Introduction: Multi-Book Secret Storage Compartment

Picture of Multi-Book Secret Storage Compartment

You are probably already familiar with the classic "Secret Book Compartment" project. On Instructables alone, you can find over 20 different variations of this project. The basic concept is simple. You hollow out a large book and you use the cutout space to hide stuff. Unfortunately, most versions of this project have one major problem. You can only hide objects that are smaller than your book. However it is possible to hide larger objects by combining multiple books into one large multi-book container.

Step 1: Select a Set of Books

Picture of Select a Set of Books

There is no specific kind of book that you need to use for this project. Just about any book can work. But here are some guidelines that may help.

1. The height and depth of the books are the important dimensions of the book. The size of the cover is what limits storage space. Since you are using multiple books, the thickness of each one doesn't matter. 
2. The books do not need to be the same size, but it is convenient if they are. Sets of reference books like encyclopedias work well because they are all the same and it is a reasonable excuse to have a bunch of large books all in one spot on the book shelf. 
3. Hardback books hold their shape better than paperbacks do after being cut up.
4. The secret compartment only remains a secret as long as no one tries to read any of the books. So it helps if the book are relatively uninteresting while still looking like something that you would have on your shelf. 
5. A good source for cheap books is community book sales. Many public libraries will have a large book sale 
 once a year. On the last day of these sales the remaining books are typically sold at a huge discount. You can often get a whole bag full of books for just a few dollars.
6. Get more books than you think that you will need. You must have one unaltered book on each side of your compartment, but I recommend having two or three so that if someone is messing with books on the shelf and a few fall over, it doesn't reveal your hidden compartment.

Step 2: Measure and Mark the Dimensions of Your Cutout.

Picture of Measure and Mark the Dimensions of Your Cutout.

Place the object that you want to hide onto one of the books. Then mark its outline of the object with either pencil or tape.

Step 3: Cut Each Book

Picture of Cut Each Book

There are a number of tools that you could use for cutting the books. Since this project requires you to cut through entire books, including hard covers, you will probably want to use a power saw. I personally prefer to use a scroll saw for this kind of job, but other power saws can also work. Whichever tool you use, I recommend using a fine toothed saw blade. The finer the teeth, the less it will tear up the cover and the pages. 

Step 4: Glue the Books (Optional)

Picture of Glue the Books (Optional)

Gluing the cut books together will help to make them more stable and easier to move around. However, if you aren't careful, books that are glued together can look unnatural in how they sit on the shelf. So if you glue them, I recommend pressing them sitting in the position that they will be on the shelf. If you don't have a large clamp, you can press them by placing them on the self and using other objects to apply pressure to the stack of books. One example is to place them on the shelf, add more books to the shelf until it is almost full, then insert a rolled up t-shirt or towel to apply pressure to the books.

Step 5: Finished Multi-Book Container

Picture of Finished Multi-Book Container

Now just place the books on the shelf and you are ready to hide your secret spy stuff.

Step 6: Other Book Container Instructables

Picture of Other Book Container Instructables

Here are other book container instructables (in order of views). They demonstrate a variety of materials and techniques that can be used when making this kind of project.


Whovian123 (author)2016-07-24

I don't think i could do that to a book =(

StlBigRed70 (author)2016-06-18

Great idea for unused books☺

TerrorKitties (author)2015-11-29


KiwiKong (author)TerrorKitties2016-05-14

Or fifty shades of grey lol

PaulChau (author)2016-02-25

This is one great way on how to clear space bookcase! Convert old books to have concealed storage in your bookshelf. Just make sure you do not need the books anymore. Otherwise, it is just a waste to cut through the books that you will still find some use.

sjsquirrel (author)2013-06-04

Great Instructable, and a nice variation on the theme. Thanks for sharing it.

I have to say that I too loved that book series and think it's a crime to destroy it, but in more practical terms, if I was browsing your book shelf those would be among the first I'd want to pull out and flip through, thereby quickly discovering your hiding spot and making it useless.

So, for anyone else that might make one of these keep that in mind. A random selection of suitably sized, and uninteresting books might make a better hiding place than a fascinating collection of really interesting books.

Generalist (author)sjsquirrel2015-07-22

I grew up with those books as some of my favorites so seeing them cut up like that hurts. (Yes, they are obsolete but they still make interesting reading.)

Now if you wanted to hide things, consider finding technical books like those associated with computer programming, web design, operating systems and various 'How to run...' topics. A lot of them tend to be rather thick and bulky. If they are on the bottom shelf in a hidden area, not many thieves will consider stealing them, especially if the are for such things as Windows XP.

auntiemichal (author)sjsquirrel2014-02-10

I agree with all these points. Another thing to consider is putting your safe up high, down low, or behind/under something. Old (value-less) textbooks on a bottom shelf might work really well.

UdyRegan (author)2014-10-24

This is amazing! It looks just like those secret storage compartments we often see in action movies on television. It would be so interesting to see children be amazed if I were to have one at home. However, I personally feel that it is still not safe to store valuables inside because it is actually quite easy for people to find the secret box inside. If they pull any one of those fake books, then the secret is already revealed.

