Alburnam's Archive

Ó 2000-2001  Stephen A. Shepherd

Carving Chisels and Gouges

Carving chisels and gouges differ from cabinet chisels and other gouges in that they are usually somewhat thinner and are sharpened with a finer angle on the cutting edge.  Some are intended for handwork only while others can be struck with a mallet and of course are never struck a metal hammer.  They have thinner blades and handles that are easy to control, are comfortable and don’t tend to roll on the bench.  I have replaced every round handle on my carving tools with a tapered octagon handle.  This eliminates any rolling of the tool, when I place it down on the bench it stays there.  If I am using a series of chisels and gouges for a particular job I have a mat, a piece of carpet that I use to lay the tools down on to protect their cutting edges.  I also point the sharp ends away from me on the mat to protect me from the very sharp cutting edges.  Most carving jobs are done with two or three tools; sometimes a couple of more but each carving job can require different tools to accomplish the task at hand.  Therefore if you intend to do a lot of carving you will want to equip yourself with the necessary tools.  While both chisels and gouges come in different sizes and with gouges different sweeps you can invest a substantial amount of money to have all of the various sizes of chisels and different sizes and sweeps of gouges.  There also Palm Chisels and Gouges that are smaller versions usually with mushroom or knob type handles for ‘better’ control of these tools.  I have several of these small ‘palm’ tools but like my other chisels I have replaced all of their handles with long tapered octagon wooden handles, I just find them easier to use and they all match.   Large heavy duty carving tools can have socket handles but the most common have tangs to secure them to the handles. 

Back Bent Chisel is a regular flat chisel with the blade bent backwards to a curved chisel.  The advantage of this tool is that it brings the cutting angle down very low to produce a finer cut.  The bevel is ground just the opposite a regular chisel with the bevel on top.  Useful for rounding over and shaping convex and protruding detail work.

Curved Chisel is a flat chisel with a blade curved opposite the bevel and is used to get down into areas that need to be flattened.  The curve of the blade will allow for the cutting angle to engage the wood fibers at a low angle.

Double Bevel Chisel is a special carving tool that has a bevel ground on both sides of the blade.  This tool, usually with a straight blade is used for cleanup work; the double bevel is not good for layout work as the blade pushes in both directions when it is plunged into the cut.  Single bevel tools are used for striking the work into the groundwork.  This tool is also available is a skew, which is handy because you can easily reverse it to get into tight areas.

Fishtail Chisel is like a regular chisel but of lighter weight and the blade tapers from wide at the cutting edge to narrower at the tang.  One great advantage to this tool is that it can get into tighter areas; the angle of the taper allows the cutting edge to work up against a shoulder or other interior detail.  These chisels are usually more flexible than regular chisels.

Flat Chisel is very similar to a bench chisel in that it has a flat blade and the cutting edge is at 90º to the blade.  The blades are usually manufactured with a tang and are thinner than a cabinet chisel and may or may not have bevels up the sides of the blade.  Because of the thin nature they are more commonly like a firmer with no side bevels.  One of the more useful carving tools a surprising amount of work can be done with a flat carving chisel.  Most are ground at a fine 15º angle on one side of the chisel.  Some are ground with a double bevel. The single bevel is used to layout and strike work into the groundwork.  Also called a firmer or carving chisel.

Skew Chisel is like the flat chisel but the cutting edge is ground at an angle to the blade.  The skew angle can be either left or right and ground on one or both sides.  When ground on both sides the skew is reversible, if it is ground on one side then a pair may be required.  These chisels cut smooth because of the skew angle and can get into tight corners for easy clean up.

