Multi-Book Secret Storage Compartment




About: My name is Jason Poel Smith. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

You are probably already familiar with the classic "Secret Book Compartment" project. On Instructables alone, you can find over 20 different variations of this project. The basic concept is simple. You hollow out a large book and you use the cutout space to hide stuff. Unfortunately, most versions of this project have one major problem. You can only hide objects that are smaller than your book. However it is possible to hide larger objects by combining multiple books into one large multi-book container.

Step 1: Select a Set of Books

There is no specific kind of book that you need to use for this project. Just about any book can work. But here are some guidelines that may help.

1. The height and depth of the books are the important dimensions of the book. The size of the cover is what limits storage space. Since you are using multiple books, the thickness of each one doesn't matter. 
2. The books do not need to be the same size, but it is convenient if they are. Sets of reference books like encyclopedias work well because they are all the same and it is a reasonable excuse to have a bunch of large books all in one spot on the book shelf. 
3. Hardback books hold their shape better than paperbacks do after being cut up.
4. The secret compartment only remains a secret as long as no one tries to read any of the books. So it helps if the book are relatively uninteresting while still looking like something that you would have on your shelf. 
5. A good source for cheap books is community book sales. Many public libraries will have a large book sale 
 once a year. On the last day of these sales the remaining books are typically sold at a huge discount. You can often get a whole bag full of books for just a few dollars.
6. Get more books than you think that you will need. You must have one unaltered book on each side of your compartment, but I recommend having two or three so that if someone is messing with books on the shelf and a few fall over, it doesn't reveal your hidden compartment.

Step 2: Measure and Mark the Dimensions of Your Cutout.

Place the object that you want to hide onto one of the books. Then mark its outline of the object with either pencil or tape.

Step 3: Cut Each Book

There are a number of tools that you could use for cutting the books. Since this project requires you to cut through entire books, including hard covers, you will probably want to use a power saw. I personally prefer to use a scroll saw for this kind of job, but other power saws can also work. Whichever tool you use, I recommend using a fine toothed saw blade. The finer the teeth, the less it will tear up the cover and the pages. 

Step 4: Glue the Books (Optional)

Gluing the cut books together will help to make them more stable and easier to move around. However, if you aren't careful, books that are glued together can look unnatural in how they sit on the shelf. So if you glue them, I recommend pressing them sitting in the position that they will be on the shelf. If you don't have a large clamp, you can press them by placing them on the self and using other objects to apply pressure to the stack of books. One example is to place them on the shelf, add more books to the shelf until it is almost full, then insert a rolled up t-shirt or towel to apply pressure to the books.

Step 5: Finished Multi-Book Container

Now just place the books on the shelf and you are ready to hide your secret spy stuff.

Step 6: Other Book Container Instructables

Here are other book container instructables (in order of views). They demonstrate a variety of materials and techniques that can be used when making this kind of project.



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    34 Discussions


    Reply 9 months ago

    I agree. I wish there was some way to make a book safe without damaging a book.


    3 years ago

    Great idea for unused books☺


    3 years ago

    This is one great way on how to clear space bookcase! Convert old books to have concealed storage in your bookshelf. Just make sure you do not need the books anymore. Otherwise, it is just a waste to cut through the books that you will still find some use.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable, and a nice variation on the theme. Thanks for sharing it.

    I have to say that I too loved that book series and think it's a crime to destroy it, but in more practical terms, if I was browsing your book shelf those would be among the first I'd want to pull out and flip through, thereby quickly discovering your hiding spot and making it useless.

    So, for anyone else that might make one of these keep that in mind. A random selection of suitably sized, and uninteresting books might make a better hiding place than a fascinating collection of really interesting books.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I grew up with those books as some of my favorites so seeing them cut up like that hurts. (Yes, they are obsolete but they still make interesting reading.)

    Now if you wanted to hide things, consider finding technical books like those associated with computer programming, web design, operating systems and various 'How to run...' topics. A lot of them tend to be rather thick and bulky. If they are on the bottom shelf in a hidden area, not many thieves will consider stealing them, especially if the are for such things as Windows XP.


