Secret Compartment Floating Shelf




Introduction: Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

About: I'm a husband, dad, contractor, woodworker, tinkerer and all around busy dude. That said, I put projects out when I can. A weekly basis is a dream that one day I hope to attain. I love making things, build...

A friend needed a floating shelf that had a secret compartment for some of their important items. We decided to use reclaimed wood for the finish. And this is how I made it!

Step 1: Check Out the Build Video.

Here's the build video so you can see the hidden compartment shelf in action. You can also see the build a little more in depth. Now for the fun stuff, let's make this secret compartment floating shelf!

Step 2: Join Your Panel Pieces.

The first thing I did was join down the pieces that would make up the panels. The jointer puts a perfectly straight edge on the reclaimed wood, so when you glue them up the splices are tight.

Step 3: Rip Your Splines.

Then I ripped some splines out of an old piece of oak hardwood flooring I salvaged from one of my remodels. These splines slip into a groove on the panel pieces I'll cut in the next step. They hold the panel together really well, and keep the panel lined up when you glue it together.

Step 4: Rip Your Grooves.

Then I set up a feather board and ripped some grooves on both sides of the panel pieces. These grooves hold the splines chat I cut above.

Step 5: Glue Up Your Panels.

Then I glued up all of my panel pieces and splines. Making sure to get glue on every surface that came into contact with another surface.

Step 6: Clamp Up the Panels.

Then I clamped up the panels outside while I worked on the rest of the project in the shop. I use scrap pieces as cauls. Cauls help keep the panel lined up during the glue up.

Step 7: Cut Your Box Pieces.

Then I cut all the pieces for the interior box on the radial arm saw.

Step 8: Finger Joint the Interior Box.

I put finger joints on all the interior box pieces and glued them up. I let the glue set up over night to ensure a strong joint. Making sure everything was square before they dried of course.

Step 9: Box Joint Glue Up.

Here's an image of me gluing up the box or finger joints. I didn't use any fasteners, just glue.

Step 10: Cut Your Box Top & Bottom.

Then I ripped to width, and cut the top and bottom of the box pieces to length on the table saw sled.

Step 11: Finish the Interior Box.

Then I glued up the top and bottom of the box, and pinned them with finish nails. If you want something stronger, you can use screws as well. But this was good enough for the girls I know.

Step 12: Drill the Hinge Holes.

I used euro cabinet hinges which need a pocket in the bottom door panel. I pre-drilled those holes into that panel on the drill press.

Step 13: Attach the Hinges.

Then I attached the hinges to the bottom door panel and the back wall of the interior box. I used 1/2" screws to attach the hinges.

Step 14: I Smoothed Out the Panels.

The panels were a little rough and had some glue squeeze out after the glue up. So I knocked down any high spots and dried glue with a jack plane.

Step 15: Cut Your Panels to Length.

Then I cut my top panel, bottom panel and side pieces to length. I mitered the side pieces (shown in the video) so you didn't see any end grain. The top panel overlaps the side pieces. And the bottom panel fits inside the side pieces to hide the secret compartment.

Step 16: Attach the Reclaimed Wood Pieces, or Thick Veneer.

Then I attached the side pieces with glue and finish nails. And attached the top and bottom panels the same way. I don't show it in the images, but I had to chamfer the back of the bottom door panel to clear the wall when it opened. This is a design problem I didn't work out before I built it. But it ended up working just fine.

Step 17: Attach the Magnetic Lock and Secret Stuff Holders.

Then I used this magnetic child lock as the opening mechanism. I was really happy because it worked surprisingly well. I also screwed on some velcro and a couple other clips and things to keep the secret stuff attached to the bottom door panel. This really helps so that your stuff isn't falling out when you open the secret compartment. These attachment points will be unique to the stuff you're hiding!

Step 18: Drill a Hole for Your Magnet.

This is a decorative block my wife made a while back. She donated it to make up the key. I drilled a hole in the back of it to fit the magnet that would engage the lock. It works well because you don't see the magnet unless you pick up the key.

Step 19: Glue Up the Magnet.

I then glued the magnet into the decorative block key with some super glue.

Step 20: Attach the Secret Compartment Shelf and You're Done!

I attached the reclaimed wood secret compartment shelf with 6 lag bolts into the wall studs. Two lags into each stud. And it's ready to use! Just run the key under the magnet, push up a little, and bam. All your stuff is right there! You can see it in action in the video I posted above. I also put a notch in the bottom of the front panel so I could quickly feel for and find the location of the key. That isn't necessary, but it makes it really easy to open quickly in the dark.

And that's it! Thanks for checking this one out, and we'll see you on the next one.

— Adam



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    66 Discussions

    Awesome shelf!! Great idea and plans this is a must build i must say!

    So darn neat. Love your videos and straightforward tone as well. Favorited and subscribed

    I think its great. I will try it.


    I feel as though I have just WON LOTTO lookin at this...
    Fantastic shelf makin stuff!!!

    I want to go out and buy all this stuff n make hidden shelves...The only problem, My landlord won't allow added shelving...LOL

    I hope I am not too silly on here but I have been dreamin of these sorts of shelves for years..


    3 replies

    You could make some freestanding shelves. Or add some legs, change the dimensions a bit and turn it into a coffee table.

    Good idea but a coffee table is easy to carry.. Unlike the shelf that is screwed to the wall..

    I'm still gettin excited even reading about this stuff again....LOL

    Just call me CrAzY...

    Thank you

    You could mount your shelf like this:


    1 year ago

    If you cover the bottom of that decorative item with felt the key *should* still work, and in the off chance that someone knocks the thing over, they won't notice the big magnet and think, "Huh, I wonder what this is for?"

    Will you make me three of them??

    I'm glad, Josehf! I didn't enter into any contests, I wasn't sure how that worked. But I entered it into the Epilog contest since you commented. I need to poke around to get the lay of the land.

    If you go to Forums and scroll down to the bottom it has a list of the up and cumming contests so you can plan posting your Instructables in multiple contests.

    Win a prize or not I like to support sponsors with entries.

    Built a similar shelf and used a mag-lock with a 1500lb. release. Used a small button as a release control that was hidden on the top surface of the shelf and stained the same colour as the shelf. Battery back-up keeps the system working, if needed, in a power failure. Good plan.


    1 year ago

    Good enough for the girls I go out with? Could you loan me some tap water?

    Nice 'ible, I may have to adapt the design to my sense of decor and try this out myself!

    I don't have a shop with tools to make this...can you come over...better yet can you bring me one...wink...

    Nice, didn't know how to like, but like.

    Can we get a little more detail on how you attached shelf, I am assuming that the drawer was open and you attached that way

    I wish someone would have told me about instructables earlier.

    1 reply

    Hi Adam, did you build your table saw guides? if so, will you do an instructable for them :)? If purchased can you tell me where? I am terrified of table saws due to an accident that took two of my fingers last year. This would make me feel much better about being creative again. This is a very cool shelf, thanks for sharing! #flippinthebirdforlife