Tiny Door Hinges- Advent Calendar

The Advent Calendar (or Christmas Countdown Calendar) prototype is well on its way. The dado jig worked perfectly! Unfortunately though, my pre-holiday merriment was disrupted when I started to work out the hinge details. The doors on this piece are just under 1.5″ x 1.5″. With 25 of them to attach to the frame, regular hinges are just out of the question. Aaron and I batted some ideas back and forth and it seems that the easiest thing to do right now is simply use two small pins, above and below each door to act was pivot points.

You can see in this image, our main concern is the size of the door and the location of the pin. Obviously the trick is making sure the door clears the frame and opens freely. Aaron did a great job putting together these two samples that show a 1/8″ diameter pin (left) and a 3/32″ diameter pin (right). In both cases, the pin needs to be set closer to the front of the door to help the door swing more “naturally”, similar to what we’d expect from a standard hinge.

So that’s the plan so far, and frankly I feel like there should be a better solution. If you don’t order the little dowel pins pre-made, you’re going to have to cut about 50 little pins yourself. That’s a pain in the nether regions! And the smooth action of the doors will depend on some precision drilling. Nothing that can’t be handled with a few jigs and a little patience, but its not quite as “simple” as I was hoping for. We also toyed with the idea of a friction fit door attached with a leather strap. Neat, but ultimately I don’t think that’s going to give the result I want.

So, anyone have any thoughts? I am going to try to work out the drilling and pins just to make sure everything works as expected and I’ll keep you posted on that. But I was hoping a little brainstorm could yield some unique ideas about how to handle so many tiny doors. Any doll house builders out there?

Category: Shop Journal


  1. Randy Goodhew October 28, 2010


    Cut in to sections and re-pin.

  2. Marc,
    Please excuse that I’m just suggesting a place to look and not looking there myself, but whenever I need hardware I bust out my Lee Valley catalog. It hadn’t let me down yet. Good luck.

  3. Marc,
    Are you going to make little knobs, or pulls for the doors? I was just thinking that you could possibly move the pin further inward toward the center so you could push on the back side to open the door. Unless you have some other idea for being able to pull the doors open it would save from having to cut 25 little knobs/pulls to attach to the outside. Just thinking out loud. I think you’ve probably got the hinge situation taken care of.
    On the other hand, I have some little brass barrel hinges, about 1/4″ diameter that could be put on the edge of the door and into the side frame. But then you’d have to have 50 of those, and drill 100 little holes, etc…


      I will definitely have little knobs on the doors. Really they don’t have to be anything other than a small wooden dowel, so that’s not too big of a deal. But I am definitely still looking for suggestions on the hinges. Randy’s suggestion of a piano hinge certainly has merit.

    • Wim October 29, 2010

      Love the idea. You just help designing my bathroom cabinet. I want a cabinet behind the mirror. Only the cleaning lady will hate the fingerprints on the glass :)

  4. Marc,

    This is a little out there, but Lee Valley has 1/8″ rare earth magnet rods.

    Instead of a physical connection between the door and the frame, let the magnets do the work, since they are rare earth magnets they are not likely to come apart.

    A magnet in the top and bottom of the door frame at the pivot point, and either more magnets, or magnetic metal rods in the top and bottom of the doors.

    Putting these where you would put the pins would mean drilling 1/8″ holes that are about 1/8″ deep or so (length of the rods).



  5. J October 28, 2010

    How about a peice of plastic (maybe something like a soda bottle) cut and folded like a “hinge”? The plastic could be glued in place.

  6. Bryan Huot October 28, 2010

    so i think the pin hinges are a great idea. the only other thing i can think of which could be completely ridiculous once you build it, would be to use string/thin rope. it kind of depends on how clean of a look you are going for, but you could put it through one door frame then drill through the door horizontally. when you feed the string through the door towards the leading edge you could then knot it or try to leave the knot on the front side of the door to use as the door pull. The knot on the backside of the doorframe could act as the door stop for the adjoining door. doubt this is the look you are going for but just trying to brainstorm. good luck whichever way you guys decide!

  7. Brian October 28, 2010

    Maybe not the way you wanted to go but… http://www.whittemoredurgin.com/7155hinge.html

  8. Personally I would just drill a whole through the entire door with a drill press and drive a steel dowel all the way through each door as you assemble the layers.

    It would be easy to place each door and tap the towel with a hammer to mark the drill point on the top and bottom.

    1 steel dowel rod for each door batched out with a hack saw or dremel.

  9. Kyle Barton (TexWood) October 28, 2010

    Coming from the ghost of hobbies past, use hinges for RC model airplanes. Their small, work beautifully, and are easy to install. Below is a link to some different types of hinges and link to an installation video. You may have to modify them slightly, and your not working with balsa wood, but its a place to start.



    • Kyle, my stepdad is big into RC planes also. I was wondering if there was something from that hobby that could be adapted. Seems like they use CA glue for everything, so it should be strong enough I guess.