    I agree with all these points. Another thing to consider is putting your safe up high, down low, or behind/under something. Old (value-less) textbooks on a bottom shelf might work really well.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is amazing! It looks just like those secret storage compartments we often see in action movies on television. It would be so interesting to see children be amazed if I were to have one at home. However, I personally feel that it is still not safe to store valuables inside because it is actually quite easy for people to find the secret box inside. If they pull any one of those fake books, then the secret is already revealed.

    Trike Lover

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Gosh, I hadn't even considered this
    as a
    worthwhile Instrructable. My current project is trying to
    build a Telecaster-pattern electric guitar using butcher-block style glued-up
    2x2 short ends of maple - a gift from a cabinetmaker friend. I'll see if I can
    think out a clear way to present the "National Geographic" method,
    although to be honest old sets of encyclopaedias are as easy or easier to come
    by, and work well (just go to any independent bookseller - and take a
    wheelbarrow, LOL).

    I did find an interesting inner steel container. I have a friend who works
    in the overhaul shop at one of the two national railroads that pass through my
    town. The cylinders and pistons of the prime movers (engines) in some of the
    locomotives are designed to be replaced "in the field", rather than
    sending the whole works back to the manufacturer. Anyhow, I saw on their scrap
    pile a very large steel cylinder liner - inside diameter about 12-14 inches,
    and about 2 feet long.

    It had been the cylinder in a V16 locomotive engine, and pulled because it
    was worn "out of round" and couldn't be machined back to usefulness.
    A bottle of Rye changed hands, and under cover of darkness I drove away with
    this large cylinder liner, to which had been welded across one end a square
    one-inch thick piece of steel plate, I don't know the source of the latter, but
    it was cut just large enough to cover the flanged end of the diesel engine
    cylinder liner and then welded on using some very heavy duty arc welding
    equipment. (Before the "payment" was opened, I hope).

    I understand that all of these discarded liners, which have a wall thickness
    of about 3/4" and are high-grade steel, are put in a scrap bin for pickup by
    a local scrap metal dealer. My piece weighed easily 70 lbs - probably more -
    before the end plate was added. I'm now trying to figure out how to fit a door
    and lock into the other end, and hoping I can get some more "after
    hours" welding done.

    Someone suggested putting the steel cylinder/vault inside a tower-type
    stereo speaker, available for next to nothing at the Goodwill shop. These were
    really common in the 1980s. The steel door
    would, of necessity, have to be on the bottom side, and a hinged wooden piece,
    probably held closed with a magnetic catch (which could double as a burglar
    alarm trigger) to hide the steel cylinder. Tip the whole thing over to get
    access - not super convenient, but do-able. There's certainly plenty of room
    inside those towers. However the steel piece is hidden, it will have to be well

    I'll see what I can do about a jig for the Nat. Geos. - pity, as we just
    took about 200 lbs of them for recycling. We have a great stack of are Yellow
    Page directories, going back several years, destined likewise but now sitting
    in a coat cupboard. I would imagine much the same technique could be used on

    I hadn't planned on using a steel cylinder liner like this one - it was sort
    of found by chance - so now I'm having to build around it.

    A local locksmith offered an interesting idea: find
    some kind of large wooden barrel flower planter, or something similar (probably
    an outdoor type planter [or a chest of drawers?]). Pour a couple of inches of ready-mix
    concrete in a form with some rebar to make a plug for the bottom, then set the
    "safe" in vertically, door up, and pour concrete all around it, up to
    the level of the top. Most D.I.Y. building stores sell "Sonotube" or
    its equivalent - it's a heavy cardboard tube in various diameters normally used
    for setting forms for post foundations, etc. It would be perfect for this, or,
    a person could bodge up a form out of heavy cardboard and lots of wire or
    strapping tape. He suggested putting
    some rebar around the steel cylinder as well, just to help keep the concrete in
    one piece. I'd also consider making a rebar'd concrete "lid" as well,
    in a separate form.

    Then, make a removable 4"-6" tray to sit on top, filled with
    vermiculite or loam, and add real or (better) good-quality artificial flowers
    or plants. Put a rubber or plastic membrane over the safe opening (in case
    someone tries to water the plants), set the tray in, and stand the whole thing
    in one corner of the front hall or living room. "Hiding it in plain
    sight", as it were. It would be an absolute stinker to move - my rough
    guess with the first planter I looked at was that I'd need three 50 lb sacks of
    ready-mix concrete. Hard for a thief to tuck under his coat, and not easy to
    move. I may just give that a try.

