Introduction: Build a Unique Little Library + Hidden Geocache
I’ve been woodworking for a little over a year now and THIS is my favorite project to date. Our City has a historic Downtown whose main feature is a Clock Tower. Easily recognizable and the landmark for our Farmers’ Market, it has come to mean a great deal to Downtown and all its residents. When I was commissioned by Downtown to design and build a “Little Library” (look it up, it’s a wonderful concept) I knew just what to model it after. The design was a bit tricky, but after seeing the final product, I can safely say it was worth the time spent. Introducing, the Little Clock Tower Library with a bonus hidden geocache compartment!
Step 1: Design Your Little Library
I first started the project by researching Little Libraries. I found great information on how to build them from the Little Library website as well as several YouTube builds. With a general idea of how to build them, I used SketchUp for the very first time to draw up some plans for my Library. It took me a bit to learn the program and complete the sketch, but it was a lot of fun to do (Thanks again to YouTube for the tutorials)! I also tried to make the sketch to scale (for the most part) to estimate my lumber needs.
Step 2: Purchase Materials and Gather Tools
First, for the materials I purchased the following:
(1) 4’x8’ sheet of ½” plywood (I had Lowes cut my sheets down to a manageable size for easier transportation)
(1) 4’x4’ sheet of ¾” plywood
(1) 2’x4’ sheet of ¼” plywood
(2) pairs of hinges
(2) door knobs
Brad nails (1", 1 1/4", 2")
Pocket hole screws
Hinges and magnetic locks for secret geocache compartment
Caulk + caulk gun
Acrylic sheet 18”x24”
Tools Used in the Build:
Step 3: Assemble Legs
I first started the library with creating the legs. I cut eight 1x3’s to a length of 57.5”. Next, I used my Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes into one side of (4) 57.5” 1x3’s. I set the jig to ¾” material and used 1 ¼” pocket screws to secure the pieces of wood to the four other 57.5” pieces as shown. I used exterior grade wood glue for extra support as well. You should end up with "L" shaped legs at this point.
Step 4: Assemble Frame
To connect the legs together, I cut six 1x3’s to 12” length (these will be the front rails) and six 1x3’s to 10.5” length (these will be the side rails). I drilled 1 1/4" pocket holes into all the rail ends.
I used the 10.5” rails and attached them to two sets of legs. Be sure to space the rails appropriately. I went with 14”, 28”, 41.50” from the bottom and one flush at the very top. I glued and clamped my work pieces in place for more accuracy while driving 1 ¼” pocket hole screws into them.
Next, I decided to go ahead and attach the inner panels. I cut the ½” plywood material down to two pieces of 15.5”x28.75” (sides) and one 14.5”x28.75” (back which we attach later). I did go ahead and prime the inner pieces with Killz while the area was easy accessible. Once dried, I then glued and secured the ½” side panels to the side frame with 1” brad nails. My ½” plywood did have a bow in it hence the extra clamps in the middle of the piece.
Once the two sides were created, I attached them with the back and then the front rails. Again, I made sure the rails were appropriately placed (in line with the side rails), then I glued and used 1 ¼” pocket holes to secure them together.
With the sides and back together, I glued and nailed the back 14.5”x28.75” panel to the frame.
Step 5: Add Shelves and Box in Legs
Next, I cut down the ¾” plywood to (2) 14.5”x15” pieces for the inner shelves. I used the Kreg Jig to place pocket holes along each side of the shelves. You can add primer to the shelves now or wait till later if you like (I added at this step again since it was more accessible). I placed each shelf in place and used glue and 1 ¼” pocket holes to secure them in place.
At this point, I wanted to go ahead and beef up the legs to look like solid pieces of wood. I cut 8 pieces of 1x3 to 12.75” in length. Similar to before, I used my Kreg Jig to attach each piece together. From there, I placed the pieces on the frame so that they made a square. I glued and secured them in place with 2” brad nails.
Step 6: Build Cabinet Frame
Next, I wanted to create the cabinet frame for the library. I decided to use 1x3 material as 1x2’s seemed too thin in width. Before cutting my pieces to length, I decided to route the inner and outer edge of the 1x3 with a decorative router bit. I clamped my 1x3 securely to my work bench and routed from left to right then flipped it over and repeated the other side.
