed at pros. Some require special machinery to install.
Simple vertical adjustment. The best hinges allow you to adjust the doors up and down without loosening the mounting screws. These hinges are easy to spot because their baseplates won’t have elongated mounting screw holes. Some hinges employ two-part adjustable baseplates (see photo, left). Others locate all three door-adjustment screws on the hinge arm.
Euro Hinge Anatomy
Euro hinges have two parts: a hinged cup-and-arm mechanism and a baseplate. The cup mounts in a flat-bottomed hole drilled in back of the door. The arm locks onto the baseplate, which is fastened to the cabinet wall or face frame. Cup-and-arm mechanisms come in several variations for different opening capacities. Baseplates come in several thicknesses, to work with different door and cabinet styles. Mounting-hole locations also vary, depending on the application.
Find the Right Hinges
Knowing where you want to use Euro hinges and what you want them to do is most important. Answering 3 simple questions allows you to cut through all the choices and zero in on the right hinge and baseplate combination.
1. What Style Are Your Cabinets?
Face-frame cabinets have frames glued to the front of the cabinet box. This frame makes the cabinet rigid, but it reduces the size of the opening.
Frameless cabinets are completely open, bordered only by the edges of the cabinet box. The glued-in back makes the cabinet rigid.
2. What Style Are Your Doors?
Overlay doors mount in front of the cabinet or face frame. Doors with full-overlay hinges cover the 3/4-in.-wide edge of the frameless cabinet side. Doors with half-overlay hinges cover half of the 3/4-in.-wide edge. You can mount doors on both sides of a single 3/4-in.-wide partition by using half-overlay hinges.
Sometimes, overlay amounts are listed incrementally, ranging from 1/4 in. up to 1-3/8 in. This use of two types of terminology can be confusing: A half-overlay hinge, for example, is not the same as a hinge with a 1/2-in. overlay.
Inset doors mount inside the cabinet or face frame, flush with the front.
Lipped doors fit halfway inside the opening, because the back edge is rabbeted. When the door is closed, the lip covers the opening. Typically, lipped doors are mounted on face-frame cabinets with partially concealed hinges. Few Euro hinges are compatible with lipped doors.
3. How Far Do You Want the Door to Open?
165-degree hinges swing the doors wide open, but they cost the most and they’re huge.
120-degree hinges are a good all-purpose choice. Doors can swing fairly wide and the hinges are fairly compact.
95-degree hinges take up the least cabinet space and are the most economical. However, doors that open only 95 degrees can get in the way when they’re mounted on base cabinets.
Drill cup holes with a flat-bottomed boring bit. Euro hinge manufacturers recommend using a 35-mm bit, but a 1-3/8-in. bit works just as well. The difference in diameter is only 0.02 in.
More Tips for Buying and Using Euro Hinges
High Tech for Traditional Style
Manufacturers have recently introduced Euro hinges for face-frame cabinets with inset doors. These hinges represent the ultimate merging of Euro design and traditional appearance. Now you can outfit a classic Shaker-style cupboard or Arts and Crafts bookcase with high-tech hinges.
Clearance for Pull-Out Shelves
Doors mounted on standard Euro hinges interfere with pull-out shelves, because the doors swing inward as they open. Cabinets with pull-out shelves require doors with special zero-protrusion hinges. Zero-protrusion hinges keep the doors from protruding into the cabinet opening, so the doors aren’t in the way of the shelves.
Use Three Hinges for Big Doors
Any door taller than 40 in. or wider than 24 in. requires three or more Euro hinges. Suppliers have charts to determine the exact number you’ll need.
Buy the Package
Some catalogs offer hinges and backplates separately. This gives professional cabinet-shop buyers all the options. But if you don’t know Euro hinges inside and out, it’s easiest to buy from a supplier who packages the hinges and baseplates together for specific applications, such as a “frameless cabinet, full-overlay door, 120-degree opening.”
Use the Right Driver
Euro-hinge adjustment screws have PoziDrive heads. You can use a Phillips screwdriver on these screws, but a PoziDrive screwdriver works so much better that it’s worth having if you’re installing more than a few Euro hinges.