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    Types of Cabinet Hinges

    Cabinet hinges can be a confusing and frustrating part of choosing cabinet hardware. There are many different cabinet hinges types used in cabinet manufacturing and furniture making, from beaded inset hinges, flush-mounted hinges, piano hinges, surface-mounted hinges, partial overlay hinges... it can be extremely tedious to determine exactly what sort of cabinet hardware & hinges you need. To determine what type of hinge you need, the size and style, and the specifications, this glossary of cabinet hinges types can shed some light on an often-discussed subject.

    Cabinet door types and Cabinet Hardware Hinges

    Often, the type of cabinet door determines the type of hinge you can use. The three major cabinet door types are frameless (otherwise known as full overlay), partial overlay (sometimes called offset), and inset cabinets.

    Partial overlay cabinets (offset)

    Partial overlay or offset cabinets comes in two types: a full standard offset, often called a "three-eighth offset" or "3/8-inch overlay"; and a marginal or partial offset. The difference in these two types of offset hinges for cabinets is determined by the shape of the interior of the door frame. On a partial offset cabinet door, the interior of the door surface is flat. The offset leaf of the cabinet hinge wraps around the interior of the cabinet frame, and the flat door lays directly above the frame on a flat hinge leaf, with the hinge barrel exposed on the outside of the cabinet. Partial offset hinges often include steel wrap-around hinges and face frame hinges in self-closing and free-swinging models; these are often seen in "stock" cabinetry found at big-box stores. Olive knuckle hinges are another type of marginal overlay hinge, as are many surface-mounted hinges. Cliffside Industries does not carry these styles of hinge, as they are often of poor quality.

    A diagram showing an offset hinge closed between a cabinet door and frameOn a standard 3/8-inch offset cabinet, the door has an indentation or divot on the back of the door called a 'rabbet' (pronounced "rabbit" like the animal), which measures .375 inches square on a three-quarter-inch cabinet door. One part of the hinge wraps around the interior of the cabinet frame. The other hinge leaf nests into the rabbet on the back of the door and then wraps back around the inside of the door (see diagram at right). The barrel is exposed on the outside of the frame. These decorative offset hinges are a mark of fine quality and painstaking craftsmanship, as crafting the door to these exacting specifications can be difficult. Cliffside Industries offers two styles of 3/8-inch offset hinges: an offset cabinet hinges with a decorative finial; and a 6-inch "handed" offset armoire hinge, which offers the convenience of two-piece construction for lift-off and easy transport. Each of these offset brass hinges is available in 11 finishes.

    Standard offset cabinet hinges types
    Offset cabinet hinge in Iron Offset armoire cabinet hardware hinges in Iron
    3-8-OFFSET hinge style in Iron finish AHO hinge style in Iron finish (right-hand)

    Inset cabinet hinge types

    Inset cabinets are manufactured so that the door and frame are flush with one another. Inset cabinets are made in a variety of different sizes, such as 3/4-inch, 1-inch, and 5/4-inch (1.25 inches). Because inset doors have to be perfectly straight and delicately hung, you will most often find these types of cabinet hinges in custom-made cabinetry. Inset cabinet hinges can be concealed, meaning that they are not visible when the door is closed; or decorative, where the barrel shows along the edge of the cabinet door. Cliffside Industries offers only decorative inset hinges, which come in two styles: mortised hinges and non-mortise hinges.

    Mortising is the process of cutting into a wooden door, cabinet frame, or both, in order to install the hinge and hang the door. A mortised cabinet hinge, therefore, will have two matching leaves side-by-side. Sometimes, the hinge leaves are swaged, meaning that they are slightly offset from one another to tighten the cabinet's "reveal" (see Terminology below). Cliffside Industries offers two styles of mortised inset cabinet hardware hinges: a 2-inch solid brass hinge with more than 10 available finishes and three finials to choose from; and a 2.5-inch brass hinge with a decorative finial and 13 colors. You can see examples of Cliffside's mortised hinges for cabinets below.

