03/06/2017 smartWare stock news:
smartLock now available in polished brass and gold-plated – click here. Stainless steel available very soon
And why is smartHinge so good? …
smartHinge is simply the highest quality, easiest to fit, best looking box hinge on the market.
• smartHinge features a simple, robust and elegant internal stop system allowing a fully round knuckle and offering secure support for the heaviest of lids.
• no ‘L’ shape, no quadrant stay – four passes, screw in place … job done. No other box hinge is easier to fit!
• all British made – beautifully machined and finished in the West Midlands, complete consistency, real quality feel, unlike some similar Chinese-made hinges …
• the ends of the leaves can easily be squared off for those who prefer a more traditional look …
• how many? Please contact me for orders over 10 pairs as significant discounts apply …
View smartHinge movie
smartHinge, the world’s best box hinge
– the story so far, updated June 2017:
Since its introduction at the beginning of 2011, and being much more elegant and easier to fit that the poorly designed Brusso quadrants, the smartHinge has become most box makers’ hinge of choice.
Until June 2012 smartHinge was made in small batches by Clive Jarman in a traditional precision engineering workshop in Perth, WA. But as more and more makers discovered the incredibly easy fitting, good looks, consistency and classic simplicity of the smartHinge, demand soared and I had to investigate having them produced in the UK. This had to be in sufficient numbers to meet current and future demand without sacrificing any of the quality, consistency and function that have made smartHinge so popular.
I found a UK manufacturer in 2012, but I’m extremely fussy and the quality was never consistent and reliable. Then in my determination to use a British company I approached another company, based in the West Midlands, and they failed as well.
All this has wasted a huge amount of mine and everyone else’s time, of course – if only companies would READ the specifications before they leap in …
I am now using an excellent new company, also based in the West Midlands, but so different to the last one that it’s hard to believe … in just a few short weeks they were already producing far superior smartHinges than the last lot managed in a year. These are currently available in polished brass – email me.
We are still working on quality and consistency, but I hope very soon to be able to offer the full smartWare range as I’d planned to more than a year ago: smartHinge and the eagerly awaited smartLock, all in polished brass, stainless steel and gold-plated. Please subscribe to my newsletter so you’re informed as soon as they’re available.
Reviewed by Robert Ingham in the March 2011 issue of Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine:
“Why hasn’t someone thought of this before? This is a phrase that is often quoted when a breakthrough occurs in almost every field of human expertise and it is certainly true of the smartHinge … Fitting these hinges is very straightforward and easy …”
Click one of the magazine images above for the full review [or buy the mag!]
… and here’s the F&C verdict on the brand new smart Hinge:
||“For professionals in a hurry,
or home woodworkers
frustrated by ill-fitting lids,
smartHinge is a revelation,a real Eureka moment …
worth the cost for a quality result.
They will transform your boxes and boxmaking.”[from Nick Gibbs’ ‘British Woodworking‘ review,
out at the end of January 2011.]
smartHinge – the movie: watch now
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Still not convinced what makes the new smartHinge so special!? – here are twelve excellent reasons to choose smartHinge:
1 – smartHinge is not a quadrant hinge
– but nevertheless stops the lid securely at 93˚. At the heart of this innovative hinge is a beautifully conceived but simple hidden stop incorporated into the knuckle. And because there’s no separate stay to accommodate there’s no fussy, angled excavation under the hinge flaps, and no problems screwing in the back screw around the stay when you come to fit …
2 – smartHinge isn’t L-shaped
– doing away with this redundant legacy feature [only ever necessary on cheap hinges made from sheet material but doggedly perpetuated by certain ‘quality’ hinge manufacturers] means that no expensive template/setting up is needed and fitting is hugely facilitated.
3 – smartHinge has a perfectly round knuckle
– almost all other similar siderail hinges achieve the stop by having a square, or partially square knuckle. This requires an extra machining operation to allow the knuckle to rotate and spoils the look of the back of your box.
4 – smartHinge is extremely easy to install
– the smartHinge’s three key features – no quadrant stay, no ‘L’ shape and a traditional round knuckle – make the smartHinge extremely simple to fit. And because they are precision made and absolutely consistent the result is 100% accurate, every time. One pass for each leaf using an 8mm [or 5/16” for US] cutter on a table mounted router, drill and screw in place and … job done! No messing around with unwieldy hand held routers or expensive templates, no second passes with tape on the fence to widen the cut – and remember: NO awkward digging out under the hinges to take a stay!
