How do I adjust hinges on small boxes

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Forum topic by jsheaney posted 11-20-2007 09:23 PM 4184 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 4186 days

11-20-2007 09:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: small box hinge

I just made a small box and I put a couple of cheap small hinges on it for the lid. The hinges are labeled butt hinges, but I installed them as box hinges. I used chisels to mortise out the spots for the hinges. I think I did it pretty well, but my lid is off a little bit. It’s enough that it bothers me (i.e. it’s noticeable). I don’t see how I can fix it, though. The stumbling point is that the screws are flat head, which means the screw holes are what line up the hinge; not the mortise. I can’t move the holes.

I guess my main question is how do I fix this box, but I’m also curious how people go about making sure the holes for the hinges are in exactly the right place from the get go.

Note that this box is just a first attempt at getting the techniques down. I’m trying to make all my mistakes on this, which I’ve made quite a few. I just don’t really see how to solve this one.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

11 replies so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4072 days

#1 posted 11-20-2007 09:34 PM

Fill the screw holes with epoxy. When the epoxy dries it will be hard enough so that you can re-drill the screw holes in the proper place. It’s really quite an easy fix. I’ve done it dozens of times.

-- Happy woodworking!

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4508 days

#2 posted 11-20-2007 09:50 PM

You could try drillig the holes out large enough to plug them, then redrill. I think the only sure thing would be to buy a self centering drill made for hinges. This would definitely take the guess work out of it.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4110 days

#3 posted 11-20-2007 11:09 PM

There are a number of reasons that the hinges may be misaligned. The screw locations may be one, but the position of each hinge location on the top and the bottom of the box is another possibility. For what it’s worth, here’s how I do it:

When I am setting hinges, I use a “story stick” to mark their location. I cut a stick of scrap that is exactly the width of the box. I then decide where I want a hinge to be located along the back of the box. I cut a notch out of the story stick at that location exactly the width of a hinge. This is done only on one end of the story stick. Then the story stick can be used to mark the location of one hinge and then flipped over to mark the location of the other hinge. Because the stick is exactly the width of the box it will locate the hinges equidistant from each side of the box – it can also be used for both the bottom and the top of the box in the same manner – this locates them precisely at the same locations on both the top and bottom of the box. Once the locations are marked with knife, they can be mortised – half the thickness of the hinge in the bottom and half in the top.

To attach the hinges, start by placing them on the box bottom with a piece of scrap against the inside of the box to butt the hinge against. Mark each screw hole in the center with with an awl. Then drill the holes and mount the hinges with the screws (for very small screws use a small finish nail as your drill bit to keep it from wandering as you drill). Now, place a piece of double stick tape on the top of each hinge and set the top in place carefully aligning it with the bottom. Press down on the top to cause the tape to temporarily stick the hinges to it. Open the box carefully and repeat the steps to mark and drill the holes and then attach the hinges to the top. If necessary as you mark the hole locations on the top, place a pieces of scrap under the top to prop it up to the correct height.

I hope that this helps.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4263 days

#4 posted 11-21-2007 12:15 AM

To add to Mark’s post you can use your router table to mortise the hinge slots. Just follow Mark’s instructions for the “story stick”. Once you have the story stick made, use it to set stop blocks on your router table. I use a 1/4” straight bit in the router. I raise the bit to match the height of one leaf of the hinge, then use the story stick to set the fence for the correct depth of cut. Use the story stick to set the stops for the width of cut and mortise away. You will have to set up the stop blocks for one side (left or right), make your cuts – which will produce a cut on the right side of the bottom and the left side of the top. After completing those cuts, just flip to story stick and make the set up for the other side, just don’t move the fence or bit – just the stop block. You will have to use a chisel to square up the corners, but that only takes a second. Wish I could take credit for the idea, but I got it from one of Doug Stowe’s books – it works great for me – perfect hinge fit every time and it only takes a minute.

Hope that helps.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4110 days

#5 posted 11-21-2007 12:21 AM


Yep, I use Doug Stowe’s method either by hand or on the router table as you describe. There’s a lot more info in his books/DVD’s than just box making!

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 4186 days

#6 posted 11-21-2007 03:02 AM

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and tips. I guess I’ll plug up those holes and try again. I’m going to take some careful measurements and see if my mortises are off. I did them by hand, but I used a good marking gauge to set up all the lines and my 3/4” chisel is exactly the width of the hinge. My suspicion is that the hole placement is my downfall. They are tiny screws and my 1/16” bit was hard to keep still, even in my drill press. I’ll use the tips here to make a plan and let you know how I do.


-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

View Karson's profile


35145 posts in 4598 days

#7 posted 11-21-2007 03:04 AM

You might also try a wooden match or toothpick on one side of the hole and it might move the screw over a little.

Depends on the amount of movement needed.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4358 days

#8 posted 11-21-2007 04:20 PM

this would be a good topic for a CSS video.
Hinges have given us frustration almost every time we use them!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4497 days

#9 posted 11-21-2007 09:17 PM

If you use epoxy to fill the holes, drill out an oversize hole first, or when you try to re-drill, the bit will tend to wonder toward the softer wood, & throw you off again.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4160 days

#10 posted 11-21-2007 09:20 PM

You can also use Bondo. Let it cure over night.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 4186 days

#11 posted 11-27-2007 05:45 AM

OK, so I fixed the hinges best I could. Again, this is just a test box for me to practice some techniques before I make some good <cough> ones. Anyway, I went all around all four hinge mortises with my wheel marking gauge. they were off only in the slightest so the blade itself pretty much took off the tiny shavings I needed for all four to have a corner to register the hinges. The original pilot holes for the screws were made with a 1/16th drill bit, so I drilled them all larger with a 3/32 drill bit. Then I lined up a hinge in each registration corner and marked the direction the screw needed to be moved to be centered. I tried to err in the direction of the registration corner. Then I glued little slivers of wood that had been chiseled out of the mortises into the screw holes to push the screw into the direction I wanted, “clamping” them into place with tiny finish nails. After the glue dried, I sliced off the excess flush with a chisel and screwed in the hinges. It still isn’t absolutely perfect, but is good enough to make me feel like I can do it better the next time.

As a side note, I fixed an really old dilapidated nightstand that had a door pulled off its hinges. Some chunks of wood got pulled out with the screws. As an exercise, I chiseled out some wood nice and square and glued in a block of walnut. This time, the top hinge screw holes were already OK, so I screwed in the top and just held the bottom hinge in place and drill the two lower pilot holes with my hand drill with a 1/16 bit, right through the holes in the hinge. It was perfect. Go figure.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

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