Introduction: Scrap Wood Wall Art With Secret Door.

About: I run a small workshop out of my basement, doing mostly custom coffee tables. If you're interested in any of my stuff just shoot me a message I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

I started this project awhile ago, so we join this kind of already started but really, there are not many steps to this.

Now this wall is in my basement in my man-cave area. I went with a really bold color and painted it black. If you wanted to do something like this as a statement/feature wall in a very public space then black might not be the choice for you. If you go through the photos you'll see it in its natural state before its painted, and it looks pretty cool. If you wanted to leave the wood natural I'd use a spray shellack, it dries in about 20 minutes and wont stink up your house like a spray poly would. My personal taste I love the way that red oak looks when its painted, how the smooth really shines and the grain really gets a nice texture to it. But that's just me.

If you have any questions about this project feel free to leave a comment and i'll be happy to answer anything you have. This was just something I wanted to do for myself, its cool, or at least I think its cool, and its a secret door. And who doesnt want a secret door (For the record I have 2 in my house... and i'll probably make another, i might have a problem)

So I put some restrictions on it for myself.

1. I couldnt use any "good" wood. Every piece of wood in this art wall is scrap from other projects. Its about 2 years of scrap. Its mostly red oak, poplar, some cedar, and a couple pieces of MDF. But I really wanted the grain to pop from the oak, and the poplar to just be a good base color

2. I didnt want to spend any money, I ended up breaking this rule but really only spent about 40 bucks, and that includes the lights I bought to highlight the wall.

3. I didnt want to cut any pieces of wood unless it was necessary. I wanted to just use the pieces as they were and be confined to the shapes I had. Certain parts needed to be cut but I tried to keep those to a minimum.

Now, lets nail stuff to the wall willy-nilly!

Step 1: Nailing Stuff to the Walls

This represents about 2 years of shop time and projects in scrap. Its something I started about 6 months ago. Just as the pieces piled up in my shop I grabbed the nail gun and went out the wall with a bundle and just nailed them up.

I tried to keep it as random as I could, layering the pieces on top and over lapping each other, I wanted to give the wall depth.

Not all of the wall needs to be covered, it really gets down to positive and negative space. I knew I was going to paint it by this point. So leaving the wall open in some parts, will give a good low point to the artificial relief im adding with the layers. So dont be afraid of blank spots.

Step 2: Hey I've Got a Ton of Half Full Cans of Spraypaint... Not Anymore!

one thing about painting a lot of my projects black means that I have a lot of half empty cans of spray paint.

At this point in the project I wanted to see how much coverage I could get with the paint I had laying around. I made it to the second photo before I ran out...

Time to go to the store...

Step 3: Hey Someones Throwing Away a Door.. I Could Make a Secret Door!

Was exactly what went through my mind as I drove to get another can of paint when I saw the door laying on the side of the road.

Boom, more free stuff.

Now with a secret door, I like using piano hinges, considering im going to be nailing a lot of wood to this door and adding a bunch of weight. I wanted to use the piano hinge to really spread out the weight of the door across the entirety of the door jam. This will keep things nice and level and its a really smooth open. Plus the hinge part of the door is very thin, keeping the secret door a little more hidden then regular hinges.

I wanted the door flush with the edge of the door frame. Now this is a pretty out of square door, plus on the other side of it there's a heat vent. So its an odd sized door, so I had to cut it down to fit. Its a hollow core door, so hacking off a couple of inches from the bottom of the door will leave it very fragile. The key to fixing this is taking out the wood edge piece from the cut off and placing it back into the hollow core of the door. It takes a little bit of work, but it will keep the overall strength of the door and not make it a wobbly mess.

So what I did was measure the thickness of the door and added the thickness of the hinge and marked the wall. This way I could prop the door up and line the hinge up with my pencil mark, and screw in the top screw. then move to the bottom and secure it there, check for level and continue screwing in the rest of the hinge.

From there, you can continue adding pieces of wood to the door. Remember you can overlap the left side of the door onto the existing wall. Because when you open the door those pieces will swing out and not hit anything, and it'll break up the edge of the door frame and work towards tricking the eye into not seeing the door.

In the pictures you can see my process, how it start at the edge work my way in, then work out to give depth.

Also I added a little pull where the door handle would normally be. Just a place to stick a couple fingers in to be able to shut the door.

Step 4: Adding a Bump Stop to the Top of the Door.

Due to the way humans are made. putting a bit of an overlap from the door frame into the doorway itself isnt to terrible. You'd really have to try to hit your head on it, or go through sideways. But for the most part you're going to be safe putting in a little bump stop into the top right or left of the door. Not on the bottom, that's a trip hazard.

Now to keep the door shut. I went and grabbed two little magnets, attached one to the stop and one to the door. So when the door is closed the magnets will keep it closed, and depending on how strong of a magnet you get will require more or less force to open the door. But you dont want it to the point where you have to kick the door down to get through so dont go crazy with the magnets.

Step 5: More Paint, and Dont Forget the Door Jams and the Sides of the Door.

Hey.. more painting, more fumes.


But make sure to paint the edges of your door, frame, hinge and such. Going with black for me means any part of white, or wall color is REALLY going to stand out so make sure you look at it from all edges top and bottom and sides.

it wont matter you'll look at it again in a couple days and find some places you missed.

Step 6: Adding Lighting to Draw the Eye.

Now here's a bit of trickery. I went out and bought two 3" re-modeler can lights, on a swivel. I measured out from the edges of the wall to the edge of the door frame and mounted the lights there.

The reason for this is two fold. I wanted to really pop the wall and the depth the wood layers created by using light and shadow. Yes I know its crazy light and shadow on a black wall but seriously look back at the first pictures before the lights were added and look at it now, worlds of difference.

Also by placing lights on either side of the door, it draws attention to those places that the lights highlight taking away focus from the unlit doorway. Along with a bright light shined into your eyes will make your irises shrink, this will make the darker areas of the wall look even darker, it will be harder to see the outline of the door frame. It doesnt really work in pictures because its not an eyeball. But when its dark out your eyes dilate to let in more light so you can see more detail, so if you have a bright light in the foreground everything in the background will drop out of focus and be harder to see.

Also.. it looks awesome with the lights on it.

I hope you enjoyed this project, its certainly a bold statement piece, but its also a really good artistic use for scrap wood around the shop.

Wall Overhaul

Participated in the
Wall Overhaul