Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch




About: My Name is Brandon Fischer. I am a Theatrical Rigger and Carpenter. I like to build, make, and void warranties. Please visit my Etsy shop. http://www.etsy.com/shop/ImprobableConstruct

This instuctible will show you how to turn an ordinary hardback book into a hidden switch for a lamp or other corded device.

Last fall, I was looking for a gift for my wife and came across the Secret Passageway Switch at Blight Designs (http://blightdesign.com/misc_book.html).  Blight Designs was sold out, but I thought I could make something a bit simpler that didn't have to be screwed to the shelf or run a chain and string through the pages of the book.

This is what I came up with:

Step 1: Gathering Parts and Tools

First, you need to gather materials and tools.


13.5" or so of 1"x1/16" aluminum
1 Lutron lamp dimmer model #TT-300H-BL or equivalent 
1 push button switch (I used a Philmore #30-003)
2 small zip ties (not pictured)
Some assorted shrink tube
2"x1"x1/16" adhesive backed neoprene (optional)


Drill with 1/8" and 15/64" bits (or whatever size you need for your zip ties and switch)
Center punch (not vital but it helps to keep the bits from walking in the soft aluminum, a nail and hammer will work too)
Soldering iron and solder
Wire cutters/strippers
Something to heat the shrink tube (I used a mini torch)
Something to bend the aluminum (a bench vise works well)
Something to cut the aluminum to size (I used a band saw, but a hacksaw or tin snips work too)

Ok.  Now we have that out of the way, on to the fun part . . . .

Step 2: Sizing the Book and Marking the Aluminum

First pick the book that you want to use. It should have a loose binding so the aluminum can slide into the spine.

The book I used is 6" deep so I started with a piece of aluminum 13.5" long.  The dimensions of the aluminum can be altered to fit the book you intend to use. 

Start by making marks at 1.5", 2", 2.5" and 8.5".  These marks will be your bend points.  The fourth mark should be 2.5" longer than the depth of the book you are using.  Since my book was 6" deep, my fourth mark was at 8.5".  If your book is 8" deep, your fourth mark will be at 10.5".

Step 3: Bending the Aluminum

After making a couple of these, I built a bend-break to bend the aluminum.  You can make the same bends the way I made the first two--by smacking the aluminum with a hammer in the jaws of a vice.

First Bend:  It is best to start with the bend at the 1.5" mark first. Clamp the aluminum and bend it over to 90 degrees.

Second Bend:  Flip the strip over and clamp it at the 2" mark. Bend the aluminum 90 degrees the opposite direction. 
You may have to use a piece of wood to start the bend as shown in the picture above so that you don't collapse the first bend while trying to make the second one.

Third Bend:  Flip the aluminum over again and clamp it at the 2.5" mark. This bend is also 90 degrees.

Fourth Bend:  As mentioned in Step 3, the location of the fourth and final bend will vary with the depth of your book.  This bend is in the same direction as the third bend.

Step 4: Marking and Drilling

So now that the aluminum is bent, it's time to drill some holes for the switch and the strain relief zip ties.  The strain relief ties are important, because they will prevent the cord from pulling away from the device over time.

First, you'll need to use a center punch to mark the center between bends one and two.
Next, use a center punch to mark four holes for the strain relief zip ties to go through.  I used graph paper to center and square the holes. (It wasn't that accurate, but it did the job.  You may want to spend more time laying out these points.)

Time to drill!
First drill the 15/64" hole for the switch between the 1st and 2nd bends.
Then drill the four 1/8" holes for the zip ties.
When you are done it should look something like the last picture in this step.

Step 5: Wires, Soldering, and Shrink Tube

We've come to the part where you ruin a perfectly good lamp dimmer.
Go ahead.  Cut that dimmer off the end of the cord.
You can get rid of the dimmer. We are not going to use it.

Now, strip the ends of the wire and solder it onto the switch.  Use the center pin and one of the side pins on the switch.  It doesn't matter which side pin you use.
Don't forget to slide the shrink tube onto the wire before you solder!

