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Fix-It Chick: How to mortise door hinges

November 28, 2013

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When installing a new or used door, it is important that the hinges are mortised (or recessed) properly. A mortise hinge template and a router are great for installing a large number of hinges, but for one or two doors, a chisel and hammer can get the job done in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Step 1: Use a pencil to mark the location of the hinge on the door or jamb. The top hinge should be located 5 to 7 inches from the top of the door, the bottom hinge 10 to 11 inches from the bottom of the door and the middle hinge should be centered between the two.

Step 2: Use the hinge thickness as a gauge to mark the depth of the mortise along the side of the door or jamb.

Step 3: Use a straight edge and a carton knife to score the wood along the three edges of the hinge face. Or purchase a butt marker, position it on the hinge location and strike the butt marker a few times with a hammer to evenly score the outlined mortise area.

Step 4: Once the mortise is scored, use a sharp 1 1/4-inch-wide chisel to cut in along the edges. Position the chisel with the beveled side facing into the mortise area and strike it a few times with a hammer.

Step 5: Hold the chisel at a 45-degree angle and make a series of cuts across the grain of the wood inside the mortise area. The cuts should be about 1/4 inch apart and as deep as the depth marking located along the side of the door or jamb.

Step 6: Once the cuts have been made the full length of the mortise area, place the chisel bevel side up on the depth mark along the side. Lightly tap the chisel into the mortise area to remove the 1/4-inch wood pieces. Keep the chisel level to ensure an even finish.

Step 7: Fit the hinge into the mortise. Clean up the edges and corners with the chisel to ensure the hinge fits tightly into the area. If the mortise is too deep, cut a piece of chipboard from the hinge packaging to shim the hinge level with the door or jamb surface.

Step 8: Once the hinge is in place, use a self-centering punch to create properly aligned pilot holes before installing the hinge screws.

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