Introduction: The Mysterious Bookcase

Picture of The Mysterious Bookcase

All my brother wanted for Christmas was a secret door. Since every self respecting man should have one.  I began by taking some measurements, doing some internet research and this is what I came up with.  The hard part was that he lives an hour away from me. So I had to build a mock door frame, transport it and hope things matched up. 

Step 1: The Build

Picture of The Build

Unfortunately I don't have many pictures of the build so I'll explain it the best I can.

Sheet of 3/4" smooth plywood 
Sheet of 1/2 plywood
Lazy susan
Long bolt and washers for top pivot point
Misc. trim /spacer wood
Rubber wheel 6"
Wood glue
Trim to match house 
Gate latch with fishing string and special book for secret opener.

The Build
I begin by making a door frame to the exact measurements of my brothers closet.  The dimensions of the finished door came out to be 34" wide, 77" tall and 8" deep.   I assume if you are building this project you have enough wood working skills to make a bookshelf and your sizing will vary so I won't go into detail about that.

The door is a solid bookcase made from 3/4 smooth plywood and 1/2" regular plywood for the back.  Glued and screwed on all sides.  There are five attached shelves and adjustable shelf holes drilled at the top.  I made a template to help drill the holes all the correct width and height.  

One of the hardest parts was the hinge point.  I used a lazy suzan on some 2x4 blocks for the bottom and a long bolt for the top.  It took a lot of measuring and testing to get it centered right.  Adequate spacing was needed on the hinge side to just barely clear the door frame and still be covered by trim.
Most commercial doors have steel frames and don't need caster wheels.  Due to the weight of the shelves and contents we added a bed caster.  Which needs to be changed because it's marking my brothers soft wood floors.  
**Update.  New 6 inch rubber wheel replacing bed caster, installed a little bit higher and hidden with fake books.  It does not even hit the floor so I think this fixes the problem.

Step 2: Installation and Tweaking

Picture of Installation and Tweaking

Installation involved removing the closet door and trim.  Screwing in some wood blocks to the inside wall that would accept the top hinge bolt.  

Once the door was in place, I tested the opening many times and then secured the base with 4" screws.  

The latch bolt was installed to the interior door frame matching the latch height.  A fishing line was secured and run through the back of the door and connected to the secret book opener.
Hindsight note: Double or triple knot that fishing line or it might come off and your door is stuck closed.  

The secret door opening book was a really nice touch supplied by my brother.  I glued the pages together to make a solid area for attaching a small brass hinge and fishing line to pull open the latch.  

Step 3: Finish

Picture of Finish

My brother finished painting and loading with books and decorations.  I think it turned out really nice and  I'm told it's a great conversation piece when company comes over and he puts their coats away. 


schumi23 (author)2017-05-16

What kind of lazy susan did you use? I feel like most I"ve seen wouldn't support the weight.

coldduck22 (author)2012-03-08

Check out the hidden door under the closet floor I built:

sherribk (author)coldduck222016-03-21

That really is cool, I wish I had one!

Dewfactor (author)2015-06-04

I. Freaking. LOVE. This.

songdancer (author)2015-03-09

Instead of a wheel, you might be able to use loop (berber) carpet scraps Flip the carpet loop side down and secure it to a large piece of wood (staples go on the sides, not next to your floor). Screw block of wood to the bottom of your bookcase. Cover block of wood with moldings to hide it. You should now have your weight distributed evenly over a surface that will slide. I move furniture this way all the time by flipping carpet squares and placing them under furniture legs. The carpet glides easily over hardwood floors and smooth tile. You just need to make sure you have your allowances at the bottom of the bookcase correct, as weight will squish the carpet-- so add your bottom moldings at the very end. I am going to make one of these soon, and the wheels were going to be a problem, so I came up with the carpet idea.

sosclosetsandfurniture (author)2014-02-21

Hi Here is my version inspired by yours and the other great examples on here. We had a narrow space at the back of a closet to use as a safe room. The closet was small but had a tall ceiling. I ended up with standard hinges and a wheel. I wanted to use a pivot hinge but I had too many challenges with the small space.

Ooh, that really would screw with your dates head in the morning. Fantastic! :-D Not sure about the step at the bottom though. If not being able to find their way didn't screw with their head the hitting the deck after tripping would. :-)

Hi The step at the bottom was to help stabilize the whole unit. When I did a mockup in the workshop there was torquing of the whole cabinet. It wasn't a very elegant looking solution but the customer was happy.

jmacdonald13 (author)2015-02-20

This is absolute genius. I love it. I just commented on another ible I always wanted to build a wardrobe around the door of my bedroom, imagine the look on your date's face in the morning trying to get out. LOL. Never did it though. Respect! :-)

shabbychik (author)2014-08-08

I love this idea! So cool!

starwarsgeek1 (author)2014-08-04

this is awsome ive always wanted one so this was a great helpee so thanks alot

chabias (author)2014-06-16

Love this! I've been searching the net for what seems like ages, looking for just this info. Great job!! Thanks a bunch for this!

burnerjack01 (author)2012-02-21

You are an AWESOME brother! Nice job! Does your brother know to "Put the candle back!!"?

