Hidden Drawer Tutorial


I built this dresser for my home back in 2009, and at that time I was very inspired by the veneer work that Tom Schrunk was doing in collaboration with Steinway for their “Art Case” pianos.

I was also inspired by the mechanical woodworking being done by Matthias Wandel of Woodgears.ca.



The hidden drawer is controlled by a bolt on the back side of the upper right drawer box.  Before you can activate the hidden drawer system, you need to unlock the bolt with the correct combination.  


Lets be honest, I didn’t invent the pad lock and I wasn’t the first person to build one out of wood either.  If you’re interested in a detailed explication of  how to build the lock, click here.

What I did with this particular project was expand on the idea.  The combination lock is the first step of a series of actions that opens a hidden drawer located within the toe kick of the cabinet.

Below is an illustration of how this lock can be incorporated into any furniture piece with a stack of drawers by taking advantage of the 1” void between the drawer slides and side of the cabinet.


From (01:08-01:10)  in the video, you can see how after the combination has been entered, the lever that controls the bolt is now able to pass through the lock.  Now with the bolt fully extended, when you push the top drawer back into the cabinet, the hidden drawer pops out.


The top section is made out of a 1/2” thick piece of wood that is 2.75” wide by 8” long.  There is a Blumotion soft close plunger inset into the point of contact where the bolt hits the block of wood.

The block is connected to a 8” KV8400 full extension drawer slide.  On the back side of the wood block there are two additional Blumotion soft close plungers.  These act as a soft backstop; eliminating any clunking or banging.



Both sections are connected with 1/4” nylon rope.  Click here to see a trick for cutting nylon rope without it fraying.



The bottom section is very similar to the top, except that when the hidden drawer is closed, the 8” drawer slide is in the extended position.


There is constant back tension created by a spring that pulls the bottom slide back to the extended position.  From (00:30-00:40) in the video, you’ll notice how the top drawer springs back open after its been pushed in.  When the bolt on the back is retracted, the top drawer box is able to function normally.




Dresser w/ Hidden Drawer

Dresser with Hidden Drawer

This is a short little pitch video I put together for one of the editors at Fine Woodworking. The beginning part of the video was filmed on the iPhone about a month ago, but the furniture spin at the end is from 2010.  The wood lock was something I saw on Matthias Wandel’s website.  I thought it would be fun to incorporate it into a piece of furniture and have it control a hidden drawer.  The video below shows what I came up with.

Showing Mike Prom this dresser is what got us talking about how we were going to take the hidden drawer concept to the next level.  That evening we started sketching the custom bookcase and its elaborate hidden drawer mechanism.

Image Gallery

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

Furniture Spin [Video]

My favorite part about making custom furniture is the marketing aspect of it. I invest a lot of time and energy making videos that showcase my work with the help of my buddy Josh Van Patter. It is a really fun way to get the word out to a lot of people that there is a young guy in the Twin Cities who is making high-end custom furniture.

6 hours of heavy lifting for 7 seconds of footage, I love it!