Introduction: Harry Potter Wand Display Case With Secret Door Latch
While searching for Christmas presents for my son who is a massive Harry Potter fan, I started searching for display cases for magic wands. He has quite a few wands as you can see but while there are display cases available, they were expensive and none were particularly impressive. My initial idea was to create a case that required the use of a special wand to open it, perhaps using magnets, but this seemed too complicated and I didn't have that much time to work out how to make it function properly as it was only a few weeks before Christmas.
This could also be done with a Raspberry Pi, but I am no coder so I went for a simpler approach using a hidden catch. The center of the Deathly Hallows symbol would be the knob that when turned would release the catch and open the doors. While searching in the hardware store I found a simple magnetic spring loaded catch for kitchen cabinet doors that would push the door open when pressed. This was to form the basis of the catch mechanism allowing the catch to be depressed and the knob to pop out so it could be turned, so opening the doors. It sounds complicated but it is actually a very simple mechanism.
2 sheets of Paulownia wood 800 mm X 600 mm x 18 mm (approx 2.6’ x 2’ x 3/4”) €28, €14 per sheet.
I used Paulownia because it is light weight, easy to work and inexpensive. Of course I could have used any wood, but I can’t easily get other hardwood where I live, so I made it with Paulownia and stained it.
I piece of birch plywood approx 1200 mm x 500mm x 8mm (approx 3.9’ x 2’ x 0.3”) €11
1 piece of plexiglass 800 mm x 500mm x 3mm (approx 2.6’ x 1.6’ x 0.08”) Approx €30 for a 500mm x 1000mm sheet.
1 strip of brass 1000mm x 10mm x 1mm. (approx 3.3’ x 0.4” x 0.04”) a few Euros
30 cm length of 10 mm wood doweling (1’ x 0.4”) Perhaps 50 Cents
18 large brass cup hooks (€3.24, €9 for 50)
8 small brass cabinet hinges and small brass screws. €10, €5 for a pack of 4
1 small spring. I had some suitable springs in my workshop but at a guess it would cost less than €1 to buy)
Some wood screws of various sizes.
Small brass nails.
Hot glue sticks
Impact adhesive. Patex, UHU or similar.
Adhesive Melamine edge banding. (wood grain pattern) about €5 for a 5m roll
magnetic spring loaded cabinet latch. €3
Water based wood stain / sealant. (Mahogany co) €16.99 for 750ml
Battery powered, Micro LED light string 2m long (6’) Less than €5
Sliding Mitre Saw
Plunge Router with 8mm, 12mm straight bits, roundover bit and Cove bits
Drill press with assorted drill bits
Rotary carving tool and wood carving bits. Dremel or similar.
Wood chisels and mallet.
Detail carving tools. This was a prize from my first Instructable :-) .
Knife with retractable blade.
Countersink drill bit
Cordless hand drill.
Hand held orbital sander
Small hand grinder with thin Inox metal cutting disk.
2 large sash clamps and other assorted wood clamps
Hot Glue gun
Old clothes iron
Tape measures and set squares, steel strait edge.
Sandpaper or various grit.
Other assorted hand tools
Step 1: Designing the Cabinet
I made an initial rough sketch of the cabinet on a piece of paper which as you can see was supposed to have a deathly hallows symbol on both the top and bottom and my initial thought was to require two catches which would need to be used in a specific sequence in order to open the doors. I soon dropped that idea when I realized it would be far too complicated in the limited time I had to make the cabinet. So I settled on the far simpler design you can see in the second image. I also decided to leave out the fancy adornments shown on the sketch for the sake of time. If I was to build this again I might add more adornment by 3D printing the parts and attaching them to the cabinet. I have used this technique recently
In order to work out the size of the cabinet I measured the longest wand that my son owns which is just over 14 inches long or 369 mm. I wanted to make sure I had enough space to display all his wands with room to spare. There's enough places to display 9 wands and my son has put in a fair few more than that in there now.
The outer dimensions of the cabinet are 800mm (31.4") tall, 500mm (19.7") wide and 150mm (6.9") deep.
In the center of the bottom section of the cabinet is a triangular box which houses the locking mechanism and is in the form of an equilateral triangular prism.The dimensions of which are based on the size of the hole saw I used to cut central the knob, which has a diameter of 60mm (2.4"). The length of the box is the same as the full internal depth of the cabinet which is 137mm (or 5.4"). The detail of the Deathly Hallows symbol are made by inlaying brass into the wood.
Above the triangular section I decided to add a small shelf, under which there is place to store various trinkets or magical artifacts.
The frames for the 2 doors are made with 20mm wide strips of the 18mm thick Paulownia wood with the outer profile made using a round over bit in my router and the inner profile cut out to make a recess to take the window. For the door windows I used 3mm thick plexiglass which is lighter, easier to cut to size and safer than actual glass.
Attached to this section are 2 files, "Wand Cabinet Supplies.pdf" which lists the materials and tools used and a "Wand Cabinet Final.skp" a Trimble Sketchup file showing the cabinet drawn to scale with dimensions added in mm.
Step 2: Wand Cabinet, Cutting List
Below is a list of the main components of the cabinet.
Paulownia 18mm thick
2 x cabinet sides (800mm x 150mm x 18mm)
Top and bottom of cabinet (500mm x 150mm x 18mm)
Left over piece 300mm x 300mm used to create the front face of the door latch.
1x Bottom facing board (500mm x 150mm x 18mm )
6 x strips to make the doors ( 800mm x 20mmx 18mm)
1x strip to make the 2 pieces of decorative coving. (800mm x 18mm x 18mm) 1 piece (464mm long) on the outer edge of the shelf and the other smaller piece approx 152mm long underneath the triangular door catch.
5x equilateral triangle sections Approx 128mm x 128mm x128mm
Birch plywood 8mm thick
1 x Back board of Cabinet ( 782mm x 482mm x 8mm)
1 shelf piece (474mm x 119mm x 8mm)
2 x side covers of latch mechanism (137mm x 127mm x 8mm)
Plexiglass 3mm thick
2 x window pieces . 780mm x 229mm x 3mm
Step 3: Constructing the Body of the Cabinet
To construct the main body of the cabinet I cut the following parts using a table saw;
Paulownia, 2 x cabinet sides (800mm x 150mm x 18mm) as well as the top and bottom of cabinet (500mm x 150mm x 18mm). I cut the Back board of the Cabinet out of the sheet of 8mm Birch plywood ( 782mm x 482mm x 8mm) as well as the shelf piece (474mm x 119mm x 8mm). I also cut a 18mm wide strip of Paulownia to make a strip of decorative coving.
Using a router with an edge guide and an 8mm straight bit I cut a slot 8mm wide, 10mm deep and 5mm in from the long edge of each board. I also cut a 5mm deep, 8mm wide slot on the the inside of the 2 side pieces in order to support the shelf. These slots were 119mm long and 129mm from the bottom of each side piece. See the second image above.
At this time I also used my router and the Coving bit to cut the convex profile into the 18mm strip. Obviously it is difficult to work on a small strip with a hand held router but I found that laying a wider piece next to the thin work piece and then clamping both down to the bench under a small off-cut of wood worked well. I had to stop half way through each pass and move the clamp in order to finish the cut. This would have been a lot easier with a proper router table.
Then using my sliding mitre saw I cut a 45 degree chamfer into each end of the boards, making sure the slots were on the the inner side, See the detail image above.
I had already cut out a triangular piece of the 18mm Paulownia that would end up becoming the door catch which I used make sure everything fit together.
Then I test fitted all the pieces together, slotting the back board and the shelf into place and holding the cabinet together with sash clamps. The forward corners of the shelf needed to be filed slightly with a hand file to make it fit as the end of the router slot to take the shelf was curved. I then test fitted the triangular piece to make sure everything fit.
I then drilled 4 holes in the corners of the bottom piece, used a 45 degree countersink on each hole and then screwed the bottom piece to the two sides.
Next I cut 2 x 137mm long sections of the 18mm coving using my mitre saw and added a sloping chamfer to one end. These pieces were then drilled and countersunk and screwed into the top corners to fix the side pieces to the top. See the 3rd image above.
Lastly I disassembled everything, sanded all the pieces carefully and then reassembled the cabinet this time using wood glue in all the joints. Because I used screws there was no need to re-clamp the cabinet while the glue dried.
Step 4: Constructing the Cabinet Doors
Constructing the doors for the cabinet required making to mirror image doors that fit around the triangular door catch piece at the bottom of the cabinet.
I cut the profile shown in the first image above into the 6 strips that I had previously cut on my table saw using my router. To do this I used a round over bit and a straight bit. As I mentioned in the previous section working with a small strip using a hand held router is difficult so I used the same technique where I laid a wider piece next to the thin work piece and then clamped both down to the bench under a small off-cut of wood.
From the 20mm profile pieces I then cut the following lengths using the mitre saw;
2 x 800mm
2 x 373mm
2 x 249mm
2 x 174mm
2 x 147.5mm
Next I cut the pieces for the left door with the angles shown in the second image above. You really need to be accurate with your cuts when doing this or the doors will end up the wrong size. I carefully laid out the pieces on a flat surface and taped the joints with pieces of masking tape and then measured both the angles and the sizes and carried out a test fit on the cabinet to make sure the door fit. I didn't have to make any changes as the pieces fit well together.
Then I did the same thing with the right door and cut the angles in the profile pieces making sure to mirror the cuts used in the left door. I then laid the pieces out, taped the joints with masking tape and carried out a test fit with both doors on the cabinet. Again the doors fit perfectly.
I then took the doors apart and glued the joints with wood glue. I also laid them flat and pinned each joint with 2 tiny brass nails. I made sure to pre drill the holes for the nails so as not to split the wood. The nails are almost not noticeable on the doors and look good anyway.
To make sure the doors stayed in the right shape, ie. didn't warp or twist while the glue dried I taped the doors in place to the cabinet with pieces of masking tape and left the glue to dry overnight. See the 4th image. This worked very well.
I also added a 500mm long strip of 4mm plywood to the inside of the left door as can be seen in the second image above. This ensures that both doors stay locked when the catch is engaged.
After the glue on the doors had dried I marked out and cut the perspex sheet and fit it into the frames. In hind sight it would have been better to have glued the panes into place at the end once the whole cabinet had been painted which would have meant I would not have had to carefully mask the plexiglass before painting. I used Pattex contact adhesive to glue the panes into place, it is quick acting and after smearing glue onto both surfaces and waiting for it dry to the touch it will bond instantly.
Next I added a strip of Melamine edge banding (wood grain pattern) around the edge of the window panes. This was attached by using an old clothes iron to iron it into place. (The glue on these strips is a hot glue that melts when heated with an iron.) Make sure you put a piece of paper between the strip and the iron or you will burn the surface of the strip and potentially the plexiglass sheet as well. This covered up where the glue was visible through the pane. If I were to make this cabinet again I would probably change the design slightly and add a thin strip of wood veneer instead of the strip. The pattern on the strip was a close match anyway and looked good once it was in place.
At this time I installed the doors onto the cabinet in their final position. There are 4 small 25mm brass hinges on each door. After spacing them out evenly and marking the their position I used a sharp chisel and a mallet to carefully recess the hinges so they were flush with the cabinet sides and doors. I then screwed the doors into place and tested them. After installation I found that doors were mounted a little too tight so they didn't sit straight on the cabinet and naturally spring open. This was perfect because if they hadn't I would have had to add a spring mechanism to make sure they sprung open.
Finally I masked the plexiglass panes on both doors ready for painting.
Step 5: Designing the Door Catch Mechanism
The door latch mechanism took a bit of thought. I had initially investigated using a magnetic cabinet safety lock of the type used to make cabinets secure from toddlers and babies but I found the magnets on these were too bulky. So I went searching in the local hardware store which is where I found a cheap cabinet door latch that opens when pressed and closes again when pressed a second time. This works in much the same way as the mechanism for a retractable ballpoint pen. So I designed the mechanism around this catch.
The latch is simple enough and functions like an old fashioned door catch where the blade attached to a rotating pin pushes the spring loaded bolt back when the door knob handle is turned. The only difference is that the handle is hidden and pops out when the deathly hallows symbol is depressed. The knob is then turned clockwise, causing the bolt to retract releasing the catch and the cabinet doors pop open. The bolt is spring loaded so that when the doors are closed the latch clicks closed and is locked. Pressing the knob causes the small cabinet door latch to depress and move back into hidden position. The end of the central rotating pin has a steel washer attached to it and the end of cabinet door latch has a magnet on the end of the depressor which means that the knob will not accidentally pop out. I think it's quite an elegant solution
Above are images of all the components of the catch mechanism. I have also attached 2 Trimble Sketchup files showing the components. One in it's final assemble configuration and one with the mechanism exploded. The components are all accurately drawn to scale so using Sketchup you can manipulate all the components to see exactly how they were made. The files are called;
Cabinet hidden catch final.skp
Cabinet hidden catch final_Exploded.skp
Step 6: Making the Hidden Door Catch. Step 1 Cutting the Front Face and Inlaying the Brass Detail.
To make the front face and the rotating knob I marked out and equilateral triangle with sides approx 128mm on a piece of 18mm Paulownia. I marked the center of the triangle and then cut out the central knob with a 60mm hole saw. To cut it without a hole in the center I reversed the drill bit in the hole saw clamped the work piece down on the larger piece of wood and used my drill press to carefully cut the hole.
Next I cut the 128mm triangular piece out with my sliding mitre saw.
The pieces of brass I had managed to buy were 1mm thick but too wide at 10 mm, so using a small angle grinder and an Inox metal cutting disk I cut some thin ~2mm wide strips from the larger strip.
I then marked out where the brass was to be inlaid and carved out the grooves in the wood using detailed wood carving chisels and a Dremel rotary tool. I cut the pieces of brass to length and filed them carefully with a detail file until they fit together accurately.
To get the brass to stay in place I initially used a little bit of hot glue to keep them in place. To fix the strips permanently in place I filled the gaps with home made wood filler made with a mixture of Paulownia saw dust and wood glue, waited for it to dry and then sanded off the excess. The brass ring around the central knob was created slightly differently. I mounted the knob as it would be in it's final configuration, with a second rear knob and a piece of wooden dowel. I then mounted this in my drill press and I basically turned the groove in the outer edge using a detail file. This formed a much more accurate fit than hand carving the groove. I then formed the ring from a piece of brass that I hammered around another 60mm diameter piece I had cut out of a piece of pine with the hole saw for this purpose. I then fit it into the groove, cut it roughly to length with a junior hacksaw and filed it down till it fit exactly. Then I glued it into place with super glue.
I sanded the finished knob and face piece with fine grit sandpaper and I spent a while sanding the inside of circular hole in order to ensure that the knob moved and turned easily.
You can see from image 1 above that the colour of the DIY filler does not match the wood very well and I was quite concerned that I would have to start again, but this turned out not to be an issue because the Mahogany wood stain that I used at the end covered it well so it was much less noticeable.
Step 7: Making the Hidden Door Catch. Step 2 Making the Catch Components.
The main components of the latch are as follows;
Front face of the catch with hidden knob which forms the center of the deathly hallows symbol made from inlaid brass. Image 1 above. (Made of the same 18mm Paulownia wood and pieces of brass)
Rear round section used to attach the knob to the central pin. Image 2 above. (Made of the same 18mm Paulownia wood) Key blade which moves the latch bolt. (Made of a small piece of pine, cut by hand, filed to shape and then finished with an orbital sander and sand paper.
Latch Bolt which is spring loaded when installed. Image 3 above. (Made from off-cuts of 8mm Birch plywood)
Central pin which runs through the length of the mechanism and wooden blade that moves the latch. Image 4 above. (made from a piece of 10mm hardwood doweling. The blade is made from a pine off-cut.)
3 x triangular pieces that serve to keep the pin located in the center of the mechanism and it to slide freely back and forward. Images 4 and 5 above. (Made of the same 18mm Paulownia wood) I cut off the tops of the 3 triangular pieces in my mechanism because there was a fair bit of excess glue inside the cover. Cutting the tips off was quicker than trying to clean out the dried glue.
2 spacers that that hold the spring loaded catch at the right height so that the catch aligns with the central pin. Image 7 above. (Made of the same 18mm Paulownia wood)
The spring loaded catch mounted to the spacers. Image 7 above.
A cover for the whole mechanism is also shown in Image 7 above. (made from offcuts of 8mm Birch plywood)
Images 8 and 9 above show the final assembly of the components as well as the 2 small triangular stop pieces that prevent the latch from moving too far. (The stops are made of Paulownia and are glued into place ) To attach the spring I simply drilled a small hole in the bolt and attached the other end to the cover with a small screw.
The 3 internal triangular pieces of the mechanism are screwed onto place trough the cover with 4 screws. The holes were pre-drilled and countersunk. I could have glued them in place but I wanted to make sure the I could take the latch apart later if anything broke or came loose. Despite being visible the screws are hardly noticeable unless you open the cabinet doors and look closely.
Images 10 and 11 show the latch mechanism with the knob depressed and extended.
As can be seen from Image 12 above the end of the bolt protrudes from a small slot cut in the cover. Care should be taken so that there is enough clearance to allow the bolt to slides easily when the mechanism is fixed to the cabinet.
At this time I made the small retaining catch that actually locks the doors in place. In Image 13 above you can see the retaining piece of the catch that is mounted to the door. This is made from a small piece of doweling with a slot carved into it with a triangular file. This is attached simply by drilling a hole into the inside of the door frame to take the piece of dowel in the right position. It's then glued in place with a bit of wood glue. It took a bit of trial and error to get it right, requiring tweaking with a file and sand paper to make sure everything fit perfectly. The end of the dowel is also filed to a sloping point. It was then sanded with fine grit sandpaper to make sure the bolt slides over the retaining piece easily and locks in place.
The whole catch mechanism is wedged tightly between the lower shelf and the base and screwed into place through the base. Image 14.
Step 8: Final Painting and Assembly
As well as hooks for the wands the cabinet is also lit internally with a battery power strip of micro LED lights. The lights are powered by a small battery box which sits recessed into the rear right hand corner of the bottom fasure board. This board is made of Paulownia and is 500mm x 150mm x 18mm in size with a Roman Ogee profile cut around the edge with a router. The recess for the battery box was cut out with a hand saw and the cut out piece split off with a chisel. The rough edges were cleaned up with a hand file and then sanded smooth with sandpaper.
The fasure board was then screwed into place with thin screws with pre drilled and countersunk holes. Again I left the screws visible in case I needed to open up the catch mechanism. See image 2 above. These are not visible unless you look underneath carefully.
I now added the piece of coving in front of the lower shelf and the angled piece at the bottom of the Deathy Hallows symbol. These were glued in place with wood glue, clamped and left to dry.
Image 3 shows the battery box recessed into the fasure board. The box is held in place with Velcro in order to remove it easily to change the batteries.
Before painting I spent quite a lot of time sanding everything down with a fairly course and then fine grit sand paper to make sure it was well prepared for painting. The main body of the cabinet was prepared with an orbital sander but the fine detail was done by hand.
After removing all dust with a damp cloth I removed the doors, as well as the bottom fasure board and the catch mechanism. The internal components of the door catch mechanism were varnished with a coat of water based parquet floor varnish. When they were dry the parts were lightly sanded with fine grit sandpaper to remove and rough burs and given a second coat. This varnish is incredibly tough, hard wearing with a smooth finish, which is perfect for parts that move against each other. The outer components were painted with a 2 coats of mahogany wood stain / wood sealant.
Next the doors, cabinet body and bottom fasure were painted with 2 coats of mahogany wood stain / sealant. Again everything was sanded lightly between coats to remove any rough fibres or burs. When it was dry I carefully removed the masking tape and buffed the plexiglass panes.
All the parts of the cabinet were now put together. The doors were fixed back in place, the catch mechanism was reattached and the bottom fasure screwed into place. I tested everything to make sure it worked as planned, which it did after I used a little wood preparation oil to lubricate the moving parts.
Next I installed the led lights. The light string enters through a hole drilled in the the back of the
cabinet, which is behind the right hand side of the lower shelf. The string of lights is fixed around the inside edge of the cabinet and carefully fixed in place with small brass nails. I sealed the the hole in the back board with a small dab of hot glue. Images 6 and 7 show the finished cabinet with the LED lights switched on.
Next I marked out the position of the 18 brass cup hooks and used a bradawl to make a small pilot hole. I screwed in the hooks into place making sure not go too far so that they didn't poke trough the back board.
The final thing I did was to use a bit of the left over brass to make 2 metal mounting supports to hold the cabinet when it is mounted on the wall, using L shaped mounting hooks. These were attached to either side of the top of the cabinet.
Step 9: Conclusion and Final Thoughts
This was a very fun project to build and I especially enjoyed working out how to make the secret catch work. The whole family are big wizard fans and the cabinet was a big hit when my son opened the package at Christmas. I managed to keep the build a complete secret as I only worked on it when my son was at school. My job has me working away from home on a 4 week rotation so I have plenty of time for these sort of projects when I am at home. My wife complains sometimes though.
This was the first time I had ever used a router for a project and I was quite impressed with how well the pieces came out. The router was a cheap no name brand plunge router that I picked up from the supermarket, the bits are the ones that came with the machine , so It was not the most accurate or the easiest thing to use. Making this now would be easier because I have a bit more experience with routing, it was a couple of years ago that I made this and I have a much better quality router now. I am also in the process of building a router table with a router lift which will make things even easier.
You do not need expensive tools to try a project like this. Most of my power tools are really cheap. My sliding mitre saw, table saw and router are all no name brands that were picked up for less than $50 - $60 from the local supermarkets. The table saw and the mitre saw were not even essential as you could rip the boards with a hand held circular saw and you could use a hand saw with a cheap or even home made mitre block to cut the door pieces. I do have a serious professional quality drill press (pillar drill) which makes it much easier to drill controlled perpendicular holes. But it is perfectly possible to do it with a hand held drill.
The total cost of materials used in this project was less than €120 or about $133.
Happy Building and If you have any questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer you.
Participated in the
2 years ago
love it. but where tf are you buying a $60 table saw lol
2 years ago
This is awesome! Definetly getting my vote!
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you, I really appreciate it.
2 years ago on Step 9
Absolutely brilliant, the catch is quite clever. Voted for your ingenuity!
Reply 2 years ago
Thanks for the vote and thanks for your kind words. I do enjoy working on projects with hidden features. I have also built a book case with a secret door in it which I am intending to publish ion here n the not too distant future.
3 years ago
Beautiful! I love the brass inlay, and the catch is a brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing it :-)
Reply 3 years ago
Thanks, I am glad you like it. When I build things I usually don't bother planning or document what I create, I just create what pops into my head. In this case I did take photos during the build. Producing the detailed drawings and writing the instructable was almost as much work as making the cabinet.
3 years ago
That is a really nice display case and an impressive wand collection :D
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you, I enjoyed making it. And yes my son's wand collection has grown since he first got the cabinet and I think I need to upgrade it. :-)