What Is a Butterfly Hinge?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A butterfly hinge has a butterfly-like shape and decorative finish that makes it visually interesting. This design is suitable for applications where the hinge will be visible and more utilitarian hardware would distract from a door, piece of furniture, or other product. Replacement hinges and screws are generally available through hardware and home supply stores for projects like refurbishing old trunks or hanging new cabinet doors. It may also be possible to find them at salvage companies, for cases where people want to use historic hardware if possible.


The precise shape of a butterfly hinge can vary by manufacturer, but it tends to look somewhat like the wings of a butterfly, with a spreading design from the center pin. Ornamental finishes may include a variety of textures, as well as scrollwork or embossing. Some butterfly hinges are finished in enamel for a colored appearance. The screws are finished to match so they will be less visible, and sit flush inside the screw holes, which are typically beveled.

Also called a dovetail hinge, this design can be useful for fine furniture projects. Boxes, cabinets, and other projects with hinged doors, panels, and similar features may require ornamental hardware to prevent a jarring appearance. Depending on design, a butterfly hinge could be visible when a project is closed or opened, and can contribute to the overall appearance. Blocky hinges in a standard stainless steel finish might appear out of place.

When selecting a butterfly hinge, it is important to pay attention to weight rating and screw depths. These hinges come in a range of sizes, from very small designs for miniature cases to larger and heavier ones for cabinet drawers. The wrong hinge may not be able to hold up weight as it opens and closes, which could cause a door or lid to fall out of plumb. Screw depth can also be important, as long screws may penetrate all the way through or could create cracks in the surface material.

Finish is also a consideration. These hinges can come in glossy or matte finishes along with textured versions in colors like copper, gold, silver, and black. Discreet finishes blend aesthetically with the finished product and create an even visual appearance. Bright silver hinges, for example, would stand out on a project made with a dark wood, where a dulled brass or black might be more suitable to allow the butterfly hinge to fade into the design.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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