Hidden Drawer Mechanism

Custom Hidden Drawer Bookcase

How the Locking Mechanism was designed

The hidden drawer mechanism was designed by both myself and my friend Mike Prom. We came up with the original concept one evening when we had two too many cocktails out in the front porch.

I had heard about the desk in “National Treasure 2” from a customer a couple months earlier, but I hadn’t seen it.  After we started talking about it we watched it instantly on Netflix. We skipped to the scene in that movie and paused it several times to see if we could get anything useful out of it, we didn’t. I am pretty sure that Hollywood’s design doesn’t actually work in real life.

Mike sells high-end AutoCAD software to companies like Case and Caterpillar. He also does consulting for these companies, teaching them how to use the programs he sells. So in other words, he is very proficient. The mechanism was first conceptualized on paper, and then designed, using a program called Inventor.

cad hidden drawer mechanism

Mike was able to provide me with 3d drawings with dimensions of every piece of the mechanism.  Two of the linkages failed during the preliminary stages of construction, so we had to redesign them for a second time, and then again for the third and final time.  About 40hrs later, I had it working.  I shot a short “bootleg video” and put it on YouTube, and then posted it to FaceBook so Mike could see it in working condition.  One week later it had 8,000 views.

“Bootleg Video” posted to facebook:

How the Hidden Mechanical Locking Mechanism works

The hand-crafted custom bookcase requires you pull open each of the visible drawers, before a hidden control springs out and allows you to trigger the secret compartment built into what looks like a normal molding.

To make things more complex, each of the drawers must be pulled out to a certain point before the latches they control slide out of the way, similar to how the pins in a regular lock work.  That finally allows a length of wooden dowel to slide out – hidden, normally, as a knot in the wood itself – and when you twist it and then push it back in, a cable tracked around the back of the cabinet allows the hidden drawer to spring out.

Plans Now Available

Update: I have made the plans for the hidden drawer locking mechanism available for $8.99.

Hidden Mechanism

The Final Edited Video

With the help of Josh Van Patter, Chris VanKlei, and Justin Bullis, we brought the bookcase into the basement of the Northrup King building in NE Minneapolis.  The building was at one time used as a nuclear fall out shelter.

Chris and I took care of getting the bookcase delivered and set up, Josh did all the filming and video editing, and Justin took care of the lighting and photography.  Mike Prom did all of the 3D animations for the video.

Bookcase w/ Hidden Drawer

custom bookcase

View the Bookcase Featured Project


  1. So any chance you are willing to share the plans?

      • So awesome I would love to purchase these diagrams.
        Thank You

      • I was wondering what type of locks are these? Do they have a name? I looked at you pictures and don’t understand how a drawer going side to side can move levers up an down.

    • What are the measurements for the bottom part of the drawer and if you could please make the measurements of the mechanism or plans for it at least that would be great. I am a student at Graham High School and I would like to know how you built this so I could make a coffee table that has this hidden compartment.

  2. Hello, summer is over, I’m also interested in this plans, is it possible to get them? thx wf

  3. You seriously amaze me. The locking mechanism is genius and it is awesome to see it in such an elegant bookcase. I look forward to your future projects as well!

  4. Simply gorgeous man, what a work of art inspired by genius! As I watched the movie, being a mechanic myself I wondered how hard it would be to actually do, as I watched the mechanisms’ mesh with each other I was amazed, what a first rate job, and kudos to you and your help for doing what could be done, albeit with a little intuition and I bet a lot of perspiration, when one puts their (above average? ) mind to it!
    Just to summarize, I think you have outdone yourself and am sure even the master “Leonardo da Vinci” would want to purchase two, one to take apart and re-work, the other to hide his plans in.
    Regards, Bruce L.

  5. This is probably the most amazing woodworking project I have seen. I ran into this on instructables.com and have been amazed ever since. I would love to get the plans from you if at all possible. I am working on a Physics project and this would be great for it! Thanks

  6. Absolutely incredible! I am also interested in purchasing plans to the bookcase. Its a retirement project for me, and would be great fun to build. Please let me know if you have plans available for purchase.



  7. Hello,

    I am an amature furniture maker. So far I have built several fairly large pieces and everyone seems satisifed with them. I came accross your video while cruising the web for new ideas. All I have to say is “Well Done!” That piece is truely inspiring. My jaw dropped when I saw your finished product.

    I’m still mastering the fine art of finish work myself. Any tips on how to get a stain to look great would be appreciated. Keep up the good work!

  8. Excellent videos. Well done.

  9. Hi, Would you consider a paying customer? I am very interested in your design, but I am no wood worker and would like you to make a item for me. Not sure if you get my email when I post so, its darqwolf at msn dot com.



  10. Would seriously love to have a set of the plans, is there anything in the works for publishing them yet?

  11. Hey, was wondering if the plans for this are out yet?

    • Hi Russell, the plans can now be purchased here for $8.99

  12. hi there..i must say what you did really amazed me ..your truly a master ! hope you could share your masterpiece.. thx

  13. Brilliant!
    I wonder if the scantlings could be reduced to make it even more nondescript. Most false compartments reveal themselves by being too thick. The overall scale of the bookcase though works well to hide the undiscovered spaces. I want to buy the plans!


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