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My wife and I are building a toy box for a couple expecting their first baby.  I have looked at different hinge options and was wondering if I should go with a piano hinge with a lid support, torsion hinges, or something completely different.  Obviously the gift could go south if fingers are crushed.  Any input would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

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Stephen, building a toy box can be not only fun but rewarding to know that you are giving to the child a hand made gift that can become a favorite of not only the child but to the parents as they look back and remember your thought of a special gift made especially for their child.

I have build a half dozen or so and the hinge is always a question as to what should be done.  The finger smashing thing is always a concern and needs careful consideration.  I have used piano hinges with the soft closing gas filled dampers that prevent a falling lid.  These worked however seemed to be rather cumbersome once installed.

I have used the spring tortion hinge made especially for the purpose of preventing falling lids which worked the best.  I have used the lid support that fold like a knife but these were the worst as there is the danger of a child getting their fingers pinched in the folding action of the support and then they always seemed to get bent.

If you asked my preference I would go for the tortion spring hinge.  It gives a safe opening and closing lid with the least amount of troublesome installation.  They are available as are the other products at most woodworking supply stores such as Rocklers and Woodworkers supply.

Good luck with the building and be sure to post some photos of the project.


Thank you so much for the advice.  I was leaning towards the torsion hinges from what I had read online, but I had never thought of the "pinch factor" on the lid supports.  It is a really excellent point to think about.  I saw that Rockler's site has a torsion calculator to determine the required inch-pound rating; Did you use that and if so, did you find it accurate?  Also, every image I have seen with the hinges in use shows the hinges attached without mortising.  Could one mortise the lid and box allowing the hinge to sit flush with each surface so that the lid closes on the box without a gap?

You are Welcome Stephen.  No I never used the torsion calculator to determine the hinge tension. It was not available when I got my hinges.  I went to a Rockler store in Beaverton Oregon and physically tested the hinge by hand. I ended up picking something about the high range of what they had available.  It seemed like it was around 50 inch pounds.  To be on the safe side I picked one that was a little heavy that would actually need some assistance by the hand to close it rather that to have it shut totally automatically. That way I was sure the lid didn't slam shut.  What I would do is to build the lid and then weigh it.  It would give you an idea as what to look for.

Will do.  Can the hinges be installed flush with the box and lid by mortising those pieces, or do the hinges have to be installed without mortises like the pictures shown on Rockler's site?

I'd like the box lid to close without the gap.  Thanks again for your time.

Stephen, when I used them I attached them to the box without a mortise.  There was a gap about 1/8 " on the edges so I attached a molding to the lid around the two sides and the front that extended down covering the gap.  This also looked like a breadboard end so it also covered the end grain in the lid. This allowed me to place some felt stick on pads to the front corners to make the lid close silently. It also gave me the ability to fashion a handle in which to grasp in both opening and closing the lid.  Then on the back I added some molding to the box and cut it around the hinges running it up to near the closed lid.

I believe a person could mortise the hinge however to be sure I would take a couple pieces of scrap wood of the same thichness as the box.  Using one to represent the lid and on to represent the box, mortise them into the material and then check for hinge binding.  Because of how the hinge is made you will have to cut  the mortise shallow to allow the hinge to stand proud of the surface or there will be some hinge binding.

I have posted on "MY PROJECTS PAGE" a cedar chest that I build that shows how I build a lid similiar to the toy box lid I am describing.  In this project I used a piano hinge and a set of gas filled closing pistons.  I believe that i attached a link to the project showing a slide show with several photof how I build this chest.  You might get some ideas from.  More questions?,  feel free to ask.

Thanks Jay.  I figured that I'd be using scrap to test the installation.  We'll see.  The cedar chest looks really great. You used the gas filled pistons on that; do the pistons hold the lid open at any angle, or does the lid have to be opened to a certain point to stay open?   

Stephen, yes I used the gas pistons on the cedar chest and it holds the lid open at about 90 degrees that prevents it from closing back down.  Personally I didn't like that system as it seems a little flimsy however the customer wanted to use them since he had already bought them when I was building the chest.  Sorry I didn't get a photo of them before the customer picked it up.  It was a wedding gift for his daughter.  I made another one the he gave his wife as a present and on that one I used the spring loaded hinges from Rockler as I had used them on a toy box prior to building the cedar chest. 

Stephen said:

Thanks Jay.  I figured that I'd be using scrap to test the installation.  We'll see.  The cedar chest looks really great. You used the gas filled pistons on that; do the pistons hold the lid open at any angle, or does the lid have to be opened to a certain point to stay open?   

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