Stryker (author)burnerjack012012-02-21

Haha Anyone who doesn't get that....

rwood10 (author)Stryker2014-06-13

Thanks but Fox blocked this video. ;(

elizruge (author)2013-07-01

I added this to my faves. Do I think I'll ever do it? No. But I get great joy knowing there exists a normal house with a secret door somewhere in this world. My dream...and I'm happy someone gets to live it :-)

IkilledKenny (author)elizruge2013-12-13

Probably the best post I have read about an ible!

Stryker (author)elizruge2013-07-02

Thanks it's nice to be appreciated. I'm working on a backyard roller coaster for my kids right now. I'll put it on instructables when it's done.

Canison (author)2013-01-22

awesome project, but it hurts me to see that you had to mangle some Classic Club books! I hope it wasn't one of the volumes I'm missing!!

RangerJ (author)2013-01-07

Excellent project.

the potato (author)2012-07-25

lol if your son's friends come over and didnt know about this your son would alway win at hide and seek lol

lesteryoder (author)2012-02-23

Very nice job. I built an almost identicle bookcase door about four years ago. Mine may be a little wider than yours because I built it to fill an opening where a wet bar had been. I installed a hard black rubber roller from Home Depot for mine mounted about the same as yours. The bookcase I built was almost exactly the same as yours with a 3/4" plywood box (sides and back) for strength. I have adjustable shelves like yours. What is really amaizing is that our trim wood is very, very close to the same and installed the same. My finish is a dark stain and clear polyurithan to match it to the wall that it was built into. I am adding some pictures to this message to show before and after shots including the routing of the trim .Lester

dcoumerilh (author)lesteryoder2012-07-09

Very classy. You did a great job. Also I used to have that exact router and I sold it online for 75bucks. I've been kicking myself ever since.

SantaB (author)2012-05-04

Check out Step 3 if you haven't already changed out that plastic caster... Awesome build regardless.

If I can talk my wife into letting me do this to our coat closet I will definitly try it, especially since my last built in didn't work.

SantaB (author)SantaB2012-05-04

I may have missed my chance for this project... :-(

criggie (author)2012-02-23

These kind of things give firemen nightmares....hidden rooms or staircases, or kid's playrooms are hard enough to see normally but if your house is on fire and full of smoke then searching for people is likely to miss this. Kids especially are known for hiding. As such it can be a good idea to drop a letter to the local fire station describing this feature and how to open it.
Example from firefighter's website

On a better note - you can hide the wheel track by having the door open inwards rather than outwards.

The weight of the door on the wheel is what's doing the marking, so if you can lighten the load either by less weight, or have a counterweight then it will mark the floor less.

flyingpuppy (author)criggie2012-02-23

Bah! Every door should be one of these. Then firemen would know to look inside.

haha! I've wanted a secret bookcase/door or a passageway w/ a painting where one looks thru the eyeholes ever since I saw my first 'scary' movie as a kid! And every place I've lived in I've come up w lots of possible spots. Now, if i only had the energy, know-how, tools and a place to build things.... I'm thinking my staircase, w the big pics on the walls, and an opening from my son's closet into a hidden passageway. But the door is TOO COOL! I'm putting one downstairs as soon as I return from Europe! Kudos! what fun... like a kids' fort. my dream come true.

Thanks for sharing ...

same here i thought something like this for a hall then cut a hole in the drywall use something like two way glass for a mirror from lowes ore something then secutre comparment

Dark Solar (author)criggie2012-02-27

Good on ya, Criggie; emergency situtations are the hardest things to predict.

CatTrampoline (author)criggie2012-02-24

Good suggestion to let the local fire dept know. My first thought on viewing this 'ible was "Cool! I want one!" I had forgotten about the tendency of small children to hide from fire (even smart kids hide when frightened) , but it has been many years since our last visit to a Fire/Police open house.

HIM Design (author)2012-03-03

I love the idea!!!!

Dark Solar (author)2012-02-27

Love it. Built a few of them for people over the years and (so of course I've a few suggestions) have developed a few sneakies along the way.

1. Use the rosette to your advantage. Nothing hides a latch release like a dark-stained rosette that's had it's center bored out and replaced with an identical button.