V-Chisel is also called a veiner and is used to add V-shaped details in wood.  This tool and the U-Chisel are used only for shallow work; if deeper V-cuts are needed straight chisels are used to cut down both sides of the v-groove.  Like the U-chisel curved cuts can present grain direction problems.  I make my first v-cut shallow on the side of the curve that is with the direction of the grain.  I then reverse and make my second v-cut to final depth with the grain of the wood.  Tipping the tool up when engaging the wood will start the cut on the top edge of the wood first preventing chipping out.  Some of these chisels are sharpened with the outside edges projecting further than the center part of the V.  This allows the tool to score or cut the wood ahead of the V to prevent tear out.  This tool can also have a bent blade such as a long bend or short or spoon bend to just the end, allowing v-cut detail work in deep excavations.

Dog Leg Chisels are also used for carving work and are referred to as entering or cornering chisels.  These tools are particularly handy, the offset or dogleg is usually in the shank just at where the blade starts to widen out.  This offset allows the back of the blade to be flat keeping the cutting angle low for a smoother and easier cut.  In a set of three there is a straight blade, left skew and right skew to handle any application.

 Gouge Sweeps

   A gouge is any chisel with a curved cutting edge; this includes even very low sweeps or curves.  If it is curved it is a gouge.  Some heavy-duty carving gouges are quite similar to a bench gouge, but most are smaller, thinner walls and lighter duty and they are sharpened to a finer edge.  

Back Bent Gouge is a handy tool for finishing off curved convex surfaces.  The bevel is on the top and this tool can perform functions that no other single tool can accomplish.  While you can do the same with a flat chisel, the back bent gouge can do the same job in one or two strokes.  The back bend can be on full-length gouges as well as the spoon gouge shape.

Curved Gouge is a gouge with a curve to the shaft allowing the tool to work on deep inside curves.  The curve along the length of the shaft gives a lower angle of attack to the cutting edge.

Fishtail Gouge is a lightweight gouge that has a wider cutting edge and the shaft tapers back to the tang.  The fishtail gouge like the fishtail chisel in that it is flexible and the taper allows the sides to be moved up next to a corner or edge without the shaft interfering with the cutting action.  The fishtail also makes the gouge lighter weight, as there is less metal in the blade.

Flat Gouge is the standard classic carving gouge.  With thinner walls and lighter construction than a Cabinet gouge, this tool comes in many sizes and sweeps to the curve.  The shaft is straight and attaches to the handle usually with a tang in some rare instances a socket.  The bevel is ground on the outside or convex side of the gouge.  When used for laying out and working the background this chisel is used to follow the sweeps of the curves in the carvings.  The appropriate sweep is chosen to match the pattern for the carving.  You can see why you might need several sizes and sweeps of this tool to match all curves that might be encountered.  A special grinding (on the inside) to this tool produces an ‘in cannel’ gouge and the outside of the tool can be used to do the lay out and initial chopping.

Fluting Gouge is similar to the flat gouge but usually have a greater sweep with high thin walls.  More of a U-shape these tools are great for deep flutes and other deep detail.  When using a gouge it is important that sometimes when you are cutting you are cutting with the direction of the grain on one side and against the grain on the other side.  Always be aware of the direction of the grain and cut first on one side and finish up the other direction on the other side of the flute.

Spoon Gouge has a shaft that becomes a spoon shape near the cutting edge.  With more curve along the length of the shaft than a curved gouge these tools are ideal to get down in the bottom of bowls, spoons and other steeply sided excavations in the wood.  The curved shape to the spoon also gives added leverage to the cutting process.

U-Chisel should actually be classified as a gouge as it has a curved cutting edge.  This very fine U-shaped edge is used for adding details and fine u-shaped cuts into the wood.  When using this tool always keep in mind that on curves one side is with the grain and the other side is against the grain.  I do the initial cut a little shallower in the correct direction for that cut.  I then I do the second cut in the other direction to keep me working with the grain of the wood.  This tool can also have a bent blade such as a long bend or short or spoon bend to just the end, allowing detail work in deep excavations. 

