Hinges for a Hidden Door

Woodworkers discuss hinge choices for a secret door installation. March 4, 2006

I am currently working on a project that involves a wall finished with mahogany stile and rail and vinyl panels. There needs to be access through one of these walls into an electrical room. The customer wants me to put in a hidden door. I laid out the wall so that my rails are evenly spaced apart. I need to find a hinge that will allow me an 1/8" gap all around, which must be concealed and will not increase the size of my door while opening. I am researching SOSS hinges, but have not found anything on the geometry of their swing.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor D:
Would it be possible to pin it top and bottom? Dead center, the old rotating hidden door thing, 1/8" flat in between if spacing is needed.

From the original questioner:
The doors are 1 1/2" thick, so the pivot point needs to be either extremely close to the face of the door or the hinge has to extend as it pivots. Wait a secondů I think I see what you mean now... I'll go model it and see what happens.

From contributor R:
If you go with a 1.25" thick door, I believe there are European hinge options you can use.

From contributor F:
Use Blum thick door hinges and plates for inset doors, as they can handle about 1/16" thickness more than the 40mm Mepla ones. Get hinges without spring load or pull the "U" pin and remove the spring strap and then put the pin back in. Now you close the door and use a touch latch to swing it open toward you. If you go with 1 1/2" door thickness, you will be able to do the job, but it will be too thick for the door. In this case, you will need to mortise out the back side of the door around the entire shape of the hinge plate and recess it into the back face of the door about 1/4". It will also require you to notch the edge of the door where the hinge strap is so that it does not bind on the edge of the door.

SOSS hinges will work, too. You will need to do a mockup and move them forward, as necessary, for swing clearance. They are stronger, but lack adjustments in and out. I tend to use these hinges on folding bar tops because they are very strong and no adjustment is necessary. If you seat them in all the way, you will not have an 1/8" reveal, like you want. If you leave them out a bit, it make not give you the look you want when the door is open. Most people like to see hardware flush with the surface of the wood.

From contributor E:
Blum thick door hinges work up to 1.25". Can't you just plane or rip off 1/4"? The Blums would also give you adjustability.

From contributor B:
Watch out for baseboard if you've got it. Did one awhile back from a library through to another secret door, with a mission style clock we made on its face toward the adjoining room. Anyway, the bookcases, with crown, went all the way to the ceiling, so the door bookcase stopped just below the first piece of the crown. The base had to move with the case (the absolute dumbest design detail thrown at me in awhile) and for some reason, the joints stuck out bad, so they had to be as tight as possible. I hinged the base separately with a Blum hinge - one of the big project and open ones - to move it away from the hinge side as the door swung so the base would clear the base next to it. And I put a keyhole slot in the case to allow the base to slide out of the way and stay attached to cabinet. I had to get the keyhole and attaching screw just right, as this was all that would be holding the base to the door. Used about 9 Blum 120 for the bookcase. It took awhile, but it's slick as can be. Just watch out for that detail.

From contributor K:
I would think about an offset knife hinge, if I were you. I don't know how big they come, but they are easy to make.

From contributor V:
I worked on a secret door in a rail and stile paneled wall once and we ended up, after some trial and error, with several large SOSS hinges. Had to work it out with a small mockup, but they did a great job. Couldn't tell there was a door there and it opened very smoothly.