Introduction: Secret Library Shelf - the Book Spines Slide Away to Reveal Hidden Storage!
So this is how I built my "Secret Library" Shelf. Basically the book spines are laminated onto slats which are bound together and caught in a track inside the box, just like a roll-top desk, only sideways.
I made this using scraps and things laying around my workshop, but will do my best to mention any alternative materials and tools that can be used to accomplish the project. Also, decorating the box is entirely up to the individual builder. I had some walnut panels and trim left over from an old broken cabinet, so I used those to give it an antique feel. I don't really get into how I added the decoration because this guide is not really about how to apply trim to a box. Cool? Cool, let's get started.
To build this, you will need:
- A bunch of old, ruined books. Mine were stored under a water leak for a few decades, so I had no issues tearing the spines off to use for this project. I urge you to make sure you aren't ruining a piece of history or anything, but really, it's your life. You do you. I will say it helps ENORMOUSLY if these books are the same height and roughly the same width. Encyclopedia sets work great for this, as they are utterly useless and uniform in height.
- Some wood slats the same width as the book spines, about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick.
- Plywood or MDF 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick. I don't think solid wood is a good choice here because it will move over time and possibly knock everything out of alignment. I used some old cabinet doors for this, and they worked fantastically well.
- Thin plywood, hardboard, or other backing material. This will be for the back of the box. If you plan on wall-mounting it, then choose something with the appropriate strength.
- Screws. You'll need some to construct the sliding mechanism. These should be 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch screws with a shaft narrower than the width of your slats. The heads of the screws should be the typical, tapered wood-screw type, 1/4 - 5/8 inch wide. You'll need some more to build the case. These should be the same tapered wood screw type, but 1/2 inch longer than your plywood/mdf thickness.
- Router. This one is important. You need this to make the track in the wood where the front will slide around. Get a 5/8 inch, straight cutting bit if your hand is steady enough to freehand the track OR get the same bit with a bearing on it so you can use a template.
- Drill. Grab a bit for this that is slightly narrower than your screw shafts, One that is slightly larger or the same size as the screw heads, and another bit that can drive your screws.
-Saws. You'll need a table saw, circular saw, or any saw capable of making straight, 90 degree cuts in your plywood/mdf. You'll also need a miter saw, or any saw capable of cutting your slats to length at perfect, 90 degree perpendiculars.
- Wood glue. Also something to spread it with. (your finger works fine, if you have those.)
- Clamps. Little clamps or heavy objects that can be used to clamp the book spines to the slats.
- Cloth. A light canvas type cloth works best. I used one of those blue, kind of canvas-like reusable grocery store bags and it worked well.
- Clear coat. Mod podge, lacquer, polyurethane. in case you need to coat the book spines and protect them from being pushed around. Mine were quite old and brittle.
- Wax. Some sort of paste wax or even hand soap to lubricate the track.
- Sandpaper. You'll need to sand some stuff smooth. 80-grit, 100-grit, or 120-grit will work fine.
- Scissors. To cut up your cloth.
- Tape. Something that can hold your cloth to a surface. I used duct tape.
- Straight edge. At least as long as your box's interior length.
- circle template. Something with about a 2-2 1/2 inch radius. I used a grinding wheel, you can use a plastic cup or jar lid or whatever works.
- Pencil or other marking tool.
- X-Acto type blade.
Side note: I know I know, I made a video and i'm a youtuber so I obviously love when people watch it, BUT giving it a quick view (its only like 5 minutes long) WILL give you an advantage in this build as it shows the many techniques I used in this build in real, actual motion. Thanks and carry on.
Step 1: Planning Out Your Project Dimensions
So, the way this whole thing works, is the "tambour" (the cloth-backed bunch of slats that slides around in the track) splits in the middle, and slides away down sides of the box. So:
- you'll need the interior of your box to be as wide as the number of book spines you want to use, plus about 2 inches.
- you'll need the interior of your box to be the same height as the book spines, plus about 1/8 of an inch.
- you'll need the interior your box to be as deep as half of your box's width, minus the width of one of your book spines.
- your final outer dimensions will be these numbers plus double the thickness of your material.
I know this is a weird way of measuring, but everyone's books and boxes will be different dimensions, so this ensures the project will work regardless.
Step 2: Measure and Cut Your Materials.
- Cut your plywood/mdf to length and width using your table saw or other capable saw. You will need to add double your material thickness to the height of the sides.
- Mark and cut your slats to the height of your book spines.
Step 3: Mark and Route Your Track
- on your top and bottom pieces of plywood/mdf, about 1/2 inch in from the front and side edges, mark a straight line that runs parallel to these edges
- use your circle template to mark a round corner for your track, as shown.