    Inset mortise cabinet hinge types
    Inset mortised cabinet hinge in Polished Nickel Inset mortised cabinet hinge in Polished Nickel
    BH2A hinge style in Polished Nickel finish with ball finial BH3A hinge style in Polished Nickel finish

    A self-mortising or non-mortise cabinet hinge eliminates the mortising process from the manufacture of cabinet doors. Instead of digging a cutout into the frame or the cabinet door, the inset cabinet hinge is simply mounted flush to the door and the frame. In order to create a straight-line reveal for the cabinet, a non-mortise cabinet hinge will have either an inner leaf and an outer leaf, where one small wing of the hinge folds into a larger, exterior wing; or two separate leaves, top and bottom, where the wings of the hinge line up straight above and below one another. Cliffside Industries offers three styles of non-mortise inset cabinet hinges: a 2-inch solid brass hinge with more than 10 available finishes and three finials to choose from; a 2.5-inch brass hinge with a steeple finial and 11 colors; and a 6-inch "handed" inset armoire hinge, which offers the convenience of two-piece construction for lift-off and easy transport. Below are some examples of Cliffside's non-mortise cabinet hinges.

    Inset non-mortise cabinet hinge types
    Inset non-mortise cabinet hinge in Old Antique (oil rubbed bronze) Inset non-mortise cabinet hinge in Old Antique Inset non-mortise armoire hinge in Old Antique
    BH2A-NM hinge style in Old Antique with steeple finial BH3A-NM hinge style in Old Antique with steeple finial AHI hinge style in Old Antique (left-hand)

    Full overlay cabinets (Euro-style)

    Frameless or full overlay cabinets have doors and drawer fronts which completely conceal the underlying frame of the door. From the side of the cabinet, you can see the complete profile of the edge thickness of the door and drawer front. Frameless cabinets use a Euro-style hinge. Because the cabinets are frameless, you will not see the decorative hinge barrel that is common in high-quality custom inset cabinetry. Because Cliffside Industries distributes only solid brass hinges, and because of the types of construction involved in manufacturing a frameless cabinet hinge, Cliffside does not offer any hinges for full overlay cabinets.

    Hinge finials

    Some manufacturers and designers shop for cabinet hinges by finial, the tips at the end of the hinge barrel. This is often seen where a specific look is desired, such as when buying hinges for a restoration kitchen. Cliffside Industries' hinges have a variety of finial designs.

    Steeple finial hinges

    A brushed nickel cabinet hinge with steeple finialFor over 25 years, Cliffside Industries has sold high-quality solid brass cabinet hinges with a steeple finial. Hinge styles that include this design are the BH2A series hinge, a 2-inch mortised inset hinge; the BH2A-NM series hinge, a 2-inch inset non-mortise hinge; and the BH3A-NM series hinge, a 2.5-inch non-mortise inset hinge. This traditional look is shaped like the steeple of a church, with a tapered shape from the size of the barrel to a small 'knob' or 'ball' at the tip. This style is often also referred to as a 'minaret' finial or an 'urn' finial, but these terms are most appropriately applied to several other Cliffside hinges.

    Ball finial hinges

    A brushed nickel cabinet hinge with ball finialCliffside's ball-tip solid brass hinges have been in existence since 2009. The BH2A-BALL series hinge in the mortised inset line and the BH2A-NM-BALL series hinge in the inset non-mortise line are the two styles that carry this shape. Each of these styles is available in 11 signature finishes that coordinate with Cliffside's solid brass hardware suites. The ball finial is a round shape at the end of each hinge barrel, a bit shorter on each type than the counterpart steeple-tip hinge.

    No-finial hinges

    A brushed nickel cabinet hinge with flat tipsAlthough Cliffside's flat-end hinges are coded "-NF" for "no finial", the more proper name for the style is 'button-tip hinge' or 'flat-tip hinge', as without a true finial, the pin would fall right out of the hinge barrel! For a sleeker and more contemporary look, many inset cabinet manufacturers are using the Cliffside BH2A-NF series hinge, which is a 2-inch mortised hinge available in 11 finishes with a flat end. For those seeking a non-mortise hinge with a flat finial, Cliffside offers only one finish: BH2A-NM-OA-NF, the non-mortise button-tip hinge in Old Antique.

    Decorative finial hinges

    A brushed nickel cabinet hinge with decorative three-tier finialCliffside Industries also offers a variety of decorative finials of similar style on our other styles of hinges. The BH3A inset mortised hinges and 3-8-OFFSET partial overlay hinges each have a three-tiered decorative finial end that lends a look of traditional elegance to these very different hinge styles. The four-tiered finial of the armoire hinges, in both the inset style and offset type, is an additional decoration that is also one of the armoire hinges' most popular features.


