Making a Living Hinge Box

Making a Living Hinge Box main article image
Posted on March 2, 2021 by Catherine Ortega
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Having a laser means that it can enable you to make a lot of great designs and projects.  And now over the last year that I have grown in capability with my laser, and my laser DOES work for me, I have confidently progressed to more intricate items like a living hinge. While wall signs and keychains make wonderful gifts, not every project made has to be 2D. When simple projects become mastered or if one wonders “how does a hinge live?”, let’s carve, cut and create our way through living hinges.

Living hinge – tutorial with a laser

Most laser cut objects are flat pieces either by themselves like a “don’t stare at the laser” wall sign, or multiple pieces put together such as a mandala or porch sign.  A living hinge takes laser making to another level by enabling flexion and movement in its design.

What is a living hinge?

A living hinge is one continuous piece of material like acrylic or wood, cut into very thin alternating sections, which allows the wood to become pliable but remain strong.  Living hinges are a way to connect two other rigid pieces without using something soft or flexible like cloth, leather, etc.   There is a mind-boggling mathematical approach to understanding and designing living hinges, using words such as torque, polar movement of inertia and angle of twist but that is way above my level of making.  Just know that it is awesome and you will love it!

What do I do with a living hinge?

Books and book covers, jewelry, purses, boxes of all kinds, lamps, chairs, bracelets-the imagination is endless

How can I make a living hinge?

Materials that make superb living hinges are wood and acrylic. The best thickness for these materials is usually 1/8th inch to ¼ inch. Thinner will break, thicker won’t bend and/or will break.

Wood – Plywood and Baltic Birch are well-suited for wood hinges because the properties in these types of wood lend themselves to a significant degree of flexion before the material fractures and breaks.  Solid hardwood, single ply, can break when bent so ultimately not a great choice.  If the project calls for a significant curve, a thicker piece of wood, or a stubborn hinge altogether, to help it curve, moisten the wood with water, steam or even alcohol.  Because who doesn’t move and bend better with alcohol? Another tip is to orient the wood appropriately and have the cut go WITH the grain. This will enable a cleaner, simpler and thorough cut.

Acrylic – Acrylic of all kinds make excellent living hinges because it is naturally flexible and strong before it is even cut and made into a hinge. Acrylic can use the same cut files as wood for a living hinge, the only thing that changes is the laser settings. If you read my other article on “HOW TO USE ACRYLIC IN A LASER”, both cast and extruded can be used for these types of projects.

First, take a look at some living hinge examples from Steammetry and Obrary. They show some beautiful specimens and provide links that can be downloaded.  

Today I will be using the straight hinge for this project.

 Hinge Box closeup

Here are some other examples of living hinge patterns that I have used before:                                                        

Bowling Pin hinge

BOWLING PIN

                      Geodesic hinge

GEODESIC

For this project, I will be making a box. BUT WAIT! Boxes are square and boring! And I say, not this one! To create the box, I always use a box generator like BOXES.PY . So simple and easy to use. I selected the ROUNDED BOX under BOXES WITH FLEX.  Sizes for everything on these boxes can be changed your desired shape and dimension.  The ones they already have created are easy to use and ready-made to exacting specs for the lay-box-person like me.

Hinge cut pieces

 This 4 x 4-inch box. 4 pieces, took 8 minutes to cut.

After I cut the box on the laser, I sanded all the parts, and sometimes, I just leave it with the burn marks for a rustic look. After you get the look you want on your box, either kept bare wood, painted or whatever you like, then you just put it together!  Most boxes can just be snapped together snugly but I always glue mine with wood glue for added strength. Put the lid on and you have just created a fin looking box!

This box went together rather easily. As the hinges get more complex and lager, and depending on the project, you may have to “stretch” the hinge to get it to fit. This purse below has a larger hinge and was made tighter because of the unique shape and use for this project.  I did use steam, stretched it a tiny bit to make it fit and then glued it together.  It was totally worth the extra work though!!!

Notice that this piece used multiple materials. Wood or course and fabric!  I glued it between the two pieces and when I carry it during the Halloween season, I put orange lights inside and it shines through the fabric! Also notice the third picture with the blue arrow.  This hinge actually slides back and forth in the groove and that is how the purse closes at the top. How cool is that?!?!?!?! 

Hinge Purse side Hinge Purse front

Hinge Purse top

Living hinges are extremely functional in many ways.  As you can see here in this Dragon Dice tower, an acrylic living hinge not only connects the two wood pieces together, but show some great curves utilizing the living hinge concept. Inside the dice tower are straight pieces of acrylic the green lines, that alternate angles to help the dice tumble, fall down and out the bottom.

You can see the concave and convex angles on the dragon dice tower from these different angles.

Dragon 3

Dragon tower with dice

Here are the completed boxes.  The laser cuts make the look so perfect and clean.

both boxes side

Both boxes top

The turtle at the bottom took an extra five minutes to engrave and really gives the “I Belong by the Ocean” box a unique twist to it. This was a design I created and it can be found on Creative Fabrica. The mountain box top design can also be found on Creative Fabrica here.

As you can see, making a functional, easy, gorgeous living hinge is easy to create and put together. It another project you can add to your crafting portfolio  If this isn’t enough inspiration, online dashboards have a plethora of designs and projects to peruse. And as always, I am here to help and facilitate the next living hinge into your next project. Keep making Warriors!


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Comments
6 Comments
User

September 9, 2021

Hi Catherine! I have a school project going on where the teacher asked us to analyse products with Living Hinge and I think yours is a perfect example. Is it alright with you if I include this as an example? This is all for educational purposes and not commercially. Thank you! :)

User's profile picture
User

September 9, 2021

I will also credit you via linking this link in my document. Please let me know your thoughts!

Warriors Heart Studio's profile picture
Warriors Heart Studio

September 9, 2021

Author

Go for it and get that A!

User's profile picture
User

September 9, 2021

Yay, thank you so much, I appreciate this so much. Have a nice day!

Linnea

March 5, 2021

This project looks so FUN!

Warriors Heart Studio's profile picture
Author

They really are fun to make!!


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