Door Hinge Cutting Made Simple With These Tools

Installing or removing door hinges can be a tricky process, especially for DIYers without much carpentry experience. However, having the right tools makes cutting door hinges a much simpler task.

First, let’s briefly go over what hinges are and why you may need to cut them. Hinges are the movable joints that allow a door to swing open and closed. They consist of two plates attached to the door and door frame, connected by a pin. Common reasons for removing old hinges include replacing damaged hinges, refinishing or repainting doors, and rehanging doors in new frames.

Chisel and Hammer Method

One of the most traditional methods for cutting hinges involves using a sharp chisel and hammer. For most residential hinges, a chisel around 1.25″ or 1.5″ wide works well. Place the beveled edge of the chisel right against the side of the hinge and gently hammer to sink the blade into the wood. Continue hammering until the chisel severs the hinge from the door frame. Tap the chisel sideways to pry off any remaining hinge fragments.

Pros of the chisel and hammer approach are that it requires minimal investment in tools. However, manually cutting hinges can be time-consuming and physically demanding. Proper hammer control is also crucial to avoid damaging the surrounding door or frame.

Power Drills

For quicker hinge removal in dense hardwoods, power drills allow you to zips right through and cut out the mortise. A high-torque cordless drill coupled with a Forstner bit or spade bit slightly larger than the hinge works well. Drill overlapping holes along the hinge side, then knock out the remaining material. The key is drilling slowly and not letting the bit wander to avoid unintended damage. Cordless drills provide added convenience for maneuverability.

Specialized Hinge Cutting Drill Bits

In addition to Forstner bits, there are now specialized drill bits designed specifically for cutting out the mortise for door hinges. These bits have a flared bottom that cuts a larger hole just the right size for the hinge. The flared shape allows the drill bit to plunge deep enough for most standard hinge depths.


A jigsaw with a sharp wood-cutting blade is another power tool option for removing door hinges. Be sure to secure the door from shifting, then carefully guide the jigsaw down the length of the hinge side. Let the tool do the work – forcing the blade creates ragged edges. While quick, jigsaws lack precision compared to drill methods.

tool for cutting hinges in doors

Oscillating Multi-Tools

Oscillating multi-tools like Dremels offer versatility for cutting hinge mortises. Their compact size allows accessing hinges in tight spaces. A plunge cutting blade attachment works well. Move the oscillating blade slowly across each hinge to cleanly grind away the material. The downside is that multi-tools remove material more slowly than bulk cutting with drill bits.


Using a router allows swiftly clearing out the entire mortise for door hinges. Secure the router in a stationary plunge fixture for stability. Lower the router with an appropriate sized bit to cut out the mortise area. While fast, routers are prone to tear-out damage if not used with care and precision.

Cutting Hinge Mortises

If you’re installing new hinges in a door and frame, cutting fresh mortises will be required. Mark out the dimensions of the mortise area based on hinge specifications. Chisels, routers, and drill bits can all be used to cut new mortises for door hinges. Take care to cut smooth, square corners for a clean fit.

Cleanup and Final Steps

Once the hinges have been removed, there’s still some important finishing work. Carefully sand any splinters, burrs or uneven edges around the mortise cutout. Fill any unwanted holes with wood filler, then re-finish the area to match the door. Finally, attach new hinges or re-hang the door, completing your hinge cutting success!

While cutting door hinges may sound daunting, having the proper hinge removal tools makes the process straightforward. With chisels, power drills, jigsaws, routers and other specialty tools, you can swiftly and cleanly detach hinges from doors. Just remember to put safety first – wear gloves and eye protection, go slowly, and secure the door to prevent mishaps. Follow the techniques we covered, and you’ll achieve professional-looking results. Finding success in DIY door hinge cutting is within your reach!

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