Introduction: Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch

Picture of Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch

This instuctible will show you how to turn an ordinary hardback book into a hidden switch for a lamp or other corded device.

Last fall, I was looking for a gift for my wife and came across the Secret Passageway Switch at Blight Designs (  Blight Designs was sold out, but I thought I could make something a bit simpler that didn't have to be screwed to the shelf or run a chain and string through the pages of the book.

This is what I came up with:

Step 1: Gathering Parts and Tools

Picture of Gathering Parts and Tools

First, you need to gather materials and tools.


13.5" or so of 1"x1/16" aluminum
1 Lutron lamp dimmer model #TT-300H-BL or equivalent 
1 push button switch (I used a Philmore #30-003)
2 small zip ties (not pictured)
Some assorted shrink tube
2"x1"x1/16" adhesive backed neoprene (optional)


Drill with 1/8" and 15/64" bits (or whatever size you need for your zip ties and switch)
Center punch (not vital but it helps to keep the bits from walking in the soft aluminum, a nail and hammer will work too)
Soldering iron and solder
Wire cutters/strippers
Something to heat the shrink tube (I used a mini torch)
Something to bend the aluminum (a bench vise works well)
Something to cut the aluminum to size (I used a band saw, but a hacksaw or tin snips work too)

Ok.  Now we have that out of the way, on to the fun part . . . .

Step 2: Sizing the Book and Marking the Aluminum

Picture of Sizing the Book and Marking the Aluminum

First pick the book that you want to use. It should have a loose binding so the aluminum can slide into the spine.

The book I used is 6" deep so I started with a piece of aluminum 13.5" long.  The dimensions of the aluminum can be altered to fit the book you intend to use. 

Start by making marks at 1.5", 2", 2.5" and 8.5".  These marks will be your bend points.  The fourth mark should be 2.5" longer than the depth of the book you are using.  Since my book was 6" deep, my fourth mark was at 8.5".  If your book is 8" deep, your fourth mark will be at 10.5".

Step 3: Bending the Aluminum

Picture of Bending the Aluminum

After making a couple of these, I built a bend-break to bend the aluminum.  You can make the same bends the way I made the first two--by smacking the aluminum with a hammer in the jaws of a vice.

First Bend:  It is best to start with the bend at the 1.5" mark first. Clamp the aluminum and bend it over to 90 degrees.

Second Bend:  Flip the strip over and clamp it at the 2" mark. Bend the aluminum 90 degrees the opposite direction. 
You may have to use a piece of wood to start the bend as shown in the picture above so that you don't collapse the first bend while trying to make the second one.

Third Bend:  Flip the aluminum over again and clamp it at the 2.5" mark. This bend is also 90 degrees.

Fourth Bend:  As mentioned in Step 3, the location of the fourth and final bend will vary with the depth of your book.  This bend is in the same direction as the third bend.

Step 4: Marking and Drilling

Picture of Marking and Drilling

So now that the aluminum is bent, it's time to drill some holes for the switch and the strain relief zip ties.  The strain relief ties are important, because they will prevent the cord from pulling away from the device over time.

First, you'll need to use a center punch to mark the center between bends one and two.
Next, use a center punch to mark four holes for the strain relief zip ties to go through.  I used graph paper to center and square the holes. (It wasn't that accurate, but it did the job.  You may want to spend more time laying out these points.)

Time to drill!
First drill the 15/64" hole for the switch between the 1st and 2nd bends.
Then drill the four 1/8" holes for the zip ties.
When you are done it should look something like the last picture in this step.

Step 5: Wires, Soldering, and Shrink Tube

Picture of Wires, Soldering, and Shrink Tube

We've come to the part where you ruin a perfectly good lamp dimmer.
Go ahead.  Cut that dimmer off the end of the cord.
You can get rid of the dimmer. We are not going to use it.

Now, strip the ends of the wire and solder it onto the switch.  Use the center pin and one of the side pins on the switch.  It doesn't matter which side pin you use.
Don't forget to slide the shrink tube onto the wire before you solder!

I used three sizes of shrink tube I had laying around.  Your selection may vary.  What we want to do is provide some electrical separation and strain relief for the wires and terminals.
I used small shrink tube first on each wire, then larger shrink tube to cover the smaller shrink tube and then finally big shrink tube to cover part of the switch and the other layers of shrink tube.