Trike Lover (author)2014-04-24

Gosh, I hadn't even considered this
as a
worthwhile Instrructable. My current project is trying to
build a Telecaster-pattern electric guitar using butcher-block style glued-up
2x2 short ends of maple - a gift from a cabinetmaker friend. I'll see if I can
think out a clear way to present the "National Geographic" method,
although to be honest old sets of encyclopaedias are as easy or easier to come
by, and work well (just go to any independent bookseller - and take a
wheelbarrow, LOL).

I did find an interesting inner steel container. I have a friend who works
in the overhaul shop at one of the two national railroads that pass through my
town. The cylinders and pistons of the prime movers (engines) in some of the
locomotives are designed to be replaced "in the field", rather than
sending the whole works back to the manufacturer. Anyhow, I saw on their scrap
pile a very large steel cylinder liner - inside diameter about 12-14 inches,
and about 2 feet long.

It had been the cylinder in a V16 locomotive engine, and pulled because it
was worn "out of round" and couldn't be machined back to usefulness.
A bottle of Rye changed hands, and under cover of darkness I drove away with
this large cylinder liner, to which had been welded across one end a square
one-inch thick piece of steel plate, I don't know the source of the latter, but
it was cut just large enough to cover the flanged end of the diesel engine
cylinder liner and then welded on using some very heavy duty arc welding
equipment. (Before the "payment" was opened, I hope).

I understand that all of these discarded liners, which have a wall thickness
of about 3/4" and are high-grade steel, are put in a scrap bin for pickup by
a local scrap metal dealer. My piece weighed easily 70 lbs - probably more -
before the end plate was added. I'm now trying to figure out how to fit a door
and lock into the other end, and hoping I can get some more "after
hours" welding done.

Someone suggested putting the steel cylinder/vault inside a tower-type
stereo speaker, available for next to nothing at the Goodwill shop. These were
really common in the 1980s. The steel door
would, of necessity, have to be on the bottom side, and a hinged wooden piece,
probably held closed with a magnetic catch (which could double as a burglar
alarm trigger) to hide the steel cylinder. Tip the whole thing over to get
access - not super convenient, but do-able. There's certainly plenty of room
inside those towers. However the steel piece is hidden, it will have to be well

I'll see what I can do about a jig for the Nat. Geos. - pity, as we just
took about 200 lbs of them for recycling. We have a great stack of are Yellow
Page directories, going back several years, destined likewise but now sitting
in a coat cupboard. I would imagine much the same technique could be used on

I hadn't planned on using a steel cylinder liner like this one - it was sort
of found by chance - so now I'm having to build around it.

A local locksmith offered an interesting idea: find
some kind of large wooden barrel flower planter, or something similar (probably
an outdoor type planter [or a chest of drawers?]). Pour a couple of inches of ready-mix
concrete in a form with some rebar to make a plug for the bottom, then set the
"safe" in vertically, door up, and pour concrete all around it, up to
the level of the top. Most D.I.Y. building stores sell "Sonotube" or
its equivalent - it's a heavy cardboard tube in various diameters normally used
for setting forms for post foundations, etc. It would be perfect for this, or,
a person could bodge up a form out of heavy cardboard and lots of wire or
strapping tape. He suggested putting
some rebar around the steel cylinder as well, just to help keep the concrete in
one piece. I'd also consider making a rebar'd concrete "lid" as well,
in a separate form.

Then, make a removable 4"-6" tray to sit on top, filled with
vermiculite or loam, and add real or (better) good-quality artificial flowers
or plants. Put a rubber or plastic membrane over the safe opening (in case
someone tries to water the plants), set the tray in, and stand the whole thing
in one corner of the front hall or living room. "Hiding it in plain
sight", as it were. It would be an absolute stinker to move - my rough
guess with the first planter I looked at was that I'd need three 50 lb sacks of
ready-mix concrete. Hard for a thief to tuck under his coat, and not easy to
move. I may just give that a try.

