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I bought some decent soft close hinges from the Big Orange yesterday. My workbench project is finally starting to come along, so I was planning for doors and drawers. I am the farthest thing from a cabinet maker you can be, so my question is."Is it normal for cabinet hardware to be measure in metric?". My wife made a funny point about the hinges as well. On the pack it says Made in U.S.A., but it says so in three languages, on one line. Then I open the instructions and get hit with this mm stuff. I can figure it out, but this is the good ol' U.S. of A. I want my country back!!!!

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Hi Tim,  The European style hinges are origional to Europe where the were designed for frameless cabinets after the war due to the need to mass produce cabinets after the mass destruction from war time.  The cabinet styles in America were face frames and inset style.  Frameless became popular in the United States as a design to emplement the styles that were common to the United States.   In Europe they used the metric measurments and the automated cabinet making tooling were also designed in the metric measurment.  Then to make cabinet making in Europe easier they designed the hinges that are known as European style in the metric measurments.  The United States then adopted the European hinges and were first available as an import from the European countries.

When I first started making cabinets several years ago it was something that I had to get used to if I wanted to make the frameless cabinet style in my shop and or the face frame with the hidden hinge, which are doors that swing on European hinges.   Some of the equiptment that I  have to build frameless are all metric calibrated and not even made in America.  Due to the demand for the hidden hinge (Eupopean hinge) some of the American hinge companies began to introduce the European hinge into its line of products and now have their brand on the hinge.  However it is still most likely made in Europe or a copy made in another country just as most products that we have available here is made on foreign soil.

In my experience of cabinet building it is a better hinge offering several advantages over some of the better known American hinge.  The biggest advantage is that a hinge can be bought that offers hinge adjustment using screws within the system.  They are very popular with home owners who desire the clean look of cabinet fronts.  

European Hinges come in many different looks from face frame hinges that offer different degrees of door swing opening as well as moutning methods.  The normal face frame door overlay is 1/2 inch but European hinges also offer different overlays from 3/8 inch to larger overlays up to and including as much as 3/4 inch.  The other hinges that are available are made mostly for the framless style and offer different mounting methods using what is known as mounting plates.  They like the face frame hinge will come is different door swing degree openings with some degrees being up to 360 degrees and are used on such style of cabinets as the corner lazy susans.  These allow the door to fold out and back against the adjoining cabinet allowing a full opening access.

The basis three styles these are known as a flush mount which is one that gives a door a i/2 overlay on a 3/4 inch thich panel.  These mount flat on the panel via a mounting plate and the door is adjusted using the same adjusting type screw.  The next is the ones known as a "full crank" and again allow the door to overlay a 3/4 inch think panel.  The remainding one is known as a "1/2 crank" and allow two doors to swing off the same 3/4 inch thick panel.   (the panels in the above means an inter or a side panel of a cabinet that stands vertical from the bottom of a cabinet to the top.)   As the above mentioned hinges they are all are metric configured and mount on a mounting plate.  An additional feature with some of these hinges is that they are offeded in a clip on and off style that allow the door to be removed and re-installed without removing the hinge.  The later versions now have the anti-slamb feature and is popular with the high end cabinets of today.

During my careet the most popular brands have been the "blum', the "grass", and the "salice" and have been the choice of mine as I have always had good dependable hinges that stand up to the rough abuse of both industry and residential including rental buildings such as apartments.  

As with any thing that become popular there comes the other hinge makers that are interested in making a quick buck and their hinge is made cheap and give the same type service. 

Here again the faster or the three major tyoe of cabinets is the European style and is also the cheapest of all the cabinets as there is a major expense in the labor and material used in building face frames.  The nest will be the face frame cabinet and is now the most popular in the American homes of today.  The last but not least is the inset drawer and door cabintes and is the hardest and most time consuming cabinet to build due to the fact that there is a face frame but the doors and drawers are inset into the face frame.  The big expense here is the labor needed to produce this type of cabinet.  It is also known by most cabinets makers as the "hall mark" of cabinet making.


Thanks Jay. My plan is for my doors and drawers to be inset into my face frames for a clean look. As I said, this is a new venture for me, but it has been an interesting challenge so far. The basic box was a breeze. The doors and drawers will be the challenge; but that is what makes our hobby so fun. The wife is already wanting cabinets for the laundry room. I guess that will be next on the list.

