Book Safe With Lock




About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.

I've been making book safes since I was a wee little thing. Actually, I still have the first one that I made (I keep some old letters in it).

A couple years ago I made a book safe which had a locked secret compartment. I made and designed a locking mechanism which worked fine but was fiddly to make. I had been thinking recently about how I could improve the original idea and decided to add a lock to the cover instead. I also purchased a lock mechanism which made the job a lot easier.

The tricky part was to ensure that when the lock is engaged, it would stay that way. After all, a book is still only made from paper!

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Step 1: Parts and Tools


1. A book. This will need to be a hard back book in relatively good condition. I also try to find a book with thick pages as it means less cutting and gluing.

2. Lock - eBay

3. Strip of wood. The size will depend on how deep your secret compartment is. The wood is used to line the inside of the compartment.

4. Felt. Used for the bottom of the secret compartment.

5. Some nice paper - used this to line the wood sides.


1. Glue sticks - I went through about 4 of them

2. General purpose glue - I used tiger glue but anything which you can stick wood together will be fine

3. Stanley knife

4. Ruler

5. Drill

6. Drop saw

7. Sandpaper

8. Files

9. Chisel

Step 2: Making the Secret Compartment - Cutting

The first step is finding the right book. I usually visit thrift shops and have a good hunt around for a vintage book in relatively good condition.


1. Mark out the area that you want to cut. I usually do this on the second or third page.

2. With your utility knife, carefully run it down the ruler 4-5 times. Add some pressure to ensure you make a good cut along the marked area. Also, slightly go over the line so you ensure that the corners meet-up. Do this for all 4 sides and remove the cutout paper

3. Continue to do this until you have removed all of the paper inside the book. You may notice the 2 sides of the inside of the compartment are uneven. Don't stress, this happens most times when making a book safe and is due to how a book is manufactured. You can fix this up afterwards.

Step 3: Making the Secret Compartment - Gluing

This is probably the most tedious task and will take sometime to complete. Each page needs to be stuck together to make the compartment secure


1. Grab your glue-stick and add glue to each side of the first cutout page. Push the other page against it so they are evenly stuck together. Continue to do this for the first 30 odd pages. It's best to stop about this many as the pages can start to get wavy due to the glue wetting them.

2. Next, place the book under some heavy weights (I used more books) and leave for about 30 minutes. This will allow time for the glue to dry and will also ensure that the pages are flat.

3. Continue this process until all of the pages are glued together.

4. Lastly, if you left any pages at the front, glue these to the front cover.

Step 4: Making the Secret Compartment - Tidying Up

Once everything is glued down you may have noticed that the 2 vertical sides of the compartment are uneven. Don't stress, this happens most times when making a book safe and is due to how a book is manufactured. However, you will need straighten up the right hand side section which can be done with a utility knife. The left hand side tends to go inwards and this doesn't really pose an issue when you later add the wood to the sides.


1. Grab your utility knife and carefully start to remove the excess paper on the right hand side wall.

2. Remove any pieces of paper that are sticking out and might cause the wood sides to not sit flush with the inside of the compartment.

Step 5: Making the Wooden Sides - Cutting

To enable the lock to engage and stay secure, I added some wooden sides to the inside of the secret compartment. The height of the wood will depend on the depth of the secret compartment.


1. Measure the lengths of all of the sides and cut the wood to length.

2. Place the wood inside the secret compartment and make sure that the fitment is right.

3. Don't glue the wood into place yet, you need to do a couple of other things before you secure it in place.

Step 6: Making the Keyhole in the Book Cover

Now that you have the wood sides in place, it's time to make the keyhole in the book. The most important thing here is to ensure that your measurement are right.


1. First measure the distance from the outside of the book to the edge of the wood. Add a few millimeters to the total and this will give you the distance that the lock needs to be secured in place.

2. Make a template of the lock and keyhole (I used some tape) and with the measurement you made,. place it on the front of the cover.

3. Next, drill out the keyhole in the book cover. Just drill 2 holes and with a exacto knife remove the excess cover.

4. Smooth out the inside of the keyhole with a file.

5. Place the keyhole cover over the hole and check if it is the right size. Keep on removing any excess book cover until the hole is the right size.

Step 7: Securing the Lock to a Piece of Wood

If you wanted to, you could just attach the lock directly to the book cover with some small nuts and screws. The problem with doing it like this is would would see the screw heads on the cover and I didn't want this. Plus I don't think the lock would be very secure. Instead, I decided to add the lock to a piece of wood which is then glued to the back of the front cover. It is also held in place by the screws that hold the keyhole in place.


1. Cut a small piece of wood. Make sure it fits inside the secret compartment correctly. I initially just cut a piece of wood without checking correctly and found out later that it was too long and touched one of the wooden sides. In the end I removed this piece of wood and rounded the ends to give it a better finish.

2. Place the lock onto the top of the wood and mark the position.

3. Make another template and place this onto the wood. The side of the lock that is going to be used should sit right on the edge of the wood.

4. Next drill a couple of holes in the wood where the keyhole is positioned.

5. Use a small chisel to remove the excess wood and file the inside to smooth out.

6. Lastly, screw the lock onto the wood with some screws and test to make sure that the key opens and closes the loick

Step 8: Add the Lock to the Book

As you have already made the keyhole in the book, positioning the lock mechanism is pretty straight forward.


1. Open the cover of the book.

2. Add some PVA or all purpose glue to the back of the wood.

3. Next place the piece of wood with the lock onto the back and align the key section with the keyhole in the cover.

4. Add some weight to the top of the wood and leave to dry for a few hours

Step 9: Add the Keyhole Escutcheon (Cover) to the Book

To ensure the lock is properly secured to the book I used screws for the escutcheon that also went through the wood.


1. As the screws were a little larger than what was needed to secure the escutcheon, I had to make the holes a little larger with a drill.

2. Next, place the escutcheon on top of the keyhole in the book cover, mark and drill the holes.

3. Lastly, screw the screws into place.

That's it for the lock section, now it's time to make the hole so the lock can engage.

Step 10: Lock Hole and Gluing the Wood

Now you have attached the lock, you next need to make a notch in the wood side for the lock to engage into.

Lock Hole - Steps:

1. Close the front cover until just about closed. Mark on the wood where the lock hits the wood.

2. Remove the wood from the book and mark out where to make the notch.

3. With a saw cut down the sides and remove the rest of the wood with a chisel. File to make smooth.

4. Next place the wood back into the secret compartment, shut the front cover and try and lock the book. If you can't lock it then you will need to remove some more of the wood. Remove a little more and try again until the lock engages.

Gluing the Wood - Steps:
1. Add a generous amount of PVA glue to the bottom and side of each piece of wood and push into place.

2. Don't worry if there are any gaps etc as these will be covered later with the thin cardboard.

3. Leave to dry for 12 hours.

4. Once dry, test to make sure that the lock engages and the cover stays closed.

Step 11: Adding Felt and Paper to the Inside

This step isn't really necessary but I wanted to clean-up the inside a little.


1. First get your hands on some nice paper. I used a slightly thicker paper which is really more like thin cardboard.

2. Next bend it around the wood until you are happy with how it is sitting and all of the wood is hidden. As I mentioned though, this isn't really necessary, especially if the wood looks good enough.

3. Next, cut a piece of felt for the bottom of the compartment.

4. Lastly, glue everything in place and leave to dry.


Step 12: Done

That's it! You should now have your own secret book which locks. The last thing to do is to now work out where to hide the key!

If you have any questions or get stuck in any section, let me know in the comments and I'll try and help.

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    41 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I love this project, and cool looking book!

    As to the tedious part of the project, gluing each page, I wonder if it would also work to drill 4 or 6 holes, then glue in a plug, thus making the pages into one clump.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 hours ago

    It does, as do small screws of the right design. Clamp the book pages together first, close to the working edge, then drill holes slightly smaller than your screws (or old plugs -- BBQ skewers work well. Squeeze a small amount of glue into each hole, screw (or hammer, for plugs) into the paper slowly -- even clamped, the pages can be forced apart.