Trike Lover

Trike Lover (author)2013-06-04

Really interesting take on this idea. I have to share others' dismay about chopping up a set of the Time-Life series. A search of my local classifieds turned up over two dozen sets of mediocre encyclopedias being given away free. With a little more work, The National Geographic magazine also provides a good hide. Collections of these are so numerous that even the Goodwill won't accept them. It does mean gluing the magazines together, and reinforcing the main inner section with four 3-foot lengths of 1/4"-20 Allthread, (threaded rod) at the corners, but this is inexpensive and easy to come by. Drilling for the threaded rod works best if you make a plywood template to locate the holes, then clamp about six issues at a time between the drill guide template and another piece of plywood and drill four holes, one near each corner. In no time, you'll have three feet of NG's drilled for threaded rod, and you ccan use nuts and "fender washers" at the ends of each rod to snug all the NG's into a solid block. It's convenient to cut out the inner cavity at the same time, with 4-6 magazines clamped together, rather than trying to do it later on. You can use an Olfa cutter (razor knife), or power tools, although tearing of the pages is a problem with those. I would glue the covers also, but that's optional. Then, once all the magazines are together and secured with the threaded rod, it's simply a matter of fitting your strongbox into the hollowed out section in the middle. As with the books, you have a few loose issues at each end, perhaps stiffened with heavy cardboard. One thing that hasn't been mentioned in much detail is the inner container. If you can find a strong steel box that can be fitted with a lock, that's a "Cadillac" version. If there's an old-time locksmith in your area, see if they have any "strongboxes" that will fit your needs. Another method is to build an inner box of 3/4 inch plywood, screws, and yellow carpenters glue, A box made of this is quite strong. Again, you'll want to fit a lock on the door end. A third option is to find a length of large diameter cast iron pipe, which used to be very common and formed the "main drain" in older homes. It can be found in scrapyards, purchased "by the pound," or wheedled out of a house renovator. This large diameter pipe is thick-walled and very strong. If you can find a friendly welder, he can braze a steel plate onto one end as a cap, and probably mount a similar plate on the other end with a hinge. If you don't know a welder, you can fabricate steel discs by chain-drilling and grinding or filing some steel plate to fit, and then epoxy the resulting plug into one end with "plastic steel" epoxy. Using similar methods, you can fit the other end with a stout hinge and lock. If someone wants to get in badly enough, they will - the idea is to make it difficult to do easily or quickly, assuming that your "hide" has been discovered. There are many variations on an internal compartment, depending on available material and your imagination. Modern industrial epoxy adhesives are incredibly strong, and so should be considered as part of any home built metal "inner" chamber, even if you also rivet or bolt the sides using, for example, steel plate and angle iron. Great article - thanks for sharing.

would you consider making an instructable of the national geographic bit at the beginning? your instructions are pretty clear, but pictures would be very helpful.

kaldirris (author)2013-07-15

Great idea, but, like so many others, I think an uninteresting series or group of books would be better. In my house, it'd probably be trashy romance novels. No one would look twice. ;-)

Neko-Otaku (author)2013-06-24

I think this would look nicer if you left the front/back cover on the end books, then if the bookends get moved it still isn't obvious that there is anything hidden.

kinggargantuan (author)2013-06-14

someone might accidentally pull the whole thing down while trying to browse one of those time life books.
"OOH time life's Universe book... i've always wanted to... wait, it's stuck... maybe if i pull a little har... OOPS...OOH TREASURE!"

zbinn (author)2013-06-07


alcurb (author)2013-06-03

Cool approach for hiding your treasures, but at the expense of destroying another treasure??? I loved those books. Those were the books I gravitated towards when I was a child in grade-school. No other books held my interest as much as those; the Nature and the space series. How about substituting those books with hard-cover romance novels? Who would ever want to read those more than once?

fidibiri (author)2013-06-03

NOOOOOOO! I love that Time Life Series??

AlphaRomeo (author)2013-06-02

couldn't you find any other way of hiding .... I could no watch you cutting those LIFE Nature Library books... I have a copy of 'Universe' that is 30 years old and I still love going though the pages -- I could not afford rest then.

Beergnome (author)2013-06-02

I will parrot the whole OMG! not the BOOKS!!!

Time/Life collections are always incredible

World book and Britannica IMHO, tend to be more available and less of a crime to chop up..

this argument will always come up when the idea of chopping up books to make a thing comes up.. so now that we got all that out of the way.. let's move forward..

the best way for something like this to actually work is if it has been inserted into a much larger library of books, and placed somewhere obscure..

if all you have is a single, lonely book shelf, with an out dated set of encyclopedias on it, well.. that might stand out a bit.

lej619 (author)2013-06-02

Nice job!! Both at the making and your instructions ! Thanks for sharing

lej619 (author)lej6192013-06-02

P.S. love the book ends!! I can not seem to find nice ones like these

zawy (author)2013-06-02

Awwww, man! Couldn't you have picked a different series of books!!!! :) Sure it's dated, but that's all the science some of us got "back in the day".

agis68 (author)2013-05-31

pity was a nice book series! anyway creativity meets the disaster!

just kinding.?.......nope!

a2e (author)agis682013-06-02

I entirely agree: LIFE series is amazing, I cannot tell how much I enjoyed and learned from my spanish-translated version of that collection and its great illustrators! How 'bout cutting your twilight saga or your LOTR hardcovers? We gotta make a point here technocrats!... it is instructables for chrisakes!

DeGreg (author)2013-05-31

Cute, but any self-respecting thief would likely look there first for you hiding in plain site valuables -- one fell swoop across the shelf in the midst of a ransack like in the movies and that's all she/he wrote.

; )

l8nite (author)2013-05-30

I like the whole idea

nmsokgo (author)2013-05-30

I have no so many books

WUVIE (author)2013-05-30

Totally impressive!

M3G (author)2013-05-30

That's pretty cool.

roadro2010 (author)2013-05-30

Wow!! Nice!

I'll keep this in my mind to make it as soon as posible.

Thanks for the idea! :D!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-05-30

This is a cool idea! And that list you complied is great :)

HavocRC (author)2013-05-30

Very cool!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker ... More »
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