Carving Chisels and Gouges, shown without handles 

Individual wood carvers have their own preferences for how the tools are sharpened.  Most agree on a fine angle of 15º for the bevel on the cutting edge.  Many sharpen a secondary bevel on the cutting edge, but I prefer a single 15º bevel that is flat and not hollow ground.  The problem with hollow grinding is that it is impossible to polish the entire bevel, which I believe makes for a smoother and easier cut.  See Sharpening.

 Canvas Tool Roll

As for storage of carving tools, the tool roll of canvas or leather is popular as is hanging the tools up on the wall to both display and keep the cutting edges from getting dull by banging into each other.  This can happen if they are kept in a drawer.  A drawer will work if it has dividers that separate each tool.  I have used tool rolls and they are handy if you have to take them out of the shop but for storage and accessibility I prefer to hang them up and show them off.  After I use my carving tools, I always wipe the blade down with turpentine to remove any pitch or sap that might be on the blade.  I also keep my entire tool bright and free from rust.  A tool that has a bright finish will not tend to rust as one with just a ground surface.  I also check the sharpness and touch up the blades if necessary so they are always sharp and ready to go.

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Distressing and Antiquing

When doing restoration work it is sometimes necessary to make any new work look old.  This is not done to deceive but to make a more homogenous look and to please the customer.  There is also a popular trend to ‘distress’ or ‘antique’ new work to make it look old.  When I look a new woodwork that has been aged, in most cases is not very convincing.  The wear is in the wrong place, the dents and nicks look intentional and it just looks contrived.

The best way to determine where to put the ‘age’ is by examining old pieces of furniture.  The front legs of chairs get more wear than the back legs, the back of the cresting rail and the edges get more wear as does the edge of the seat.  The front stretcher will be worn mostly on its top surface where countless shoes have left their mark.  Remember two feet were used to age the original in two places; stretchers invariably have wear in two spots.  The bottom of the feet will also wear down with age.  If the chair has arms they will have more wear on the top surfaces where they are touched most.  A table will wear more on the top surface and years of use have rounded over the edges with more wear at the corners.  The outside of the legs of a table will have more wear than the inside.  A chest will receive wear on its base, if it has drawers, they will have wear on their edges as well as around the hardware. 

The most exposed surfaces usually get the most wear, inside corners and the sides of spindles don’t get much wear, so when you are recreating the wear add it to the places where it originally occurred.  Every time you get a chance to look at old furniture, note where the wear happens.  Note how the edges are rounded over with time, how details are lost and how the surface develops it look.  See how the grain of the wood has texture.  This is caused by the softer springwood being pushed down from the much harder summerwood.  The wear is neither uniform nor repeated on old pieces.  Make sure that you do not repeat any of the process that might cause a pattern to emerge.  Old wear does not have a pattern but you will notice after examining many old pieces that the wear occurs in roughly the same places on similar pieces of furniture.  So when you have looked at enough old pieces you will develop a feel for how furniture ages.

Also note the color of the old pieces and notice that the color is never just one color, it is a combination of colors to get that look.  Most wood turns either red or yellow with age, so when adding a stain to make new look old, you can best achieve those results by using a two or three step staining process.  This develops a much deeper and richer color than a single application of stain.  This is a common problem with trying to make old finishes match; it just can be done with a one-coat process.  Also notice the color gradations on old pieces, they are darker in the corner and in details and lighter on the edges and centers where there is more wear.

The first thing to do to new work is to take off any sharp edges with special attention to the outside corners.  A hand plane, a scraper or sandpaper can be used to smooth over the edges.  I use a combination of these tools, the hand plane for edges, scrapers for flat areas and sandpaper for outside corners and cross grain wear.  Make sure that the sandpaper is used with the grain of the wood in order not to put cross grain sand marks that will be a dead giveaway of poorly done ‘antiquing’.  Moldings get more wear on the most exposed surfaces and little wear in protected details.  On open grained wood such as oak, ash, elm and chestnut can be worked with a wire brush (with the grain) to drop the open springwood leaving the summerwood slightly protruding from the surface to add texture.  Another technique that should be done on all pieces is burnishing.  This is done to drop the softer grain and add a subtle texture to the wood and can do more to make new wood old than any other method and never looks contrived.  I use a wooden burnisher to accomplish this task.  I make them from scraps of hardwood, maple or beech to burnish a hardwood and for softwoods I just use a wood that is slightly harder than the wood being aged.  I smooth over any sharp edges of the burnisher that could score the wood, I just want to drop the grain and add the wonderful texture that this process reveals.  Work over the surface with the direction of the grain of the wood to avoid any marks that don’t look like natural aging.  Don’t forget to burnish the end grain. 

