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Old 16-08-2011, 05:43   #1
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How to Put Electrical Panels on a Hinge ?

Long story to ask: anybody have a good idea on how to make a professional looking, easy to access panel?

I have 2 panels at the nav station, 1 with distribution circuit breakers, the other with some electronics in it. They were installed by a previous owner, and are made of plastic then screwed to the face of the cabinet after enlarging the original opening (each about 12" x 30").

Getting behind the panels to replace, repair, add, etc. anything is a pain in the butt to remove the screws while holding it in place, then attempt to lay the entire panel down on something soft, then if I need to throw a breaker to test something, to hold it back up again. I can already see a crack growing from the edge towards one of the breaker panel corners, no doubt from flexing as it is lowered and raised again.

I would like to put the panels on a piano hinge to support the entire length, then have 2 screws on the top into threaded inserts, so that it can be quickly opened for work, inspection, etc.

The hinge wouldn't lay flush against the cabinet when closed, so there would be gaps along the side unless I mortise the hinge into the wood, which would go through the veneer into the ply. The ply would be exposed along the knuckle of the hinge when the panel is closed, and would no doubt be a source of irritation.

Screw heads would have be on the inside of the hinge in order for it to close, so there would be a row of protruding machine screws and nuts, which I suppose I could live with by using those fancy cap nuts if I can figure out how to get the panel to lay flush.

So, as I started: anybody have a good idea on how to make a professional looking, easy to access panel?

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Old 16-08-2011, 08:57   #2
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Location: St. Augustine, FL
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Re: How to Put Electrical Panels on a Hinge ?

You are on the right track with the piano hinge, that is exactly how the panels on our boat are setup. Hinge along the bottom of the panel, one leg of the hinge is parallel with the back side of the panel, screws are installed from the outside of the pannel in, nuts on the inside. The other leg of the hinge is perpendicular to the first when in the closed position, attached to the bottom edge of the opening. When closed, the only visible portion is the hinge pin.
Good luck.

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Old 16-08-2011, 09:50   #3
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Re: How to Put Electrical Panels on a Hinge ?

Recess the "picture frame" that holds your panels so it's flush inside the opening in the bulkhead. Then just put a surface hinge on the bottom. There are also offest hinges that might work... I dont know exactly how it's set up. Either way, the hinge setup is handy for sure.
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 16-08-2011, 11:03   #4
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Re: How to Put Electrical Panels on a Hinge ?

Mine are done with a piano hinge on one side, and a touch latch on the other. You just push on the side opposite the hinge, and the panel opens like a cabinet door. No screws to deal with at all to get access to the back of it. The touch latches are standard harware store items.
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Old 16-08-2011, 15:24   #5
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Re: How to Put Electrical Panels on a Hinge ?

Not sure how big a panel you are making, but I made a panel out of Starboard for our last boat and used some real small brass hinges (not piano) I got from the hardware store.

We sold this boat 11 years ago, so memory is a little foggy (I do still have an earlier, smaller version of the panel, that I just looked at--its 4 hinges are about 3/4 inch long) but I don't recall having the issue you are concerned with. My hinges were probably thinner. I might even have mounted the fixed part of the hinge to the edge of the bulkhead rather than the face (if it is low enough, you wouldn't see the gap at the bottom. But it looked very nice if I may say so myself.
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