Toy Chest secret compartment

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Blog entry by Eric_S posted 05-04-2015 01:30 PM 3401 reads 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m not going to do a blog of the entire build, but I thought the secret compartment was worthy of one. So here it is. Yes, I know it’s not secret anymore by posting this but this was more for fun and as a learning project than for hiding anything of value.

I’ve been slowly working on two blanket chests of my own design since sometime in the Fall 2014. The idea was one was going to be for a blanket chest for the master bedroom and the other would be given to my son at his two year birthday( May 13).

My wife thought it would be a cool thing to have a secret compartment in the chest for fun. My first thoughts, “oh that would be cool, I’ve always wanted to do one, but how the hell do I add one to a box?” I spent about a month in my free time coming up with what you see in the pics. I got the idea to use a magnet for this after seeing some childproof locks that work with a hinge and a magnet. Mine is a deadbolt and a magnet.

Here is a pic of the first version. A magnet, a dowel, and a spring. Also a tiny piece of plastic drilled through the dowel to keep it all together.

This didn’t work out too well. The magnet was epoxied on the end of the dowel and I could easily open the panel and break off the magnet just by pulling up on the side of the chest. No good.

Next came version two. I decided to drill into a dowel(the deadbolt) and embed the magnet inside for added strength. Much better. I also used a brass bushing instead of another dowel for it to slide in.

This worked out pretty well, except the brass fitting was a little loose with some play to it. I couldn’t find one with an exact inner diameter to match my dowel. So I made a 3rd and final version(sorry no pic). I got rid of the brass and used 1/2” OD nylon bushings that the “deadbolt” can slide inside of and stay true to the locking mortise on the panel. I then drilled 1/2” diameter hole in the side of the false bottom and glued it all in place. The chipping on the plywood is on the bottom side of the false bottom and won’t be seen.

The depth to insert into the plywood and the spring length was the hardest part to get right. I needed to figure out the right spring tension to keep it locked but not too much or it wouldn’t open through 2,1/4” plywood panels(one false and one real). I bought a pack of springs from Lowes and just started playing with their lengths until I got it right with dry fits.

To open, I have a strong rare earth magnet that pushes the deadbolt inward .

I plan on making a wooden dowel version that I can hide in one of the top battens at a later point and use to unlock. The next pain point was getting it to actually lock correctly and accurately. Unfortunately I screwed this up and the mortise I made in the side panel for the bolt was off by 1/8”, or an 1/8” too large, so that panel does move up and down 1/8” if you pull it, but it won’t open on its own. I can actually lift the chest by the panel. It’s just not as secret as I would have hoped, but it does lock :) And since everything is glued together now I can’t fix it. Oh well. At least it locks and stays locked on its own.

Here it is opened…

For the chest, I needed it to still be strong even with an entire false side that slid up. That took some thought. What I ended up with was a dual panel side. Here are the legs with two sets of dado’s and one set of mortises…

The real panel is on the inside of the chest and leg and uses the mortises. It doesn’t float like all the other side panels. Instead it is glued to a smaller top rail

that hides under a false moveable top rail and has bottom tennons cut into the panel for bottom mortises. The outer panel is a rail and panel and bottom rail all glued together. The bottom rail has rabbits cut to slide in the dado with the glued up panel and top rail. The top outer false rail has a deep groove cut to allow it to sit over the real rail. Unfortunately I can’t find a pic of the entire assembly on its own, sorry.. You can see it though in the picture above of the false panel slid up on the chest(or again at the bottom of this post).

For the false and real bottom I used 3/4” plywood for the false one that would hold all the weight of whatever is inside, including my son who might find it fun to hide in, and 1/2” for the real bottom to make the bottom of the secret area. I then rabbetted the bottom rails to allow the false bottom to rest on, and dadoed the bottom of the rail for the real bottom to sit in. The real bottom panel has rabbets so its flush to the bottom of the chest. The false side bottom rail also has a rabbet to allow it to sit on this bottom panel and seal it up nice and tight and hopefully keep spiders out(doubt it).

The plan is to to build a small drawer in it and load it with some pics and other things as a sort of time capsule for Owen. We’re not going to tell him at all about this secret until his 13th birthday. Then he can open it and we can all have a laugh and then he can do whatever he wants with it.

Thanks for looking. I’ll be posting the finished project in a little bit.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

4 comments so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3755 days

#1 posted 05-05-2015 12:35 AM

Eric, that was a great idea and well executed. Thank you for the write up.

-- Art

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3672 posts in 5211 days

#2 posted 05-05-2015 03:26 AM


That certainly took some ingenuity and planning. Thanks for sharing.


-- Voltaire: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” There are 112 genders (not including male and female)

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4302 days

#3 posted 05-05-2015 12:06 PM

That is very cool. Thnx for sharing it

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4365 days

#4 posted 05-05-2015 01:00 PM

It’s the first secret compartment that I have seen in a toy box. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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