    The plugs work really well with paperbacks, makes them more sturdy.


    1 year ago

    Have you developed a design that has the escutcheon flush or lower than the book cover? An escutcheon that protrudes like this one, while it is attractive, would easily damage another book placed on the shelf beside the book safe.


    1 year ago

    You might want to use a book that is just like all the others you have or it might stick out. If you have a lot of modern science book, use a thick science book. It will hide better.


    2 years ago

    Nice i'ble!! :)

    Didn't know they sell our german UHU down under! ^^

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Took me a little bit to work out what that was! Yeah it's very popular here.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Ah, forgot to add "glue"! My bad, I'm sorry!

    Sounds great! :)


    2 years ago

    i find it funny that this came up after my book safe in the before and after contest and was a finalist. whatever well done anyway.

    David the R

    2 years ago

    I carried a book safe in high school some 50 years ago, nice stash.

    cutting up any old book though, go to Abebooks dot com (book exchange
    from 27 countries, millions of books) and check the possible value. I
    once bought a paperback for a dollar at a library and found that the
    cheapest available online was listed at $450.

    It is high unlikely to find such a book but a few moments checking online would be wise.

    Good job, nice lock too. Keep up the good work.

    4 replies
    DawsieDavid the R

    Reply 2 years ago

    that's I so very true, so everyone if you are going to do this please please check the internet for said books, special if they are stamped as 2nd,3rd addition in the flycover as in many cases they can be very valuable depending on what the subject/story's are, but sometimes it is of a value due to the author of the book or even the age. I have books from 1800s that I found in old junkshops as a kid I bought them because I loved the age that they were not because of the subject/story that was in them, I did not learn the value of my books until I trained as a bookbinder.

    I love books and hate seeing them chopped up for projects and the such like, but for a book that has no value it's not so painful to chop up for something like this.

    So many people think that just because a book is old it has no value but as you have pointed out this is not the case for many old/semiold books

    I too have collected old books from second hand stores for many years and have check up on them and found that many of my books I have bought have a small/large value on them. With the internet now checking up on book values is a lot simpler now lol.

    I have been collecting books since I was a toddler lol me Mum use to laugh at me when I was little as I would keep them all neat and tidy on a shelf lol but the rest of my stuff would be all over the place, this has not changed in the last 50+ years lol

    Because of my love of books I trained as a bookbinder so that I could restore some of my old books that do not have a value on them and to make bound boxes for the ones that do have a value to keep them safe.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I did contemplate for some time about learning the art of bookbinding too. I've many a beautiful book that has seen better days and I have repaired them as best that I could.

    You should do an Instructable on how to bind a book, or maybe on how to fix a damaged one.

    David the RDawsie

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for keeping a noble art alive.


    2 years ago

    Love this! Great job and thanks for sharing!


    Reply 2 years ago

    mmm... maybe. Although the paper might become hard to cut through as you get deeper into the book. I found that once the glue and paper set and I was cleaning-up the insides, the paper/glue became very hard to cut with the blade.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I glued about 25 pages last night as a test and it came out great!!!
    Neat Tip for any one wanting to do this if your book has thin pages like mine get a 2 inch sponge brush and some Elmers glue in a small bowl or plate and squirt some in. Count back 25-30 pages and glue the front of the last page all over with just enough glue to cover it like in the step with the glue sticks only do the whole page, then flip the other page and smooth the pages and repeat. For thicker pages use 10-15 pages at a time. Once you are done gluing the whole book then you can cut and glue the sections together and trim up the insides!
    PS don't forget to put the heavy stuff on the book after gluing each section hahaha.

    I'm using a 4 inch book from 1942 and the cover is beautiful! I have to slide some wood into the spine so firm it up but I cannot wait to post pictures of it when I am done!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Excellent! - sounds like you have a good system going. Can't to see the end results