5 – smartHinge comes with high quality brass countersunk screws
– 8 x 5/8″ no.3 brass countersunk wood screws plus spares, [and hopefully steel screws for pre-threading eventually – when I can find some!]. The quality of screws supplied with many ‘high quality’ hinges is obviously a common problem and regularly moaned about in WW forums …
6 – smartHinge comes with full online fitting fitting instructions, and a YouTube video
– most box hinges come with NO instructions at all, a lamentable lack of support for what is an extremely stressful, and crucial, part of making a box.
7 – smartHinge is designed from scratch
– this is not just a marginal upgrade based on an existing hinge. Every element, from stock thickness to the leaf dimensions, from the size, spacing, format and positioning of the screw holes to the exact stop angle has been carefully considered to ensure that the smartHinge is the very best box hinge you can buy.
8 – smartHinge is not mass produced
– all British made in the West Midlands, precision machined from solid brass the smartHinge is carefully made to exacting tolerances achieving a level of consistency not possible using normal mass-production techniques. Every stage of the manufacture is regularly monitored to ensure that the smartHinge is the most accurate and beautifully made hinge there is.
9 – smartHinge is good looking!
– you could be forgiven for thinking that all this emphasis on the ease of fitting and function would in some way involve a compromise in the way it looks. But definitely not – the simple, elegant good looks of the smartHinge will fit in with almost any style of box.
10 – smartHinge is extremely easy to fit retrospectively
– we’ve all done it, avoided the hinge issue until it’s too late! The result? – you have a perfectly good box for which you can’t find suitable hinges. Well, the smartHinge is the best hinge there is to solve this all-too-common problem. As long as your box has a wall thickness of 10 mm or more, the smartHinge will do the job for you. Simply, easily, elegantly.
11 – smartHinge is competitively priced
– the smartHinge isn’t available through any retail outlets so there’s no retail markup. This ensures that a higher proportion of the price you pay goes into the actual hinge, not into admin/markup/third-party profit. And with the excellent new UK manufacturer in place and the new introductory price of £25.00 – and considering the huge savings in time, effort and stress that so many have already benefitted from – there isn’t a better deal around!
12 – buy smartHinge securely online using PayPal/debit/credit card – or email me if you’d prefer to pay by some other method
leaves are 8mm wide – actually 7.96 mm ± 0.03 to cater for 8mm and 5/16″ cutters
leaves are 3mm thick – when parallel [closed] there is a 0.3mm clearance between the leaves
45mm long overall
42mm to centre of the pin
opening to 93˚
screws supplied are 5/8″ no.3 brass countersunk wood screws
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I have spoken to many, many people at shows, during my own teaching and have read many, many posts on WW forums and I do know how difficult people find it sourcing and fitting box hinges. And the lack of a simple, quality solution can be a real disincentive to many who would otherwise be happily making boxes!
Brusso used to be perceived as the pack leader, but although basically well made their hinges are, in my opinion, badly designed, ugly and over-engineered. Also, they advise you to buy an expensive, dedicated template for each of their various hinges in order to do the job ‘properly’. Anyone seriously involved in small scale woodwork should be using a table-mounted router, but Brusso still advocate use of a hand-held router. This, together with their doggedly sticking to a traditional stay and ‘L’ shape format, causes all sorts of problems and consequently their hinges are difficult and complicated to fit. Just have a quick look at the instructions for fitting their HD-680 quadrant hinge on their website and you’ll see what I mean.
There are many other quadrant hinges available, none is as well made as the Brusso and most share all or some of the same shortcomings. And, of course, there are plenty of perfectly decent butt hinges out there – but they will ALL need cleaning up and fitting is always awkward if you’re not used to the process. And you have to organise a separate stop if you need one, unless there is one incorporated into the hinge. This means a square knuckle which complicates fitting, and any hinge that achieves a stop with a square or partially square knuckle, including Brusso’s stop butt hinge, share this shortcoming.
The smartHinge has NONE of these problems, or any for that matter!
I’ve been making boxes for 25 years and there has never been anything on the market that comes close to the smartHinge. So, when considering purchasing hinges for your next box project, don’t be fooled into buying cheap, difficult to fit [or even expensive and difficult to fit!] hinges – and ask yourself this question:
“Why use a stupid hinge when you can use a smartHinge!”
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smartHinge quickstart guide
NB: For experienced woodworkers this quickstart guide will probably be all you need. For those new to this sort of operation and to using a table-mounted router there are more detailed instructions under the ‘Full fitting instructions tab’. This may contain tips of interest to more experienced woodworkers too …
1 – fit a sharp 8mm or 5/16” cutter [downcut spiral for cleanest cut] to a table-mounted router and set the height to exactly half the thickness of the smartHinge at the knuckle.
