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Kitchen Hinge Fix


I hate particle board.

Particle board (also known as chipboard) is a manufactured sheet good product. It's made of wood chips, shavings, and even sawdust, all pressed and glued together. Note that there is no actual termite barf in it, even though I like to say that there is. Particle board is flat, and inexpensive, and used all over the place in cabinet construction. My kitchen cabinets, for instance, are entirely made of melamine coated particle board.

I hate the stuff, and will not use it. But I have an advantange, in that I am a hobbyist, so I can build what I want. Cabinet shops are pressed for time and money, and so I can understand why they use the stuff. Like I said above, it is cheap, and flat, and the melamine coating on some kinds means that they don't need to finish the inside of cabinets.

If you get particle board wet, it will swell up and become soft, and lose what little structural strength it possesses. That is one reason to dislike it. There are others. In this particular instance, what I hate is the poor strength it has for retaining screws. You need to use special screws when fastening something to particle board, but even then, it isn't really that strong.

What I find in the case of kitchen cabinets, is that over time the repeated opening and closing of the cabinet doors leads to the hings screws pulling loose. Being particle board, there is really no strength in the panels to tighten them back up. Also, if you tighten them too far, they will just rip out the fibers, leaving you with a hole in the panel.

My kitchen cabinets are old, but I can't afford to replace them right now. One solution I've tried in previous years is to take off the door and move the hinges down a few inches and reattach them.

This worked for a while, but then the screws pulled out again. I solved that by using a router to excavate a section of the cabinet and glue in a piece of hardwood as a patch. This worked quite well, but it was a big job, a messy job, and it leaves an unsightly patch behind. (Illustrated in the photo.)

The other day I had yet another kitchen cabinet hinge pull out, and I needed to fix the situation. (as an aside: we have four kids, I KNOW we're hard on the cabinets!)

This time I came up with a quicker and cleaner way to fix the cabinet doors. I pulled out a section of 5/8" maple dowel, and a matching 5/8" diameter forstner bit. I then sliced off a series of half-inch section of dowels. (that is a rough size estimate, I didn't measure too closely.)

I then carefully drilled a series of holes in the side of the affected cabinet. I kept the holes fairly shallow -- I just drilled until the forstner bit was flush with the surface of the cabinet, which is about a half inch or so.

Another view showing the cabinet with holes drilled.

I then simply glued in a section of dowel into each of those holes. Usually the dowel was pretty snug, so I just tapped it in with a mallet, but you might want to clamp them, to ensure a good fit.

Another view.

Once the glue had dried, I cut the dowels off flush to the surface with a flushcutting saw. Note that you really don't need a perfect finish here, which you will understand when you see the next photo...

And here is the elegance of the solution: The maple dowel is wide enough to give a good glue surface, and plenty of meat for holding screws. However, it is also skinny enough that it is completely hidden behind the body of the european-style kitchen door hinge.

And that is pretty much the end. Less than 30 minutes of effort solves this problem in a completely unobtrusive manner, and results in a rock-solid hinge that should perform for years.


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