  10. I like Ian’s magnet idea. Like I said before, there must be some type of strong tape that can just be doubled over and made into a hinge. These doors only have to open 2 times a year, after all!

  11. Brent Bowden October 28, 2010

    Hey Marc,

    This is probably a little outlandish, but I wonder if using spring bar pins as hinges might work. Those are the little doo dads that hold your watch band to the face of the watch. That would require drilling a tiny little hole through the door and and sliding the pin through. The hinges could anchor to the top and bottom of the frame in little pin holes drilled or maybe even just punched.

    There’s a fine line between crazy and inventive in my world!

  12. Devin October 28, 2010

    Maybe try miniature barrel hinges, or skip the door and just make a small drawer.

  13. Instead of having them on hinges, why not have the doors held in place with magnets. Each day, remove the door fully so that the cubby is fully open.

    But don’t lose them :)

  14. Ben October 28, 2010

    Maybe rethink the door design. Change to vertically opening doors (open at the bottom and swing upwards). Then you can use any type of eyelets at the tops of the doors (those of an actual hinge, a staple, screw-in eyelets, etc) and just run a single wood/steel rod through each level for the pivot point. This will line up all the doors and make batching out the little buggers easy. You could conceal the hinge if you like.

  15. Rob October 28, 2010


    Crude Sketchup adaptation of what you already have, but you get the point. This way, you can batch things out en masse and drill one hole straight down through the door and divider stock. It also gives you a complete 1.5″ by 1.5″ opening.

    In other news, the stock for this project looks way too thick to my eye. How much weight is this thing going to have to hold?


      Interesting idea there Rob. I like the way that looks. As for the thickness, I agree with you. As soon as I started to build the prototype, I thought the parts were a little beefy. So that may be changed before the final version.

  16. David October 28, 2010

    You could also take a look it a hobby shop in the section where they have parts and supplies for doll houses. I’ve seen some small barrel hinges there as well as some small regular hinges.

  17. mathom7 October 28, 2010

    If you have access from above, can you just use one rod through the top into the door, through the door, and into a blind hole in the bottom. Still 25 cuts, but, easy to install.

    You could put a rabbet on one side near the rod, instead of a full radius in your example so that it opens out but the other side acts as a stop to keep the door from pushing in.

  18. Tom Collins October 28, 2010

    I like the pin idea for its simplicity and clean look. For the pins you might want to consider fancy toothpicks. I have some under the brand name Diamond that are perfect mini dowels measuring about .085? in diameter. Another idea I had was to use fabric for the hinges. You could buy it in the form of a ribbon, cut it to length, and glue it to the door and frame. I really like this project and will be following it closely when it?s out. Thanks.

  19. IDEAS:
    One idea is marbles or ball bearings rather pins or dowels.
    Another idea would have been to round the edges of the doors so that less precision is needed (opening and closing) if you do use dowels.
    Perhaps one could make the doors in two halves (inside and outside – maple and black walnut) and glue/attach them together with the pin in between.
    Bronze or stainless welding rod is nice to work with if you need pins.
    Black leather could look a bit like wrought iron hinges if placed on the outside of the door and frame.
    No hinges is yet another idea. The doors are held with a dowel/rod/bar/gizmo/dohicky that slides out and unlocks a row of doors – one door at a time. The doors become building blocks, coasters or etc and door ways are left open to reveal their contents.

  20. Charlie October 29, 2010

    All those tiny little doors…uhh. For pins you could also use brass or steel round stock and I think that both are available at the big box in the nuts and bolts section. Cheers

  21. Mike M (http://mmader.com) October 29, 2010

    I am not certain what the best way is, but whatever you decide, make sure it is easy to repair. With parts that are that small, pieces of it are going to be delicate. Since the doors maybe opened by small hands the potential of one getting pulled off is likely. They should be just as easy to put back on.

  22. squirrley October 29, 2010

    do not no if you can get the what you need. try a watch pin from the band strap. good luck .squirrley

  23. Andrew Ford October 29, 2010

    I am currently building a dollhouse, so I looked at the main door to see what they use for hinges. It is basically what you are already working towards. Two small brass pins top and bottom. I think one of them was spring loaded so that the door can be removed from the frame for painting.

  24. Jerry S October 29, 2010

    I too think the stock is a tad thick. But to get to your brainstorming quest for hinges…sorry, but to have a nice clean look, I feel the pins are the best choice. Can’t think of anything that has already been mentioned.
    You know what? With 25 tiny doors, no matter what anyone were to chose, it’s going to be looney bin city in the workshop by door 25! I know I would be looney.

    Very curious to read more ideas. (And with what you decide.)

  25. Ned October 29, 2010

    Looking at the Sketchup pic – I seem to remember, if you bevel the side opposite the hinge/pin, you could achieve a closer fit to it’s opening side frame and still be able to clear the frame when the door is opened.
    Also, I saw somewhere in a hardware catalog, little brass(?) knobs that had screw mountings – like the shape of a bulletin board push pin.