Next, I used my miter saw to cut the pieces to length. I ended up cutting 4 pieces to 14.25” and 4 pieces to 13”. Once the pieces were cut, I made sure to dry fit them together to confirm the cuts were accurate. Then, I ran the inner inside edge of each piece on my router table with a straight bit to create a dado for the plexiglass to sit in. The wood will overlap the pleixglass by ¼” to hold it in.
Since I wanted these doors to be able to take a lot of abuse, I decided to secure the pieces with my Kreg jig. Again, I glued and secured the miters with 1 ¼” pocket hole screws. Finally, I added the hardware to test fit everything. The big picture was starting to hit me! Very exciting!
Step 7: Build Roof Structure
The roof was definitely the trickiest part of this build. There are 4 different sides that all converge to one point. Many other Little Library builds that I saw only used the 2 sided slope design so I didn't have really anything to go on. I decided to use 1x2’s as the main support and add wood from there like a real house. I played around with different angles (and used precious wood with all my mistakes) until I found the height and angle I wanted. It ended up that the angle on top was at a simple 45 degree angle (it was definitely harder than it looks though!).
Next, I decided that I wanted the roof to over hang over the Clock Tower panels so before adding the roof I needed to start on the panels.
Step 8: Build the Secret Compartment
After building the roof support, I decided to go ahead and cut out the panels that will enclose the top clock portion of the library.
I wanted to build a secret compartment that could be used with Geocaching and so I had the idea to have the clock faces open up on the two sides.
To get started, I cut out (2) 15.25"x18" panels (Front and back pieces) and (2) 15.25"x17" panels (sides) out of the 1/2" plywood to enclose the top. I used my trim router with a chamfer bit on all the tops so that the roof would sit flush with the panels. For the side panels, I drilled a 7" hole directly in the middle. I saved the piece I cut out as it was used for the secret door. I attached a hidden hinge as well as a magnetic cabinet lock to the inside.
From here, I glued and nailed the side panels to the sides of the library. At this point, I could test the secret compartment (see videos). I will say that I am planning on hiding the secret key (magnetic) somewhere on the Little Library with a hint on how to access the compartment.
Finally, I attached the back and front panels with glue, clamps and brad nails.
Step 9: Complete Roof
As I had mentioned before, the roof was the hardest part about this build. My original plan was to use 1/2" plywood (as I had enough), but I ended up using 1/4" plywood due to weight and a less bulky look.
I basically measured and cut 4 triangles out with the jigsaw. I then glued and nailed them to the frame. Unfortunately, I cut the roof too short the first time around and really didn't like the way it looked. It reminded me of someone with a giant head wearing a tiny hat. I played around with scrap pieces of wood trying to get a feel for how far I wanted the roof to over hang. Once I had an idea, I attached additional pieces of 1/4" wood to the roof with glue and nails. I didn't mind the extra ridge as the real Clock Tower has a few horizontal ridges in the roof that I wanted to add as well.
Step 10: Creating the Clock Faces
For the clock faces, I needed thin, strong lumber as they would be used to open the secret compartment. Unforunately, I didn't think about this at the time so I had to improvise. I glued up several pieces of pine lumber and once dry I planed them down to about 1/4". Next, I drew 8" circles and cut them out with a jigsaw. I smoothed the edges out with my oscillating sander. Finally, I painted the clock faces white and used stencils to spray paint the numbers and the hands on (that was very time consuming as well!).
Step 11: Prep for Paint and Add Color
Before painting, I wanted to make sure the library was sealed and as smooth as possible. I used silicone caulk on on the inside seams in the cabinets as well as the inside roof to keep the moisture out.
I also filled all my brad nail holes with wood filler and sanded when dry. Before painting, make sure all dust and loose paint is off the piece. Because I had two colors, I taped off the library to get crisp lines between the colors. I started with the light inside panel color and then added the red brick outer color. I finished painting with a few coats on the roof.
Step 12: Add Hardware and Admire Finished Project
The final step is too add all the hardware. This includes the cabinet frame with the plexiglass panels installed, knobs, hinges, seals and the clock faces which are simply glued on.
I currently do not have the product in its final environment because I was in a MAD rush to finish it before the end of the Instructable’s Wood Contest 2016. I literally just finish building the library earlier today and I have 30 minutes to submit before the contest closes :) . I can absolutely add additional photos to the Instructable once I deliver to my historic Downtown and set it up. As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed building this Little Library with the Bonus Geocaching compartment. To date it has been my favorite build and I'm very excited how it will be put to use. I hope you enjoyed my first Instructable as well! Be sure to leave any comments!
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