In this project we add a hidden electric lock to one of our kitchen cabinets.
We wanted to lock up the cabinet where we keep medications and other things we want to keep away from the kids. But adding any type of standard lock would ruin the look of the cabinet. We didn’t want to see any visible sign of the locking mechanism.
We decided to use an electric solenoid type of lock that would be triggered by a hidden capacitive touch switch. A piece of conductive copper tape stuck on the inside of the cabinet is monitored by a capacitive touch switch module. Whenever you touch that spot on the outside of the cabinet, the touch switch module detects the touch and energizes the solenoid lock which releases the door to open.
So now, we have a totally hidden lock on our medicine cabinet that only we adults know how to open (as long as we don’t let the kids see how it works!)
- Solenoid Lock, $14.95
- Capacitive Touch Switch module , $27.95
- 12V Power Supply, $7.25
- Conductive Copper Tape, $9 (or you could use aluminum foil)
- Thin Insulated Wire (around 20ga)
- Screwdrivers – normal size straight or phillips
- Small jeweler size straight screwdriver
- Soldering iron (optional)
- Hacksaw (optional)
Step 1: Mount the Solenoid Lock
The solenoid lock is mounted inside the cabinet with the flatted part of the plunger facing outward so that the striker plate will push it open when the cabinet door closes. The lock was oriented 90 degrees from what we needed for proper mounting. We removed it from the steel housing and attached it to a piece of aluminum angle iron that would let us easily mount it to the inside of the cabinet.
We decided to add two extra ‘fail safe’ wires from the solenoid to be hidden in the adjacent (unlocked) cabinet, just in case the touch sense mechanism fails at some point. With this, we can simply connect a 12V DC voltage to those wires to activate the solenoid and open the door.
Step 2: Run 12V DC to the Cabinet
The touch sense module and the solenoid run on 12V DC (700mA). We used an old wall wart we saved from some old discarded device for our 12V supply. We hid the wall wart in the recessed light compartment above the sink so that the wiring would be hidden. Just a few holes drilled inside and between the adjacent cabinets allowed us to run the 12V wire into our cabinet to be locked.
Step 3: Mount the Touch Sense Plate
Two 5” lengths of copper tape are used for the touch sense plate. These should be affixed close and parallel to each other, but not touching. One of them will be the touch sense plate and the other will be the ‘ground plane’, which improves the touch sensitivity. We used some scotch tape to hold the two pieces together prior to affixing to the inner wall of the cabinet. Solder (or just tape) a 6” length of thin wire to each of the pieces of copper tape. These wires will connect to the touch switch module and allow the touch detection. Now peel off the paper backings and affix them to the inside of the cabinet behind where you want the touch sense area to be.
At first we tried using the small touch plate PCB that came with the touch switch. But it turned out to be too small to allow reliable touch sensing through the ¾” thickness of the wood. We had to set the sensitivity of the module very high in order for it to detect touch. That worked pretty well, but sometimes it had false activations because the sensitivity was set so high. Switching to the copper tape allowed us to turn down the touch sensitivity and now its working rock solid. Presumably, the small PCB would work if your cabinet wall is thinner.
Step 4: Wire the Touch Switch Module
Now you have all the wiring ready to connect to the touch switch module. Pass the wires from the power supply, solenoid, touch plate, and ground plane through the small hole in the side of the touch switch enclosure and connect them to the small green terminal block as described in the touch switch manual. Be careful not to wire the power supply backwards, which will blow the module!
Step 5: Configure, Test and Adjust the Touch Switch Module
Set the two jumpers on the touch switch module to ‘Momentary Contact, Indirect Touch’ mode (see the manual). Use a small screwdriver to turn the sensitivity pot all the way counter-clockwise (the lowest sensitivity setting). Plug in the 12V power supply. You should see the LED on the module blink a few times. Now gradually turn the pot clockwise while repeatedly touching the touch sense area until you get to a workable setting. Remove your hand from the area between tests because the module ‘learns’ the ambient capacitance of the touch plate. It would get accustomed to the capacitance of your hand nearby, and wouldn’t detect any difference when you touch it.
Step 6: Mount the Touch Switch Module
Once the module is adjusted and working, you can mount it to the inside of the cabinet with two small wood screws through the mounting flanges.
Step 7: Mount the Striker Plate on the Door
We fabricated a striker plate from a small T bracket. To figure out the proper alignment, temporarily put some pieces of masking tape on the edge the cabinet and the door so you can mark the position of the lock and transfer that marking to the back of the door. Then measure the horizontal distance and the depth of the solenoid lock. Bend the T bracket to the proper depth, cut the excess if necessary, and mount it on the door at the proper horizontal position to allow it to engage the lock.