I first heard of the Tectus line of hinges when bidding a project a year ago. I didn’t get the job, but I learned about a new-to-me hinge that is an ideal replacement for the Soss hinges I occasionally had to deal with. I never liked the Soss hinge—there was no forgiveness and no adjustment; you routed while you kept your fingers crossed. Plus, the setback dimensions on a Soss hinge make them difficult to use in many situations.
The Tectus hinges are German-made and sold in the United States by Index-D. What sets these hinges apart from the others, besides the beautiful functional engineering, is the fact they are adjustable in three dimensions. Like most high-end hinges, the cover plates conceal and clean up the final appearance, but adjustments are easily made even after the doors are installed. Try that with a Soss hinge.
The Index-D website has some good information on the line-up: sizes, finishes, and all the technical information you could need. The technical information can be overwhelming…drawings and more drawings, as well as installation videos. Being German, everything is well thought out and methodical. But one call to Index-D will straighten out any questions you might have. They’ll provide all the technical help you need for sizing and placement for the hinges, as well as pricing. These are definitely not one-size-fits-all hinges, and they’re pricey—around $100 per piece at the low end, depending on the finish, and up to $600 per piece at the high end. The cost is significantly more than a Soss hinge, which you can find for around $10-20 on Amazon. But the Tectus hinge is well worth it for both the installer and the end user.
|The hinges are different than anything I’ve worked with before. Look closely and you’ll notice the leaf that attaches to the door is narrower than the leaf that attaches to the jamb. …More on that in a moment.|
Index-D recommends using their installation kit, and I agree—their kit is the way to go. I am a shop guy and I always make my own jigs, develop my own methods, etc. But I opted for their installation kit on our first job with Tectus, and it really made the fitting of the hinges easy. The job was a pair of 220-lb. Walnut solid-core doors, and hinge prep was about the easiest part of the job.
|The installation kit comes in a nice Pelican shipping container, and all the templates, router bits, tools, and instructions you need are in the box. The return shipping label is even included for UPS return.|
My always-able assistant, Justin, and I had a nice, four-door, minimalist cabinet coming up that needed something other than standard adjustable cabinet door hinges, so I opted for Tectus. The 240D was the smaller size, and would fit into our 1-in. thick doors and the rabbetted frame. We used the satin nickel finish.
|The hinge also comes with an Allen wrench for making adjustments, all the trim parts, and good instructions.|
The industrial-duty aluminum jig has a built-in clamp, fences, or stops that can be adjusted to any hinge type, and a very handy spring-loaded center plunger that centers the jig according to your layout marks—at the exact center of the hinge on both doors and jambs.
Laminate templates insert snugly into the aluminum jig frame and register off an index pin. The templates can be inserted in only one direction, making them idiot-proof—you cannot mess this up.
|There are two templates: one for the door leaf and one for the hinge leaf.
|And there are two openings in each template: one for the shallow mortise and one for the deep mortise. Insert the template and center the longer opening to cut the mortise for the face dimension of the hinge—about 3/8 in. deep.|
And don’t worry about which router you’re using. Index-D provides a router base bushing—or template guide—for either Porter-Cable or Bosch type bases, as well as the bits needed, sharp and ready to go.
|Most router bases will accept these template guides. For Festool routers, use the appropriate base plate.|
|And they supply two types of bits, along with extensions, so if you need an extra-long bit for your router, it’s right in the kit.|
The routing jig plates are labeled and matched to the type of hinge used and have the two user settings marked “Rail ” and “Angle” on the labels. Odd words to me, but the instructions help make sense of it all.
|The first step is to adjust the back-set of the hinge. The metric scale on the front of the template is extremely easy to use.|
Once set, everything falls into place and extremely clean, two-step mortises are located correctly in both dimensions.
We used a plunge router and quickly cut each step—switching templates is literally a snap. The bits do extend a bit more than you may be accustomed to, because the aluminum jig sits high on the work. However, we were very pleased with the results.
The Tectus 240D hinge we used had to be recessed 1/8 in., so we adjusted the jig for our cabinet—you can see from the photos that the “jamb” was not a conventional design. Making that custom adjustment was easy, too, and we were still able to use the center plunger to align the templates with the center marks of our hinges. I like versatility, and the jig allowed for our free-range attitude without barriers.
|The Tectus hinges use cover plates for the different finishes and they conceal all the adjustments. The cover plates go on last, after all the adjustments are made, cleaning everything up nicely.|
After the first route in the actual cabinet, Justin had one of those heart-stopping moments when a hinge was removed from the packaging and placed into the mortise to check the fit. The mortise was about 3/8 in. longer than the hinge! Once he calmed down, he realized the hinge could also be adjusted in height—good luck finding that feature on any other hinges.
The fits are snug, but do not require any handwork other than a little sanding to remove router fuzz.
|The routing for the doors had no surprises and proceeded quickly and cleanly.|
The hinges were installed first into the doors, then into the cabinet, and adjusted one by one.
There’s no sign of any jamb or leaf binding with these hinges; the magnets hold them nicely, and the hinge action has a firmness or solidity that speaks of engineering and quality—minor things to some people, but impressive to me.
Drawbacks? Nothing serious. The price may cause some hesitation, but once you work with them, and then see them in action, you’ll feel the same way I do: on high-end demanding jambs, Tectus hinges are worth it. Prices are comparable to finer, knuckle-type, ball-bearing hinges with concealed bearings, finials, etc. This is called high-performance hardware, and just handling it tells you that it is worth the cost. The finishes are not the usual US types offered by mainline hardware people, but if a design professional is specifying the hardware, that is not your job. The fact that these are not exactly on the shelf at your local hardware distributor makes access a bit cumbersome, as well as jig rental, so plan ahead!
Our first project—the Walnut doors—has had no callback for adjustment after a year. And we didn’t even install those doors! We shipped the door and jamb to the job and their carpenter handled the install and the hinge adjustments. We provided the instructions and once he figured it out, he had nothing but praise, too.
• • •
I wanted to learn furniture making—fabrication and design—in college, but nothing was offered, and serious wood programs were hard to find. That being the 60s, I set off to find myself and had the good fortune of finding my own way to woodworking.
I was lucky to get hired at an aging stair shop in 1972 that made curved stairs, doors, louvers, mantles and such—all out of solid wood—mostly residential, in Indianapolis, Indiana. I spent a year or two in awe of the curved stairs. Calculus? Algebra? What did you need to know to build those things? As time passed, I got more exposure, and pretty soon I was the crew’s second hand on stairs. Being one of only two guys under 60, I quickly ended up doing the stairs and other complex work.
When the stair shop failed to survive a transfer from one generation to the next, I moved on to several other shops, but I was always trying to concentrate on solid wood fabrication. Eventually I was hired to start a shop for someone else. I helped the staff grow to 12 hands, and I had the fun of buying all the equipment and tooling for a profitable run of five years. Over time, the owners decided to get into panelized wall systems, and shrink down the mill. They wanted me to join them.
And that is when I started Acorn Woodworks, with a penchant for better design and solid wood. Doors—exterior and interior—became about half of the work, and we spent a lot of time and energy developing both the practical and aesthetic offerings in custom door fabrication. The shop grew and moved several times, peaking with the economy in 2007 with ten employees. Acorn always did nice work: curved stairs, large doors, round wine cellars, and lots of other interesting things.
But, with the recession, the shop reversed those many years of growth, and I am now back in my original small shop with one employee, sawdust in my pockets, and even a few splinters every now and then.