To impart dents and dings in the surface I use a piece of chain mail that I had made a number of years ago and it does a good job.  As with any tool it can leave a pattern, so it is important to always change the direction of the blows to the surface in order to avoid leaving a pattern.  Small pieces of chain with bolts and bailing wire attached can be used to make the dents and gouges in the wood.  The amount of distressing depends upon the end look, sometimes a very light amount of distressing is desired and others prefer a very heavily distressed finish.  I will also use a hammer or mallet and add some random marks in areas that might need attention.  Make sure that you get all surfaces in order to make the look more convincing.  If it is going to be dented it will also have dents down in the details of moldings and in corners.  These areas won’t have as much but should have some in order to give a more balanced look.  I may also use a flat bladed screwdriver or stiff bladed putty knife to make actual gouges in the wood.  After the surface has been worked over with these tools I lightly sand the surface to remove any raised wood, chips and to smooth the surface prior to finishing.

Another method of distressing is worm holes.  Worms usually attack the wood in a particular pattern and are generally located in one area of the wood.  One problem with just randomly making holes in the surface is that it is not that convincing.  When I need to make wormholes I use a sharp scratch awl and repeatedly jab it into the surface of the wood.  I pattern the holes along the grain of the wood, as that is usually how worms eat.  I will concentrate the holes in one area, along the grain of the wood and keep it confined to one board.  The worms usually do their damage to the wood as it grows not after it is put together, although some do attack finished furniture.  On a door panel I will put wormholes in all pieces but not across intersections of joints.  I will end the wormhole pattern at the joint, and it just looks more convincing.  I use a wide blade putty knife and place it over the area I want to avoid having holes in the wrong place.  I will sometimes use a fine gouge and make a few trails along the grain of the wood as well.  I always sand after making holes to smooth the surface.  When wormholes are required on a painted piece, sometimes it is better to make the holes after it is painted, so the paint doesn’t fill the small holes.  If the piece is stained, make sure that the holes get flooded with stain to darken the inside to make them more convincing.

Adding distressing to a painted finish is fairly easy, I start by sanding the wood first to remove any sharp edges and add other distressing as required.  I also usually stain the wood and apply a thin coat of finish such as shellac or varnish.  This gets the wood looking old and adds a contrast to the over paint.  It also prevents the wood for absorbing into the grain of the wood.  When I paint the piece I make sure that paint gets into all details and the entire surface.  I allow the paint to dry then lightly sand the high spots around moldings and on edges exposing the stained wood underneath.  I usually add a clear finish over the work to protect the paint and the wood and to add another layer to help in the aging process.  Again studying old pieces of painted furniture will give you an idea as to how the painted surface ages.  Another method of distressing a painted surface is with a glaze applied to the surface.  This can be a brown or black paint that is thinned and wiped into the detail then the excess wiped off.  It can also be done with pigmented shellac or varnish and worked over the entire surface, with special attention to inside details.  Old surfaces will have color changes, lighter where there is wear and darker in details, corners and the low spots in moldings.  This darkening of the corners, etc can be a very effective method of aging and matching old pieces.  A light sanding after each coat provides a smooth surface that imitates old worn finishes which are almost always smooth with age.  For additional information see Staining and Painting.  To add a cracked or crazed finish see Cracked and Crazed Finishes.

