Cabinet hinges may not be the first thing on your mind when considering household furnishings, but these small and often overlooked components are vital to the function and style of your cabinets. They have a rich history that spans centuries, with a wide array of designs and mechanisms that have evolved over time. In this article, we will explore the types of cabinet hinges from the 1500s to today, showcasing their unique characteristics and significance.
Early Cabinet Hinges
The Butterfly Hinge (1500s-1600s)
One of the earliest types of cabinet hinges is the butterfly hinge, named for its shape that resembles a butterfly's wings. These hinges were first used in the 1500s and were made of hand-forged iron. They were surface-mounted, meaning they were attached to the outside of the cabinet door and frame, adding a decorative element to the piece.
The H and HL Hinge (1600s-1700s)
The H and HL hinges were common in the 17th and early 18th centuries. These hinges were also surface-mounted and made from iron. They were typically used on larger pieces of furniture like chests and cupboards. The H hinge was shaped like the letter 'H', while the HL hinge was a modification of the H hinge, adding an extra vertical bar to create an 'L' shape.
Industrial Revolution and the Advent of Brass Hinges (1800s)
With the Industrial Revolution came new manufacturing techniques that allowed for more detailed and complex hinge designs. Brass became the material of choice for hinges, replacing hand-forged iron.
The Butt Hinge
The butt hinge, one of the most common types of hinges used today, was born during this period. It's a simple and effective design where two plates, the leaves, are joined by a pin. One leaf is attached to the door and the other to the cabinet frame, allowing the door to open and close smoothly. The butt hinge was often recessed or mortised into the wood, hiding most of the hinge and providing a more streamlined appearance.
The Pivot Hinge
The pivot hinge, another common hinge type, also emerged during this period. Instead of being attached to the side of the door and the cabinet frame, pivot hinges are mounted at the top and bottom of the door. This design allows the door to pivot open and closed, providing a unique opening mechanism that can support heavier doors.
Modern Cabinet Hinges (1900s-Present)
The 20th and 21st centuries have seen the advent of numerous modern hinge designs, made possible by advancements in technology and manufacturing.
European or Concealed Hinges
European hinges, also known as concealed hinges, were developed in the mid-20th century. These hinges are hidden from view when the cabinet door is closed, providing a clean, modern look. They also offer easy installation and adjustment, making them popular in contemporary cabinetry.
Soft-close hinges are a relatively recent development in cabinet hardware. They use hydraulic technology to close the cabinet door slowly and quietly, preventing slamming. These hinges add a touch of luxury and longevity to the cabinets, reducing wear and tear.
Self-closing hinges have a spring mechanism that pulls the cabinet door shut when it's near the closed position. They ensure that cabinet doors stay closed and can be beneficial in maintaining an orderly appearance in kitchens and bathrooms.
From the decorative, surface-mounted butterfly hinges of the 1500s to the discreet, technologically advanced soft-close and self-closing hinges of today, the evolution of cabinet hinges mirrors the broader changes in technology, manufacturing, and design aesthetics over the centuries. These seemingly minor components not only serve a functional role but also contribute significantly to the style and feel of our spaces. The next time you open a cabinet, take a moment to appreciate the small piece of hardware that makes it possible.