- Use your router, set to a depth of about 1/4 inch to 5/8 inch, to cut exactly along the inside of your mark. If you need to, make a template and use a bearing bit. Route your track all the way around and off the back edge of the box on the top and bottom pieces of yor plywood/mdf.
- use your sandpaper to sand the inside edges of the track smooth. Also ensure the bottom is completely and evenly flat, this is very important.
Step 4: Remove the Spines From Your Books
- flex the cover of the book a bit and see if it detaches on it's own. Help it along using an x-acto blade or other sharp instrument.
- You want to get the entire spine and it's cardboard/thick paper backing separated from the pages, carefully.
- Cut away the sides of the cover if they are still attached.
- recycle the pages and covers, or save them for another project!
Step 5: Glue Up Your Spines
- add glue to each slat, spreading it thinly over the broad surface
- press the book spine down flat on the slat and clamp it in place or place a heavy object on top until dried.
- repeat for all of your spines.
Step 6: Assemble Your Box
- The box will be built using simple butt joints, with glue and screws.
- make sure to assemble it as shown, with the sides extending down to the outside edge of the box, on the outsides of the top/bottom pieces.
- pre-drill your screw holes using the narrower drill bit, then drill down into that hole slightly using the larger bit in order to "countersink" the screw head, so it will sit flush or below the surface of the box.
-Make SURE that your track on the top and bottom of the box are facing the interior of the box and run along the same edges, otherwise this will not work.
Step 7: Insert Screws Into Your Slats
- drill two holes in the top and bottom edge of each of your slats, each about 1/4 inch in from each end
- Two of your slats will be the "lead" in your tambor, and will run on its outside ends. On the slat at the leftmost of your arrangement, drill a hole in the center and the right end of the top and bottom edges. On the slat at the rightmost end, drill your holes in the center and left end of the top and bottom edges. This will allow the outside edges of these slats to overhang your track's curve a bit, to give a more realistic look and better glide.
- insert screws into your pre-drilled holes, right up until the tape begins, almost all the way in. Be careful not to split the slats.
Step 8: Test the Track / Finalize Your Arrangement
- Insert each slat into the track and run it along to where it will be positioned in the final product. They might stick a bit at this point because they want to tilt while you're sliding them.
- use the screws in each slat to eliminate any tilt or slop in their movement. The screws should be backed out so they ever-so-slightly touch the bottom of the bottom track and hold firmly in, but don't touch the "bottom" of the top track.
- Divide the slats up into two groups, right and left side, so they meet in about the middle front of the track.
- Remove the slats and set them aside according to group.
- use your soap or wax to lubricate the top and bottom track.
Step 9: Assembling the Tambour
- cut a strip of your cloth slightly shorter than the height of your slats and couple of inches wider than each group in their final arrangement
- tape this strip down to a flat work surface, you don't mind getting some glue on. Pull it tight so there are very few/no wrinkles.
- arrange the slats, long edge to long edge, on the strip, making sure they are in the proper order for the side they will run on. The cloth should almost reach the top and bottom edge of each slat, and they should be in a perfectly straight line at the top and bottom.
- flip each slat over and spread glue on the back.
- turn them back over and make sure the arrangement is exactly right, and that each long edge is touching
- place a large, heavy surface over the top of the glue-up until dry. I used another piece of plywood and a heavy weight. Just be sure it's evenly and forcefully pressured.
Step 10: Finalize the Tambour
- Remove the weights once dry, and lift it from the work surface.
- bend between each slat to free up any stray glue that may have bound up the edges.
-trim the excess cloth from the ends.
- clear coat your book spines if necessary.
- insert them into the proper side of your track, through the back.
- cut your backing material to the size of the back of the box and attach it with small screws, pre-drilling the holes
- play with the track for a while, it's fun, and your project is essentially done at this step, but you can move ahead to see how/why I chose to decorate mine.
Step 11: OPTIONAL: Decorate Your Project
I chose to use some leftover panels and trim from a broken cabinet I disassembled last year. It game my library box the "old" look I think it needed to really come to life. You can feel free to decorate yours as you see fit. I know not everyone has 100-year-old walnut trim laying around. You can use trim, edge banding, paint, finish, etc to match your personal taste.
I really didn't want this to become a guide on "how to trim out a box," as I'm sure those exist and are easy to find.
One of the main reasons I used the trim as I did was because my box was not measured out entirely properly. My edge "books" tilted slightly in and left a fake-looking gap. I used some trim to hang over the inside-front edge of the box and mask this imperfection. I made the design for this up as I went along, but this guide should help you avoid this particular mistake.
So now that your project meets your aesthetic standards, you can move on the the final step!
Step 12: Use It!
Fill up your new hidden storage with your favorite/valuable/precious things and enjoy!