To be convincing the distressed finish needs to look like natural wear.  Examine old pieces to determine how the stuff has aged.  Don’t forget to burnish your work.  Use two steps in the staining or painting process to add more depth to the finish.  Sand between all processes to produce a smooth finish typical on old pieces.  Old finishes are fun to do and when properly done can be very convincing.

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Door Repair

Doors are very common problems when it comes to damaged furniture and woodwork.  The most frequent damage is to the hinge mortices.  Next is warped doors followed by loose framework.  Doors are generally grouped into two types: solid slab doors and frame doors.  Slab doors are made of solid wood held together with some sort of support across the grain such as battens or breadboard ends.  Frame doors have 5 parts, two rails (the horizontal parts), two styles (the vertical parts) and the panel (either raised or flat).

Slab doors made of a secondary wood are common on veneered furniture.  Joined with match (tongue and groove) joint or simple butt joint of narrow pieces of wood glued together for the substrate for veneering.  Invariably these joints will be keyed or toothed to improve the hide glues holding properties.  Problems besides the veneer coming loose are failure of a joint of the slab door or damage to the hinge area.  I will deal with the general problem of hinge damage later.  Failed joints in groundwork under veneer are tricky to repair because most of the surfaces will be covered with veneer.  The veneer may hold it together or if it fails the door may break into pieces.  If it has broken apart then the groundwork slab must be repaired before the veneer can be restored.  The problem is generally the difference in the shrinkage coefficient of the slab door and the veneer.  If the slab has swelled up then some must be taken from the edge to allow the veneer to match back up.  This is seldom a problem and the most common occurrence is that of shrinkage of the slab.  In this case wood needs to be added to compensate for the shrinkage.  I try and match the original wood species when making this type of repair.  If the wood cannot be matched I choose basswood, as it is easy to work, glues well and will compress if the surrounding wood expands.  If there are just open but sound joints I will sometimes inject a special glue mixture into the crack, properly clamp, clean up excess and allow it to dry overnight.  The mixture is hide glue with whiting (calcium carbonate) and a little glycerin.  The glue is the binder, the whiting is the filler and the glycerin keeps the material slightly flexible.

Exposed slab or plank doors, not covered with veneer will invariably swell or shrink depending upon the temperature and humidity.  These doors can be simply edge joined with tongue and groove and glued together.  Repairs to these usually are made at bad joints but sometimes the doors need to be made to fit the opening.  If it has swelled up then wood might need to be removed from one edge, however this is an invasive procedure and should only be done after the piece has stabilized to the proper environment.  Ideal Furniture Environment: CONSTANT temperature and humidity.  Temperature: Between 60 and 75 degrees (F) Fahrenheit.  Humidity: Between 30 and 50 percent (relative humidity).  The most common problem is that of shrinkage in which case wood may need to be added to one or both edges to compensate.  If possible it is best to add to the non-hinge edge, so you don’t have to redo the hinge mortices.  If there is damage at the hinges then you may consider adding the needed wood to the hinge side to take care of any problems there.

Some slab doors are secured with a breadboard edge that captures the ends.  It is a cross-grain member that has a groove along one edge.  The ends of the slabs are cut with tenons or tongues and these are held in the groove with glue and sometimes pegs.  When the ends are too secured is when problems happen.  The slabs shrink and the cross-grain ends prevent them from moving so they either come apart at the joints or the wood fails.  Using glue that doesn’t move or with the addition of pegs or nails that prevent movement is the main cause of failure.  Hide glue is thermoplastic and if the tension is slow and constant, it may adjust to the shrinkage.  In other cases the glue will cause the problem.

