Not every door is prehung, so we evaluated nine single-hinge and full-length-hinge router templates to choose the best.
Synopsis: Although many new doors are available prehung, not all of them are. When you need to hang a door that hasn’t been mortised, it’s time to grab a hinge jig. With a router and a hinge jig, making mortises is fast and accurate. In this tool review, finish carpenter Kit Camp tested a variety of devices, including both single-hinge and full-length-hinge jigs. Among four single-hinge jigs, Camp rated a Templaco tool as best overall. Among six pricier, full-length-hinge jigs, Camp placed a Trend model at the head of the pack. This article also includes a sidebar in which Camp lists his best tips for door-hanging.
Though I don’t do it full-time, hanging doors has always been a mainstay of my business, and doing a fine job on a customer’s doors has often led to other work. Although most new homes today are built with prehung doors, hanging them from scratch is still a skill in high demand for both new custom homes and remodels of historic homes.
Mortising doors and door jambs for hinges was traditionally done by hand with a chisel. Today’s router jigs, though, are faster and more accurate. For this review, I looked at a wide variety of both single-hinge and full-length-hinge jigs made from metal, plastic, and plywood, from several manufacturers and covering a wide price range.
I started by unpacking each jig and reading the directions, which were of a much higher quality than I have come to expect of tool manuals. After assembling each jig, I routed a test mortise to see how it worked and to make sure it would work for the hinges I was using.
For the first round of tests, I used each jig to make mortises for 3-1⁄2-in., 4-in., and 4-1⁄2-in. hinges from a few different manufacturers. Virtually all the hinges I use in my work are either square-cornered or have a small 1⁄4-in. radius at the corner. Many of these jigs also make mortises for hinges with a 5⁄8-in. radius corner, but I have seen these hinges only on inexpensive, prehung doors.
After making sure the jigs worked as they were supposed to, I used each to mortise a pair of standard 80-in. doors and jambs, which I then pieced together. Once joined, I looked at how well the hinges aligned, and whether the backset and the head gap of each pair matched.l
To see how well the jigs handled doors with fewer than three hinges or that were shorter than 80 in., I mortised a blank made from a carefully dimensioned 2×4 to fit into one of the jambs in my 1920s house, which features 78-in. doors hung from two 3-1 ⁄2-in. hinges. This test allowed me to see just how adjustable the templates really were when they were being used for a nonstandard layout.
My preconceived notions were wrong
I’ve never owned a full-length, adjustable metal hinge jig but had always coveted them as a tool “real” door hangers used. So when I put them head-to-head against plastic and plywood jigs, I was both surprised and disappointed to find that I just didn’t like the metal jigs very much. To me, they were overly complicated, prone to malfunctioning, and not as impressively constructed as I expected.
If I had to choose a metal jig, it would be either the Bosch or the Milwaukee (which are essentially identical) because of their ability to be fine-tuned to create uncommon mortise sizes. But unless I really needed the adjustability of this style of jig—consistently hanging new doors in old, nonstandard jambs, for example—I would stick with a fixed, full-length template.
For more photos and details, click the View PDF button below: