I still remember the first ManMade-ish project I ever made: a hollow book safe. I was about eight, and my buddy Nick had this awesome "how to be a secret spy"-style book to inspire us, and we snagged two big hardbacks from his parents' library and used a utility knife to carve away the pages. I remember thinking we probably shouldn't be cutting up books off the shelf, nor should we likely be using a utility knife without supervision, but - hey - we were spies, and spies don't ask permission. I've been wanting to create a grown-up take on the hollow book safe; one where you can actually stash something bigger than what can fit in the insides of a best seller. To figure it out, I teamed up with Dickies, makers of quality workwear and apparel. They're well known for their work-related clothing (they literally make blue collars), but they also make more contemporary, slimmer cut items that work for everyday wear, and we wanted to see how some pieces of their clothing might integrate into a ManMade-style project.
Here, I'm using 12" record album sleeves, simply because I wanted to maximize the stash space inside. Of course, in order for this to work and not look suspicious, you have to be someone with records on your shelf. This project works just as well with thick books, paperback or hardback, or even magazines with a spine.
Tools and Materials:
- Old 12" vinyl record albums or used books (hit the thrift store!)
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Utility knife
- Pine 1x12" (ours was 4' long) or 1/2" plywood
- Adhesives: I used wood glue, white glue, and hot yellow glue sticks
Step One. First, find the media you'll use for this project. There was no way I was going to cut up the records I actually listen to, so I headed to the thrift store to find a stack of worn-out, too scratched records. Since it's my spend-nothing month, I was committed to not using my car, so I opted for my scooter. Unfortunately, it was a cold and wet fall day, and so I needed something extra to stay warm and dry. So, I tried out the Dickies Softshell Hooded Jacket on my ride.
I was able to find a whole shelf of 25¢ records at my thrift store. I ended up buying thirty or so albums, and I was careful to choose those that were very, very worn out and in the just-about-to-be-tossed-out pile. (My thrift store codes pieces by color, and these were originally $1.00 and had been deemed 75% off). So, since they were basically unlistenable and headed to the dumpster soon, I was able to give these a second chance as something useful.
Step Two. Vinyl LPs are 12" in diameter, and their sleeves are just a bit more, about 12 5/16" square. So, to keep the math easy, I decided to make a template at 11 x 11", meaning that I'd leave 1 5/16" on two sides. I made my template from some scrap plywood, but you can use anything. The goal is just to make sure that everything is cut the same.
For the first few tries, I drew on the template and cut along a ruler, but eventually, I started to just cut along the plywood template. Cutting all thirty got a little monotonous, but only took around twenty minutes. Make sure to keep four or five records whole to use later as the sides.
The next day, since I knew I would be working in the shop, I got decked out in full on work gear: the Dickies Slim Fit Long Work Shirt, the Slim Straight Fit 5-Pocket Jean, and the denim Toolmaker's Apron.
Step Three. To make the frame to support the facade, I used some pine 1x12" that I had in my scrap pile from another project. I cut the first piece to 11", and the second to 10 1/4" to account for the butt joint. (1x" stock is actually 3/4" thick) I opted to use whole records for the sides instead of wood walls to maximize the interior storage space.
Step Four. Then, I glued the frame together with yellow wood glue and clamped it together, allowing the glue to cure for 30 minutes while clamped. (I cleaned up all the record sleeve scraps and prepped the sides during the wait.)
Step Five. To integrate the facade fully in-line, it's important to make sure there aren't any gaps or non-record-cover spaces. So, I built up the sides by gluing two or three full album covers together, and then aligning one of the cut covers in the corners. I kept the records in the cover to create strength and support.
Step Six. Next, I glued on the sides to the box to create the full structure. I used yellow wood glue for strength, and some hot glue that would dry quickly and create a quick bond to hold everything in place.
Step Seven. The only thing left is to fill in the gap. For this, I just used regular old white glue with the occasional dollop of hot glue to keep things aligned and in place. Since there's so much empty space, it's important to keep everything square to maintain the unsuspicious look of the facade. Since the covers weren't cut identically, choose them carefully to maintain the random look that reads like records on a shelf.
And... just line it up on a shelf, and stash your swag!
Here's a shot that shows what's actually going on: the wood frame supports the cut album cover facade. The back and bottom are left open so you can store whatever you might need to hide. I used some lightweight metal bookends to hold the actual records in place while the stash facade is out-of-place.
Some thoughts: it's clear that this isn't actually a locked spot, as the items are easily accessed (if you know to look). Though, this would make a great hiding spot for a small, portable fireproof safe. Other uses? Stash your unsightly items, such as your home network router and excess cables and power strips. If you don't tell anyone in your house about it (and they don't listen to your records), this would make a great spot for stashing birthday or holiday gifts.
The point is: no, it's not a safe, but either are hollow books or hiding things in closets, underwear drawers, or air vents. If someone breaks into your house and takes the time to look through your records or books, then you have a rather unusual thief. And if your home is the subject of a police raid, well then you, my friend, have bigger problems. (I can't help but picture Goodfellas...) Store your important stuff in a secure place, and store those things you wouldn't want someone to see - like that single malt you don't want to share with guests who won't really appreciate it - in here.
Here's the whole thing in action, all styled up for social media, etc. Please share it on Pinterest if you'd like. . Thanks :)
Thanks to Dickies for sponsoring this post! Check out the Built to Work initiative at Dickies.com and visit their Facebook page here.