Crocus Hill Custom Kitchen

We knew we wanted to make a big impact with this kitchen. This video showcases the final product of our collaborative efforts.

The builder I did this kitchen for is also one of my best friends, and we both started our companies at the same time in 2005. Chris Van Klei and I both have a design forward approach and are really passionate about what we do.  It’s always really fun working together.  At times we tend to go a little overboard, which is why I believe we were able to survive in the down economy and come out on the other end working on projects like this one.

This particular project was a unique opportunity for the both of us to plant our flags.  This house is one of two custom homes in a new 12 lot development in historic St. Paul’s Crocus Hill neighborhood.  We were going to be working along side some big name builders and architects and with that in mind, the design process began.

Design concepts always start out as a sketch. This kitchen was modeled after a similar project I completed a year earlier.  The question was, how do we take this to a whole new level?  That is where Mike Prom came in.  Mike was the mastermind behind the uber complicated hidden drawer mechanism that I built back in  2010.

Mike is a CAD wizard with a background in mechanical engineering.  He has been helping me out a tun with drafting and design work since I got started.  Like Chris, Mike is also one of my best friends.  The best projects that I work on are always a collaboration between multiple creative minds working towards the same end goal.

After Chris and I had the concept for this kitchen polished up, Mike and I started designing the hood using parametric modeling software.

Mike lives in Portland and I live in Minneapolis, so we had to do our meetings together online using  Mike designed/modeled the hood and island legs using a CAD software called Inventor by Autodesk.  I was able to view his screen on my screen, and we were able to communicate though the microphone and speakers built into our computers.  Together we spent several nights collaborating on how we wanted those parts to look and be constructed.

Here are some renderings showing the progression.





After we completed the design work, Mike put me in touch with a contact of his who runs the CNC at a nearby, large scale production wood shop.  We handed off the .dxf files to him and he nested the parts and routed everything out for us.

Leg_DrawingAfter that it was simply a matter of piecing everything together and filming time-lapses of the process.  All the parts were routed out of 3/4″ MDF.  I glued, screwed, bondo’ed and sanded up each section, working from the inside of the assembly outward.






After the bones of the top section were assembled, I laminated the face with 3/8″ bending plywood.  These parts were also cut to the exact size and shape on the router, so all I had to do was line it up and screw it down.


After the glue dried, I puttied all the screw holes and edges with automotive bondo and sanded them flush.  The final step was to veneer over the bending plywood.  For this, I used paper backed veneer and contact adhesive.   I started with the sides, and finished with the face.  The applied molding was nailed on and I was finished.


We designed this hood to be easy to install.  There were two hangers built into the top section of the hood so it could be installed the same way you would install a cabinet.  We also designed the back sides of the legs to have voids so that cleats could be attached to the wall and nailed into through the sides of the legs.



Designed & Made – Brian Grabski [video]

Video Credits

Filming by Joshua VP and Brian Grabski
Editing and Color by Joshua VP
CAD drawings and animations by Mike Prom
Robotics by Peter Kerwin
Music by Mexicans with Guns – Death and Rebirth


Multi-Use Chair/Table

Multi-Use Chair/Table

What are the Whiskey Sessions?

The answer: Kicking it with my good friend Mike Prom, drinking Knob Creek, talking shop, and sketching out big ideas.  The by-product of the first Whiskey Session was the hidden drawer mechanism that we collaborated on.  Now we are working on our second project, a Mulit-Use Chair/Table.  The design is pretty much ready to rock, and I will be starting on the prototype very soon.  Once the prototype is complete, we may potentially do a production run of 100+, manufacturing all the parts using a multi-axis CNC router.

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.

custom bookcase

View the Bookcase Featured Project