Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snipe Hinges & Cotter Pins


I was using some cotter pins on a project and it occurred to me how similar they are to the snipe hinges I had seen on some American Colonial boxes so I did a little investigation.

Merriam-Webster defines snipe hinge asan early American Colonial furniture hinge consisting of a pair of half-round iron wires doubled back like cotter pins, linked by the eyes, and clinched into the wood at the sharp outer ends.”

I think of the cotter pin, at least the modern industrial variety,  as being made from half round stock of a single cross sectional dimension - no tapering of the legs.  The snipe hinge has an eye of round stock with the legs being tapered so the tips are easy to bend and clinch.

Modern cotter pin from 1/2 round stock.

Snipe hinge in open position.

Snipe hinge in closed and open positions.


There are a lot of other names for snipe hinges such as Gimmal, cotter key, staple hinge and snipe bill hinge.   Gimmal is said to be derived from the Gemini twins astrological sign. The rather obvious reference to the head and bill of the snipe fowl had actually not occurred to me.  



Wikipedia seems to prefer the term Split Pin for what I think of a cotter pin and states that in British usage cotter pin refers to an altogether different type of fastener. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotter_(pin)

Here is an excellent video in which Andrew Hunter shows how to make snipe hinges and install them. http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/video/make-your-own-snipe-hinges.aspx

This site also demonstrates the installation of snipe hinges.

This is a link to a diagram showing the 45Âș angle placement of the pins. http://winterberryfarmprimitivesshopblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/snipe-hinges-what-are-they.html


That was an interesting side trip for me.  I’ll bet the image of a snipe’s head will come to my mind every time I happen to see a cotter pin.  That will be a lot more often that when I see a snipe hinge.

I plan to post my SketchUp drawings on 3D Warehouse.

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