As usual, Jay is right on the money.  The 25 mm and 35 mm cup hinges have become standard.  I use a simple jig system to locate and mount the holes, available from Roc....  If you order the system, make sure you obtain a long-shank 35 mm forstner bit to go with it.  I have made different base plates for the system to let me easily set it up to locate and drill the holes for 25 mm cups, 35 mm cups, inset, overlay, etc.  If you do them on a drill press, it's a good idea to make a setup block for each configuration you use, to help you accurately set the depth of cut and distance from the edge of the door.  The critical measurement is distance from the edge of the door to the center of the cup.  There is some adjustment in good euro style hinges, but not a lot -- make sure you get the holes in the right place.  And NEVER run in the screws with a power tool -- always pre-drill them with the correct size vicks bit then run the screws in by hand.

Good luck!

European hinges are a puzzle when yoiu first become aquainted with them however the offer much more that the standard hinges you can buy for cabinet building.  Installation can be tricky and also expensive if you buy the market tooling that is made for them.  I thought I would take some time and pass along some of my tricks for boring the cup holes of which is best done on a drill press.  Rather that buy the commercial boring machines I  build my own sinple method of which has served me well in my cabinet shop.  It is simple to build and inexpensive.  I will attach some photos of which will show how simple it is to build the jig. 

I used a length 3/4 inch thick hard wood (oak in this case) of which I milled straight on both sides.  The length is approximately 18 inches.  The width is 3 1/2 inches however it in not critical as long as it is flat straight on both of the long sides.  We will call this part "A".

Find the center of its length and mark it running a line 90 degrees to its length (across it).  This is the mark that is to be used in centering up the cup hole of each door end hinge.  I have found that the distance of the hinge cup hole center of a door works for a common doors is 3 inches. To set this distance for the bore cut and attach another short piece of 3/4" thick hardwood that is also straight on the sides and with a 90 degree cross cut on the ends.  This length needs to be between 4 or 5 inches (also not critical in length but this works well with the jig. )  You will need two of these pieces and we will call them part "B" and "C".  These will be the jig stops for setting the door up for boring.  They will set the door in position that will place the center of the cup hole at exactly 3 inches from the edge.

On part "A" mark a line exactly 3 inches from the center towards the end.  Do this towards both ends of part "A".   At this point lay Part "B" and part "C" at a 90 degree to Part "A" so that there is a distance of 6 inches between the two parts.

Using two inexpensive common door hinges that allow you to attach the parts to Part "A" and be able to swing them upward and backwards.  It is critical that the hinge on the right side be able to clear the handle that operates the drill quill as you lower the bit into and out of the work piece.  It is important that the hinge will close with the parts "B" ansd "C" remaining at a 90 degrees to Part "A". (refer to photos attached for a understanding of what I am refering to.)  This is the jig body. 

Now you need a method of centering the jig on the drill press table and under the center of the drill bit.  To do this you will need a drill bit the diamater of the hinge you are using.  The most common is a 35mm however there is the mini - dia cup hinge that is 25mm.  The drill bit will be the most expensive part of the jig and it operation.  You will need the bit anyway so there is really no great expense involved. 

To make this guage you will need another short block of hardwood that is milled straight on each side and an cross cut on each end.  It need to be exactly 6 inches long and then take off about 1/16 inch leaving it 5 and 15/16 inches long.  It needs to be about 2 and 1/2 to 3  inches wide.  Mark off the center of this piece and draw a 90 degree mark across the piece.  I have found that 1/8 inch distance between the cup hole bore and the extream outer limits of the door edge is a common distance for the bore of the cup hole.  Using this figure draw a line end to end on the 5 and 15/16" of which will be the outer limits of the bored rim of the cup hole.  You should have a 1/8 inch line from the edge.

Using a mounted drill bit in the drill press, sit the assembled jig (parts "A", "B" and "C" on the table and using a couple "C-clamps, loosly clamp to the drill press table.  Lay the 5 and 15/ 16 inch piece in the between the lowered stops.  The line on the center of the jig body and the guage  you are making should line up.  Lower the drill bit to just above the piece and move the jig so that the line that you drew in the center of the 5& 15/16 inch piece is under the center of the drill bit spur.  Keeping this lined up move the jig body and guage as a unit to a location where the rim of the bit just touches the edge of the 1/8 inch  line you drew on the guage block.  Lock the jig down to the table and drill a cup hole to a depth of !/2 inch.  (use the drill press stop)  This finishes the guage block and the jig body.  On most jig bits that I have used the top of the drill bit is made so that the depth is correct when the top of the bit is even with the door stile.