2. Knots in plywood are your friends; run a 1/16" twist bit through the heart of the knot, flip and bore almost completely through from the back using a forstner bit. Knock out the knot and replace with an appropriately sized slice of pine stick epoxied to your release mechanism. Sand flush and viola --1 invisible release button.

dillonsparks (author)2012-02-24

great ideas. remember to predrill screw holes......thereby lessening chance of splitting and/or checking. also good idea to glue as well as screw.

CatTrampoline (author)2012-02-24

It got my vote. Maybe I'll make one to hide my tools behind, so my grown son won't swipe them!

joelparks (author)2012-02-24

Kevlar will also abrade away on rough edges. Why not use a piece of old bicycle brake or gear cable? Every bike shop discards broken cables, just ask for a piece at your friendly neighborhood shop if you don't have your own supply ;0)

As for the roller problem, if the opening is wide enough, the pivot could be in the middle, which with adequate strength/stiffness of the bookcase carcass removes the need for a roller.

But if you want/need the pivot on one side as shown, remember the problem comes down to PSI, or lbs.per square inch (apologies to our metric readers, is it N/m-squared?). So in addition to a softer surface (which will help keep from driving stray grit/gravel into the floor) you really want to make the roller as wide as possible, perhaps even run them in tandem. How about a rolling pin? Or 4?

Nice job, any way. I think the suggestion below to notify the fire department about its presence is a wise one. YMMV

smilesfromnowhere (author)2012-02-23

I would have used something stronger than fishing line, which always breaks at the worst time. Check out the Kevlar cord women use for beading projects.

My favorite is the tilting book door latch. I want one.

chuckyd (author)2012-02-23

With an opening that small, you should be able to work the door without wheels. Beef up both the door jamb and the stile of the door on the hinge side. You should also be able to use three or four extra heavy duty offset hinges, instead of the top and bottom hinges.

warpspeed (author)2012-02-23

Great job, but wouldn't a thin braided steel cable hold up better for such an often used door? In my experience, fishing line will eventually degrade and you will have a problem.

jtharkness (author)2012-02-23

Great idea. I will definitely follow suit. I hope I can avoid the caster issue. Perhaps I can avoid it by reinforcing the bottom wood (or using hard wood) so there is less chance of the wood bending or warping in time due to the weight. Of course that puts greater strain on the hinge but that should manageable if done right. Anyway, very creative.

jack8559 (author)2012-02-23

I know that you are wanting to use a wheel to make the case not leave a mark, but what if you used a block with UHMW plastic as a slider, would it mark? If you make it reasonably large, the weight would be distributed so that there wouldn't be a lot of weight on it per square inch and it shouldn't leave a mark unless it got some kind of debris trapped under it like fine sand, metal shavings, etc. and it should be really easy to slide on a clean wooden floor. UHMW strip can be bought with an adhesive back and it should hold well enough, it's used as drawer slides on dressers and such on bare wood to reduce friction. Just put maybe 3 or more inches wide and 6 or more inches long and that should make things work well, the bigger the better, it will only make it easier to move.

kmartin-1 (author)2012-02-23

I love the book choice for the secret latch.

Moxlonibus (author)2012-02-23

VERY COOL BUILD!!! Real inspiration.

Wildrat (author)2012-02-23

They make a caster with a rubber center section. Kind of like the rubber band idea but attached and thicker. Lowes or Depot may have them, or a real hardware store. You might find one on the side of the road also thrown away by humans. They also have nylon ones also, which probably would be Better.
Also if the floors are that soft bro may want to keep the weight down so a track does not develop giving the secret away.

Stryker (author)Wildrat2012-02-23

I found a 6" Super Cushion Rubber Wheel that I think might work for the caster/softwood problem. Thanks for the ideas.

elizabethd22 (author)2012-02-23

I saw a home in the Parade of Homes last summer that had something very similar built in the master bedroom. It had a regular outside door behind it and opened to an outdoor hot tub enclosure. Very cool!

Here's a link to the video we took at the time (featuring my sister Donna in the Vanna White role). I knew if we just went and told people about it, no one would believe us, so we took pictures :)

mcintyreroyh (author)2012-02-23

I did one of these for a customer a couple of years ago. The tilting book latch is a great idea... wish I had thought of it. I used one of those silicone sliding pads instead of a caster and it worked good, but that was a tile floor. Wood might mark no matter what you use.

chrisve83 (author)2012-02-21

Very Well Done Mate, But Looking At The Last Pic, It Don't Work Well On Floorboards

Stryker (author)chrisve832012-02-22

My brother has very old soft wood flooring and the plastic caster we chose is messing it up. I am looking for a softer, solid rubber wheel to replace it.

Attmos (author)Stryker2012-02-22

try a large rubber band, or a couple of them.

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