Finish Before or After Hinge Insertion?

Press-in hinges raise the question of whether to spray cabinets before or after installing the hinges. November 6, 2007

I recently picked up a Grass hinge boring and insertion machine and want to give it its first run Monday. Being this is the first time I've used one of these, I've got a question on procedure. Previously I would drill, insert hinges into doors, test fit, remove doors, sand and spray, etc. (By the way, these are inset doors). I realize now with the press-in hinges, I won't be able to remove the plugs once they are pressed in. So do you just remove the hinge and leave the plugs in place while you spray the doors? Seems like the only option at that point. But maybe I'm missing something obvious?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
I have a Blum machine and I drill the doors after they are finished. I then install them on the cabinets. I make sure when I drill them that I don't slide them on the table when drilling the second hole. I pick the door up and move it to the next position without sliding.

From contributor G:
If we drill before finishing, we leave the inserts in and have no problems. Drilling after finishing we use 1/8 foam under the door to avoid damage.

From contributor K:
I drill the doors and insert the hinges after they are finished like contributor F does. If you are careful, there should be no problems with the finish getting damaged.

From contributor S:
Since they are inset doors, do just what you suggested; you have to pre-fit before finishing. The hinge covers the plastic push plugs anyway. Even if the finish doesn't stick to them, who cares?

From contributor N:
Bore after the seal coat, but before the topcoat(s).

From contributor H:
Now that you bought a Grass machine, you must use Grass hinges. I use the Blum Inserta, which can be removed in a second without any insertion problems. I believe Grass makes a similar model called a butterfly hinge. We send to finisher after dry fit and then insert hinges at the install. This way the doors stay wrapped after finishing and do not get damaged.

From contributor K:
I bore my hinges after I finish like the other guys. If you're concerned about banging up your doors, you can get adhesive backed felt at hobby stores and stick that to the table of your machine. Protects things well. Obviously this will affect the depth of cut, so adjust your machine accordingly. Mine (Blum) has depth stops, so it's not an issue.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. Since these are inset doors, the hinges have to be inserted before finishing. It's the only way I'll be able to trim them to fit into the face frames. Not worried about damaging them after they're finished. So I guess I'll just leave the plugs in place. It's pretty much what I figured, but never hurts to ask.

From contributor H:
I'm not sure if you picked up on my suggestion. In the future, try to get the hinges that insert without screws. I have been using them for a long time and they are very strong. A lot of time is wasted taking out and replacing the screws, especially if you are using Phillips heads, which are a pain. I am from Canada and we only use Robertson square heads, available in the US as well.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I'll definitely look into that for the future. Right now I've got too many boxes of hinges to use up. And I use the Robertson for all my box construction now. I find them to be much better screws than the old drywall cheapies.

The one thing I've found which is surprising to me is that the drill does not shut off automatically when it reaches its final depth? I can't find anything about it in the manual, so I assume it's just the design of this machine (the Ecopress, if I hadn't mentioned that before). Seems like a bit of an oversight on the engineering department's part? Anyway, it's still better than the drill press!