To use the jig is simple and shown in the photos.  Lower only one stop and place the door on the drill bit table and hold it flat and tight against the jig and drill the cup hole.  It is improtant that you use the drill quill stop to prevent inaccurate drill bit depth.  Most drill presses have this feature and if not check the bit head and see that it is 1/2 inch in thickness.  If not use a piece of tape wrapped around the bit to act as a depth guage.

On doors that require more that a top and or bottom hinge simply mark the location you wish to place a hinge and then at this point use a square to mark the location to the outside of the door and place a 1/8 mark to use as placing the rim of the bit.  (Note if doing more that one hinge attach the top and bottom hinge first as this is the main hinge of the door.  Then attach the remaining hinges to the cabinet.  You will find that most hinges will allow you enough adjustment on the hinge that they will properly set the door to its correct distance from the cabinet face frame.

I do not reccomend using a spade bit of which there is some liteature out there telling you that you can use a 1 and 3/8 inch di bit.   It is acutally better to use the bit that is designed for boring the European hinge as it is percise in dia and bores a clean hole.  Since it was made for drilling the speciality cup holes the bit spur in not too long that it bores through the outside of the door stile.  The average cost of these bits are about $35.00 for a 35mm and about $25.00 for the 25mm.  The strength of the hinge to door comes not from the mounting screws that mounts the hinge to the door but from the cup hole fit like a common house door uses its mortice to hold it giving its strength and the screws only hold the hinge in place.

Some European hinges also come with a dowel mounting system of which is usually a plastic dowel that you press into a special bored hole.  The hinge is attached to the dowel using a special screw of which I remove and replace with a standard screw.  I predirll them using a vixs bit and then hand tighten.  Using the vix bit assures that the screw hole is centered with the hinge mounting hole.

 During my career building cabinets I have used the drilling machines that are both manual and automated.  They are expensive and tedious in set up and actually are slower to use than what you can do with the above jig.  I have also used the portable manual operated such as Russ mentions and they too are tedious to set in position and some have the tendacy to become inaccurate.  The above jig is fool proof and accurate and inexpensive with parts quick and easy to replace.  

I hope this is of benifit in taking the mystery out of European hinges.  Photos attached.

European Hinges jig continued:

Jay, great explanation and pics.

Thanks for sharing.

I love the jig. I will be building one of those. I have some soft maple lying around somewhere that would love to be used. My only problem is that I don't have, or have access to a drill press. I do have one of those cheap little things that supposedly turns your hand drill into a drill does OK, and I have had success making straight holes with that. I guess I will have to be cheap for now and continue with that thing.....I may could find something reasonable on Craigslist.....I will start looking. Really need a bandsaw more.


With a suitable jig, the holes can be drilled using a hand drill,

that is orientated 90 degrees to the work-piece surface.

Place a drilling depth mark on your drill bit.

I've performs such drilling tasks, before having a drill press.  

Many times, such holes have to be drilled on the job site.

TIP:  Drill practice holes on scrap pieces of wood.

Make several practice holes, ''til you're comfortable with the results.

Go slow, 'til you get the hang of it.

Place the hinge in the drilled hole, to check your results.

Use a speed square, or the like, standing on end, so as to align the drill vertically, and eyeball it.

Two such squares can be positioned 90 degrees to each other---each oriented in the vertical plane.

Can you mount (glue) a round center leveling bubble on the back your drill?  This also helps.

Insert a 3/8" x 12" dowel rod in your drill chuck.  Orientate the drill 90 degrees in both planes---secure the drill in this position and mount the bubble to the head of the drill.

If you should need additional info, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Good luck.

These are all good suggestions Ken. I have one of those little portable things that turns your drill into a drill press, and it works pretty well for now. I have drilled tons of practice holes with it building the cornhole boards. I did drill some practice holes this morning on some scrap maple. The hinges fit perfectly. I was worried about the tip coming through the front of the doors, then I remembered.....this is 4/4 and has not been planed I should be good there too.

Jay, I'm following along with keen interest since I had so much trouble locating the cup holes on my first doors I made.

Am I right that you are using the 5-15/16 long block to locate the jig with respect to the drill press table?

