Fitting and Mortising Butt-Hinge Doors

Quick tips on making butt hinges work in out-of-square openings. June 16, 2005

I've probably taken a shortcut over the years... I'm so used to using Euro hinges that a set of bookcases I'm doing has me a bit trapped. They've each got 3 doors (two that meet over a center divider) with face frames, and the client wants butt hinges. Unfortunately, the door openings aren't as perfectly square as I'd like - not usually a problem with Blum hinges. And though I've already mortised the stiles, I still need to mortise the face frame edges.

Does anyone have advice and tricks or techniques to help me mortise the face frame so that when the butt hinges are screwed in, they allow the doors to open/close properly and with equal gaps? The hinges do have removable pins, by the way.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
Oh, the joys of butt hinges. I just started a job making 45 replacement inset doors for a whole house that will all have butt hinges.

Making the doors fit first is the key. If the doors fit properly, then mortising the hinges in is easy. So, the sequence is to fit the doors to the opening first. Next, wedge them in place with the proper clearances all around. Now, mark for the hinge mortises. Remove the door, make the mortise and install hinge. Re-install door.

To fit a door to a non-square opening, make marks on the door where it's too tight and won't go in. Once it's in, wedge it in place while you make marks on the door to give proper clearance. Remove the door and run a line between the marks on each edge. Plane/sand to the line on all 4 sides and then start on the hinge mortises.

If you do it right, you'll look like a craftsman who knows what he's doing, since the door will be a perfect fit and work like a champ.

Have you ever used a non-mortised butt hinge? I recently replaced a few overlay doors with flush inset and I used a hinge from Rockler that was a non-mortised hinge. They looked great and the hinges have slotted screw holes that allow for a little tweaking of door alignment. The best thing is you don't have to worry about mortising hinges!