A secret compartment book I made in about 10 minutes using a custom tool.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

I’m definitely not the first maker to do a tutorial on how to make a secret compartment book. But I do think my way adds something a little bit special to the mix: specifically, speed.  Most tutorials suggest cutting out the compartment with an X-acto knife. It’s sharp and it’s accurate, but it’s also slow. I’ll show you how to make a secret compartment book using an oscillating multi-tool.

What You’ll Need

  • A book that’s big enough to store whatever you want to put in it, with a few pages leftover in the front and back.  Note: hardcovers work best!
  • An oscillating multi-tool. Brand is pointless.
  • A rigid scraper blade or, better yet, the custom blade I make in this video.
  • An X-acto Knife for fine-tuning the cut.
  • Glue.  I used thinned wood glue and it worked well. You can also try a special book-binding glue.
  • Clamps
  • Wax paper, for preventing the glue from binding the front and back of the book.
  • Wood scrap, metal scrap, or some other thin object you can slide between the pages to prevent your tool from cutting too far.  Don’t use anything more than 1/4″ thick.
  • Wood scraps slightly larger than the book. You’ll use them as cauls to clamp around the book so it dries in the proper shape.
  • Optional. A wooden block cut to the width and length of the compartment. You can use this as a template.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

Making the book should only take 10-15 minutes using my method, but it does has several distinct steps.

1. Select a Book

To make a secret compartment book you first need to find a book.  First of all: I don’t suggest cutting up books that are still useful, or enjoyable by someone, somewhere.  But many books (especially encyclopedias) do eventually run out of useful life.

Choose a book that’s a) no longer useful or b) has a special meaning in general, to you, or to the person that will receive it. The only hard-and-fast rule is that it must be big enough to make a useful secret compartment. Dime bags are small, but you never know what else they might to shove in there!

2. Find your Start and Stopping Points

Once you’ve selected a book you need to decide where you want your secret compartment to start and stop. You can get a little bit clever with this step.  You might choose a page with your favorite passage, or with a code-word like “secret” or “this book is totally not where I store the 8mm film of me beating up that hobo without mercy.”  The only requirement is that you leave something at the beginning of the book to cover the compartment, and you leave something at the back of the book to provide a backing.

In the book featured in this video I left 20 pages at the front and back.  Hardcover books make better secret compartments.  You can hollow out the entire book and just leave the solid covers intact.

3. Setup the Cut

Open the book to the page where you want the compartment to stop and insert the wooden scrap you’re using to prevent your tool from cutting too far. Make sure it’s pushed in far enough that it covers the entire area of the page where the cut will be made.

Next, Open the book to the page where you want the cut to start, and fold the beginning of the book as far as you can without damaging it so that it’s safely out of the way.

Clamp the book down to your work surface.  Check that the edge of the pages are still as close to straight as possible.  If your pages are arched back your compartment will be too, and your book may not close right after glue-up.

Now you can setup your cut. Either by “eye-balling it” or by using the optional template block, use the X-acto knife to cut a guide line into the top of the book.  If you do decide to make the cut without the aid of a block, just remember that the tools blade is wide and straight, so cutting a compartment with graceful curves using this method is not really an option.

Sever the first few pages with the X-acto knife.  This should provide a good visual distinction that will let you guide the multi-tool by eye so you don’t need to keep the guide block on the pages and in the way.

4. Cut the Compartment

Plug in your multi-tool and begin the cut.  Keep your blade as close to vertical as you can, and don’t take it too fast.  Using the custom blade the tool will sink straight through the pages. This is excellent for the length of the 4 sides but mind the corners.  You want to take it slow there and try not to cut outside of your guide lines.

When you reach the bottom of the cut you’ll know it. You’ll feel the tool no longer sinking through material, and when you feel that it’s time to move the tool.  Continue as such around the entire compartment.

Don’t feel like you need to completely remove every single page with the multi-tool. Remember, you still have the X-acto knife for precision, so use it to cut the corners without the risk of your multi-tool blowing through the guide lines.

