Introduction: A Secret Storage Book

I discovered in my archives many A4 printer paper sheets with notes and texts that I needed once, but now they seem of no use for me. So, I decided to reuse them by making a book. However, it’s not just a book, it’s a book with a cavity where you can store something. But this cavity would (at least, supposed to) be a secret for anybody except the book’s owner; that’s why the project is called ‘A secret storage book’.



A4 printer paper sheets (120 in my case)

six A4 cardboard sheets (covers from old notebooks)

two A4 sheets of thick (at least 140 g/m2) drawing paper

a sheet of wrapping paper, 

a piece of vlieseline (fusible interfacing fabric)

a piece of narrow fabric

about 1 m of thin textile cord


To make A5 sheets :

a ruler and a pencil to mark

a cutter for photo paper (I used one for this project), it’s also possible to cut the sheets with a sharp knife like ‘Exacto’ the technique being described later. A narrow but thick (4 … 5 mm) plank of hard wood would be very useful in this case.

To make the block of sheets :

a ruler, an angle and a pencil to mark

thin wooden planks


a saw for metal

glue brushes (a narrow and a wide ones)

a pair of scissors

To make the cover :

a ruler and a pencil to mark

a sharp knife

a hardwood plank

a wide glue brush

Consumables :

white glue (one that dries quickly should be preferred)

Step 1: Cutting the A4 Sheets

To cut these sheets with a photo paper cutter, I made packs of 10 sheets; care should be taken to align the sheets properly. Thus, an A4 sheet (297 x 210 mm) gives you two A5 (210 x 148 mm) sheets.

It’s also possible to cut sheets as follows :

  • make a pack of 10 … 20 sheets, align the sheets very carefully
  • clamp a short (210 mm) side of the pack to a plain smooth wooden board
  • mark the centre line on the upper sheet
  • put a hardwood plank on the pack as shown in the picture and cut the sheets with a sharp knife. It’s advisable to use an ‘Exacto’ knife with wide blade to assure that the cut line is regular. When cutting, press the blade against the side of the plank to assure that the blade is perpendicular to the cutting board; thus, the width of the sheets will be regular.

Step 2: Making the Block of Sheets

A block will be made of the sheets fabricated in the previous step. The sheets must be well aligned so that no sheet sticks out of the block. I formed the block by using a plywood plank as shown in the picture. First, I slightly pressed one side of the block against the plank, then repeated the operation with the perpendicular side. These operations should be repeated until all sheets are within the block’s limits.

The ready block will be placed onto a table; care should be taken not to misalign the sheets. The block should protrude for about 2 … 3 mm over the table’s edge to avoid smearing the table with glue, when putting glue onto the side of the block. 

Carefully put a weight (a heavy book or a box with papers as in my case) onto the block; the weight should be evenly distributed over the length of the block, that’s why a book or a box would fit for this job.

Then I put glue on the sheets and let it dry for about 15 minutes; thus, the sheets will not be misaligned, when I will clamp the block to the table in the following step.

Step 3: Joining the Sheets

Remove the weight from the block and move the block so it protrudes over the table’s edge for about 3 … 5 mm. Mark the future grooves, they should be perpendicular to the upper face of the block; the distance between the grooves will be 20 mm. 

Clamp the block to the table as shown in the picture (it’s for demonstration only, you could clamp the block another way).

The grooves about 2 mm deep will be cut in the block; the grooves’ width is determined by the thickness of the saw’s blade, it’s 1 mm in my case.

Cut 20 pieces of thin textile cord, their length being determined as : 

the block’s height (28 mm in my case) + 20 mm on each side; the loose ends are necessary to hold and tension the piece of cord while putting it into the groove. The cord should completely enter the groove. 

Once the cords are ready, put some glue into each groove by using a narrow brush; then the cords will be inserted into the grooves and covered with glue. Let the glue dry for about 30 minutes.

The piece that both reinforces the block and fixes flyleaves is made of fabric called ‘vlieseline’. Its length is 200 mm, its width is determined as : 

the block’s height + 20 mm on each side of the block. Thus, the resulting width is 68 mm, I rounded it up to 70 mm. 

