Secret Drawer Box

January, 2011


This is a simplified and more practical version of a secret box I devised many years ago but never really built. The basic idea is that in addition to the drawers, the box has a couple of secret compartments. Small items can be moved in and out of them by rolling them through the empty spaces behind the drawers. All the drawers have stops so they can't be removed, and the path through the spaces behind them forms a simple sort of maze.

Each face is made of a different type of wood: ash, hornbeam, butternut, and cherry. The wood of the faces continues into the marquetry on the top and bottom. The whole thing is finished with shellac. I like shellac since it looks good, mistakes are easy to fix, it's a non-toxic "natural" substance, and a renewable resource. Unfortunately, in this case the color of the shellac (Liberon "lemon" shellac flakes) reduced the apparent contrast between the different woods. Next time I'm mixing light and dark woods, I'll acquire some lighter shellac.


This box has 8 drawers arranged around the sides. They're offset to make the box more interesting to look at and play with. The drawer fronts are mitered all the way around, which keeps the faces as close as possible to a single unbroken piece of wood. Although the drawer bottoms are all butternut (I ran short of the other woods due to a late design change), the sides and backs match the fronts.

The drawer pulls were kind of a pain. I'd expected that there would be plenty of variety available in small drawer pulls. Not so, apparently. These were the smallest ring pulls I could find, and even then I had the impression that I got lucky. I found very little available around that size, in any style. Unfortunately, when they arrived, the standoffs were still far too long. I cut about 1/4" off of them, and then drilled and tapped what was left in order to produce what you see here. In case you're curious, I found these at Van Dyke's Restorers. If you know of a good source for small hardware, please tell me! Modifying the hardware by hand adds some uniqueness, I suppose, but I'd be just as pleased if it wasn't necessary. :-)


Here's a shot of the inside walls, before the top was attached.

You can see the secret compartment in the center of the top. It's lined with black felt in order to prevent objects from rattling around. You can also make out the path an object must follow to get in or out of the compartment. There's a low wall at the entrance to the secret compartment which prevents objects from accidentally rolling out and being discovered when they get caught behind the drawers.

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