    Trike Lover

    Trike Lover

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Really interesting take on this idea. I have to share others' dismay about chopping up a set of the Time-Life series. A search of my local classifieds turned up over two dozen sets of mediocre encyclopedias being given away free. With a little more work, The National Geographic magazine also provides a good hide. Collections of these are so numerous that even the Goodwill won't accept them. It does mean gluing the magazines together, and reinforcing the main inner section with four 3-foot lengths of 1/4"-20 Allthread, (threaded rod) at the corners, but this is inexpensive and easy to come by. Drilling for the threaded rod works best if you make a plywood template to locate the holes, then clamp about six issues at a time between the drill guide template and another piece of plywood and drill four holes, one near each corner. In no time, you'll have three feet of NG's drilled for threaded rod, and you ccan use nuts and "fender washers" at the ends of each rod to snug all the NG's into a solid block. It's convenient to cut out the inner cavity at the same time, with 4-6 magazines clamped together, rather than trying to do it later on. You can use an Olfa cutter (razor knife), or power tools, although tearing of the pages is a problem with those. I would glue the covers also, but that's optional. Then, once all the magazines are together and secured with the threaded rod, it's simply a matter of fitting your strongbox into the hollowed out section in the middle. As with the books, you have a few loose issues at each end, perhaps stiffened with heavy cardboard. One thing that hasn't been mentioned in much detail is the inner container. If you can find a strong steel box that can be fitted with a lock, that's a "Cadillac" version. If there's an old-time locksmith in your area, see if they have any "strongboxes" that will fit your needs. Another method is to build an inner box of 3/4 inch plywood, screws, and yellow carpenters glue, A box made of this is quite strong. Again, you'll want to fit a lock on the door end. A third option is to find a length of large diameter cast iron pipe, which used to be very common and formed the "main drain" in older homes. It can be found in scrapyards, purchased "by the pound," or wheedled out of a house renovator. This large diameter pipe is thick-walled and very strong. If you can find a friendly welder, he can braze a steel plate onto one end as a cap, and probably mount a similar plate on the other end with a hinge. If you don't know a welder, you can fabricate steel discs by chain-drilling and grinding or filing some steel plate to fit, and then epoxy the resulting plug into one end with "plastic steel" epoxy. Using similar methods, you can fit the other end with a stout hinge and lock. If someone wants to get in badly enough, they will - the idea is to make it difficult to do easily or quickly, assuming that your "hide" has been discovered. There are many variations on an internal compartment, depending on available material and your imagination. Modern industrial epoxy adhesives are incredibly strong, and so should be considered as part of any home built metal "inner" chamber, even if you also rivet or bolt the sides using, for example, steel plate and angle iron. Great article - thanks for sharing.

    1 reply

    would you consider making an instructable of the national geographic bit at the beginning? your instructions are pretty clear, but pictures would be very helpful.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea, but, like so many others, I think an uninteresting series or group of books would be better. In my house, it'd probably be trashy romance novels. No one would look twice. ;-)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I think this would look nicer if you left the front/back cover on the end books, then if the bookends get moved it still isn't obvious that there is anything hidden.

    someone might accidentally pull the whole thing down while trying to browse one of those time life books.
    "OOH time life's Universe book... i've always wanted to... wait, it's stuck... maybe if i pull a little har... OOPS...OOH TREASURE!"


    6 years ago



    6 years ago on Introduction

    Cool approach for hiding your treasures, but at the expense of destroying another treasure??? I loved those books. Those were the books I gravitated towards when I was a child in grade-school. No other books held my interest as much as those; the Nature and the space series. How about substituting those books with hard-cover romance novels? Who would ever want to read those more than once?


    6 years ago

    NOOOOOOO! I love that Time Life Series??


    6 years ago on Introduction

    couldn't you find any other way of hiding .... I could no watch you cutting those LIFE Nature Library books... I have a copy of 'Universe' that is 30 years old and I still love going though the pages -- I could not afford rest then.