What if the block was also hinged to the jig?  That way the entire jig assembly is easily oriented to the 35mm drill bit without the chance for movement.  Just the fact that these two parts of the jig are loose opens the door for error.  The hardest thing for me to do was hold my jig (not like yours) in place while I tried to clamp it.  It's difficult to align the forstner bit point with my cross hairs as I made fine adjustments holding the jig to the table with a couple c-clamps.

Since my drill press table is so small (less than 8x8 inch) and difficult to adjust, what if the entire jig was also mounted to a large piece of flat plywood (like 12 x 24 inch).  That way the doors have more support while I drill them, and do not get scratched by the metal table.

Jay, am I onto something here, or am I missing something as usual? Also, is that 3 inch dimension like an industry standard?

Hi Rick, reference to the 5 &15/16 Inch long length of block, You are correct.  That is it's function.  It locates the jig under the drill bit setting both it relationship to the side to side of the door and the distance from the edge of the door.  Thr results allows you to rapidly bore the hinge cups to be identical at 3 inch centers from each ends of the door and at 1/8 inch from the edge.  It is just like you were trying to mark a door witht he cross hair method only it does this rapidly and accurate from hole to hole each time.You are correct in it be a industy standard as I came up with these measurents after boring many doors using the metric demensions that the hinge companies give you in directions.  I found that this was ideal measurments that worked on most common door hinge configerations.  There are time when you need to alter the 3 inch mark to fit some special hinge to cabinet configeration such as some lazy susan applications where some hinge type will need to be raised up higher.  A situation would be where you are placing the large 360 degree hinge on the door as it will hit the bottom tray of the susan is bored at the 3 inch point.  Another is in situations where the hinge will hit a pull out tray and often in things like pantrys where you use the large hinge and install a pull out that has a tray side/front that is taller than about 1 1/2 inches.  In these cases I will raise the hinge point on the bottom and simply mark it at point where it will clear the hinge and raise the end stops a place it against the long bopdy of the jig lining it up with the mark that I mentioned in the above post.  (center mark of the long part "A".  That will allow the measurments to still be accurate even if you bore multiple number of doors.

You will have to pay attention that you are boring the lower hinge cup when you bore multi doors applications.

The lesson here is to know what hardware or components that will placed in the cabinet before you begin boring the doors for cabinets.

In answer to your question about hinging the guage block to the jig frame.  You could do this providing that you have room at the back of the drill press and do not use the 25 mm hinge as well as the 35mm hinge.  I do both and there fore I have made a duplicate in the guage block witht he exception that I bore a 25mm hole.  In setting the jig to the drill press you need to use the correct hinge boring bit and use that once it is inserted and locked in the drill press.

You could also build the jig on a seperate large piece of plywood which would enable you to use the smaller drill press table.  This would work well for the small drill press table.  The only requirement in this jig would be the ability of setting it accurately up under the drill bit.  The guae block does this so the size of the table does not matter.  The large table would enable you to bore accurate holes on a small drill press.

Something I did not mention in the prior post it the imprortance of making sure the hinge arms are set accurately at 90 degrees to the door edge.  A hinge that is cocked in the door once anchored with the attachmnent screws does not work well when it is mounted to the mounting plate on the cabinet.  The simple was to to this it to use a long blade Tee square and lay the tee square on the doot top or bottom and run the blade up against the hinge cup frame, then using a vixs bit bore the screw hole into the door stile.
Rick said:

Jay, I'm following along with keen interest since I had so much trouble locating the cup holes on my first doors I made.

Am I right that you are using the 5-15/16 long block to locate the jig with respect to the drill press table?

What if the block was also hinged to the jig?  That way the entire jig assembly is easily oriented to the 35mm drill bit without the chance for movement.  Just the fact that these two parts of the jig are loose opens the door for error.  The hardest thing for me to do was hold my jig (not like yours) in place while I tried to clamp it.  It's difficult to align the forstner bit point with my cross hairs as I made fine adjustments holding the jig to the table with a couple c-clamps.

Since my drill press table is so small (less than 8x8 inch) and difficult to adjust, what if the entire jig was also mounted to a large piece of flat plywood (like 12 x 24 inch).  That way the doors have more support while I drill them, and do not get scratched by the metal table.

Jay, am I onto something here, or am I missing something as usual? Also, is that 3 inch dimension like an industry standard?

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