Friday, July 15, 2011

Sixth Entry: How to Fabricate a Hinge (Creating a Basic Hinge)

Welcome to the sixth entry in this series of articles. In this article, I will be demonstrating how to fabricate a very basic hinge. You will need to know some basic metal working techniques to construct your own hinge. Please feel free to CLICK HERE and read my other articles leading up to this entry in order to gain a better understanding of “how metal works”.
Necessary Materials and Tools:

-Small Paint Brushes/ Tweezers/ Soldering Picks
-Quench/ Pickle Rinse
-Scissors/ Snips
-Soldering/ Annealing Area
-File/ Sandpaper
-Measuring tool (caliper or gauge plate) 
-Compass/ Divider

There are an infinite variety of hinges that we can make. The type of hinge I will be constructing in this article is one of the simplest hinges to make. Although this hinge is quite simple, its concept and design can be easily modified to meet a variety of special needs. In order to build this type of hinge, you will need two telescoping tubes (or a tube with telescoping wire) and some sheet metal.  

Telescoping tubes (one tube fits perfectly inside the other) CLICK HERE to learn how to fabricate your own tubing.

Once you have your materials ready you can begin to decide how big your hinge needs to be. What is it going to be used for, what should it look like and so on? I don´t particularly need a hinge for any specific purpose at the moment. For this reason, I am simply going to construct a basic “blank” hinge to give you the main design and construction ideas. 

As I mentioned before, once our materials are prepared we need to decide on the scale/ size of our hinge. The hinge I will be making is roughly one inch wide. I start the construction process by cutting two equal sized sheets of brass and a length of tubing (the larger tubing) the same width as the sheets. 

After our pieces are prepared we need to create the “knuckles” of our hinge. The amount of knuckles you wish to use is entirely up to you and can be aesthetic, functional or both. I will be implementing the standard three knuckle approach. Two side knuckles on one side of the hinge and a slightly larger central knuckle on the opposite side.

It is usually advisable to have one side of the hinge contain two side (or end) knuckles as these will provide structure and support throughout the hinge. When making a three knuckle hinge, it is also common to make the central knuckle slightly larger than the sides, as this will provide additional strength and support to the side of the hinge with only one connection. If you are making a hinge with many knuckles it may be desirable to have all of the knuckles be equal in size.

NOTE/TIP: The divider/compass is my favorite tool for making sure my knuckles are the same size. 

Now that we have our knuckles made (and our metal is clean), we can lay the pieces out on our soldering station. Very carefully position the knuckles along the edge of the sheet so that once they are soldered into place, the two halves of the hinge will fit snuggly together.

NOTE: The knuckles of my hinge do not rest perfectly balanced on the edge of my sheet. This means that this hinge will rest flat on one side and the tube/knuckles will create a bump on the other side. If you want your hinge to lay flat on both sides (or be symmetrical), you need to use a tube the same thickness as your sheet, or position the knuckles perfectly balanced on the edge of the sheet.  

Once everything is properly set up to your satisfaction, solder the knuckles into place; after soldering, pickle and rinse your newly soldered piece. Now examine the pieces to make sure everything is properly connected and fits together well.  

Take the tube or wire that telescopes with the soldered knuckles and pass it through the knuckles to test your hinge. If your hinge does not come together correctly or does not articulate well, it may be necessary to file the pieces to a proper fit; or in difficult cases re-soldering may be required. 

Once you are satisfied with the function of your hinge you can prepare to join the two halves with the telescoping tube or wire. To join the two halves, cut a length of the smaller/ telescoping tubing (or wire) which will be used to connect the two halves together. Make sure the length is slightly larger than the width of the hinge. Typically the left over length should be around a millimeter or so, on each side. 

Once you have a tube (or wire) that is the right size for your hinge, we can place it into position. Notice that the inner tube is slightly longer than the width of the hinge (also note that it has the same amount of excess material on the other side.

After the telescoping tube (now a “pin”/rivet) is in place we can finish joining the hinge. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are infinite ways to construct a hinge and there are an equal amount of ways in which the “pin” can be placed.

NOTE: In this particular example I am using a tube/ rivet as the pin in the hinge. I am also choosing to set the pin as a rivet but this is not the only option. The pin could also be soldered into place or melted at the ends, just to give a few examples.

To set the pin as a rivet, lightly hammer the extra material on the top of the pin. Be sure to do this slowly and carefully as to not deform your rivet head. Also make sure to hammer both sides of the pin equally as you want both sides to be riveted (closed) as to prevent the pin from slipping out of the knuckles.

After both sides of the pin have been riveted (or “shut” somehow) your hinge is ready to go. 

Test the articulation of your hinge to make sure it has the appropriate movement now that the pin has been shut. It may be helpful to add a drop of oil to the knuckles to lubricate the hinge.

Since I am not sure what this hinge will be used for I am going to stop here.

Whenever I do find a use for this hinge I might decide to carve it, shape it, form it or decorate it in a specific way. The hinge can also be perforated and punched so that it may be attached to another object like a wooden chest for example.

And there you have it a very basic hinge ready to be used in whatever way you can imagine.  

As always I hope you found this article to be informative and helpful. And I hope you come back to visit and learn more in the future. You can follow this link to read the next article: "How to Rivet (Basic Rivets and Their Uses)”

Until next time,
Peace and Love

Daniel Icaza 13/7/2011


  1. This is a life saver!! thank you!

  2. Thank you Daniel! I've been looking high and low for DETAILED instructions for making hinges, and yours are awesome! Thanks very much! Monica

    1. Your very welcome!
      Always happy to help :o)
      If you ever have questions or suggestions for other article/tutorial topics please don't hesitate to get in touch..

  3. thanks so much! nicely explained

    1. My pleasure, your very welcome, happy I could help.