Step 6: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

We are getting close to being done!
Put the switch through the hole and secure it with the lock washer and nut.
Feed the zip ties through the holes as shown and tighten them around the cord.
Trim the ends of the zip ties and attach the switch button. 
Add the 1/16" neoprene to the bottom furthest away from the switch.
There you go.
Your Secret Bookshelf Light Switch is complete!
On to installation . . . .

Step 7: Installation

Picture of Installation

Take your selected book and open the front cover.  This should open the binding, allowing you to easily slide the flat end of the switch into the spine of the book.
Stand the book up and ensure that the switch depresses when the book is resting and releases when the book is tilted.

Now to your bookshelf . . . . 
Pull the books that will surround your new hidden book switch out a few inches. Run the cord behind the books and to an outlet.  Slide the books back into place.  If the lamp you are using has its own on/off switch, don't forget to leave it in the on position.  Connect the cord of your lamp to the cord of your switch, and you are ready.


You can now astound, astonish, or merely confuse your friends and co-workers with your Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch!


EET1982 (author)2012-08-10

I completed mine today. It went great. I found all the parts at Lowes and Radioshack. Bending the aluminum was easy. It works beautifully. I have it hooked up to a lamp in my room. Thank you for a great instructable!

makjosher made it! (author)2016-08-27

Amazing Instructable! I made one of these a while back based on your plans. It works great, although I did have trouble getting the right switch. Eventually I just broke down and ordered the one you had. One modification I made was to add a lever under the switch so that it could be pressed much more easily. I had found that the weight of the book wasn't sufficient to press the switch when the book was released and simply allowed to fall.

daddywoofdawg (author)2015-11-05

So if your cutting off the dimmer, why not just use a ext. cord and cut the plug in part of? Ext cords are cheaper.

RandyT34 (author)daddywoofdawg2016-06-12

I've been unable to find the final wiring diagram that shows the bulb, but I think an extension cord plug will simply dead short the outlet plug when the switch closes. That dimmer plug seems to be a separate circuit than the socket molded into the plug. The dimmer switch originally changed the voltage to that socket and, in this project, the switch opens the circuit.

baconmac (author)2015-12-11

Does 120V pass through the switch, or does the Lutron dimmer act as a relay?

adbkwhitley (author)2015-01-17

I realize this is a way old post and I'm REALLY late to the party but I have to say, I actually did laugh out loud on your comment about the two zip ties that didn't make it into the picture. You have a delightfully twisted sense of humor. :)

Your idea is very clever, too!!

zencenter (author)2014-04-23

I thought of doing something like this the other day, but it involved putting an outlet inside the book permanently, this is much more elegant! Nice work

aarushg (author)2013-06-21


samhandwich (author)2012-12-18

Thanks for this awesome instructable! I'd like to convert an existing wall switch to the book switch. Can I just wire it right into the wires in the wall, or is that dangerous for some reason?

I am pretty sure this would be classified as temporary wiring.
I am going to say that it would be a bad idea to use this setup to wire straight into the wall.
You might be better off trying one of the commercial remote control switch options and then rigging it to a book.
Good Luck!

Ammoking3 (author)2012-08-01

whats with the improbable constuct on the wood

ecsaul23 (author)2012-05-02

Very cool. Definitly a gift to remember

imfasa (author)2012-03-15

very cool, very well done and nicely illustrated.
now, wouldn't it be a lot easier to just use a rope pull switch (if that's the correct name)? you'd pull the switch by pulling the book like you would normally..

heathbar64 (author)2012-02-19

very cool. I may have to do it. I would like to see an ible on the little bending brake too!


Thanks! The bend break wasn't too hard to make. I'll see if I can put together an Instructable on it soon.

I'll appreciate make one mini bend brake too. Thanks a lot. Regards.

The Mini Press Break Instructable is up! Check it out here:

Hi, where's the instructable for the bend break? I can't find it... thanks.

I haven't published the instructable yet. I am still editing it. I hope to get it up in the next day or two.

cincygeek (author)2012-03-01

Very cool!

When I finished my basement a few years ago, I included a book-power hidden door connected to an electric linear motor that I picked up while working for a hospital bed maker. Was not nearly as clean or neat as your design though!

