How to Make a Secret Book Safe

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I love anything with secret compartments. From the big (secret passageways) to the small (a secret pocket in a jacket), there’s just something delightful about things that are hidden away.

Which is why I’ve always been drawn to book safes. They combine my love for secret compartments with my love for books. And they’re just a lot of fun.

Book safes are an age old way to stash one’s treasures – the key to a safe, a private document, a flask, a gun. And you can use them while traveling to hide your ipod, back up cash, or other valuables from would-be thieves. And of course if you end up wrongfully imprisoned, they work as an excellent place to stash a rock hammer for tunneling to freedom (salvation lies within!).

Not only are book safes fun to possess, they also make a cool, unique gift. If money is tight this year, consider making a few book safes for your friends or family. The supplies you need only cost a few bucks, and each will take you about 2.5 hours or so to create. Here’s a step by step rundown of how it’s done.

A side note: I know there will be people who cry foul at this project-arguing that cutting up a book like this is sacrilege. I personally don’t understand that kind of fetishization of books. Books are not intrinsically sacred. These are generally books that no one wants and will otherwise go to waste. You’re not destroying the book, you’re turning it into something else. There’s value either way.

1. Buy a Book. Head to your local used bookstore and pick one up. It doesn’t have to be fancy; they always have bargain books that you can snag for just a dollar or two. Personally, I love the look of vintage books, especially for a project like this. Of course if there’s a book on your shelf that you’re not fond of and wouldn’t mind hacking up, all the better.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a book. First, consider what you’ll want to hide in it and how much time you’re willing to put into making it. Thick books will allow you to make a deeper cavity, but carving out that cavity will require more time. A thin book will hold less treasure, but necessitate less cutting time.

Second, choose a book that will fit in on your shelf. If you’ve got a shelf full of new mystery paperbacks, a large vintage medical textbook will look suspicious and out of place.

Finally, consider picking a book that people aren’t likely to pull off your shelf out of curiosity. Think The Economic History of Kazakhstan instead of The Secrets of Better Sex.

But if you’re giving the book safe as a gift, choose a volume that suits the personality and interests of the intended recipient. For Whom the Bell Tolls for Dad; Nancy Drew for little sis.

2. Gather Your Supplies. You’ll need:

  • a book
  • box cutter
  • brush
  • puzzle glue

You can also use regular glue mixed with water. I’ve seen the recommended glue/water ratio as 80/20 or 70/30. I’ve haven’t tried it myself, so you may want to experiment to get the ideal consistency. Too much water and you’ll warp the pages and book.

I also recommend grabbing a ruler to mark the outline of your secret compartment and a few extra blades for your box cutter. The blades get dull quickly and rotating and replacing them helps the cutting step go much quicker.

3. Mark off a few pages in the front. You don’t want to start carving out the secret compartment on the very first page. Leave a few pages in the front untouched, so the compartment is covered and the book looks normal when initially opened.

4. Wrap the cover with plastic bags. To keep glue off of the cover, wrap it with plastic bags. Stick one in-between the pages you marked off in the front and wrap it around the front cover. Then wrap another bag around the back cover.

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