Therefore, it’s necessary to cut a 200 x 140 mm piece of vlieseline, because the piece will be doubled (the glue surface inside) and pressed with a hot iron to join the both halves.

Put a layer of glue on the side of the block where the grooves are and place the reinforcement onto the block as shown in the picture; press the fabric against the block. Glue two pieces of narrow fabric at the ends of the block; their role is rather decorative - to hide the upper and bottom edges of the block. These pieces are called ‘headbands’ in book printing industry.

Let the glue dry for about an hour then unclamp the block. 

Step 4: Making the Cavity

Put the block onto the table so the title page is down. Mark the cavity on the back page of the block as shown in the picture. Make a cut through several sheets by using a hardwood plank as a guide for the knife; repeat this step on the other lines. Remove the cut out sheets. 

Repeat the above proceeding until you achieve the necessary depth of the cavity (24 mm in my case). I did not cut the block through to keep some pages at the beginning of the book intact. Thus, I thought, the ‘secret’ book would bear a resemblance to an ordinary one.

After the cavity is cut, it will be necessary to put some glue on its faces to join the sheets. The following technique could be used : 

  • clamp a hardwood plank to the block where the marking line is (see the picture)
  • put three layers of glue on the cavity’s face, let each layer dry about 10 minutes before putting the next one

This operation will be repeated for the other three faces of the cavity.

It’s necessary to put a sheet of paper under the cavity to avoid that the intact page is also glued to the cavity’s edges. This protective sheet will be glued to the edges, but it will be detached after the entire operation is over. It’s quite possible that some unwanted traces would remain on the cavity’s boards; a decorative frame made of drawing paper will be put to cover these traces.

Step 5: Making the Flyleaves

To make an A5 flyleaf, I doubled an A4 sheet of drawing paper. It should be noted that the flyleaves’ fold line will be situated at 3 mm from the block’s edge as shown in picture; thus, you don’t have to worry that the rests of the cut cords will not allow the flyleaf to lie completely flat on the block. However, it will be necessary to narrow both flyleaves by 3 mm so their outer edges don’t protrude over the outer edge of the block.

Cut the cords’ ends before proceeding to further operations.

Fixing the front flyleaf :

  • put a layer of glue 3…4 mm wide near the fold line of the leaf, place the flyleaf onto the block according to the mark and press the flyleaf against the block
  • put a layer of glue onto the reinforcement fabric and press it against the block

Fixing the back flyleaf :

  • put a layer of glue onto the cavity’s perimeter, place the flyleaf onto that surface and press the flyleaf against the block
  • put a layer of glue onto the reinforcing fabric and press it against the block

Leave the block under the weight for about an hour.

Step 6: Making the Cover

I used a piece of wrapping paper and some A4 cardboard covers of old notepads.

The picture shows you the marking. The cardboard parts of the cover should be 2…3 mm thick, I made them each of three layers of thin cardboard to obtain the necessary thickness.  

The cover should protrude over the edge of the block by 4 mm on each outer side.

Thus, the dimensions of the cardboard parts will be as follows :

  • front and back parts - 218 x 148 mm
  • book back part - 218 x 28 mm

The corners of the paper sheet will be cut at 45 degrees; the distance between the cut line and the corner of the cardboard part is 2 mm in my case. However, it is advisable to find the right distance for the specific thickness of the cardboard used in each case; the point is that the paper should properly wrap the corner.

Step 7: Assembling the Book

The block will be placed onto the cover according to the marking (see the picture) so that the cover protrudes by 4 mm over three outer sides of the block. 

The assembly of the block with the cover could be made as follows : 

  • put a layer of glue onto the back flyleaf of the block
  • place the block onto the back part of the cover according to the marking and press the block against the cover
  • put a layer of glue onto the front flyleaf
  • place the front part of the cover on the front flyleaf while respecting the marking
  • press the front part of the cover against the block

Put the assembled book under the weight for 5…6 hours.

I made a title only for the book back, thus, the book will be recognizable by its owner on the shelf. However, it’s also possible to make a jacket for the book.

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