2 – set the fence to position the grooves for the hinges in the centre of the sides of your box, set a stop to the left of the cutter using a 34mm spacer and you’re ready to go.
3 – make the cuts for top right and bottom left with this setup, then use the spacer to position the stop on the right side of the cutter and make the two cuts for top left and bottom right.
4 – drill and screw in place [flat central finger down] with the screws provided … job done!
Full fitting instructions
smartHinge installation instructions:
setting the cutter height
First fit a sharp 8mm [5/16” for US] cutter [downcut spiral for cleanest cut] to a table mounted router and set the height to exactly half the thickness of the hinge at the knuckle. You should perform the following test: first take a couple of pieces of scrap 4 or 5 inches long, 1/2 x 1/2 or so, and do a ‘freehand’ test cut at the end of each by holding it flush on the table and stroking the end of the piece right to left across the cutter. To do this safely you will need to do a few successive cuts to less than 1/4 of the diameter of the cutter, otherwise it might grab. Once you’ve done this enough to accommodate the knuckle well past the pin, remove any burr and hold the hinge knuckle between the two pieces as shown.
If the cut is just right, the hinge will be held as in the top image and there will be a cigarette paper’s thickness between the pieces of scrap. If the cut is too shallow the hinge will also be held but there will be a gap between the pieces of scrap that’s too large as in the second image down. If the cut is too deep the hinge will not be held and will drop out as in the bottom image. The direction and amount of the adjustment necessary should be obvious.
If there is any give/spring in your [plastic?] router plate then you might have to add a couple of tenths to the height – it’s likely that the cut will be very slightly less deep on the box than on the test pieces due to its larger size.
setting the fence
The fence [preferably faced with slick-tape or similar low-friction material] should be set at a distance from the cutter so that it will cut the grooves to take the hinges in the centre of the sides of the box. The distance from cutter to fence should therefore be 1/2 x (X-8) where X is the thickness of the sides of the box. If the wall thickness is less than 12mm you might consider fitting the hinge flush with the inside edge of the side of the box. This will avoid the outer edge of the hinge being too close to the outer edge of the box. The inside edge of the hinge would then usually be covered with whatever lining material is fitted.
NB: When setting the fence the cutter must be rotated so that the cutting tips are in a line exactly at right angles to the fence, otherwise the postioning will be inaccurate.
NB: A LOW fence is best for this sort of work. I use a piece of 25mm mdf, about 100mm wide for strength, and faced with a low friction plastic strip.
setting the stop
The smartHinge measures 42mm from the centre of the pin to the end of the leaf – you will need to make an accurate spacer this value LESS 8mm, so 34mm wide. This will mean that the smartHinge protrudes from the back of your box by the traditional amount, the centre of the pin being in a line vertically with the back.
Set the stop 34mm from the cutter as shown and you’re ready to go.
NB: when positioning the stop using the spacer the cutter must be rotated so that the cutting tips are in a line exactly parallel with the fence, otherwise the postioning will be inaccurate.
doing the cuts
NB: The router should be set to MAXIMUM SPEED for this, and incidentally for most other operations as well – you should consider maximum as the default setting and only consider reducing it for very large cutters.
The setup described above will produce the top right and bottom left cuts. But first do a test cut in a piece of scrap: with a sharp cutter the hinge leaf should fit like a glove – if the cutter is worn [you shouldn’t be using it!] you might need to make a second pass with a piece of tape along the fence. Make these cuts moving the box elements from right to left onto the cutter and backing off again, all the time ensuring a firm registration with the fence.
Now place the stop on the opposite side of the cutter for the other two cuts. These two cuts need care as you will be moving the work from left to right and the action of the cutter will tend to push the work AWAY from the fence. It’s important that you compensate for this tendancy by keeping the work firmly againt the fence at all times. It might be helpful to do a couple of practice cuts on scrap.**
It’s important to follow standard router ‘hygiene’ and ensure that the area is always clear of chips and dust. If chips get between the work and the stop you may well have to do a second pass to ensure that you are going the full distance – and of course it’s CRUCIAL that no chips get between the fence and the work otherwise the lid and base will not line up!
Good dust/chip extraction helps, of course.