I used three sizes of shrink tube I had laying around.  Your selection may vary.  What we want to do is provide some electrical separation and strain relief for the wires and terminals.
I used small shrink tube first on each wire, then larger shrink tube to cover the smaller shrink tube and then finally big shrink tube to cover part of the switch and the other layers of shrink tube.

Step 6: Putting It Together

We are getting close to being done!
Put the switch through the hole and secure it with the lock washer and nut.
Feed the zip ties through the holes as shown and tighten them around the cord.
Trim the ends of the zip ties and attach the switch button. 
Add the 1/16" neoprene to the bottom furthest away from the switch.
There you go.
Your Secret Bookshelf Light Switch is complete!
On to installation . . . .

Step 7: Installation

Take your selected book and open the front cover.  This should open the binding, allowing you to easily slide the flat end of the switch into the spine of the book.
Stand the book up and ensure that the switch depresses when the book is resting and releases when the book is tilted.

Now to your bookshelf . . . . 
Pull the books that will surround your new hidden book switch out a few inches. Run the cord behind the books and to an outlet.  Slide the books back into place.  If the lamp you are using has its own on/off switch, don't forget to leave it in the on position.  Connect the cord of your lamp to the cord of your switch, and you are ready.


You can now astound, astonish, or merely confuse your friends and co-workers with your Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch!

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51 Discussions


6 years ago on Introduction

I completed mine today. It went great. I found all the parts at Lowes and Radioshack. Bending the aluminum was easy. It works beautifully. I have it hooked up to a lamp in my room. Thank you for a great instructable!

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3 years ago

So if your cutting off the dimmer, why not just use a ext. cord and cut the plug in part of? Ext cords are cheaper.

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

I've been unable to find the final wiring diagram that shows the bulb, but I think an extension cord plug will simply dead short the outlet plug when the switch closes. That dimmer plug seems to be a separate circuit than the socket molded into the plug. The dimmer switch originally changed the voltage to that socket and, in this project, the switch opens the circuit.


3 years ago

Does 120V pass through the switch, or does the Lutron dimmer act as a relay?


4 years ago on Introduction

I realize this is a way old post and I'm REALLY late to the party but I have to say, I actually did laugh out loud on your comment about the two zip ties that didn't make it into the picture. You have a delightfully twisted sense of humor. :)

Your idea is very clever, too!!


5 years ago on Introduction

I thought of doing something like this the other day, but it involved putting an outlet inside the book permanently, this is much more elegant! Nice work


6 years ago



6 years ago on Step 7

Thanks for this awesome instructable! I'd like to convert an existing wall switch to the book switch. Can I just wire it right into the wires in the wall, or is that dangerous for some reason?

1 reply

I am pretty sure this would be classified as temporary wiring.
I am going to say that it would be a bad idea to use this setup to wire straight into the wall.
You might be better off trying one of the commercial remote control switch options and then rigging it to a book.
Good Luck!


7 years ago on Step 7

Very cool. Definitly a gift to remember


7 years ago on Step 7

very cool, very well done and nicely illustrated.
now, wouldn't it be a lot easier to just use a rope pull switch (if that's the correct name)? you'd pull the switch by pulling the book like you would normally..


7 years ago on Introduction

Very cool!

When I finished my basement a few years ago, I included a book-power hidden door connected to an electric linear motor that I picked up while working for a hospital bed maker. Was not nearly as clean or neat as your design though!

Someday I'd like to have a book (or other object) that includes a wireless tilt-switch for the control. You all also got me thinking about connecting an MP3 player so that when the door open, it either creaks or plays the Scooby Doo theme or some such. Ah, if only I had the time...


7 years ago on Introduction

A Harry Potter lover! Have been frustrated with what to get a book lover except another book. This is so much better. Perfect gift and just in time for my daughter's birthday, another HP lover! Only took a couple of hours and the look on her face when she tipped the book holding the trigger..... Many Thanks.