How-to: Book with a Secret Compartment

A book with a secret compartment will keep your treasures safe.My six-year-old daughter is obsessed with Nancy Drew. If it’s daylight, she has a Nancy Drew novel in her face, and if it’s nighttime, she likely has a Nancy Drew novel and a flashlight snuck under the covers with her.

I have vetoed her idea to pry a floorboard loose to hide stuff under, and her idea to cut a hole in the wall to make a secret room, but when she asked me to make her a book with a secret compartment inside?

Well, here’s the tutorial, so that you can make one, too.

This project is an easy one, but it’s surpisingly messy, so be warned. You will need:

  • A book. It doesn’t have to be old, but it should be thick. It should also be boring, because if anyone is ever, and I mean EVER, tempted to actually pick up your book and open it, then your secret treasure will immediately be revealed.
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Small self-healing cutting mat
  • X-acto knife. Put a fresh blade in, and have another blade handy. Paper is notorious for dulling blades, and you’ll be cutting through a lot of paper here.
  • Mod Podge. You’ll notice that I used glitter Mod Podge, but that’s because this book is for my six-year-old daughter. Feel free to use the plain kind for yourself.

1. Make sure that your book is much thicker than the depth you want the secret compartment to be. The secret compartment will blend in better if it’s comprised of only part of the book, not the entire thing.

2. Open your book to a point a couple of chapters in. This will be the top of your compartment. Measure down from that point to the maximum depth of your compartment, then open the book at that point and slide the self-healing cutting mat between the pages. This will keep you from cutting too far.

3. Use your pencil and ruler to draw the length and width of your secret compartment right on your top page. My secret compartment is curvalicious because my six-year-old daughter drew the cutting lines, but it’s a useful example to show you that your compartment could be any shape.

Make sure to leave at least an inch margin between the edge of your compartment and the edge of the page on all sides. This width will give your compartment structural integrity and keep the pages in place properly.

4. Use the x-acto knife to cut along the cutting lines and cut out all the pages between the top of the compartment and the self-healing cutting mat below. Cut from the corner to the middle on all lines to keep your corners neat, and don’t feel that you have to press down too hard- that will just cause you to cut messily.

And speaking of messy- you are going to get tiny little paper confetti everywhere as you cut. It will waft all over. You will need to vacuum later. Now you know.

Make a few passes around the entire perimeter of your cutting lines, then remove the middle of the pages that you’ve cut through. You’ll likely find that you’ve cut down perhaps one-quarter of an inch or so. Use the walls that you’re building as you cut deeper to guide your x-acto knife as you repeat your cuts, cutting away about one-quarter of an inch at a time.

5. When you reach the cutting mat, remove the rest of the middles and slide your cutting mat out. The first uncut page below the mat is the bottom of your secret compartment.

Paint the inside of your compartment with Mod Podge.6. Put the book somewhere where you can work on it, but also where you can leave it undisturbed for a day. Take the time to make any last adjustments, making sure that the outside of the book doesn’t sag and isn’t crooked.

7. Paint the inside of the secret compartment with one layer of Mod Podge. Use a paintbrush, or your finger, and apply it thickly to the sides of the compartment, letting it seep between the pages of the book. Let this layer dry completely, then repeat twice more.

After the Mod Podge has cured, it will hold the secret compartment together very securely at the sides and the bottom. If you’d like to make it even more special, you can now line the compartment with velvet or antique linen, leaving excess at the sides to fold over your treasures.

Put the book on your bookshelf, and when Nancy Drew comes knocking and asking about your treasures, whatever you do, don’t look in that direction!

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Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.


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