setting gimmals (you might know them as snipe-bills)

The next chest is begun, but I had to finish the last one yesterday. This one I made for the museum, oak carcass with pine top and bottom. The subject here is how to set the hinges, usually today called “snipe-bill hinges” but I often use the 17th-century term for them, which is “gimmals” or variously gemmels, jimmers, etc. Derived from Gemini, the twins….like my kids. Here’s the set I put in this chest.


The rear stiles’ flat face is inside the chest. This means that on the back, the stiles stick out beyond the rear upper rail, so I cut a notch in them to thin them down at the top to match the rear rail. It’s not an elegant notch, just sawn apart to get the wood out of the way. Then I trimmed it a little with a small plane.

notch in rear stile

Then, I started with a chisel to make a V-notch for the hole to receive the gimmals. This notch is chopped in the arris of the upper rail.

Then bore a hole from the outside, at an angle. All the way through.

Then drive the gimmals into this hole, should be nice & tight, but not so tight that you deform the gimmals.

The eye of the  gimmal that fits in the rail is oriented vertically. Like this:


Now spread them & hammer them back into the rail, like clinching a nail.

setting the gimmals in rail

Then position the lid in place, with sufficient overhang at the rear. Mark the back edge of the chest on the lid, as well as the spot where the gimmal is set.

scribing the lid

Then bore the holes and drive the lid onto the gimmals. I use a heavy mallet, and a scrap piece to keep from marking the lid. Especially important with this pine lid.

driving the lid onto the gimmals

Then clinch them.

clinching the gimmals in lid

That’s how I do them. Works most every time.

If you’ve not seen a snipe, here’s one.