Installing European Hinges – Woodworking | Blog | Videos | Plans

While these sleek, versatile and user-friendly cabinet hinges are often called “European” style, they’re almost standard issue these days in mass-produced kitchen or bath cabinetry here in North America. There’s good reason for it: Euro hinges come in a wide variety of options to suit both face frame and frameless cabinets. They can accommodate door swing ranges from 95 up to 120 degrees or more, as well as complex door clearance requirements for inside-corner cabinetry. The hinges also offer easy adjustability once installed — turning a couple of screws moves the door incrementally up and down, left and right or in and out to improve its fit, reveal and operation. Some Euro hinges also offer snap- or soft-close features that make additional door catches unnecessary.

Short arm european hinge
Compact Euro Hinges

There are two basic types of Euro hinges: concealed or long-arm. Both have a cup on one end of the hinge that fits into a round mortise on the inside back of the cabinet door; creating this mortise involves simply drilling a stopped hole. On the other end of the hinge, a mounting plate fastens either to a face frame stile or the inside wall of the cabinet carcass with screws. No mortise is required.

Long arm cabinet door hinge
Long-arm Euro Hinges

Compact styles are one-piece hinges, while long-arm styles have two main components that snap together at the mounting plate. Longarm hinges are particularly handy, because they make doors easy to remove.

Door Details

Diagram of various cabinet door layouts

The manner in which a door interfaces with the cabinet’s carcass will impact which Euro hinge options are available for your project. Inset doors (left illustration) fit completely inside and flush with the cabinet opening. They’re common on both frameless and face frame cabinet styles. Some doors, particularly on older cabinets, have a 3/8″ x 3/8″ rabbet around their back face, enabling them to recess partially into the face frame opening (center illustration). Other door styles overlay the front edges of the cabinet carcass or a face frame by the full thickness of the door (right illustration). Euro hinges are made to accommodate these full-overlay doors with varying amounts of overlap around the opening; this may range from 3/8″ up to 1-1⁄4″. Hinge descriptions in catalogs or online will specify inset or overlay style, face frame or frameless cabinet type and maximum swing range, among other important product details.

Installation Process

Marking cabinet hinge installation locations
The first step to installing Euro hinges is to mark their positions on the cabinet face frame or inside wall and the back face of the door. Make sure these pairs of layout marks for each hinge align exactly.

 

Drilling cup hole in cabinet frame
Install a 35 mm Forstner bit in a drill press for boring mortises for the cups. Adjust its fence to the specific distance away from the bit required by the hinges.
European hinge drilling guide
Rockler’s Hinge Cup Jig makes this setup step easy.

All the conveniences of these production-quality hinges can also be part of your shop-built cabinet projects, and they’re super easy to install! If you can drill holes, you can mount these hinges successfully on the first try.

Setting depth for European hinge installation
While hinge cup mortise depths will vary, most are around 12 mm (1/2″) deep. Set the drilling depth according to the hinge specifications, and bore a hinge cup mortise into the door at each layout mark.
Screwing cup portion of hinge in place
When mounting the cup portion of the hinge to the cabinet door, be careful to first square the hinge arm to the door edge before marking centerpoints for the installation screws with an awl.
Drilling holes for European hinge installation on cabinet door
Drill pilot holes for the hinge cup screws with a 3/32″ self-centering bit. Then drive in the screws to secure the hinge cups in their mortises. Installing these delicate screws by hand will help prevent breaking them.

The photo series explains the process for mounting typical long-arm hinges on a frameless cabinet with a frame-and-panel door. Most Euro hinges require that the cup mortise be drilled with a 35 mm Forstner bit. Using a drill press for this step is best, but a handheld drill will also work, provided you drill carefully and not too deep. A JIG IT Deluxe Concealed Hinge Drilling System from Rockler simplifies the task.

Jigs Make It Easy!

Using installation jig to set up hinge installation
Locate and drill pilot holes for pairs of screws that will attach the hinge mounting plates to the cabinet. Here, Rockler’s JIG IT Mounting Plate Template “A” sets the screw placement and setback without measuring.
Screwing European hinge in cabinet frame
With long-arm style Euro hinges like these, the mounting plates are installed independently of the rest of the hinge hardware. Fasten the hinge plates to the cabinet with their attachment screws.

Rockler offers several more inexpensive jigs which will make the installation process even easier. A JIG IT Hinge Cup Jig enables you to set the Forstner bit the exact distance away from a drill press fence to locate the hinge cup mortises accurately on the cabinet door. Then, several options of JIG IT Mounting Plate Templates can help locate the hinge mounting plate screws on the cabinet or face frame without measuring.

Bringing European hinge components together
Set the door into postion on the cabinet, and snap the long-arm portion of the hinges onto the mounting plates to hang the door. (If this were a compact hinge instead, the hardware would be a single component.)
Completing long-arm hinge installation
Use the hinges’ adjustment screws to fine-tune door placement on the cabinet opening. Depending on the hinge, these screws provide very helpful up/down, side-to-side and in/out door adjustability.

For an informative overview to help you choose the right Euro-style hinges, visit here.

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