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Secret Compartment Box

Heather Galaxy assembles and decorates a magical secret compartment box.

Heather Galaxy is not your typical librarian. She is a young and funky do-it-yourself kind of gal who uses her bookbinding skills to assemble and decorate a magical secret compartment box.


scalpel blade
PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue
bone folder
awl (optional)
calculator (optional)
decorative paper/paper backed fabric/faux fur
ribbon, wire, microbeads, sequins, buttons, etc.


1. Decide what size you want your box to be (width, height, depth). Be careful of every measurement you make, that you are always cutting straight lines with 90-degree angles, and always take into account the material you will be covering your box in, as that will effect your measurements. Precision is key.

2. Cut bottom the width (w) and depth (d) of the piece out of bookboard.

3. Cut side pieces. Two side pieces will measure height (h) x d. The other two side pieces will be h x (d - 2 board thicknesses (bt)). The final height of the completed box will be h + 2bt +1/2 inch, so take this into account when you are measuring to get the exact height you want.

4. Glue the side pieces on top of your bottom piece to create an uncovered box. Sand down any minor inconsistencies, but recut anything mismeasured or miscut.

5. Cut the decorative paper/fabric for the covering. The piece will measure 2d + 2w + 1/8 inch x 2h + 2bt + 1/2 inch.

6. Wrap this piece around from one edge, putting a thin layer of glue on each piece you wrap, making sure 1/4 inch is hanging off the bottom of the box. Press with your bone folder to smooth it out, being careful not to burnish delicate paper/fabric. Cut off any excess.

7. Cut along the corners of the paper/fabric until you reach the board. Glue down the bottom pieces, opposite sides in first, mitering the edges of the other two opposite sides before gluing them down.

8. On the top overhang paper/fabric, cut 1 bt from each side of your four separated top pieces, stopping 1 bt away from the box. Miter each corner, cutting the paper/fabric from the corner of the box to the cut, making a sliver of paper/fabric go away.

9. Glue the paper/fabric (do opposite sides first), and press to the inside, making sure it goes from corner to corner and 1/4 inch on the bottom.

10. Cut a piece of paper/fabric w x d and glue to the outside bottom of the box.

11. Cut a piece of paper/fabric (w-2bt) x (d-2bt) and glue in the inside bottom of the box. Make sure that it fits inside as the paper/fabric might have added some extra bulk and will need to be recut accordingly. You now have one covered box! This will be the outermost, exterior box.

12. To make ledges to hold up the inner box, measure how high you want your space to be in between the boxes. Anything more than 1 inch high will be unconvincing as a secret compartment, but will work well for trays. Cut two pieces ledge height (Lh) x (d-2bt).

13. Cut paper/fabric (2 Lh + 2bt + 1/2 inch) x (d + 1/2 inch). Glue board and center on paper, folding and gluing opposite sides in and then mitering and gluing the other two sides down. Glue the uncovered side of the ledges to opposite ends inside the box.

14. To get your measurements for your inside box, measure the inside width and depth from your outside box. The height will be the measurement from the top of the ledge to the top of the outside box - 1 bt + 1/2 inch.

15. Repeat steps 2 through 11 but with your new measurements, taking into account any additional bulk the new paper/fabric will make. The two boxes should now slide snugly together with ease.

16. To make a tray, create ledges for the inner box as per steps 12 and 13. Then repeat steps 2 through 11 again to create a new box with measurements that equal the width and depth of the inside of the inner box, and a height of the top of the ledge to the top of the inner box - 1 bt. To make dividers (which double in function as pulls), cut pieces to the size you wish, cover fully, and glue down.

17. For the top, cut a top piece that is the same width and depth as your original bottom pieces. Again, follow steps 2 through 11, with the height of your sides as 1/2 inch. If you want to add a pull on top, create a hole with an awl and put on your pull after covering the top of the box but before you cover the bottom of the box top.

18. All in all you are creating three boxes (four if you made a tray), that fit all together to create a secret compartment box. Decorate any way you wish.

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