Hinges are incredibly common and used for an array of applications in a wide variety of industries. They are found on all sorts of items, including but not limited to: cabinets, doors, windows, gates, lockers, tables, airplanes, military vehicles, jewelry and lockets, pianos, cages, fences, home appliances, electronics and more. Among the heaviest hinge users are customers in industries such as: building construction, furniture construction, material handling, storage, electronics, aerospace, military and defense, automotive, transportation, barrier and fencing and architecture.
The History of Hinges
Hinges are among our oldest and most abiding companions. While no one can say when exactly they were invented, we do know that they’ve been in use in the Middle East since at least the Bronze Age. Some of the oldest hinge artifacts we have today were found in Turkey, where Hattusa, the ancient capital city of the Hittite Empire, once stood. Dating back to around 1600 BC, these hinges were likely installed only on important and/or sacred buildings. This usage seems to have held across the ancient world; in the Old Testament, hinges are mentioned just once, in reference to the temple of King Solomon. In addition, those hinges found in ancient Assyrian and Babylonian cities have only been found where temples once stood, not homes. We can assume this was because hinges were expensive to make.
By the time the Middle Ages arrived, blacksmithing was a more common profession and metal was less expensive. As a result, laypeople too began using hinges on their doors. Then, the use of hinges diversified; people began attaching hinges to items like gates, wagons, ships, jewelry boxes and lock boxes.
A few hundred years later, the Industrial Revolution kicked off, ushering in the advancement and production growth of hinges. This was largely in part due to the necessity of hinges on many of the new machines. It was also because of machines that hinges could suddenly be produced with more complexity, precision, speed and volume. One innovation of the time was the hinge featuring ball bearings, which allowed for smoother openings. The American company, Stanley’s Bolt Manufactory, which later became StanleyWorks, received a patent for this hinge design in 1899.
The 20th and 21st centuries have since brought many more innovations to hinge manufacturing, including: a wider range of materials with which to work, the ability to apply protective coatings, more complex design possibilities and faster production. In addition, modern hinges allow for a greater range of motion of the items to which they’re attached.
Hinge and latch manufacturers begin the production process by heating the metal material they will use. Once the metal is hot enough, they put it through machining processes such as: deformation, extrusion, casting and/or cutting. They base their machining choice on factors including: budget, required production volume, required production speed and design complexity.
Once they machine the hinge, manufacturers often put it through one or more series of secondary processes. If they do this, they do it to perfect the piece, and thus engage in processes such as: plating, painting, coating, polishing, rust-proofing, galvanization or smoothening. They decide which secondary processes, if any, to employ based on the frequency with which they will be exposed to damages like corrosion, wear or abrasion.
Most often, manufacturers make hinges from hollow or solid metal materials. Common examples include: steel, stainless steel, chrome, copper, nickel, solid brass and bronze. Each of these metals display different qualities related to: durability, tensile strength, corrosion resistance, ductility, temperature resistance, aesthetic appeal, etc. A brass hinge, for instance, is best as a decorative hinge because it has such a nice color. In addition, manufacturers sometimes use plastic hinge material. Plastic material creates inexpensive hinges that are heat, rust, chemical and UV resistant, and do not require lubrication.
Considerations and Customization
When designing, hinge manufacturers usually start with three basic elements: the leaves, the knuckle and the hinge pin. The leaves are plates that extend outward. They are held together by the knuckle, a hollow joint. In turn, the knuckle is held together by the pin. During installation, users attach the leaves to the separate surfaces they’d like to hold together and drill a hole in each leaf, so that they can fasten them.
Aside from these details, manufacturers have a lot of creative license. They vary them by: hinge length (measured parallel to the pin), hinge length (measured from leaf outer edge to outer edge), knuckle length (measured from the individual knuckle parallel to the pin), gauge (leaf mm thickness), leaf width (measured from center of pin to outer edge of leaf), slope (loose angular movement of leaves relative to pin), pitch (distance from one knuckle edge to the same edge of another knuckle on the same leaf) and end play (extent to which leaves move axially). In addition, manufacturers can deliberately create end play gaps, or spaces between the knuckles and between the leaves. End play gaps assist in increasing the motion and fluidity in the movement of the hinge.
There are a wide range of ways that they can customize your hinges. For instance, they can match most any custom hinge size request. They also can add embellishments like complementary or matched colors and shiny finishes. If you don’t want your hinge visible, manufacturers can even design it to be completely hidden.
Hinges are manufactured in a wide variety of compositions and configurations, due to the overwhelming amount of industries in which hinges are utilized. The most simplistic variety of hinges are butt hinges and continuous hinges, also known as piano hinges.
Butt hinges are the simplest hinge type, and consist of two leaves, aligned knuckles and a pin. Most often, they’re used as door hinges, though they cannot always be applied directly to a door or a door frame. When this is the case, manufacturers make an accompanying recession in the shape of a hinge, known as a mortise, into the door or the door frame. They can also be used as gate hinges/gate latch hinges.
Continuous hinges are similar to butt hinges, but are extended, and are often found between joints in small containers such as tool boxes, and larger items such as piano panels. Note that continuous hinges, especially the type that can be found in containers, can be made with hinge springs.
Another type of hinge, strap hinges, are defined by their length. Strap hinges are frequently used for doors. Some varieties of strap hinges are made to extend across a door’s entire width.
Pivot hinges rotate, or pivot, around a single point rather than a pin. They come in many different varieties, including the knife hinge, j-bolt pivot hinge, barrel hinge and conceal hinge/invisible hinge. Pivot hinges are usually used as door hinges for high traffic or extra heavy doors. They work well for this because, installed at both the top of the door frame and the floor, they can handle a lot of weight and reduce stress on the frame.