Someday I'd like to have a book (or other object) that includes a wireless tilt-switch for the control. You all also got me thinking about connecting an MP3 player so that when the door open, it either creaks or plays the Scooby Doo theme or some such. Ah, if only I had the time...

owlsquest (author)2012-02-25

A Harry Potter lover! Have been frustrated with what to get a book lover except another book. This is so much better. Perfect gift and just in time for my daughter's birthday, another HP lover! Only took a couple of hours and the look on her face when she tipped the book holding the trigger..... Many Thanks.

pie R []ed (author)2012-02-19

Clever! What i like about this is how easily your rig could be adapted for just about anything! Drawers, doors, chars, anything can be a switch with this! Kudos to you!

Absolutely! The trick is finding something movable that isn't often moved. I'd love to see what you come up with!

how about my wife

illfixthatone (author)whufc2012-02-25


whufc (author)illfixthatone2012-02-25


i may do this some time this week! if i do, ill post pics.

illfixthatone (author)2012-02-25

Well done ic. Been thinking about making one of these for awhile, but never made it to top of my list... Now when it does, I'll just flitch your design. ;-)

c-face (author)2012-02-24

I love it! Very awesome!

your_dragon113 (author)2012-02-23

I LOVE this! Reminds me of the bust in Bruce's office with the switch for the "Secret Passage" to the Bat Cave. LOL! Top Notch Instructable!

Thereyouhaveit (author)2012-02-23

Shouldn't microswitches be better for this application ?


I looked at a lot of switches. The problem with micro-switches is that all the ones I could find were momentary. For this to work the way I wanted it to I needed a latching on/off switch.

klubeley (author)2012-02-23

Can I asked why you used the lamp dimmer instead of buying a pigtail?


I used the lamp dimmer for its pass through wall plug. I was trying to keep my project as clean and simple as possible. A pigtail would not have had the same function.

Javin007 (author)2012-02-23

:o Now you just need to make the switch open a hidden door, and play the Scooby Doo theme song whenever it activates.

diy_bloke (author)2012-02-19

so do i understand you have to hold on to th ebook as long as you want the lamp on or am i missing something?

sdcharle (author)diy_bloke2012-02-21

It doesn't work with ebooks, I don't think...

MerlinTheGreat (author)sdcharle2012-02-22

:-) Then again, if you print the ebook and put a hardcover around it...

You don't have to hold the book to keep the light on. The switch is an on/off latching switch. To turn the light on, you would tilt the book slightly towards you and then release it back to the resting position on the shelf. To turn it off again, you would do the same thing.

That explains. Thank you

The Rambler (author)2012-02-20

Oh what I would give to use this for a secret passageway! Unfortunately I have no passageways to make secret.

slaitch (author)The Rambler2012-02-20

The clear answer is to build one. Got a room you'd be OK with making narrower?

The Rambler (author)slaitch2012-02-20

I guess I should have been clearer, in that I don't have a house of my own where I could make something secret. Rest assured though, that when I do own my own home some part of it is going to get secreted...ew, I mean made secret.

slaitch (author)The Rambler2012-02-21

Renters can have secret passageways too! It just requires much more care to not damage existing structure, with provision for removal when you go. Perhaps you could get creative with the locations of bookcases...

GLaDOS V3 (author)2012-02-20

Awesome!!! I did it wth my door so that when open it, lights are on.when i leave the room the lights turn off.

tinker234 (author)2012-02-20

cool the first one that i have seen that dosent look like a ugly switch or a hard to find remote

cortchops (author)2012-02-19

i wonder how you could add that to a motor to make a hidden passage

It wouldn't be too hard. It would just require using limit switches and relays. We use them in theater all the time to automate curtains and scenery. Unfortunately, every set-up is unique, so I couldn't post a general explanation. If you try it, I'd love to see what you create.

MrPotatoHead (author)2012-02-19

When you release the book the light will turn off... Not very usefull. :(
Otherwise the concept and making is excellent!


Actually the switch is an on/off latching switch, not a momentary switch. So, when you release the book the light turns on and stays on until you tilt and release it again. My wife uses hers to turn her desk lamp on and off every day.

Thanks for checking this out! This is my first Instructable, so I really appreciate the comment.

About This Instructable




Bio: My Name is Brandon Fischer. I am a Theatrical Rigger and Carpenter. I like to build, make, and void warranties. Please visit my Etsy shop ... More »
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