How to Cut Out Door Hinges

One of the most important steps for installing a new door is cutting out the door hinges.

Yet the thought of doing so can turn an otherwise easy project into one that’s intimidating and difficult.

Fortunately, it’s easy to cut out door hinges with just a few simple tools and some basic knowledge.

After you’re done reading this guide, I know that you’ll feel confident cutting out mortises in your new door for door hinges.

Here’s how to cut out door hinges with three different intuitive methods. 

What You’ll Need

The exact tools and materials you need for this project depend on the method you select to use.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Method I: Chisel

Method II: Router

Method III: Drill

  • Drill Press
  • Forstner Bit  

You will also need the following:

My personal favorite method how to cut out door hinges is with a chisel, so that’s the method I’ll focus on first.

Method I: Chisel

To me, a chisel is the best method for cutting a mortise for a door hinge because it’s simple and cheap.

Step I: Mark and Measure

Take the time to measure the placement and position of the door hinges.

Then transfer these measurements to the actual door itself. Use the pencil to mark where you want the cut out to go.

Place the marked door on the saw horses with the mortise cut area facing upwards.

Step II: Score the Mortise

Use a utility knife to score around the mortise cut area.

Run the knife around this area a handful off times until there is a solid hinge outline.

The hinge outline will give you a sort of template to use for the next step of this process with the chisels.

Step III: Make the Cut

Use the mallet to drive the chisel into the hinge outline.

Remove thin shavings of the wood with repeated use of the chisel and mallet. You should quickly dig out a small hole where the hinge will go.

I like to try to fit in the hinges as I work to ensure that I don’t take out too much at once. Make small adjustments until the hinges fit perfectly.

Method II: Router

Step I: Measure and Mark

Use the tape measure and carpenter’s pencil to measure out the location of the door hinges and make a mark where the cut will go.

Step II: Use a Mortising Template

For a more accurate cut, use a mortising template on the location of each of the marked hinges, so the cut goes where you want it to go.

Step III: Make the Cut

Set the depth measurement on your router.

Then plunge the router to the desired depth until you dig out the entire mortising area.

Try the hinge and make any additional adjustments as necessary. I typically make these small adjustments with a chisel rather than with the router.

Method III: Drill

Another way how to cut out door hinges, according to This Old House, is with a drill. Make sure to equip the drill with a Forstner bit before starting.

Step I: Mark and Measure

Once again, this method of cutting out door hinges starts with making accurate measurements.

Use the tape measure to measure out the location of the door hinges on the door. Transfer these same measurements to the door jamb to ensure that the two line up.

Mark out the hinge location on the door and then prop the door up on saw horses with the hinge outline facing upwards.

Step II: Drill the Mortise

Set the mortise depth to ensure you don’t drill deeper than you need.

When using a drill, it’s important to drill slowly and steadily to control the depth of the cut and to prevent any damages.

Start at the edges of the drill outline, working your way towards the center with your drill. You’ll make a rough mortise cut in no time at all. 

Step III: Clean Up the Edges

Rather than continuing to drill out the door hinge cut, I recommend cleaning up the rough edges with a chisel.

A chisel gives you more control over cleaning up the edges and has a lower risk of error than a drill.

Try out the door hinges from time to time until they fit perfectly.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to cut out door hinges might seem difficult at first.

But I promise you that after reading this guide, the project will seem like a walk in the park to you.

After you’re done installing your new door, why not check out some of my other favorite DIY projects to keep the good times rolling?

About Gus Donaldson

I built houses for over 30 years and recently retired. I've made lots of mistakes and hopefully teach you not to make the same ones. I still love to build and have a garage workshop that I use for hobby projects like the walnut bookshelf I made for my wife. I like to write and let people know that working with your hands and tools does not need to be intimidating.

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