Introduction: Cheap Secret Compartment!

Picture of Cheap Secret Compartment!
This will show you how to make a secret compartment that can be built into a bookcase, or some other piece of furniture. It uses a sneaky lock that doesn't expose any hardware to the surface. If you can keep from showing all your friends (I couldn't), this would actually be a useful place to store valuables. This design is very flexible to all sorts of shapes and sizes. It can also be installed vertically.

You will need:
  • A bookcase. I built my own, but virtually any sort of furniture will work: bookcases, china cabinets, dressers, whatever. Just be sure there is a clear amount of space underneath, and the surface for the hatch is at least half an inch thick.
  • Magnetic Child Lock
  • Concealed Hinges

I know these pieces can be found at most hardware or home improvement stores as well.

UPDATE 1/9/08:

WOW! Thank you so much to everyone who has commented and checked out my instructable! I had no idea people would find it this interesting! Keep experimenting and sending me your thoughts and variations on my design!

Also, Cousin Eddie wanted to see if neodymium magnets could open the lock, instead of the key, here are his findings:

"Anyway I checked to see if I could open a latch with simple neodymium magnets & found that it took at least 3 small (watch battery size) neod. magnets to open it. BUT you have to have the polarities of all the magnets (including the one inside the latch) lighted up.... otherwise it wont work. Simple to do though. Think I will mount the magnets in my own "key". "

Thanks for the findings!

UPDATE 1/27/08:

I received a request for some pictures of what my bookcase looked like as a whole. I put it them in at the end.

Step 1: Cut Out the Hatch...

Picture of Cut Out the Hatch...

Use a hand-held jig saw to cut out your hatch. I was able to remove the shelf during this step, which makes this much easier. For best concealment, cut along a joint, (ex: in the corner) so the cut looks as natural as possible. For this example, I didn't, but the outline is still faint. Use as narrow a blade as you can, as any gap would look really obvious. This is where you are free to adapt the size and shape of the your hatch.

Step 2: Install the Hinges...

Picture of Install the Hinges...

This is pretty simple, although drilling holes for the hinges into the surrounding shelf can be tricky with smaller hatches unless you have a right-angle drill. With these hinges, I had to chisel the hatch and counter-sink the hole, in order for the the hatch to fit flush with the shelf. For the fitting the hinge to the hatch, I used my trusty jig saw and a chisel until the hinge fit flush with the rest of the wood.

Check the movement of the hinges, and adjust them if need be. Ideally, the hatch should still be flush with the shelf.

Install a small block opposite the hinges, to keep the hatch from falling into the compartment below.

Step 3: The Fun Part...

Picture of The Fun Part...

Install the magnet lock per the manufacturers directions. Ensure the lock creates a tight latch. For my hatch, I had to shim the other side of lock to make a tight fit. The pictures below describe how this lock works.

Step 4: Build a Box Below and Complete...

Picture of Build a Box Below and Complete...

Next build a box underneath your hatch. Again, the dimensions of this are up to you. Don't make the box too much bigger than the hatch though, as this will make it hard to reach around in.

Here is a photo review of the entire method of opening the compartment:


19freemans (author)2014-01-23

could this work on a wall?i am making an arsenal of airsoft guns and want a good place to put them so if there is a break in no one will steal them.

kbs2244 (author)2007-12-28

When I did it I made the whole bottom shelf so it would lift out. It is set down behind the front panel so the front edge is not exposed. I finished it real smooth and use a suction cup to lift it. I made 5 built in bookcases that are 5 feet wide. Bottom shelf has things like encylopidia on them. Compartments full of real emergency type stuff.

Alpvax (author)kbs22442009-12-07

clever, put the heavy stuff on top of the emergency stuff :P lol

astral_mage (author)Alpvax2013-12-21

are shure that the book them selfves arent hollowed out as well.

stuzz (author)2007-12-27

If you wanted to make it more concealed, you could make a few false doors beside the real one, to blend it in as a natural pattern. That would make it less obvious there was something to notice. Very cool article!

swolleneyeball (author)stuzz2009-09-13

And you can organize you drugs or what have you as well!

fortneja (author)swolleneyeball2009-09-13

I really didn't intend this to be a hiding place for drugs or other such contraband. I was thinking more along the lines of cash, documents, jewelry, etc.. ;)

astral_mage (author)fortneja2013-12-21

drugs would fall under the etc... part..........

rabbitkillrun (author)fortneja2010-01-15

"If you build it, they will come."
What do you think they were talking about? If you build something to hide things, drug users will come (not that they should have to).

chuckr44 (author)2008-09-04

I roll a d6 to check for secret doors!

RooMooJoo (author)chuckr442008-09-12

You notice nothing unusual....

ladymorrgian (author)RooMooJoo2009-01-06

Re-roll a D20 for more accurate results the DM says

astral_mage (author)ladymorrgian2013-12-21

roll twice an take the better results. and dont fail your disable checks.

you roll a 13! you find a latch, but nothing is behind it. you think there might be another compartment.

astral_mage (author)chuckr442013-12-21

only if yr a dwarf or elf.

twighahn (author)2012-10-15

this would be a great place to put the handle for the secret door/book case and i could hide the compartment better too so thanks for the ideas

instructable person 9 (author)2012-07-08


SasquatchKid (author)2012-03-20

My friends dad asked me to make a hidden door used coldduck22's floor thing to hide their bunker door :)

Tantrax (author)2012-03-13

Im kind of late but I was looking aroung on the internet and i saw one where you unscrew an eletrical outlet and there is a sectet compartment further inside. It was quite a nice idea

ganglion (author)2011-08-27

I met someone once who built individually crafted doll's houses, and every one had a secret compartment for hiding jewelry, similar to this.