Battens on the backside of a slab door can also cause problems because of the cross grain nature of this construction.  Battens are attached with glue, nails, rivets, pegs, and screws or in dados (straight or dovetailed) or a combination of any of these methods.  If the original builders took into account the cross grain problem then the holes for the fasteners have been enlarged to accommodate for movement.  Screws can be repositioned; clinched nails and rivets may require removal and repositioning.  Always use the original holes on the face of the door when reusing the hardware that is exposed.  Most of the movement that will happen to old pieces probably already has happened but compensate for further movement by enlarging the fasteners holes in the batten.  If dados or sliding dovetail battens are used to secure the slabs and the batten is still glued in place, inject alcohol into the joint to crystallize the hide glue.  If you can gently warm the door this may help in disassembly if necessary.  A tapered dovetail batten can be repositioned to secure the slab door back together.  Some adjustments may need to be made to the batten in order to make it properly fit.

If gaps appear between the planks of the slab door, a cosmetic repair may be in order to fill the spaces between the planks.  I use basswood for this ‘repair’ to fill the joints between the planks.  I choose basswood because if the wood swells, the basswood is readily compressed to avoid further damage to the original.

Centuries ago craftsman attempted to resolve the shrinkage problem with slab doors by coming up with the frame and panel door.  This consists of two rails (the horizontal pieces) and two styles (the vertical pieces) joined together and capturing a center panel either flat or raised.  The grain on the rails and styles is oriented running around the frame to minimize problems of shrinkage, wood doesn’t shrink that much along its grain.  The joints at the corners vary from through mortice and tenon (the oldest and strongest door joint), half laps to cope and stick (shot with a pair of matched molding planes).  While this type of door is more difficult to build, it is stronger and lighter than slab doors and is not as effected by changes in temperature and humidity.  The panel is usually captured in a groove around the inside edges of the rails and styles but some are secured in rabbets from the backside or captured with moldings from both sides.  The last method does not require a groove or rabbet as the moldings form the groove to hold the panel.  A flat panel allows a thin lightweight board or boards to be used to make a panel that floats in the groove.  Because this panel can move it is never glued into the groove but allowed to freely move to adjust to temperature and humidity.  A raised panel is feathered off on the edges to fit into the groove, is somewhat heavier than a flat panel but can be used for its decorative raised field.  Traditionally it was generally considered that it was more difficult to make a flat panel than a raised panel and many raised panels are installed with the flat side of panel out and the raised part on the inside.

While this was an ‘improvement’ over the slab door there is still a lot that can go wrong with a wooden frame an panel door.  Loose joints causing out of square doors are relatively easy to repair.  If the pieces can be disassembled, the joints should be cleaned of any loose glue and other debris then hot hide glue is introduced, the piece clamped back together (don’t forget to allow the panel to float freely, no glue), the excess glue wiped off and allowed to sit overnight.  Make sure to measure diagonally to make sure that the door is square before it dries.  If the door cannot be disassembled, use a hypodermic needle to inject liquid hide glue into the joints and follow the above procedure.

Warped doors are probably the most common problem when it comes to furniture repair and antique restoration.  While some adjustments and compensation can be done at the hinges and stops, most warped, twisted or bent doors will require structural work in order to flatten out the difficult member.  One simple non-invasive method of straightening some doors is by using a tension device like a cable and turnbuckle or a batten, wedge and screws to coax the door back into a flat plane.  The cable is attached to two eye screws to the back of the door that are secured usually in opposite corners of the twist or bow and the turnbuckle is positioned in between.  The eye screws should be strong enough to take some pressure and the holes should be carefully predrilled to prevent splitting.  They are positioned at each end of the convex side of the bow.  As the turnbuckle is tightened the slack is removed from the cable and begins pulling on the bowed out ends.  It might be helpful to place a block of wood under the center of the cable to raise it up to give a better purchase for pulling.  The other lingo-pedic appliance is a batten that is secured across the convex side of a bowed door and screwed to the door at each end.  A wedge is then driven under the batten to bow the door back to a flat plane.  With both of these methods you are relying on the thermoplastic nature of hide glue and the memory that wood can be taught.  These should bow the door slightly more than necessary in order to allow for some recovery.  On some pieces the appliance need only be in place for a few months to bring things back to normal, some may take years to straighten out.  I have made some of the batten repairs out of matching wood that is nicely finished and stained to match and these have been permanent additions to some old stubborn doors.  

