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Popup mechanism for a secret storage box inground? Answered

Hi, I have seen a pop up solar light and have the idea of building a secret storage box in ground but when needed the box should be able to lift up and then have access to its contents. Here are the links of the popup light and as well as the Intel capsule from where I could get the idea.  

popup light:

Intel capsule:

What I want to know more about is the mechanics about how to lower and up the box.  Also is a picture that I drew to give you and idea of what I want to achieve.




Jack A Lopez

4 years ago

Is there a layer of earth, dirt and rocks, on top, so this gizmo has to push its way through it, kind of like a sprouting seed?

Or maybe this is for some kind of synthetic turf. The drawing doesn't show any dirt or rocks.

In any case, this kind of motion is done with a machine that moves a thing in a line, also called a, "linear actuator"


I think the critical thing will be to find, or build a linear actuator with sufficient force,


for to lift, not only the weight of the Box, but also the layer of earth, and also sticky friction forces.

The friction forces might actually contribute most of the total force the actuator must push against. For example if the top is covered by a layer of ice, or permafrost, or concrete, then that layer must be physically broken, which could take large amounts of force.

And it would totally look cool too! Because who expects concrete to start breaking apart because something is pushing up from underneath it? Also, in case of strong ground resistance, the box has to be strong too, so as to not get crushed like beer can.

So maybe use something like a car jack, either the hydraulic kind, or maybe the scissor jack kind.


Actually, I think the scissor jack would be easier to automate, since the input motion for that is a turning motion. You could probably drive it with a cordless drill.

ChamburnJack A Lopez

Answer 4 years ago

HI, thanks very much for your answer, What I intend to do is dig a hole and then build a metal box of some kind that would fit in the enclosure that I would build with concrete and then there should be something that I can use to make it lift up by using your ideas. Here are additional pictures where I included more details.

Jack A LopezChamburn

Answer 4 years ago

Hey, I just realized that if I want a mental picture of what your ground looks like, all I have to do is read the 'ibles you have written, because so far they're all about landscaping and gardening, with lots of pictures of what your ground looks like.

Regarding the commenters who are writing with concerns about water, and waterproofing, I think these are very valid concerns. It looks to me like your ground could be a breeding ground for rust-bunnies.

Actually rust-bunnies are not real animals, but corrosion, rust, is a real thing. Moist ground can be good for growing plants and fungi, but usually not so good for buried machinery.

For this reason, I suggest the box be waterproof. Moreover, I think the the lift machinery should go inside the box, where it can be as clean and dry, and protected, as everything else inside the box.

The idea I had in mind is just a leg that gets driven outside of the box, through the bottom of the box, to lift it up.

In the box's down state, the leg is safely nested inside the box, and the hole in bottom of the box, where the leg projects, that hole gets sealed by way of a squishy gasket. The gasket gets compressed in between a "foot" (on the bottom end of the leg) and the bottom of the box.

I have attached a drawing of this.

By the way, it looks to me like a consequence of this design is that the lift distance cannot be higher than the height of the box, because the leg has to fit inside the box.

This drawing does not show how power(energy) is being moved into the box for to drive the lift mechanism, but there are a couple of possibilities for this.

Electric power could come in through the bottom via something resembling an umbilical cord, stretched vertically when the box is up, and coiled in a pile when the box is down.

Or maybe power comes from the top, via a door on the top of the box, which gets opened when you want to raise the box. Maybe you plug an electrical cord into it, or maybe you stick a metal shaft, like a crank, and turn the mechanism with muscle power? I dunno. There are all kinds of possibilities.

oldmicahJack A Lopez

Answer 4 years ago

I like the scissor jack idea, but you would probably have to put some sort of rails to keep it aligned Heavy duty drawer slides might do. Depending on how well you ground drains, you may also have to deal with standing water in the hole. Either seal the top really well or put either a pump or a french drain in the bottom.

Can you put an ultra thin layer of concrete on cardboard? Like the idea of the box erupting from a concrete slab. Put on your magneto suit and a 'I'm lifting it with the power of my mind' look before hitting the hidden button.

Either way, post pictures and tell us how it turns out.


4 years ago

How far do you have to lift the box?

If you only need to access the lid of the box you could use a motor and cam system to raise and lower it.

If you want the whole box out of the ground go the scissor mechanism that oldmicah mentioned.

You could use a selection of gears and shafts to bring the scissor jack actuator far away from the box.


4 years ago

well IDK what linear actuator gos for were you live, there a bit more then I would like to spend and consider water proofing. I would suggest you just hide a handle to pull it up manually. the 007 aspect is cool, is it really worth the extra $200-ish for the actuator and electronics?

motion aside, You will need a water proof liner to keep the compartment dry. I would suggest a small garbage bin, or a 5-Gal water bottle. The water bottle will handle the pressure of being buried much better. Burry it in the ground and cut some plywood rings and some brackets that will fit inside to make a removable capsule. Seal the top of the capsule with a plywood ring, covered by some sort of waterproof plastic you have handy. Just be sure to leave say 3-4 inches of turf, or you grass covering the top will die.

Remember to put anything inside a big zip lock bag. The moisture will probably cause mould!