Robotic_mage (author)2007-12-21

Why did you not just put the entire shelf on two door hinges (concealed of course) and put the baby lock on the back of the shelf. Great Idea though.

fortneja (author)Robotic_mage2007-12-21

If the entire shelf is a hatch, then you must completely empty the shelf in order to access the compartment. Just a thought.

siamonsez (author)fortneja2011-08-27

How about making the front piece below the bottom shelf the hidden door.

Same idea with the the hidden hinges and child locks, but a bigger door would make for easier access to the entire space. You could leave the visible screws, but cut them off so they don't actually bite into anything, and reinforce it on the inside with a skeleton instead of a solid board for the structural bit.
Also, instead of hinges, you could add some small rails to keep it in the correct position and use two child locks, one on either end, and then it would pull out like a drawer, and be a bit more secure as well, because someone mught accidentally find one og the mag locks, but probably wouldn't think of there bing two.

Robotic_mage (author)fortneja2007-12-21

Very good point, that is why you make it a Curio Shelf, and move the 'Correct Curio' into place to unlock the panel. Remove one or two curios, the rest are fixed mounts.

gemtree (author)Robotic_mage2010-08-25

Now that is a cool idea. Curios with the key being one of them.

sounds like something they did in national treasure 2. aligned desk drawers in the proper fashion which unlocked a secret compartment. does this sound right or am i mistaken?

berky93 (author)MadMechanicMike2008-01-23

lol thats exactly what I was thinking when I read that! and great instructable, Id do this in a heartbeat if: 1) if I cut a hole in any of my furniture id probably be in huge trouble 2) about a week ago I got one of those hidden book safes that lockes with a key and all. shame, this is way cooler.

smtgr14 (author)berky932009-07-06

Uhhh... buy a used bookshelf to do this, then who will yell at you? You bought it you can break it.

fortneja (author)MadMechanicMike2007-12-28

Stay tuned! This is my next project!

MadMechanicMike (author)fortneja2007-12-29

awesome i cant wait, i really want to make one

octochan (author)Robotic_mage2007-12-27

that sounds suspiciously like a puzzle in an adventure game. . . but very cool instructable! I used to hide stuff under the bottom of my desk cupboard - the board would just lift off and you put things right on the floor, but it worked.

Diabloscope (author)2011-08-26

That is an Excellent Idea !! which turns into another Idea !! adding an additional 3 to 4 " in a middle shelf compartment for Items not needed on a daily basis like firearms , money , personal items , passports kinda like a safe but not !
.... Thanks !!!!!

ilpug (author)2011-08-26

Well done, although i would hide the compartment better. might do this in a wall. i like the magnet lock idea.

Abbylynn (author)2011-05-05

THIS IS SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!
I LOVE IT!!!!!!

fortneja (author)Abbylynn2011-05-06

Why thank you. :)

TechDante (author)2010-08-21

would the clild locks work vertically. i have an idea for something similar to this but mounting a small two/three shelf bookcase on my wall and having the hidden compartment inside the cavity of my wall. the bookcase will be on runners that are built into a backboard.

fortneja (author)TechDante2010-08-21

I double-checked with a spare lock I have, and yes, it works fine at any angle. There is a spring in the latch to keep it normally closed, unless the magnet opens it. Have fun! Your idea sounds great!

nuckthebuck (author)2010-06-18

maybe just dont screw on inside base of cabinet area and just slide it out? just a thought less materials of locks and stuff no hinges needed just keep stuff in there like movies to keep people from trying to look there then its just less work when making your stash area?

LeFrog (author)2010-05-20

An even simpler way to add a secret compartment, that is totally hidden. Take an existing bookcase or dresser, with an open bottom at least 2 inches high, you make a drawer the size of the case, add drawer rail supports on the sides of the drawer, and finally you add a push release lock with earth magnets. The drawer will look like a decorative curtain across the bottom of the piece and a simple push will open the secret compartment. You just have to make sure you don't kick it while people are around.

TimTheScarecrow (author)2009-09-13

this is the really cool. ive always loved the idea of secret compartments. i cant attempt one yet since im 15 and live with my mom

BrokenArsenal (author)2008-03-15

i wounder how many people would use this to hide their drugs

hcold (author)BrokenArsenal2008-08-02

Really, people shouldn't have to, but there you go.

lnknprkfrk13 (author)hcold2009-07-09

Honestly your right. People shouldn't need to, but there's the American government for you, taking the fun out of everything.

not only are they taking the fun out of it but they are taking my drugs

Foxtrotman (author)BrokenArsenal2009-09-13


homedogalex (author)2008-01-27

can i ask how you connect the hinge to the actualy shelf


heathbar64 (author)2009-08-13

secret hidey hole good!! Lots on cool idea's presented in comments too. If you read hardy boys and nancy drew as a kid, you should know that the edges of secret doors should be disguised with something that would naturally be expected to have a seam. like if you wanted a door in a paneled wall, you would make the door edge fall right on the edge of a piece of panelling,cuz you would expect to have a crack there. Now I'm, gonna have to start making secret passages and stuff, and it's all your fault.

fortneja (author)heathbar642009-08-13

Get out while you still can! Once you get started, building secret compartments into your furniture/house is very addictive.

tristantech (author)2009-07-11

i know the first place i'm looking if i rob your house!! :-) (just kidding)

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy quick and easy projects that are useful and cheap. I enjoy building and creating new things!
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