  26. Jim October 29, 2010

    If you end up using removable doors (e.g. with magnets)since the overall shape of the calendar looks like a tree (imagine that!) perhaps the door pulls could be connected together with a green cord that would look like a garland. That way when a door is opened it wouldn’t be at risk of getting lost. Kind of crazy, but it’s an idea.

  27. robert lee October 29, 2010

    I like the idea Rob has with his sketchup picture above, but I agree it does look a bit to bulky. Or maybe the doors should be thinned, but doing that will also make your hinging plans more difficult

    As far as pinning the hinge that rob posted I think if you put it to tight you might get some binding unless you leave a bit of space top/bottom for wood movement etc…

    • Rob October 29, 2010

      Undoubtedly so. There’s plenty of play that one could leave to prevent binding. The point was that one would try to drill an entire door at once, rather than having to drill three separate holes and hope that things line up.

  28. Tom October 29, 2010

    I would make the doors out of a thinner material. As it is, you have doors that are almost 1/4 of the opening in thickness. Unless you can pivot right at the left edge of the opening, the door will block most of the access to whatever is in the compartment. Ideally, the door would have zero thickness and be hinged right at the front plane. Does what I just wrote make sense?

  29. Shaun Wellington October 29, 2010

    For sure, I think the doors should be thinner, I have used the really small oil rubbed bronze hinges that you see in small jewelry boxes with great success. They look great and are small enough to not take away from the project. I think they would look much better on this than a full length piano hinge. Are you wanting to fully remove the door? or just have it standing open? I’m not sure it would look right, But you could just use one hinge in the middle of the door instead of two? I look forward to see what you decide!


    These suggestions are amazing guys. I expected a few responses, but this is just awesome. I won’t be able to reply to each one like I normally would, but I am definitely reading and re-reading all these as I try out different things with the prototype. Thanks so much for being such active participants!

  31. Ron October 29, 2010

    What about a hinge out if leather or fabric just glued or tacked to each face.

  32. Gary Bell October 30, 2010

    awesome project

  33. DALE October 30, 2010

    How about a drawer, face and bottom only, that could be pulled out and turned around and slid back in leaving it open as you go though the days.

  34. Stephen Edmonds October 30, 2010

    As mentioned above, I would take a look at hinges made RC planes. There are many types and typically you just cut a slit with an xacto, add a drop of ca glue and then insert the hinge.

  35. doug robar October 30, 2010

    My granddad would use watch strap pins – file a v-groove in the door, as well as, a small strip of matching wood. Epoxy pin into groove and cover with the strip, The spring loaded pins will allow simple insert into small holes drilled into the top and bottom door frame. You can get pretty close to the edge of the door by filing a notch at the edge and cementing the pin there. You might need 2 pins depending on how tall the door is, and depending on the size of pin you can get from your local watch repairer. The small strip can be trimmed/ sanded so that it’s fairly inobtrusive.

  36. Arnold (golden leaf) October 30, 2010

    something to consider, maybe?


  37. Devin October 31, 2010

    They sell miniture butt hinges. The smallest one is 3/8″ across.

  38. Marc M. October 31, 2010

    I like Rob’s idea, and if you could some how incorporate a shoulder on the door to stop it halfway…

  39. Mike G October 31, 2010

    I also suggest the brass pins.

    They can be polished, since they may show just a bit.

  40. Marc I’d just buy those little hinges that Devin found.

    The hard part is going to be cutting the mortises!

    I wonder if you can get a tiny little router plane? :)

  41. Spaids November 1, 2010

    Maybe some glue and fabric. The hinges don’t need any strength what so ever. The only issue then would be getting the door to either stay open or closed and not sit at some half open state.

  42. Alfred November 1, 2010

    Flat metal shelf pins may also work. At the very least all it takes is to screw or epoxy the end the supports a shelf to the side of the door and drill a hole in the top and bottom of the opening to act as a hinge. A little more detailed would be to actually cut out a little bit so the pin sits flush with the door edge. Match the width to the thickness of the door. Ex. 1/4″ pins for a 1/2″ door. As has already been suggested, round the edges of the door on the inside face if clearance becomes an issue.

  43. Paul Stine November 1, 2010

    Canvas or leather hinges a la Doug Stowe’s “Basic Box Making”.

  44. Brian Baisley November 12, 2010

    my 2 cents worth …

    How about using brass welding rod as a pin .. drill thru the shelves (top and bottom – clamped together – 1 pass/door)… have rod go all the way thru the shelves/door.. perhaps a small brass washer to space the door w/in the frame.


  45. sailer November 12, 2010

    How about a fixed pin (brass round stock) in either top or bottom,and a shorter brass pin in the other side with a ball point pen spring in the hole first. When installing the door push a small part of the spring in the hole then push the short piece of brass pin in the hole next. Push the door in place and the pin should go into the hole by the pressure of the spring. My 2cents.

Leave a reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Image Map