Everything to Know About Knife Hinges

Knife hinges nearly disappear from view, allowing the cabinet itself to be the center of attention.

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knife hingevia Rockler

With cabinet-making, it’s often what you don’t see that signals a quality piece. That’s certainly true for knife hinges. These hardworking components nearly disappear from view, allowing the cabinet itself to be the center of attention. But a cabinet needs to function well, too, and that’s where these hinges shine. Here’s the scoop on what you need to know so you can use these specialty hinges on your next project.

What Is a Knife Hinge?

A knife hinge is shaped like scissors, with the two parts of the hinge—called leaves—connected at a pivot point. In fact, knife hinges are also called pivot hinges, and they’re primarily used in cabinets. Made of brass or stainless steel, they’re barely noticeable when installed.

How Do Knife Hinges Work?

Unlike traditional hinges, the leaves of knife hinges are mortised into cabinet ends and the top and bottom of the frame. When installed, all that’s visible is the pivot point. Most knife hinges allow a door to open fully and rest against the cabinet next to it, although some have built-in stops that restrict how far the door can open.

Are There Different Types of Knife Hinges?

There are two types of knife hinges: straight and offset. Straight knife hinges are used on doors that overlay a frame. Offset knife hinges are L-shaped and are used with inset cabinet doors.

How Are Knife Hinges Installed?

To install knife hinges, cut mortises in the door and the cabinet for the leaves. The key is to make sure the mortises align perfectly. To do that requires careful measuring and cutting. Knife hinges work beautifully when properly installed.

How Do Offset Knife Hinges Work?

Offset knife hinges’ shape (which creates the offset) moves the pivot point of the hinge away from the cabinet frame, making them ideal for inset doors. They’re a little trickier to install than straight knife hinges, so take the necessary steps to locate and properly cut the mortises. You may want to make a routing jig to ensure accuracy.

Learn how to convert wood cabinet doors to glass.

How Much Do Knife Hinges Cost?

Good-quality knife hinges—which is what you should purchase—are sold at Rockler for $10 and up. Lee Valley’s knife hinges start at around $25.

Continue your hinge exploration: Learn about beautiful, functional concealed hinges.

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Kathleen Childers
Kathleen Childers, a Minnesota-based writer, covers topics about home and life for a variety of clients.