5. Glue-up

Once you’re compartment is cut and you’ve cleaned it up as much as you desire with the knife, it’s time to glue up your book.  Tear off a sheet of wax paper and put it between the pages where your compartment begins. This will prevent the front and back of the book from sticking together and give the book a “hinge” action that opens it up to the compartment.

Mix up your glue.  If you chose to use wood or standard white glue, you’ll need to thin it down with water.  Make about a 3:1 mix of glue and water, and stir it until the texture is consistent.  Use a small paint brush to spread the glue around the edges of the book.  Be generous with the glue application, but try not to let it pool on the wax paper or it will cause it to stick to the book.  Apply to the edges of the top of the book as well as the bottom where the compartment is located. Before moving on, wipe away any excess glue on the covers of the book with a damp cloth.

Once the glue is applied it’s time to clamp it.  You’ll make a sandwich the materials in the following order: wooden caul, wax paper sheet, book, wax paper sheet, wooden caul.  Then clamp the book at the outer edges and allow it to dry for several hours.  If you used thinned-down glue, I’d recommend waiting overnight.

6. Touch-up

After the glue is finished drying, remove the clamps and gently peel away the wax paper. If the wax paper got stuck to the book, use your X-acto knife to delicately separate them from each other.  Gently open up your book.  If the front and back are stuck together at any point, once again use your X-acto knife to resolve the problem.

7. You Put Your Weed In It! (Or You Know, Whatever)

Congratulations! You made a secret compartment book!  Now stuff it with your filthy secrets and vices.  Don’t worry.  I won’t tell.

A custom blade I made to hollow out a secret compartment book. It cuts through hundreds of paper pages with ease.

Make a Tool for Hollowing out a Secret Compartment Book

 

I just got married, and as is tradition I needed gifts for my groomsmen. I didn’t have the time to get fancy, but I wanted to give my guys something that felt like I was thinking of them when I bought or made it.

I decided to buy a small gag gift and an engraved pocket knife, and present it hidden away in a secret compartment book (or hidden compartment book, or “you put your weed in here” book) that I chose specifically for each of them. I’ll be uploading the video and instructions for that shortly.

Most instructions for making a secret compartment book recommend hollowing out the chamber with an Xacto knife. The process is slow but it’s accurate. The claim is that using any other tool–particularly a power tool–would be too imprecise and leave a ragged edge on the paper. Those folks just haven’t found the right tool yet! My solution was to make a custom blade for my oscillating multi-tool that would handle the task.

What You’ll Need

Make the Secret Compartment Book Cutting Tool

Making a tool for hollowing out a secret compartment book is pretty easy if you have the right tools, and should take you no more than ten minutes.

Step 1: Grind off the Teeth

The first step is to use the coarse wheel on your bench grinder to knock the teeth off the edge of your blade, and create an edge that’s as close to straight as you can.  Be safe!

Step 2: Grind the Edge Smooth

We’re only concerned with the flatness and sharpness of about the last 1/16″ of the blade.  Move to the finer wheel on your bench grinder and continue to grind your blade flat. Be sure to check it for straightness before you finish the grinding step! You don’t want to make a blade with peeks and valleys, or it won’t evenly cut your book.

Step 3: (Optional) Sharpen the Edge with a Traditional Sharpening Method

At this point your blade is sharp enough, but you’ll get far better results if you use a traditional sharpening method to bring the cutting edge to a razor-sharp finish using a traditional sharpening method.  I use the Scary Sharp method, since it doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools to get started. All you need is a flat surface and a few sandpaper grits from 200 – 1,500 or higher.

Secure the sandpaper to a flat surface. Wet the paper with a spray bottle, then proceed to work the tip of the blade on each successive grit. The end result you’re looking for is a tip with a mirror finish that cuts the hairs on your arm.

Step 4: Make a Secret Compartment Book

Now that you’ve made the blade, you’re ready to use it to make a secret compartment book. That process is worth its own article, so stay tuned! But your new blade will slice through paper like a warm knife through butter, saving you hours of tedious work with an Xacto knife.