"Under the Fish Tank" Hiding Place




Introduction: "Under the Fish Tank" Hiding Place

About: I love working with my hands and Instructable is just the perfect place for me to share and learn.

First of all, thanks for checking me out.

My curiosity was aroused when I saw the "Hiding Places" contest, that I started looking around the house for that perfect place.

For me, that perfect place would be something where even the smartest and most determined "crooks" least expect it. I'm talking about my two inquisitive sons. But kidding aside, I want to incorporate an element of deception into the design. It should have an easy access to the designer but presents a challenge to the unaware.

Finally, I found that place. I have been planning to build some sort of a platform for my fish tank which sits on top of my home office desk. I just thought of building some kind of a small drawer that disguises itself as a fish tank platform. The idea is for someone to think that it is just an ordinary piece of wood and not has the slightest idea that it is a secret compartment. The drawer cannot be opened easily because there is a hidden lock. However, it can be opened in a breeze if you have the "magic key". I'll show you how I installed the lock mechanism and the "magic key" later on during the build. So please read on.

Let's build it!

Step 1: The Materials

The materials that I am going to use for this Instructable are all reclaimed.

I found some pieces of a dismantled shelf along the street while walking around the neighborhood. They were obviously being thrown away for trash collection the next day.They are made of real wood so I brought them home, thinking that I can use them for a future project. The pieces look like they came from an adjustable shelf because the shelf uprights are full of holes for the pins. For this Instructable, I think I can make these holes work in our favor. I would use the thicker wood for the base frame and the thin ones for the drawer. I am going to use the metal pins for a special purpose here.

A piece of beadboard paneling from a kitchen project would serve as the bottom of the drawer. Scrap pieces of plywood for the top and bottom of the platform. I can also use some scrap pieces shelf liner.

List of Reclaimed Materials Used:

1. Shelf uprights

2. Shelf supports

3. Shelf pins

4. Shelf liner(optional)

5. Scrap pieces of plywood and beadboad paneling

6. Felt pads

Step 2: The Plan

The platform under the fish tank shown in the Sketchup plans is what the finished project should look like.

Overall, this should be an easy build for anyone with basic woodworking skills. It can also be done with basic hand tools like a miter saw box and handsaw. To save some time, I am going to use my table saw and miter saw to do the cuttings.

Here's the basic plan of what we should expect during the construction :

1. After getting the measurements, the first part of the build is to construct the base. It consists of the plywood for the bottom and three wood pieces for the sides.

2. The next one to tackle is the drawer itself. The two sides of the drawer are dadoed into the front piece to have a stronger joint. I would cut the sides of the drawer 1/16" shorter in height than the sides of the base to make sure that the drawer won't bind.

3. Install a piece of plywood for the top. 1/8" or 1/4" thick is ideal. This plywood would make the platform more sturdy.

4. Drill 5/16-inch hole for the locks.

4. Finally, do some sanding, paint, and you're done!

Step 3: The Build (1. the Base)

Measure the width and depth of the fish tank. That would be the measurements of the base. The base consists of three pieces of wood and one piece of plywood. Construction is like constructing a basic box minus the front piece. The backside of the setup is hidden from plain view so I just butt-joined the back piece to the two sides. The other ends of the two sides are cut on a 45-degree angle.

I initially used pocket screws to join the sides to the back piece but the holes on the wood prevented me from doing so, so I just butt-joined the pieces and used regular screws. All holes will be filled, sanded smooth, and painted anyways.

I made sure that the frame is square then I fastened the plywood using glue and some brad nails.

Step 4: The Build (2. the Drawer)

Cut all the sides of the drawer 1/16" shorter in height than the sides of the base. This is to make sure that the drawer won't bind.

Instead of making a box for the drawer, I simplified the construction by cutting dadoes to the drawer front.The two sides of the drawer are dadoed into the front piece to have a stronger joint.

I used a half-lap joint to join the two sides to the back piece. I cut some grooves on the drawer front and the two sides to accept the bottom panel.

Assemble the drawer and do a dry fit to make sure that the drawer can slide smoothly into the base.

I carefully glued all the parts together, making sure that I won't put glue into the grooves for the bottom panel.

I now inserted the bottom panel and used some brad nails to attach it to the back piece.

Clamped the whole setup and allow the glue to dry.

Step 5: The Build (3. the Hidden Lock)

The hidden lock is a very simple but an effective concept. I am going to use the metal shelf pins as locks. The metal shelf pins would prevent the drawer from being opened but one can easily do so using a neodymium magnet. Your key to open the drawer is the magnet.

With the drawer securely clamped in the base, I carefully drilled a 5/16-inch hole to the side of the base through the side of the drawer. I made sure that I drilled perpendicular to the base. I found that a 5/16-inch drill bit is the right size for the pin. It's not too tight and not too loose. I now inserted the shelf pin into the side of the base through the side of the drawer. Test it by using the magnet. The pin should detach easily by using the magnet. Do the same thing on the other side of the base.

You have the option of having just one lock. I prefer to have them on both sides to make it symmetrical and less suspicious. The shelf pins serve as locks and also holds the drawer in place.

Step 6: The Build (4. the Magnet Drawer Pull)

As I pointed out before, we can use the shelf pin holes to work in our favor. Insert one of the metal shelf pins in the center hole. Mark it and use a hacksaw to cut it to size. I cut it a little bit smaller than the hole. Insert the pin into the hole and drive it further using a nail set. One shelf pin is enough for the neodymium magnet to pull the drawer but I inserted a couple more to have more pulling power.

With the shelf pins in the holes, you can now test the Magnet Drawer Pull. Place the neodymium magnet in front of the drawer. The magnet should be able to pull the drawer easily.

Step 7: The Build (5. Finishing)

I traced the base into a piece of plywood and cut it to size. I attached it to the top using glue and some brad nails.

I filled all the holes and gaps with wood filler, did some sanding, and spray painted it black to match my fish tank. I used some left-over shelf liner for the drawer and I put some felt pads under the base.


Step 8: The Build (5. the Before and After)

Before, my fish tank just sits on a boring piece of styrofoam. I always dust off my desk because of tiny bits of pieces from the deteriorating styrofoam. It was an eyesore, to begin with.

After building the platform, I can now utilize and enjoy it with a hidden drawer. I guess it's no longer hidden after I revealed its secret.

As you can see from the pictures and the video, the platform with the black paint naturally blends in with the color of the fish tank disguising itself as just an ordinary platform.

Step 9: Some Final Thoughts

I totally enjoyed the whole building process. The bonus was that I did it without spending a dime on materials.The materials I used were bound for the landfill after they have served their purpose. It really was a great feeling to be able to use them again to make another creation. Using reclaimed materials is always the best!

Hiding Places Contest 2017

Participated in the
Hiding Places Contest 2017

Reclaimed Contest 2017

Participated in the
Reclaimed Contest 2017

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    2 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Wow, this is such a neat idea! I wouldn't even think to have a small hidden storage space underneath a fish tank. I'm thinking of making the same thing for my vanity/dresser - I can store valuable jewelry, watches, and makeup on my dresser.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for the comments Frankie! Yes, you are right. You can design a secret drawer like this to anything that has a platform. I might design something like what you said that for my daughter.