How to cut a hinge?

Continuing the discussion from When is the right time to cut a hinge?:

I’m glad this came up again because I’d appreciate a little instruction. How deep do you make the cuts, how many of them, what size wood, that kind of thing.

Thank you!

I was previously asking some of the same questions and I’m sure Alan will come by later to give better advice. My advice is to start out slow because as wonderful as this method is a beginner like me can make mistakes. I broke one and only one limb not because of the hinge cut but because I earlier had remove a large branch on top of the hinge cut (lesson learned). Bending down limbs by whatever means has started them to flowering/fruiting. Best of luck, Bill

Alan has recommended cuts 1/3 deep on the inner bend. I think the number of cuts and spacing depends on each situation. Shaping the tree in this way is more of art.

I make as many cuts as I need to get reasonable flexibility although Bas van den Ende, the person I learned the method from. suggests using only three- I don’t know why. He recommends going half way through, I aim for about a third. I use the method a lot and have had at least a couple of branches break, always after I’d left the site. Beware of weaknesses on the underside of the branch.

I wouldn’t attempt it on anything much more than 3" diameter or anything thin enough to bend without doing it.

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What are you guys talking about? Cutting a Vee out of the bottom of a limb to lower it?

Thanks Alan and Bill

I have a few branches in the two inch range and smaller that could use some remediation, but I have a similar question to Appleseed’s. Do you cut a Vee? Use your regular pruning saw to simply kerf the branch?

Elsewhere ("When is the right time to cut a hinge) Applenut explained how to get and train a new bud. That too was very useful. So thanks for that as well.

Wonderful forum and great contributions.

The thickness of a good pruning saw blade should be the extent of the injury. No v’s that would likely cause the branch to break when pressure was put on it to spread it.

Appleseed, it is about spreading branches that have become too thick and stiff to spread through normal means. I’ve often done it to very large trees that were trained to an excessively vertical open center, using the strongest, most vertical branch to create a central leader tree. This is a good way to force the “first tier” into submission to their leader.

On trees I’ve managed all along I mostly use it on graft branches that I let grow vertically until they became too stiff to spread without a hinge. This allows me to get the graft branch to grow in the most vigorous manner possible until I’m ready to spread it and begin harvesting fruit.


Seems like a very good method Alan.

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I plan on making a few hing cuts tonight on some 1" wood to tie down horizontally. Do you recommend wrapping the wounded area with anything to prevent moisture from entering or do you leave it exposed. I wondered if I should wrap with with parafilm or temflex? Or maybe smear some wax on it?

Just leave it. Trees generally don’t need band-aids or anything that holds moisture to wounds.

Here is a vid on converting an open vase to the solaxe system and discusses bending of limbs - some of which need the sawing technique.

I bit the bullet and tried the hinge cut. It didn’t seem to work all that well. I used a pruning saw and made 4 cuts about a 30% of the way through the bottom side of the limb. Spaced the cuts about 3/8" apart. It did help the limb bend some but they were really stiff. I didn’t get them near horizontal. And in one case I heard some cracking and wondered if I had done some damage by going too far. I feel like I should cut through the branch even further because after making the bend I looked at the cuts and they still weren’t 100% closed up. If it doesn’t work out it won’t be the end of the world as there is some growth below the hinge that I can grow out to replace. But it’s flavor king so I would hate to sit the tree back. Been wanting g to taste flavor king.

If it doesn’t bend easily make some more cuts. Sometimes I use as many as 10. I put them almost an inch apart. If it cracks you won’t be able to spread it without likely breaking it- better just let it heal if you really need the branch. It is a skill that takes practice, but if you don’t force a stiff branch and just make more cuts until it is limber you will be fine.


Alan’s done more pruning than I have, but I cut 1/2 way through the branch, sometimes even a tad more, on peach trees. It makes it bend easier for me (but does make the branch a little weaker until it heals). Like Alan, I put them an inch apart. Generally the bark under the branch dies where I make the cuts, but it eventually heals over.


I don’t do it exactly one third- some cuts may be almost half. But if you make enough cuts I believe 1/3rd will work fine. It is the depth I shoot for to avoid causing the branch to snap. I do lose about a branch a year- but out of well over 100 hinges.

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Today I followed Alan’s instructions and bent a tough old Caney Fork Limbertwig branch from near vertical to 45 degrees. Needed about 8 cuts but it worked! Thanks.


Big oops…converted an out of control Potomac pear on Winter Nelis to Solaxe this week. Got it done but broke 4 branches in the process. I was a little too aggressive with the ropes after I cut the hinges. 12th leaf and still no fruit. If this doesn’t do the trick it’s firewood next year!


Any benefit from bending branches will not be realized until next season. It should force the formation of flower buds this season which would open next spring.

What is the variety and rootstock? Does the tree get adequate sun?

It takes an oops to learn the limits of limb bending. The bending down limbs has worked great for me. Good luck, Bill

Alan, it’s a Potomac on Winter Nelis from Cummins. This was a case of me being impatient on the Cummins order–only rootstock they had remaining that year. The tree gets full sun. Any experience with this scion/rootstock combo? Apparently it’s a full-size seedling rootstock, which means a looooong time to fruition, right? I see that Cummins is now doing almost all pears on OHxF87. Maybe I could replace my tree with one of those and still have pears before this one fruits!! This tree is a lot of work for no fruit–the largest tree in my orchard. I might call Cummins and see what they think. My Warren and Blake’s Pride are also just making leaves.