What are "living hinges" and how do you use them?

What are "living hinges" and how do you use them?

Living Hinges create movement in usually non-flexible objects. They are most often used in wood but can also be used with other materials like, acrylic, veneers and much more. There are many features that go into making a living hinge work. One is the material that you are using to make the living hinge. For example, when you use acrylic for your project, the living hinge will be more successful if the material is warmer. If for instance, you make a bracelet like the ones in the picture and you live in a cold place, chances are the bracelet will break. The reason for this is that when acrylics temperature drops below room temperature the living hinge becomes more brittle and easier to break. If however you live in a warm place, the bracelet will bend back and forth with no problem.

This first image shows how the acrylic living hinge bracelet flexes without breaking.

I have recently done some experimenting with living hinges cut into MDF. I found that if you soak the MDF in water it will bend easily and keep its shape when it is dry. For this experiment I cut a super flexible living hinge. (Link is included below.) 

After cutting the living hinge pattern I soaked it in water for a few hours to make sure it was wet throughout. I then got a used paper towel cardboard roll and wrapped the MDF around it, securing it with rubber bands. I let this dry overnight and in the morning I was able to take the rubber bands off and unwrap it from the paper towel roll, and it held its shape perfectly. I made it into this prototype kaleidoscope by securing the edge together with super glue. I am really pleased with how the living hinge turned out.

The best way to find out which living hinge works best for the material you are using is to experiment! There are a number of different living hinges that are free to download and use from the internet or you can try your hand at designing your own.

Here is a link to the super flexible living hinge I made. 

Follow this link if you would like to try a Parabolic Curve Business Card Holder.

Follow this link if you would like a group of different living hinge patterns.

Follow this link for an article that explains in-depth about making living hinges and how they work. It also has 3 cut files that you can download and try out on your laser.

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