Cheap Secret Compartment!

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About: I enjoy quick and easy projects that are useful and cheap. I enjoy building and creating new things!
This will show you how to make a secret compartment that can be built into a bookcase, or some other piece of furniture. It uses a sneaky lock that doesn't expose any hardware to the surface. If you can keep from showing all your friends (I couldn't), this would actually be a useful place to store valuables. This design is very flexible to all sorts of shapes and sizes. It can also be installed vertically.

You will need:
  • A bookcase. I built my own, but virtually any sort of furniture will work: bookcases, china cabinets, dressers, whatever. Just be sure there is a clear amount of space underneath, and the surface for the hatch is at least half an inch thick.
  • Magnetic Child Lock
  • Concealed Hinges

I know these pieces can be found at most hardware or home improvement stores as well.

UPDATE 1/9/08:

WOW! Thank you so much to everyone who has commented and checked out my instructable! I had no idea people would find it this interesting! Keep experimenting and sending me your thoughts and variations on my design!

Also, Cousin Eddie wanted to see if neodymium magnets could open the lock, instead of the key, here are his findings:

"Anyway I checked to see if I could open a latch with simple neodymium magnets & found that it took at least 3 small (watch battery size) neod. magnets to open it. BUT you have to have the polarities of all the magnets (including the one inside the latch) lighted up.... otherwise it wont work. Simple to do though. Think I will mount the magnets in my own "key". "

Thanks for the findings!

UPDATE 1/27/08:

I received a request for some pictures of what my bookcase looked like as a whole. I put it them in at the end.

Step 1: Cut Out the Hatch...

Use a hand-held jig saw to cut out your hatch. I was able to remove the shelf during this step, which makes this much easier. For best concealment, cut along a joint, (ex: in the corner) so the cut looks as natural as possible. For this example, I didn't, but the outline is still faint. Use as narrow a blade as you can, as any gap would look really obvious. This is where you are free to adapt the size and shape of the your hatch.

Step 2: Install the Hinges...

This is pretty simple, although drilling holes for the hinges into the surrounding shelf can be tricky with smaller hatches unless you have a right-angle drill. With these hinges, I had to chisel the hatch and counter-sink the hole, in order for the the hatch to fit flush with the shelf. For the fitting the hinge to the hatch, I used my trusty jig saw and a chisel until the hinge fit flush with the rest of the wood.

Check the movement of the hinges, and adjust them if need be. Ideally, the hatch should still be flush with the shelf.

Install a small block opposite the hinges, to keep the hatch from falling into the compartment below.

Step 3: The Fun Part...

Install the magnet lock per the manufacturers directions. Ensure the lock creates a tight latch. For my hatch, I had to shim the other side of lock to make a tight fit. The pictures below describe how this lock works.

Step 4: Build a Box Below and Complete...

Next build a box underneath your hatch. Again, the dimensions of this are up to you. Don't make the box too much bigger than the hatch though, as this will make it hard to reach around in.

Here is a photo review of the entire method of opening the compartment:

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    86 Discussions

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    19freemans

    4 years ago on Introduction

    could this work on a wall?i am making an arsenal of airsoft guns and want a good place to put them so if there is a break in no one will steal them.

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    kbs2244

    10 years ago on Introduction

    When I did it I made the whole bottom shelf so it would lift out. It is set down behind the front panel so the front edge is not exposed. I finished it real smooth and use a suction cup to lift it. I made 5 built in bookcases that are 5 feet wide. Bottom shelf has things like encylopidia on them. Compartments full of real emergency type stuff.

    2 replies
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    stuzz

    10 years ago on Step 4

    If you wanted to make it more concealed, you could make a few false doors beside the real one, to blend it in as a natural pattern. That would make it less obvious there was something to notice. Very cool article!

    4 replies
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    I really didn't intend this to be a hiding place for drugs or other such contraband. I was thinking more along the lines of cash, documents, jewelry, etc.. ;)

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    rabbitkillrunfortneja

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    "If you build it, they will come."
    What do you think they were talking about? If you build something to hide things, drug users will come (not that they should have to).

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    twighahn

    6 years ago on Introduction

    this would be a great place to put the handle for the secret door/book case and i could hide the compartment better too so thanks for the ideas

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    SasquatchKid

    6 years ago on Introduction

    My friends dad asked me to make a hidden door used coldduck22's floor thing to hide their bunker door :)

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    Tantrax

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Im kind of late but I was looking aroung on the internet and i saw one where you unscrew an eletrical outlet and there is a sectet compartment further inside. It was quite a nice idea

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    ganglion

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I met someone once who built individually crafted doll's houses, and every one had a secret compartment for hiding jewelry, similar to this.