** For this second pair of cuts some have suggested it might be better to either drop the work onto the cutter, or raise the cutter into the work from below, thus enabling the work to be moved in the ‘correct’ direction. I don’t believe this is necessary and in fact could cause inaccuracies. This is a light cut and with a firm registration against a low friction fence it’s perfectly possible to do it without any problem. As I say above – if you have any doubts, practise on scrap first.
screwing in place
Now allow yourself a few pleasurable moments rest while you remember that you don’t need to do all that fussy excavating under the hinge flaps to accommodate the stays.
Place the lid upside down and position the hinges in their grooves. The knuckle of the smartHinge has three ‘fingers’, the two narrow outer ones and a thicker central one that incorporates the flat that creates the stop. The leaf with the single finger is fitted to the lid – this means that the flat will be down, and therefore not seen when the back of the box is viewed. Using a scribe or similar pointed implement mark for the screw holes with a very slight tendancy to mark forward of their true centres – this will ensure that the hinges register accurately into the front ends of their grooves. Don’t do it too much or you will cause the screws to go in at an angle and that will spoil the final effect.
When marked, remove the hinges and drill the holes. You might like to do this with a drill press if you have one – I usually don’t bother and do the job lo-tech using a light 12v battery drill with a bit of masking tape on the bit to mark the depth. The size of the drill bit is important, of course, but there’s no hard and fast rule to choosing the correct size as it depends on the wood you’re drilling in to. The right solution is arrived at by experimenting with scraps of the wood your carcass is made from. In order to achieve the best possible result it’s important to have a set of high speed drill bits in 0.1 increments – this ensures that you don’t compromise on size and end up with the screws too loose [will loosen and pull out over time] or too tight [risk of shearing while screwing home]. Use a tapered scribe to gently open up the top of the hole – this helps to guide the screw into place and get it started, and also makes the fit slightly looser where there’s no thread on the screws.
I always polish brass screw heads to a level that matches the hinges before I fit them. I do this by rubbing the heads on 1,000 grit, then 1,500 grit wet and dry. I usually use ths dry – less messy! – but if you have a lot to do wet is better as the abrasive will last longer. I usually finish off on a duster with a bit or jeweller’s rouge on it for a final shine.
Now fit the screws. A little beeswax or similar will help them go in place smoothly and minimise the risk of them shearing. And savour screwing in those back screws without having to work around a quadrant stay!
With the hinges screwed in place, put the lid in place on the box – the leaves of the hinges should slide easily into the grooves cut for them. Now ‘close’ the lid and you should already be able to feel that everything lines up perfectly. Place the lid in the open position supported behind with something padded so as not to damage the surface and ensure that the leaves are orientated snugly at the fronts of their grooves. Mark very slightly forward as before, drill, and fit the screws, enjoying again the lack of a quadrant stay!
NB: the screwdriver you use for this is important – in order to preserve a clean head on the screws use a screwdriver that precisely fits the slot in the screw, both in width and thickness. Any play will lead to damage to the slot – easily done on a small brass screw.
to line ‘em up, or not to line ‘em up?!
… that is the question. Referring to the slots in the screw heads, of course – a contentious subject if ever there was one. Purists will argue that when inserting a woodscrew there is ONE position at which the screw ‘bites’. That is, the screw will have entered far enough into the hole drilled for it to bring its head into firm contact with the countersink in the hinge. Rotating the screw any more than this won’t take it further down because the bottom of the hinge leaf is already in contact with the bottom of the groove. It will instead begin to loosen because continuing to rotate a screw after the biting point has been reached means it starts to act like a drill, actually stripping the thread that the screw has cut for itself …
But it does look nice to line them up … this is up to you to follow your judgment/conscience!
… if you don’t have a table-mounted router
… you should have! If you work small scale, boxes or whatever, and you don’t already use a table-mounted router, now is the time to switch. It simply makes no sense to be using a big, heavy machine on a small box which you have to hold firm is some way. Not only will a table-mounted router enable you to fit these hinges incredibly easily, but you will also find that a whole host of other jobs that were a nightmare with a hand-held router suddenly become extremely easy, safe and controllable. Just try it … trust me, you will never go back!
For those stubborn enough to want to try this process using a hand-held router [ex Brusso-users, for instance!] I will eventually be developing a safe method for this and will post this on the smartHinge website. But don’t hold your breath – and in any case my advice will ALWAYS be to go the table-mounted route. And perhaps if you’re still not convinced [and haven’t fitted Brusso hinges before] you might like to compare the above method with Brusso’s instructions on their website [www.brusso.com] for fitting their HD-680 quadrant hinge. This uses their own dedicated TJ-680 jig and a hand-held router. Also, browse any number of woodwork forums to read the problems many, many people regularly have fitting these and other similar quadrant hinges.