When you think about hinges for furniture, you probably think about regular hinges with two leaves that are screwed to a door and to the case or face frame. That’s not the case with many hood doors on tall case clocks. The opening photo shows two pairs of hood-door hinges. No knuckles. Just a flat piece of brass cutout in a funny shape. These hinges are different.
I picked up my hinges from Londonderry Brass ($15.50 each). These hinges have a nice antique look about them, but there are a few problems with which to deal. Horton Brasses’ hood-door hinges ($10.00 each) are less antique looking, but do away with some of the problems. (My third primary hardware supplier, Whitechapel LTD., didn’t have the hinges or I was unable to track them down on the web site.)
If you look at the photo above, you get an idea as to what the problem is with the hinges. The company sends out hinges that are all the same. Unfortunately, you need matched pairs. Also, the holes in the hinges are too small for appropriate screws. The first order of business for me was to align the hinge plates into pairs, enlarge the holes and make countersinks for the heads. (I marked the face that needed the countersinks.) The work is easy because the brass is soft, but due to the odd hole locations presented with the antique look, the enlarged holes get dangerously close to the outer edges of the hinge. If I could get these hinges without holes and countersinks, I think I’d be better off. In fact, if I had the time (and inclination to do so), I may try cutting my own from a piece of sheet brass.
How these hinges fit is also different. The work to set the hinge is all in end grain – the top and bottom end of the hood-door stile. As you locate the hinge, you need to watch the edge of the door stile. A strong rap with your mallet and the chisel can easily break the grain along the edge of the door. That’s not good or fun, so work with a knife or cutting gauge and leave the whacks for dovetails. And you better sharpen your chisels before you begin. Of course, you know what it’s like to pare across end-grain.
After you get the hinges set into the door stile – one at the top and a second at the bottom – the screws are installed. Because I’m merely fitting these at this time (I have more finish work to do), I installed only two screws per hinge. A bird-cage awl is the perfect tool to start these screws. Here you can see where having the holes too close to the edge of the hinge can be problematic. In early builds, I’ve split the stile as I’ve driven home the screws. Make sure you properly drill the holes, especially at the outer edge.
With the hinges installed, how things work is rather simple. The part of the hinge that extends out from the door is secured to the hood with a screw through the hole. Originally, that was probably done with pins, but I think a screw is a better choice in case you need to pull the door for any reason, such as to replace the glass. This method also allows you to align the door in the opening. Set the door at the bottom then as you install the top screw you can make slight adjustments to get the reveal just right.
And here’s a tip when working with hardware that shows more handwork. Mark the individual hinges so you can get them back in the same place. I learned this lesson the hard way when I built my first step-back cupboard using rat-tail hinges. As I we back to re-install the hardware, I spent too many extra hours trying to fit the parts into the proper position – all leaves are not the same, and the screw holes are not matched. Sharpie to the rescue.
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