Various methods of repairing warped and twisted doors

When a single rail or style is warped, one twisted member can generate all of the problems of the door.  In restoration work it is important to keep as much of the original as possible, so replacing the problem piece is out of the question, but it can always be straightened out.  The method I am going to describe can be done while the piece is together, it is a hassle but I have done it once.  I carefully remove the problem piece, usually one of the vertical styles although a warped rail can warp the whole door, but most often it is the style that is the causing the difficulties.  Depending upon the design of the door I will make one or sometimes two very thin saw cuts on the edges of the piece all the way from the inside (groove side) to the outside.  These cuts only go as far as the twist but in some cases go the entire length of the piece.  I position the kerfs to fall in the groove and sides of the mortice on the style and in the groove and the sides of the tenon on the rail.  By cutting this way the finished front and back are not damaged, the repairs are hidden in the groove area and only show on the outside edge of the door.  Once the pieces are cut apart, I cut pieces of matching veneer to replace the wood removed by the saw kerf(s) and glue and reassemble the pieces in a press insuring that the piece will be flat.  What you are creating in effect is plywood with the grain of the laminations all running in the same direction.  The saw cuts relieve the tension that caused the problem in the first place.  After it is dry, the veneer is carefully trimmed and finished to match the original.

Door Repair to warped style

Problems with panels usually have to do with shrinkage or expansion causing the panel to not fit in is space properly, cracks in the wood or failed glue joints.  Splits and cracks are straightforward repairs than should be done when the door is disassembled.  One common problem is that of the panel shrinking out of the grooves on the styles.  As the panel shrinks across the grain it can literally come out of the grooves on the sides leaving gaps in the worst case.  You can add matching wood onto the feathered edges of the panel.  Add just enough wood to make the repair and the door should still float in the groove, if too much wood is used, it might cause a problem if the piece swells up.  If this may be a problem, try using basswood which will be compressed by the original wood if swelling occurs.  

Hinge mortise and screw hole repair

Damage to the hinges used on doors is a constant and sometimes reoccurring problem.  I have repaired doors that where previously repaired several times.  Most problems are with the screws failing in the wood.  If the mortice supporting the hinges is damaged, it should be repaired as the wood surrounding the hinge provides support for the door.  Add enough new wood to provide adequate support while removing as little of the original as possible.  As for the screw holes one common method of repairing is by gluing a small piece of wood such as a matchstick or toothpick into the screw hole.  While this can work, it can also have a tendency to split the wood in the door if improperly done.  The wood is usually also split at the screw holes and the split will also need to be glued and clamped.  Splits at screw holes need to be cleaned of any debris or loose chips of wood to insure that the split will go back together properly.   My preferred method of doing repairs to hinge screws is by mortising a hole under the hinge and replacing all of the wood under the hinge.  This gives the screws new wood to properly secure them in place.  I use matching wood and make sure that the tenon or Dutchman that goes in the mortice, fits snug and is glued and clamped in place.  The grain is also oriented to match the grain in the door.  This also strengthens any splits in the area.  When chopping the mortise, I will place a clamp from the front to the back of the edge of the door (with blocks to protect the original work) to prevent the door edge from splitting.  I also carefully pre-drill the screw holes and wax the screws before fixing them in place.  The wood immediately surrounding the hinge should be sound as this takes much of the weight of the door, you don’t want it pulling directly on the screws.  Replace only enough of the original wood to make the hinge snug in its proper position.   See Repairing Furniture Hardware.

When installing a door in a cabinet, first thing, make sure that the cabinet is plumb, level and square or you may not get a proper fit.  When moving cabinets with doors make sure that the doors are properly secured to prevent them from swinging open and damaging the hinges.  Also make sure that the cabinet is sitting level so that the door will function properly.  The cabinet not sitting level causes the most common problem of doors not swinging properly or not properly aligned.  See Repairing Cabinets.  


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