Pilot Holes for Hinges

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Forum topic by MOJOE posted 10-20-2011 09:04 PM 4850 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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548 posts in 2992 days

10-20-2011 09:04 PM

I currently have a “self centering” drill bit for making pilot holes for hinge screws…..dosen’t seem to work all that great. Today I installed some small hinges on a jewelry box, and the afore mentioned bit was a little too large. I tried my best, but had a very hard time getting the pilot holes centered…..drill bit wandered a fair amount. I over came the obstacle, but it took a little profanity. Anyway, do you guys/gals have any tips or tricks to getting the pilot hole placed properly…..I am really interested in box making, but this hinge thing is really quite irritating.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

6 replies so far

View Brit's profile


7108 posts in 2566 days

#1 posted 10-20-2011 09:44 PM

I know what you mean about those self centering bits. There is too much play in many of them to be accurate. Personally, I think installing metal hinges depends on a number of things:

1) An accurately cut mortise.
2) Using a quality hinge (Brusso hinges for example). There shouldn’t be any play in the hinge and it should be stiff, not sloppy. You do get what you pay for when it comes to hinges.
3) Then with the hinge seated in the mortise, I mark the center of one hole with an awl. I trust my eye to find the center.
4) Set the pilot drill in the hole, ensure you’re vertical, and drill to depth.
5) Install the other hinge in the same manner and then fit them to the lid with a single screw.
6) Ensure the lid lines up and operates smoothly and all being well, mark and drill the remaining screw holes then fit the screws.
7) If you really want a high-end craftsman finish to your hinge installation, you can go the extra mile and fit the screws so that the slots all end up in alignment when tightened. There are a number of ways to do that which involve either tweaking the countersinking on some of the hinge holes to allow the screw to turn slightly more as it becomes tight. Or, you can carefully file the underside of the screw head to achieve the same result. This might be a step too far for most people though. :-)

I’m sure some of the great box makers on LJs will chime in with some great tips.

-- - "The hand speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to the hand." Frank R. Wilson

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2798 days

#2 posted 10-20-2011 09:53 PM

I just installed some door hinges yesterday and discovered that the screws that came with the hinges had a little cutter on the end (like Kreg screws). That usually means you can install them without a pilot hole. I tried and it worked great.

I had no trouble placing the screw tip right in the center of the hole and driving it straight in. My impact driver was at another job site and I just used a little 12 volt cordless drill – and I was driving these screws into red oak.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Brit's profile


7108 posts in 2566 days

#3 posted 10-20-2011 10:10 PM

Yeah those screws are great Rich. I’ve used them on some projects with great results. However, I wouldn’t use them on a nice box project personally. To me, they are too rough in terms of quality to show off a quality hinge like a Brusso. Personally I don’t think you can beat the look of a traditional brass wood screw. I would also polish the head of the brass screws before fitting them.

One other tip is to use a steel screw to cut the thread in the wood and then replace the steel screw with a brass one ensuring it engages in the thread cut by the steel screw. When screwing small brass screws into hardwood, brass screws will sometime shear off even when you’ve drilled the correct size pilot hole.

-- - "The hand speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to the hand." Frank R. Wilson

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2692 days

#4 posted 10-20-2011 11:36 PM

You could try punching the centre of the hole with a panel pin and then boring the pilot hole. The drill bit won’t wander off then.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2792 days

#5 posted 10-21-2011 01:14 AM

I have three Vix bits in three sizes. The largest (#10?) works for door hinges and the smallest (#5?) is what I use for cabinet hinges.

For other holes, I have a spring loaded punch that works sort of like a Vix bit. Set it in the screw hole, tap it with a hammer and it gives me a small hole right where I need it.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2798 days

#6 posted 10-21-2011 02:21 AM

Brit – I agree with you. Yesterday I was mounting hinges for a closet door.

I have a pretty strong anti-hardware bias and when I am making jewelry boxes or similar things I almost always make wooden hinges. To be totally honest, there is often some metal hidden in my hinges but it is seldom visible.

My jewelry boxes usually look like there is no metal and I always hope the recipient does not pass a metal detector over it.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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