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.
1-40 of 86Next »
19freemans1 year ago

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.

kbs22447 years ago
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 kbs22445 years ago
clever, put the heavy stuff on top of the emergency stuff :P lol
are shure that the book them selfves arent hollowed out as well.
stuzz7 years ago
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!
And you can organize you drugs or what have you as well!
fortneja (author)  swolleneyeball5 years ago
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.. ;)
drugs would fall under the etc... part..........
"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).
chuckr447 years ago
I roll a d6 to check for secret doors!
You notice nothing unusual....
Re-roll a D20 for more accurate results the DM says
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.
only if yr a dwarf or elf.
twighahn2 years ago
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
My friends dad asked me to make a hidden door used coldduck22's floor thing to hide their bunker door :)
Tantrax3 years ago
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
ganglion4 years ago
I met someone once who built individually crafted doll's houses, and every one had a secret compartment for hiding jewelry, similar to this.
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_mage7 years ago
If the entire shelf is a hatch, then you must completely empty the shelf in order to access the compartment. Just a thought.
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.
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.
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?
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 berky936 years ago
Uhhh... buy a used bookshelf to do this, then who will yell at you? You bought it you can break it.
fortneja (author)  MadMechanicMike7 years ago
Stay tuned! This is my next project!
awesome i cant wait, i really want to make one
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.
Diabloscope4 years ago
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 !!!!!
ilpug4 years ago
Well done, although i would hide the compartment better. might do this in a wall. i like the magnet lock idea.
Abbylynn4 years ago
THIS IS SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!
I LOVE IT!!!!!!
fortneja (author)  Abbylynn4 years ago
Why thank you. :)
TechDante5 years ago
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)  TechDante5 years ago
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!
nuckthebuck5 years ago
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?
LeFrog5 years ago
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.
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
1-40 of 86Next »