|Review by RogerBean||posted 09-05-2011 10:16 PM||9160 views||5 times favorited||12 comments|
Hinging a box project is one of the most troublesome and intimidating parts of box making. But, there is a really easy way. The SmartHinge is the best looking, easiest to install premium brass box hinge available. Emphasis on easy.
SmartHinge is the latest entry into the premium box hinge inventory. These hinges are the brainchild of Andrew Crawford and Rolls Royce engineer Clive Jarman. They are solid brass, precision machined “side-rail” style hinges highly polished to a mirror finish.
SmartHinges have two big advantages over the currently available side-rail hinges:
First: When compared to the “quadrant” style side rail hinges, the SmartHinge does not require excavating a cavity in the lid and base to house the quadrant stay. Excavating these four cavities can be a chore if you don’t have the right tools for the job (I use a Dremel with a Stewart-MacDonald router base). Even then, it takes a bit of fiddling to fit them properly.
Second: When compared to the square back side-rail hinge with an internal stop (WoodCraft, Rockler, BCSpecialties.com), the SmartHinge does not require the installer to relieve the lid and base to accommodate the stop pivots. This requires three small relief cuts for each hinge. If you don’t get these right, you end up with some nasty little chip-outs behind the hinges. Also, the exposed back of the SmartHinge is rounded and somewhat cleaner looking than the square back variety.
NOTE: I recently posted a blog discussing several different types of box hinges at: lumberjocks.com/RogerBean/blog/23886
Installing hinges has typically been a hassle for the box maker. It was probably true in 1790 as well. Some folks even avoid hinges altogether rather than deal with the fitting and adjusting issues. Even the lowly butt hinge can be a chore to install perfectly (and have the lid/base align correctly). A very small misalignment at the hinge becomes amplified by the time it reaches the front of the box.
NOTE: Timing. When to install the hinges: I’ve tried it two different ways.
First method: installing the hinges early, after veneering the lid/base edges, but before veneering the outside of the box. (If the inside is veneered, it’s done before glue-up.) The idea is to sand the exterior perfectly even to match the hinge placement and get perfect alignment. This requires a second set of screws so you don’t tear up your finish screws during the several installs and uninstalls of the hinges.
Second method: the hinges can be installed near the end of the process. Using the method outlined below, there’s no inherent reason why this should not be equally successful (presuming your box is square and true to begin with). I’ve done it successfully both ways, but in this example, I’ll be putting them in near the end.
SmartHinge, screws and instructions were all included in the box.
The hinges come complete with detailed instructions and eight #3×5/8” solid brass screws.
Installing the SmartHinge is about as easy as it gets. Using a router table and a 5/16” or 8mm bit (spiral downcut bits are recommended, but I’ve been using a 5/16” Whiteside straight bit with good results).
Set the bit height at exactly 1/8” so the hinge seats perfectly flush with the surface. If the cut is too shallow, the lid will not close completely, leaving an unsightly gap at the rear. If too deep, the lid will bind and stress the screws, and probably cause a gap at the front of the lid.
Spacer block set-up
Next, place a 34mm spacer block (1.33 inches) between the cutter and your stop block. I am using the factory made stops on my Incra fence, but a simple clamped on fence and block work equally well. I also always make a test cut on scrap (because at this stage of the box, I’m not prepared to take any risks. When you’re sure you’re ready, make the first two cuts on the box itself.
Reverse the set-up to make the final two cuts. At this point your hinge cuts should be all identical, with the hinge pin perfectly centered on the back edge.
Place the hinges in the lid and check for fit. All should be good. Drill the pilot holes for the #3×5/8” brass screws with a 1/16” drill (for ply or MDF). For a hard wood like maple it’s necessary to use a larger drill. I also relieve the upper part of the hole to accommodate the unthreaded portion of the brass screw. A little paste wax can also make the screws go in more easily. Some folks like to run steel screws in first to make the way easier for the brass screws. I’ve never broken off a brass screw. If they are going in really hard… DON’T keep forcing it. It’s a real pain to drill them out and fill the hole, etc. etc.
In MDF I usually run a little thin cyanoacrylate glue into the holes to firm them up a bit. I also polish the heads before installing, and always line up the slots. It’s a small mark of the care you put into your project.
NOTE: Here, the pictures show temporary phillips plated steel screws. Because, you guessed it, my box needs more clean-up to align the lid. (No fault of the hinges or the installation.) Apparently, the 3/8 ply I used for the carcass has shifted slightly since glue-up, so I need to do a little clean up; hence the hinges have to come off again. I will use the slotted screws for the final install.
Inside installed hinge
And, on the outside they present a clean, compact, and minimal look.
Outside back pic
OK, that’s all nice, and they look great,but are they worth the $62 price?
Well, if you’re making a box to sell for $50 – 100 at a craft show, then certainly they are not. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a special box as a gift or for gallery exhibition, then probably yes. Or, if like me, you want to make a high end box, and you’re shooting for absolutely perfect installation, then yeah, I think they’re well worth it.
The SmartHinge can be ordered directly from Andrew at www.box-making.com My order arrived in just a few days.
PS: I will be posting this little document box as a project once I get it finished. Probably a couple weeks.
-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)