How to Cut Door Hinges

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The door hinge is perhaps the most important part of a door, aside from the knob of course. The door hinge attaches to the jam and holds it in place, which allows it easy opening and closing. Unfortunately, if a door hinge is not properly installed then the entire object may sit crooked or, worse yet, not work at all.

A door without a door hinge isn’t possible and a door without a strong and properly-installed hinge doesn’t work well at all.

Why you Need to Cut Door Hinges

Hiring someone to install a door is a lot of money and energy for something that you can do yourself. Many people think that the process is overly complicated and best left to a carpenter or expert but that isn’t the case. This is one home renovation project that you can certainly accomplish on your own. In fact, it is one of the easiest projects you can finish yourself.

But before you can get it done, there are certain things you need to have access to or else the project can’t even start. Unfortunately, there are a few tools needed to cut door hinges that you might not just have laying around the house. That means a trip to the hardware store may be in order but at least you will know that your door hinge task will be completed in no time at all.

Rusty door hinge

What You Will Need to Cut Door Hinges

Most of these tools are not ones that you use often but they are easily found at your local hardware store. Thankfully, they are not that expensive either. Additionally, most of these tools can be used on other projects you may come across so you will put them to good use in the future.

Think of it as a smart and long-lasting investment. Plus buying them for this task is cheaper and easier than spending your money on someone to do it for you.

  • Mortise Chisel: A mortise chisel is a specialized chisel that are purposely created to withstand heavy blows from a mallet or hammer, as well as levering out material. Many people consider a mortise chisel a chopping out tool since it is almost always used for intense chopping work, exactly like cutting out a door hinge. The chisel is just one option for this project, the other being a drill press. If you aren’t very handy or don’t like using power tools or don’t plan on using a drill press after the door hinge project, you may want to rely on the chisel. It takes a bit more effort and energy but it is easier, less complicated and doesn’t require as much time. All you need is the chisel and some strength to hammer it.
  • Mallet: If you consider a mortise chisel a “chopping tool” then you need to consider a mallet one as well. The mallet is the strength behind this operation, the battering item that holds all the power while cutting a door hinge. A mallet, like any kind of hammer, can be dangerous, so be careful. Do not swing this thing around without knowing who is about.
  • Drill Press: A drill press is a tool used for producing and puncturing holes in various materials. The drill is held in a rotating spindle and is fed into the object that needs a hole. A vise is often related to the drill press because it is usually always used to keep the wood or object in place as the drilling takes place. A drill press can be expensive and isn’t necessarily required for cutting a door hinge but if you are going to be doing a lot of home renovation projects, it might be a smart investment.
  • Measuring Tape: Here is an object that you really should own even if this is the last door hinge you cut. Measuring tape is a staple for homeowners, something you will use again and again. If you don’t have one, make sure you buy one before you start this door project.

How to Cut Door Hinges with a Chisel

If you decide to use the chisel as your main tool to cut the door hinge, you can do so simply, cheaply, and quickly.

  1. Attach the hinges against the door with your hand. Position the door with its back edge clearly visible then position the door hinges. The bottom hinge generally sits about 11 inches above the bottom, the middle as close to the center as possible, the highest usually about 7 inches from the top.
  2. Place the hinge flat against the door and make sure the three holes of the device are flush against it.
  3. Mark this position on the door with a pencil and ensure the markings are dark and easy to see.
  4. Remove the hinge and use a utility knife to create grooves along the surface of the door. Trace the knife along the outline you just created.
  5. Place the chisel on top of the outline and start tapping it with the mallet.
  6. Keep tapping away without too much force until you have reached the proper depth for the door hinge.
Drill press and broken drill bits

How to Cut Door Hinges With a Drill

Cutting a door hinge with a drill isn’t nearly as quick as doing it with a chisel but it can be a bit easier in many ways. It just requires a bit more time and might make a little more of a mess. Have a broom and dust pan ready to clean up any wood chippings and sheddings.

  1. Get the proper measurements. This is done best by placing the door on a sawhorse or a work bench. Make measurements that mark the placement of the hinges.
  2. Set the depth of the drill to make sure it matches that of the hinge you are using. It is very important that the drill doesn’t dig deeper than it needs to. That is why this step is so necessary.
  3. Turn on the drill and begin to slowly drill out the area for the screw. Go steady and go slow, do not let the drill move too quickly or cut too deeply. It is very important that you pay close attention to this part of the process because this is where most people can get off track and create a door that is unusable.
  4. After cutting the hinges, make sure you clean up the rough edges with a chisel or utility knife. This will give you the clean, proper cut you were looking for. You could choose to clean the cuts with the drill you just used but that is a bit harder and more cumbersome and doesn’t allow you as much control as a chisel or knife does.

We’d recommend using a high powered corded drill for this project, because it maximizes the power the drill has.

Summary

Some people think that all home renovation projects are incredibly hard and complicated. There are many who will just hire a contractor to do their work because they are so overwhelmed with the idea of having to do it themselves. But that is a waste of money and time because some home projects are easy – and cheap – and totally capable of being done by even the most inexperienced homeowner.

Cutting door hinges is one of those simple projects that doesn’t require a lot of know how impressive skill. This is something you can get done in less than hour once you have the proper tools and a plan laid out. This is a procedure that you can have done in no time. There is no reason for you to spend your money on an outside professional when you can just do it yourself. This is one do-it-yourself project that you really can do yourself.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.