How to Make a Secret Compartment in Woodworking

Written by mark morris
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How to Make a Secret Compartment in Woodworking
One way to keep your valuables safe is with a secret compartment in your woodwork. (Cash image by Studio Pookini from

Secret compartments are the stuff of legends. Hidden treasures and documents, leading to great adventures, have fuelled a lot of exciting fiction through the years. While a secret compartment may not hide anything that exciting in your home, a hiding place can be handy for valuables. Making your compartment blend in is the key to a successful secret compartment in your woodworking. A library panelled wall or other area with repeating framed panels is the simplest place to make the installation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pry bar
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • 1/2 inch plywood
  • Drywall knife
  • 2-by-4s
  • 1/4 inch plywood
  • Drill
  • 3 inch screws
  • Concealed hinges
  • Magnetic catch

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  1. 1

    Remove the moulding around the edges of the panel where you intend to install the hidden compartment. Use a thin chisel ,or small pry bar to remove it. Pull the nails through the back to preserve the face. Cut along the very outside edge of the inset panel with a fine tooth blade on a circular saw. Leave an inch at each corner uncut to prevent notching the moulding surrounding the panel. Cut this remaining part with a jigsaw. Lift this panel out.

  2. 2

    Cut a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to the same size as this panel. Attach the panel to the face of the plywood with construction adhesive, with all four edges flush.

  3. 3

    Cut out the drywall behind the cut out panel with a drywall knife. Cut any studs that are in this area with a reciprocating saw where they intersect with the top and bottom of the hole where you cut to remove the panel. Make a four sided frame of 2-by-4 to fit inside the outline of the panel you cut out. Screw the four corners together with 3 inch treated deck screws. Mark and cut out a ¼ inch plywood bottom for this tray the same size as the outside of the four sided frame. Staple it to the back of the frame.

  4. 4

    Fit the frame into the hole, with the plywood back to the inside, and attach it to the cut studs with 3 inch treated deck screws to hold it in place. You should now have a square or rectangular hole in the panelled wall with a plywood back.

  5. 5

    Attach two concealed hinges to the back of the panel you cut from the wall earlier along one vertical side. Bore a hole with a ¾ inch paddle bit, 5/8 inch deep for each hinge. Use wood screws. Attach the other side of the hinges to the face of the 2-by-4. Align the hinges so that the panel will rest flush with its original position. Attach with 1 ¼ inch deck screws.

  6. 6

    Add a spring loaded magnetic cabinet type catch to the 2-by-4 on the side opposite the hinges, with the metal plate on the back of the panel. Use the type that you push in on to release and spring the door open.

  7. 7

    Apply a 1/8 inch bead of construction adhesive to the face of the panel around the edge. Realign the moulding around the edge of the panel, so that when the door is closed it will hide the gap between panel and surrounding trim. Clamp in place with squeeze clamps for several hours. Wipe excess adhesive from the panel with a rag dampened in white spirit.

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