    Cabinet hardware hinges: Specifications, definitions, and terminology

    Adjustable hinge
    Hinge where the location, angle, spring tension, etc. can be adjusted, usually by means of door movement or tightening/loosening of a screw
    Armoire hinge
    Long hinge, in inset or offset style, usually decorative and topped with ornate finials, used for entertainment centers, wardrobes, armoires, and other oversized cabinets
    The portion of the hinge where multiple leaves come together
    Barrel size
    Either: the length of the hinge barrel; or, the diameter of the hinge barrel
    Cabinet hinge
    A hinge designed specifically for the manufacture of cabinets, including but not limited to kitchens, vanities, entertainment centers, linen closets, and more
    Concealed hinge
    Hinge where no part of the mechanism is seen when the door is closed
    Cup hinge
    A folding hinge wherein a lever attached to the cabinet frame sets into a cup mortised into the cabinet door
    Door size
    Traditionally, the thickness of the door and frame used for the cabinet; examples include 3/4-inch door, 1-inch door, etc.
    Door type
    Usually refers to the method of hanging; examples include inset, standard offset, frameless, etc.
    Euro hinge
    A fully concealed hinge used in the manufacture of frameless or full overlay cabinetry
    Process by which a flexible material, such as hot metal, is passed through a die and then sliced off in specific lengths or thicknesses. This process is used in manufacturing Cliffside's solid brass hinges, which makes them much stronger and more durable than hinges stamped from a flattened sheet of brass.
    Face frame hinge
    A marginal-overlay hinge mounted to the exterior of the cabinet frame and the rear of the flat interior cabinet door
    The decorative tip at the end of the hinge; some options include minaret finial, steeple tip, ball finial, button tip, etc.
    Door type wherein the frame of the cabinet is completely covered by the cabinet door
    Free-swinging hinge
    A hinge that rotates about its axis without any mechanical restriction
    See "thickness"
    Hinge screw
    The means by which hinges are installed or adjusted
    Door type wherein the cabinet is installed flush with the frame. Cliffside's inset cabinet hinges include the BH2A series, BH2A-BALL series, BH2A-NF series, BH2A-NM series, BH2A-NM-BALL series, BH3A series, BH3A-NM series, and AHI series.
    See "barrel"
    See "barrel"
    The portion of the hinge where the screws are installed and the hinge is attached to the cabinet frame and door
    Hinge length is measured in two ways: either the overall length of the hinge leaf; or, the overall length of the barrel
    The process of cutting into the door, frame, or both in order to admit a cabinet hinge with equal or similar opposing leaves. Cliffside's mortised cabinet hinges include BH2A, BH2A-BALL, BH2A-NF, and BH3A.
    A hinge that has leaves which fit into or alongside one another in order to eliminate the mortising process from manufacturing. Cliffside's non-mortise cabinet and armoire hinges include BH2A-NM, BH2A-NM-BALL, BH3A-NM, and AHI.
    Door type in which the face of the door partially obscures or overlays the frame of the cabinet. Cliffside's offset hinges include the 3-8-OFFSET series and AHO series.
    See "offset"
    Piano hinge
    A long, commercial hinge used in furniture manufacturing and the making of pianos
    Within the hinge barrel, a metal rod that acts as a hinge's axis of rotation
    The space around a cabinet door once it is installed. This is often determined by the thickness of the hinge and the depth of the mortise. Cliffside Industries' hinges offer one of the kitchen and bath industry's tightest reveals.
    Self-closing hinge
    Hinge with a spring-loaded mechanism that allows the door to close on its own, either automatically or with manual assistance
    Soft-close hinge
    Hinge designed to restrict the closure motion with the goal of noise reduction
    Process by which holes are punched out of a sheet of brass in order to manufacture hinges. Stamped brass hinges are of inferior quality to extruded brass hinges.
    (sweɪdʒ') Forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered using a die or dies; in hinge making, the offset of one leaf, or both leaves, from the barrel in order to tighten the reveal
    Usually measured as either: the thickness (diameter) of the hinge barrel; or, the thickness (depth) of the hinge leaf (also called the "gauge"). All Cliffside hinges have an approximate 1/16-inch leaf thickness or gauge; barrel diameter varies by model.
    Usually measured as the dimension across both leaves of a hinge when it is open or laid flat
    See "leaf"
    Wrap-around hinge
    Hinge where the leaf attached to the frame wraps around the frame for mounting. Wrap-around hinges come in partial wrap (touches two sides of the frame) or full wrap (touches three sides of the frame).