Fitting butt hinges to a box and how to reduce the gap

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Established Member
24 Feb 2006
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Tring - Herts
Hi all
I've recently made this oak dovetail box and I'm trying to fit brass butt hinges. I've cut them into the back and lid so they are flush, but this leaves a substantial gap at the back.

I could cut them in deeper, but that looks rubbish.

Are there better butt hinges that don't do this? Or a way to fit them so this doesn't happen?

Many thanks for any advice you can offer.


I had the same problem and concluded that they are not really designed for this application. They are more suited to hanging doors where you are looking for the uniform gap. Sorry, not much help but might make you feel better!
Are there better butt hinges that don't do this? Or a way to fit them so this doesn't happen?

Many thanks for any advice you can offer.

There are better butt hinges for the type of box you are building, but they are expensive. Given the amount of work you have put into the box so far, I would use a hinge like the smartButt hinge by smartBoxmaker (a UK company in Shropshire). The polished brass version is £46 for a pair.

In my limited box-making experience, finding a butt hinge that has little or no gap between the mating surfaces with the hinge closed is difficult. I've tried the brute force method of clamping the closed hinge in a vice and forcing the plates to bend to my will, but this doesn't always work as I want. There are one or two places in Germany where I can buy suitable hinges, but the best I've seen so far are the smartButt hinges.

Here are some screenshots I shamelessly grabbed from the smartBoxmaker website showing the smartButt hinge.



Yes it’s annoying not to have them flush with the surface of the wood you’re letting them into, but with the way they’ve been made you will have to dig them a bit deeper.
Also it’s normal to have the centre of the hinge pin in line with the outer surface of the box as in the ad above btw.
Thanks everyone for your input. I'm aware of Andrew's SmartHinges and in hindsight should have gone with these. Will try these next time.
I dislike the appearance of the hinges being cut deep, but I could get away with another mm on each leaf here which will help the gap and I'll live with that.
You could cut them in on a slight angle/taper?

Leave the outside edge of the leaf flush with the timber but cut them slightly deeper at the knuckle side, this will close the gap a bit and might look better than the whole hinge sunk down?
You have to go a fraction deeper with the mortise. A change of brand might also work. If you are going to invest in quality hinges it's worth investing in a jig to rout them out. Brusso sell some very expensive brass templates - not worth it unless you are going to stick with Brusso products. I use the 'Jig it' jig marketed by Rockler in the US and use side rail hinges exclusively. The beauty of it is that you can interchange the templates to suit the hinge. I've even made my own templates for hinges sold by Ian Hawthorne in NI. For the Smarthinge Andrew Crawford advocates ' backrouting ' two of the mortices on the router table ( The other two are routed conventionally ) but it's a bit of a white knuckle experience. Choices choices. :rolleyes: