How to Make Grooves for Door Hinges

Installing hinges can be a time-consuming process.

Marking the Door Frame

Insetting the hinge allows the door to fully seal when closed.Insetting the hinge allows the door to fully seal when closed.
The first and most important step is positioning the hinges in the door frame so the pair or trio of hinges is lined up precisely and is level. Hiding the hinges in the door frame requires carefully locating the hinges and carving out the section with a hammer and a wood chisel. The project takes time and careful hammering to avoid gouging the wood or creating too deep an inset for the hinge.

Hold the hinge against the door frame in the desired position with the hinge aspect, which is the metal rod joining the two halves of the hinge, pressed against the exterior edge of the door. Mark the position of the hinge on the door frame, using a pencil.

Repeat Step 1 for the next and any subsequent hinges.

Hold a level vertically against the vertical edge of the marks you made previously for the top hinge. Position the level so the edge is straight up and down. Trace the edge of the level with a pencil to correct the position of the edge of the hinge mark.

Tape a weighted string, which simply has something heavy tied to the base, above the mark you made in Step 3 so the string follows the path of the line but does not touch the ground. Trace the position of the line so you have an accurate position for the edge of the remaining hinges.

Check the level of the mark you made in Step 4 for each additional hinge to verify the marks are accurately leveled from top to bottom while following the vertical line.

Cutting the Insets

Press the end of the chisel against the marks you made for the location of each hinge so the beveled edge of the chisel points toward the center of the marks. Hammer the chisel straight into the wood along the marks, creating a scored outline of the hinge.

Hold the hinge against the scored outline to verify the dimensions are accurate. You should be able to see the scored outline around the edges of the hinge.

Press the point of the chisel into the external edge of the door frame so the flat edge will cut straight into the frame, creating the actual inset cut. Position the chisel so the cut will be deep enough for the hinge to sit flush with the surrounding frame and the upper edge of the chisel is flush with the upper mark.

Hammer the chisel lightly until the end comes to the vertical mark, which will allow the layer of wood to pop off cleanly. Repeat down the height of each set of marks you made until the inset is fully carved out.

Press the hinge into the inset cut to verify the depth. Repeat the process until the depth is accurate.

Things You Will Need

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Level
  • String
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Hinge


  • A router set to the proper depth can cut the insets more accurately but requires you to purchase a router and the proper bit. The router will not get into the corners, so you will still need the hammer-and-chisel method to remove the corners.