How to Mount a Piano Hinge on a Cedar Chest

Written by b. ellen von oostenburg
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You've built a new cedar chest, and now it's time to mount the piano hinge. It looks like an unwieldy task. The lid is heavy, too hard to hold with one hand while trying to insert the screws with the other hand. Setting up your work site properly prior to mounting the piano hinge will go a long way in successfully completing the task with professional-looking results.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Ruler
  • Piano hinge
  • Hacksaw
  • 2 chairs
  • Assorted books and wood blocks
  • Pencil
  • Electric drill
  • Assorted drill bits
  • Masking tape
  • Screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Measure the length of the side of the chest where the piano hinge will be mounted.

  2. 2

    Lay the hinge flat on a workbench in the closed position. Measure and mark the length of hinge needed minus 1/4 inch, allowing 1/8 inch of play on either end.

  3. 3

    Push the hinge to the edge of the workbench until the mark is just beyond the end of it. Place the hacksaw blade on the mark. Gently draw the blade toward you to make a groove in the metal. Saw all the way through the back of the hinge (where the pin runs though it), and finish sawing through the two hinge flanges laying on top of each other.

  4. 4

    Position the chest (without the lid attached yet) in an open area of the workshop. Set up two chairs at the back of the cedar chest, and set the lid across the chair seats with its underside facing up. Place blocks of wood or books on the seats to bring the lid up to the level of the back edge of the chest.

  5. 5

    Open the piano hinge. Lay one flange along the top edge of the back of the chest and the second on the lid. Make sure the flanges are flush with the long edges of both the chest and base.

  6. 6

    Do minor shifting of the base and lid of the cedar chest until the hinge lays perfectly flat on both surfaces. Position the hinge so it sits 1/8 inch in from the right and left sides of the chest. Make sure the pivot point of the hinge (with the pin running through it) is sitting at the back edge of the base of the chest

  7. 7

    Take a pencil, and mark a dot in the centre of every hole in the piano hinge, on both the base and lid of the chest. Put a drill bit in the electric drill that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the screws that came with the piano hinge.

  8. 8

    Wrap masking tape around the base of your drill bit to prevent drilling too far into the wood at first. Measure the length from just under the head of the screw to its tip. Measure up half that distance from the tip of the drill bit, and wrap a strip of tape around the bit at that point. For example, if your screw measures 3/8 inch, apply the tape beginning 3/16 inch from the tip.

  9. 9

    Drill straight down on your marks with the taped bit. Keep the bit perpendicular to the surface of the wood. Stop drilling when the masking tape reaches the surface of the wood. This will ensure the screw will be biting into undrilled wood when it is finally seated. Drill all holes to the same depth.

  10. 10

    Screw a hinge screw into the base of the chest, making sure when it is all the way in that the head of the screw is perfectly flush with the metal of the hinge. Repeat for all other screws on both pieces.

  11. 11

    Pivot the lid of the cedar chest up on its hinge, and close it.

Tips and warnings

  • Never pre-drill holes into the wood that are deeper than the length of the wood screws. The screws need a certain amount of solid wood to bite into. This ensures the screws are well seated and won't pull out because of the weight of the lid when it's open.
  • If the chest is built out of soft wood, you can chance not pre-drilling the screw holes (not recommended), but when working with hardwood such as oak, you must pre-drill.

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