How to drill a hole for hidden kitchen hinges for kitchen cabinets

Updated February 21, 2017

Kitchen cabinet hinges are available in a wide variety of shapes and finishes. The right choice complements classic cabinets in a careful balance of function and form. Many contemporary cabinet designs, however, are best viewed without visible hinges to break their clean lines, and make use of "European" hinges that are concealed when the door is closed. Ordinary leaf hinges install with a drill and screwdriver, but the working parts of the European hinge are inset in the back of the door frame. Installing hinges of this design requires additional techniques.

Remove the hinges from their packaging and study the installation instructions. Each hinge consists of a plate to mount on the cabinet wall or inside of the face frame, and a second plate to mount on the door. Separate the hinge halves.

Mark the hinge side of the door and the approximate locations of the hinge mounts on the door's inside surface with the pencil. Use the provided template or measure the precise location of the centre of the cup, or depression to be cut in the door, according to the package specifications. The edge of the cup is typically 3 mm (1/8 inch) to 6 mm (1/4 inch) from the outer edge of the door rail.

Insert a Forstner bit of the specified size into the drill or drill press chuck and tighten securely. Reduce the running speed of a drill press or set a hand drill on low speed.

Drill a hole with the Forstner bit's brad point centred on the specified location. Cut slowly, and stop frequently to clean chips out of the hole. Use the gauge on the drill press to stop at the correct depth or measure hole depth by comparing to the hinge plate. Do not over-drill. Repeat for the other hinge(s) and other doors.

Drill screw holes for mounting the door plates according to the template or specifications. Install the door plates and tighten all screws firmly.

Mount the frame plates according to the instructions, install the doors and adjust for proper alignment.


The standard size for cups is 35 mm (9/64 inch). Forstner bits of this size are widely available. If there is no template, the specifications may be in metric units. A calculator or metric ruler will come in handy.


Do not overwork a Forstner bit. They are considerably more fragile than a typical twist or spade bit.

Things You'll Need

  • Hinge sets
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Power drill or drill press
  • Forstner bit
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About the Author

Kelvin O'Donahue has been writing since 1979, with work published in the "Arizona Geological Society Digest" and "Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists," as well as online. O'Donahue holds a Master of Science in geology from the University of Arizona, and has worked in the oil industry since 1982.