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Prepping for Hinges

Door installation - Hinge prep - Beveling - Lock prep - Interior Doors Blog - The Ultimate tool for installing prehung interior doors

Instructions for door hinge prep

This page explains hinge prep of door slabs when you hang a door using existing jambs. There are several methods of mortising a door slab for hinges. You can trace the hinges onto the door and use a chisel and a utility knife to remove the wood for the hinge mortises. This method requires the least expenditure for tools but is also the most difficult and time consuming method.

A second method would be to ask the company from which you buy your doors if they offer custom hinge mortising. If they do, you will need to provide them with exact measurement from the top of the door to the top of each hinge. You will also need to tell them what size and thickness your hinges are. Some hinges have square corners, some have 5/8" radius corners and some have 1/4" radius corners. Hinge sizes also vary. Most hinges today are 3-1/2" x 3-1/2", 4" x 4" or 4-1/2" x 4-1/2". Also check the depth of your hinges, some are residential duty and some are heavy duty. This will affect the depth of the mortise. Keep in mind that most door companies will not guarantee that custom hinge mortising will be perfect so you may need to do a little fudging or widening of the hinge mortises if they don't line up exactly with your existing jambs. This method is the easiest but it will cost extra and you run the risk of the hinge locations not lining up exactly.

A third method would be to buy a hinge butt gauge stamp. This is a tool that you hold on the edge of the door in the location where you want your hinge to be and strike it with a mallet or hammer. The impression left on the door will be the exact outline of the hinge and will be at the same depth as the hinge thickness. You then have to take a chisel and remove the wood within the impression. This method is a little easier than the first method but not much easier and it requires that you purchase the stamper which can be a difficult tool to find.

A fourth method can be used if you have a router available. You can purchase an inexpensive hinge mortising template for routers. Most hardware stores should have these or they can be ordered online. Vermont American make one for less than $20 (see illustration below). Follow the directions for using the template and secure the template to the door in the proper position. A router with the proper size guide bushing and set at the proper depth is then used to remove the wood for the hinge mortise.

The best method would be to use a contractor's door hanging kit witha router. But unless you want to spend $500 to $1000 or more for this type of tool or know a contractor, you will have to use one of the above methods. Your local rental store may have this type of equipment available. If you are doing a lot of doors you may want to check it out.


Hinge prep tools and templates

Vermont American® Hinge Mortising Template Set (23457)

Vermont American Hinge Mortising Template Set (23457)

Porter Cable 59370 Door Hinge Template

Porter Cable 59370 Door Hinge Template

For mortising of 3", 3-1/2", and 4" square and 5/8" radius, and 4-1/2" square hinges on doors and door jambs. Simple and easy to use, whether installing one or multiple doors.
Includes high-speed steel router bit.

Porter-Cable 59381 Hinge Butt Template Kit
Right tool hinge templet

Porter-Cable 59381 Hinge Butt Template Kit

Includes Porter Cable Hinge Butt Templateortising Bit, Templet Guide, Lock Nut, Carring Case and Operating Manual.

Will do 6'6", 6'8", and 7' jambs and doors, and 3" to 6" hinges.

Standard Equipment: Hinge Butt Templateortising Bit, templet Guide, Locknut, Carrying Case.

 Porter Cable Hinge Butt Templet Kit, Model #59381

Includes Hinge butt templet, Mortising Bit, Templet Guide, Lock Nut, Carring Case and Operating Manual.

Will do 6'^", 6'8", and 7' jambs and doors, and 3" to 6" hinges

Standard Equipment: Hinge Butt Templet #59380, Mortising Bit #43446, templet Guide #42042, Locknut #42237, Carrying Case #59824

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Link to on-line store Vix-Bit 3VIXBIT Pre-Drill Bit For 5/64" Hinges #2, 3, and 4 Screws

Vix-Bit 3VIXBIT Pre-Drill Bit For 5/64" Hinges #2, 3, and 4 Screws