Introduction: Bookcase With Hidden Drawer

Picture of Bookcase With Hidden Drawer

If you like this project, don't forget to vote for it in the Furniture Challenge!

The look and feel of the painted bookcase surface replicates that found on antique furniture. Like older traditional finishes, the milk paint used on this bookcase consists of milk protein, clay, earth pigments and lime. Where conventional paint can chip and scratch, milk paint penetrates into the grain; polishing as it wears. For this piece I used three layers of color: lexington green, barn red, and pitch black in that order. The subtle complexities will improve as the furniture wears, creating a tortoiseshell appearance. In addition, I added small tear-outs and other “hand tool marks” to create the authentic look of a genuine antique piece of furniture, along with custom wood drawer slides and full mortise solid brass hardware.

To create the rich tones on the walnut and Carpathian elm burl book matched veneer top I used Kusmi #1 button shellac imported directly from India. The shellac is applied over a preliminary coat of boiled linseed oil. The oil penetrates the wood giving a maximum illumination to the fibers. Because there’s no purity standard for ethanol labeled “Denatured Alcohol” for dissolving the shellac, I use high-test, 190 proof Everclear (95% pure ethanol) as my preferred shellac solvent. No other finish can compare when it comes to the illumination of the natural beauty inherent in the wood.

It’s not only what’s visible that makes this piece unique, but rather what goes unseen. Built into the bookcase is a hidden drawer. To access the drawer, you have to pull each of the visible drawers open to a certain point before the latches they control slide out of the way, similar to how the pins in a regular lock work. That allows a length of wooden dowel to slide out – hidden as a knot in the wood itself – to trigger the opening of the secret compartment built into what looks like a normal molding.


ppinigis (author)2016-04-15


MarjorieC13 (author)2016-04-07

WOW. . -.

Zach Brenner (author)2015-08-26

This reminds me of that one part of National Treasure 2

legamin (author)2014-04-19

I cannot say enough here! Old timer craftsmanship combined with creative use of internal unused spaces blew me away! I'm looking forward to adapting your mechanism into a 16th C monk's study cask that I purchased from an auction in Scotland.. I can't wait for it to be decommissioned, removed from the national archives, disassembled and shipped (really? All that to ship a desk? Where's the genius of IKEA when you need them?)

briangrabski (author)2013-09-24

Take a look behind the scenes at the drawings and and sketches used to create this project. Buy the plans for only $8.99 at:

d_duck (author)2013-03-23

It looks great, but as others point out, the video says it's private and won't play. Also, some actual step-by-step construction plan would be a big help.

teckner (author)2013-03-23

Heyo. This is brilliant, but I can't seem to find a video that works. I clicked on the link to the blog, and every single link I click says "Video Private."

Could you link to a non-private video, or take the video off of private if you're the uploader?

HicksCustomFurniture (author)2013-01-27

That's insane!!! Would be amazing if you could give us a bit more on the step-by-step for the mechanism.

Geggo (author)2013-01-23

this is a damn riddle ...
how did you construct it?
how you even start ^^ with pen n paper?

MissouriVillian (author)2012-12-08

I love you (desk),and will remain a fan forever. I suppose the builder deserves some props too. Well done.

ccreutzig (author)2012-11-24

Too bad I can't see the video in Germany ("UMG music content", bla, bla). Could you upload a version without music?

twighahn (author)2012-10-15

i would like step by step on how to build this

zelback1 (author)2012-09-11

Absolutely Incredible... Let me ask you... did you design the desk in National Treasure 2? Because I would believe it. Raw talent, and a ton of it. You are gifted my friend. Just one more question... Could you build me one?
= 3

bigJakeK (author)2012-09-05

You are brilliant my friend. I wish I had half this talent!

jcbeaver7 (author)2012-09-04

oh my lord this is amazing.

mettaurlover (author)2012-03-28

Really cool, but did you consider someone just pulling all the drawers all the way out? Doesn't seem to be anything making it so you have to exactly open the drawers, only to at least some point.

ultrakill (author)mettaurlover2012-03-31

there's another video show's it's to an exact point, i found it in the related bit at the end. it's like a bump on the drawer that pushes a cam, so they'd have to be at the exact places for it to work.

mettaurlover (author)ultrakill2012-03-31

That there may be, but it would be easy enough to just pull until you feel resistance and open it up. There are much harder to detect ways to do this, one of which is similar to how a bike combo lock works, I'll try to make one that works like that some time.

zebede5 (author)2012-02-03

Does this remind anyone else of the queens desk in "National Treasure"?

Attmos (author)zebede52012-02-05

thats what i was thinking, National treasure. its very nice though.

asghdf (author)Attmos2012-03-30

i totally thought that

tinker234 (author)2012-02-20

wow amazing I REALLY LIKE THIS DOES IT USE POWER sorry about caps button sticks some time

fatasaur (author)2012-02-03

Did you make the milk paint yourself or buy it premade? It seems like a wonderful paint and i would like to try it.

briangrabski (author)fatasaur2012-02-04

Order the paint through They are great. You can make your own, but its not worth your time.

Everything you need to know about "how-to paint" with milk paint can be found here:

jtmcdole (author)2012-02-04

I cannot tell you how gorgious that book case is. The complexity of the secret drawer is mind boggling. Major props!

ATTILAtheHUNgry (author)2012-02-03

This is truly phenomenal. You sir are a mad genius.

crowsfolly (author)2012-02-03

This is one of those things that 100 years down the line, someone buys this at a tag sale. It will be worn and lovely and they will study it and celebrate its brilliant construction and be awed and joyous when the secret to the drawer is revealed. This is a thing of wonder. Bravo!

pie R []ed (author)2012-02-03

The level of awesome this is is beyond words.

MicioGatta (author)2012-02-03

Brilliant! I think it's very difficult to do, but it's great.

kenbob (author)2012-02-03

OMG. Seriously, this is amazing. You are amazing. Great project.

batman96 (author)2012-02-03

AWESOME! Can we get a video of it finished please?

briangrabski (author)batman962012-02-03

Sure can, there is a video of the finished project on my YouTube page titled " feature video"


Lorddrake (author)2012-02-03

awesome job on the whole project. the colors are amazing.

In the 7th picture you show the drawer faces folding down with mechanism behind them. What are those for?

briangrabski (author)Lorddrake2012-02-03

Those are for stereo components. There is a video of the tip-down drawer fronts in action at my YouTube page:

Lorddrake (author)2012-02-03

soooo .. what's with the image ghost in the last shot? :)

fzumrk (author)2012-02-02

That is an incredible piece of machinery.

peacefulshades (author)2012-02-01

amazing workmanship!

briangrabski (author)2012-01-31


EmcySquare (author)2012-01-31



srohwer (author)2012-01-31

I am drop jaw amazed. This makes all the other "secret" compartments I've seen and read about look like Saturday afternoon amateurs. Well done, sir

Topcat2021 (author)2012-01-30

One word; Genius.... I love the job that you did and the top is beautiful keep up the great work.
P.S. I love the music on the video

About This Instructable



Bio: Principle of designed & MADE Custom Woodworking, an innovator and problem solver who works with you through the design phase to the post-completion party. ...
More by briangrabski:Multi-day moving time-lapsePortable and Adjustable SawhorsesHow-to faux paint antique distressed furniture [video]
Add instructable to: