Introduction: Mini Treasure Chest With 12 Hidden Compartments

I came up with this project as I was thinking up ways to make miniature interactive books that were more than just "books." It's taken quite a few iterations, but I think this treasure chest turned out pretty cool, so I wanted to share it with you guys. It's quick and easy, and when you're finished, you'll have a mini treasure chest with 12 compartments for hiding tiny treasure items. I'm also including a free PDF of a treasure chest template and some printable treasure to get you started, so don't forget to check out the download!

Step 1: Materials & Prep

You'll need:

  • A square piece of paper -- The larger the paper, the larger the chest and compartments. I suggest a minimum of 8in/20cm square, otherwise the compartments are too small to open. In the photos, I'm using 24lb printer paper, which is easy to fold and makes a sturdy chest.
  • Scissors or craft knife -- To cut out the template (if you're using it) and to make a single cut on the chest for the closure.
  • Glue -- Regular craft glue, glue stick, paste, etc. Anything good with paper that won't soak through.
  • Pencil (optional)

If you're using the PDF template: Print the chest pages double-sided, flipping on the LONG side, and cut out so you have a single square.

As you follow along, refer to the key to see what folds you should make and where to glue.

Step 2: Create the Inner Compartments

  1. Place your paper in front of you with the inside of the chest facing up.
  2. Grab one corner and fold inwards, about 2/3's of the way to the center of the square. (See images)
  3. Now, fold the corner back down until it reaches the edge. (See images)
  4. Repeat with the opposite corner.
  5. When everything looks straight and aligned, press all creases firmly.

If your folds don't look perfectly symmetrical, it won't prevent you from using the completed chest.

Step 3: Close the Chest

  1. Fold the chest in half, short-ways.
  2. If everything looks well-aligned, press the crease firmly.

You should end up with a house shape, with the inside of the chest completely hidden.

Step 4: Open the Chest and Glue the Compartments

  1. Open the chest up completely until you see the full square again.
  2. Check to make sure your folded lines match the diagram.
  3. Apply glue in the arrowhead-shaped lines as indicated. The glue lines will form the walls of the compartments, so don't use too much. If the glue spreads out too far, your compartments will be very small or possibly even glued shut.
  4. Refold the paper on the previous creases, ensuring full contact on the glue lines and adding more glue, if necessary.
  5. Press all glue lines firmly and set aside until completely dry.

It's up to you whether you want to apply glue to both sides of the glue joins, or just one. Use your best judgment based on the paper and glue you're using. Since the compartments will be pulled opened repeatedly, you want as strong a bond as possible (which is often about pressure and dry time more than the amount of glue).

Step 5: Glue the Last Compartments

  1. After the glue has completely dried, lift one of the center corner pieces (created in Step 2) and unfold it toward the center.
  2. Glue down the center of the corner, as shown in the diagram.
  3. Refold the corner, and press the glue line firmly.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side and let dry.

Step 6: Create the Lid

Note: If you're using your own paper, decide which of the outer corners will be the top, or lid, that is used to "lock" and "unlock" the chest. (See first image. You can also fold the chest in half to create the house shape again if it helps you visualize it.) If you're using the PDF template, the top of the chest is the corner that has a keyhole on both sides. When the chest is folded closed, this lid will fold over to the latch in the front of the chest.

We want to fold the lid so it has a slight taper or bump at the top, like a stereotypical treasure chest as opposed to a standard box. We'll also fold the other corner on the front of the chest so it covers the slot for the latch (see next step), so take that into consideration when making these folds.

  1. Gently fold in one of the outer corners toward the center, a little bit more than halfway in (see images). Don't press it too firmly in case you need to adjust.
  2. Repeat the fold in the same place on the opposite side.

Step 7: Create the Latch

To close the chest, you will fold it in half and wrap one of the lid corners over the top and tuck it into a slot. So now, we need to cut that slot.

If you're using the PDF template, the location for the slot has already been marked for you with a line. Otherwise:

  1. Unfold the corner that will be used for the latch.
  2. The slot should go about halfway between the valley fold (that you just unfolded) and the point where the tip of the corner met the inside of the chest (when it was folded).
  3. If you'd like, use a pencil to mark where the slot should go.

The line should be long enough to allow the other corner (the lid) to be tucked inside when the chest is closed. For a nicer appearance, it should also be hidden by the folded latch corner. Adjust the placement and size of your slot, as needed.

  1. With your craft knife, or scissors held open like a knife, make a slice through the INSIDE of the chest to make the slot. If you cut from the outside and the paper rips, it will not look as clean. Remember, the inside of the slot will be covered.
  2. Close the chest and fold the lid corner over to test the slot.

At this point, you should be able to "lock" the chest and have it stay closed on its own. If it doesn't close completely, you may need to lengthen the slot on one side or the other.

Step 8: Glue the Latch

  1. Carefully apply glue to the latch corner around the slot. Be sure to leave room below the slot for the lid to tuck in completely.
  2. Test and adjust, if necessary.
  3. Press firmly to seal the joins and allow the glue to dry completely before using.

Step 9: Admire Your Finished Treasure Chest

Your mini treasure chest is complete! You should now be able to open and close it using the latch, and find all 12 compartments inside. I suggest using your finger or the eraser end of a pencil to very gently "stretch" the openings a little so you can see inside them better and to make them feel less rigid.

Step 10: Extra: Using the Treasure Items

If you downloaded the treasure chest template, you'll find page 3 contains an assortment of treasure items to fill your chest. To get them ready for use:

  1. Print the treasure items page on any paper.
  2. Cut out the item that you want to include in your chest. Each item contains a pair of images -- one image mirrored.
  3. Fold the treasure item in half back to back. (Some of them have a line to guide you.)
  4. Glue the backs together and let dry.
  5. Trim the excess paper from around the treasure item and it's ready to use.

There are several types of coins, jewels, and papers included in the PDF. Once printed, you can use pens or paint to customize them, or just make your own tiny treasure. The compartments are different sizes. The smaller ones will fit things the size of a Tic Tac. The larger ones can be used for items the size of (or folded to the size of) a large postage stamp. So, you could hide small beads, charms, stickers, candy, secret notes, and more. Or, take a small photo and cut it into puzzle pieces to hide throughout the chest. Maybe even a map to some other treasure? Lots of potential in this pocket-sized toy!

Step 11: Conclusion

That's it! I hope you enjoyed this project. If you did, please give it a vote in the Paper Contest! And I'd love to have your feedback and see photos of your own treasure chests, so if you make one (or more!), post below to let me know about it. Thanks!

Paper Contest 2018

Participated in the
Paper Contest 2018

Epilog Challenge 9

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge 9