Spring hinges, or spring load hinges, can have a simple or complex design. The most simplistic variety of spring hinge is essentially a butt hinge with a coil tightly wound around its pin. The coil is prone to unwind, which forces the hinge’s leaves toward or away from each other. More complex designs can feature multiple coils as well as concealed coils. Regardless of their complexity, spring hinges are designed to either hinder or increase motion between two joined planes.
Weld-on hinges are commonly used for suspending heavy doors. The more heavy-duty variety of weld-on hinges are capable of holding door weights anywhere from several hundred pounds up to 10 tons. These heavy-duty hinges can be found in applications such as bank vaults and blast doors. The lighter variety of weld-on hinges can be found in applications such as wrought-iron gates. There are some applications where lightweight weld-on hinges can be painted in order to achieve a certain aesthetic appeal.
Heavy Duty Hinge
Heavy duty hinges can be welded on, and are primarily defined by their capacity to bear large loads. These hinges can be used for a variety of applications and are composed of a wide range of materials, from the lightweight aluminum to the stronger and more rust-resistant stainless steel.
Slip Joint Hinge
Also known as a slip hinge, a loose joint hinge or a take-apart hinge, a slip joint hinge is used with removable lid and door applications. It is used for livestock gates, lighting control panels, fire truck compartments, refuse containers and more. Slip joint hinges are popular for such applications because they allow a panel or door to be completely removed from its frame. In other words, they offer easy access to contents.
Flag hinges are distinct for their ability to swivel 360° around a fixed pin. In addition, they can be taken apart with said fixed pin on one leaf.
A power hinge, also known as an electric power transfer hinge, is a hinge that features electrical components. They are quiet, heavy duty and easily concealed. It offers electronic locking access control and excellent security.
Friction hinges are capable of both creating resistance and allowing for a fluid range of motion. Friction hinges are used for container covers, doors, and an assortment of other planar items, and can either hinder or enable movement when desired. Over the years, the demand for highly functional hinges has risen since portable electronics have become less expensive; therefore, developmental advances in frictional hinges have been made.
Advantages of Hinges
Hinges are excellent hardware for many reasons. One of those reasons is that they can be so well-customized—manufacturers can construct them in practically any shape and/or size, with whatever embellishments they want. Plus, because there are so many material options out there, manufacturers can accommodate virtually any budget. Another advantage of hinges is that, unlike similar devices, they permit motion in two directions, rather than only one. Likewise, hinges work much better than competing fastener hardware like slides, which do not hold adjacent components together like hinges do. Finally, hinges are durable and reliable; they require little maintenance, if any.
Depending on your application, you may want to invest in some accessories to go with your hinges. Possible examples include: tip-on touch latches, angle restriction clips, doorstops, compact adaptors, stainless steel hinge eye bolts and door cushions. Find out what accessories will best compliment your application by talking to your manufacturer.
While the details vary from hinge to hinge, their basic installation method is pretty straightforward. The first step is to line up your hinges. After you’ve done that, decide where on the leaves and the screws should go, and then either mark those spots for later or drill them right on the spot. Install one leaf end at a time. To do so, drill a hole in the leaf, line the leaf up with the pin and knuckle, and drop the pin in. Repeat the process with the other leaf. Once that’s complete, you’re done!
Of course, because, as we said, not all hinges are the same, it’s important that you talk to your supplier to make sure you know all the details for installation of your particular hinge.
Proper Care for Hinges
We’re happy to report that hinges are quite easy to maintain, whether they are residential hinges or industrial hinges.
To remove dust, dirt or grime from any hinge, you need only wipe it with a damp cloth, wetted with water. If the screw holes of your hinges begin to sag or become damaged, consider re-attaching them with carpenter glue. Note: This tip only applies to low-stakes hinges. While you may be able to re-attach screw holes to your industrial hinges this way, it’s best to double check with your manufacturer to make sure this provides a strong and safe enough bond for your purposes.
Speaking of industrial hinges, if you’d like to help your hinge survive in a harsh or heavy-use environmental, we suggest you regularly lubricate them with an approved lubricant. Do so by removing the pin, applying the lubricant to it directly and then re-inserting it into the knuckle. This will help them fight damages like abrasion and corrosion.
The standards to which your hinges should adhere depend partially on your industry, application and region. However, in general, if you are in the United States, we recommend your hinges be ANSI/BHMA approved. ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and BHMA (Builder’s Hardware Manufacturing Association) offer nationally recognized standards with emphasis on sustainability, security, safety, durability, materials and appearance.
Examples of other industry/governmental standards you may consider include those by ADA, OSHA and NFPA, among others. For the best recommendations, check with your local governmental offices, your industry leaders and/or your hinge manufacturer.
Things to Consider
When considering a hinge purchase, you need to think about your application requirements, i.e.: your desired aesthetics, dimensions and weight of objects to which hinges will be attached, projected frequency of use, application setting/environment (sea salt exposure, humidity levels, etc.) and industry requirements and regulations.
To get the very best match, you need to take your design specifications to a manufacturer or supplier that is not only experienced and reliable, but also a good fit for you. To help you find that high quality fit, we’ve compiled a comprehensive listing of manufacturers and suppliers we trust. Learn more about each of them by studying their respective profiles, which you find in the middle of this page. As you browse, take note of three or four companies in whom you’re most interested, then reach out to each of them individually. Discuss not only your special hinge specifications, but also your budget and timeline. Your goal is to find a hinge company that wants to do everything they can to create a hinge that meets all of your specifications and requests, while working within your budget. In short, you want to choose a manufacturer that works from a customer-centric viewpoint. We believe the right company is one of those on this page. Once you’ve found them, contact them to get started.
Hinges Informational Video