How To Make a Book Into an Incognito Stash BoxS

What's the one thing you never hear from people who have just been burgled? "Those rotten sons of bitches stole all my books." Nobody's going to lift your Encyclopaedia Britannicas when there are OLEDs to be had. That's why you should hide your precious valuables in the last place thieves think to look—the bookshelf.

You Should Do This If:

You want to hide your loot and appear learned at the same time.

Moment of Satisfaction:

Coming home to a tossed apartment, strolling over to the bookcase, and pulling out that fat stash of product that you've stolen from the cartels.

Biggest Pain in the Ass:

Carving a clean, straight, vertical edge into chapters 2 through 15.

Materials and Tools Required

  • 1 worthless hardcover book
  • 1 bottle Elmer's white glue
  • 1 small, sealable jar or canister
  • 1 roll of Saran Wrap
  • 1 blade (utility knife with a razor, or a jigsaw with a fine-toothed blade)
  • 1 small, cheap paint brush
  • 1 straight edge (a Speed Square works well) and a pencil
  • 1 drill and a 3/8-inch bit
  • 1 heavy object wider than the book's cover

Difficulty and Cost

Difficulty: On a scale of one to ten, this is about a four.
Cost: $5 to $15. To keep costs down, do not use a first-edition, rare, or autographed book.

Building It

1. Get a book. The bigger, the better—minimum 300 pages, preferably something with "unabridged" in the title. Choose a hardcover to simplify the hollowing process. The work is easiest on a book with large page dimensions. Go for one in the 8-inch by 10-inch range.

2. Mix glue. Make a solution of white glue and tap water—1 part glue to 2 parts water—in the sealable jar (baby food jars or 35-mm film canisters are about the right size). Get the glue goopy but not overly runny. It should be as viscous as acrylic paint.

3. Isolate decoy pages. Wrap the first couple dozen pages of the book to the inside of the front cover using the plastic wrap. Make sure the pages and cover are securely sealed on all sides. Repeat this procedure for the rear cover and the last couple dozen pages.

4. Glue the edges. Lightly coat the three outside edges of the free pages with the glue mix. Close the cover, place the heavy object on top, and allow the glue to dry.

5. Mark the cut. Once the outer edge is dry, open the cover and the plastic-wrapped front pages. Using the straight edge and a pencil, mark the first glued page at 1/2-inch in from the upper and lower text margins, and 1/4-inch in from left and right text margins. Place the book with the rear cover down on a sturdy surface. Clamp it in place. At the marks' intersecting corners, use the drill to bore straight downward toward the rear cover. Stop just short of the pack of pages wrapped against the rear cover.

6. Excavate. The idea here is to use the bored holes as an entry point for the blade to cut out the bulk of the book, making the cuts along the straight guiding lines marked in the previous step. The Speed Square can act as a guide to get a straight kerf started. Place the book with the the rear cover down on a sturdy surface, fit a fresh razor blade in a utility knife, then carve through a couple dozen pages at a time until the blade reaches the bottom of the drilled holes. Maintain a roughly even cut depth on the four sides, remove the pages as they're cut free, and work carefully to keep the inner edges straight and even.

This step can be accomplished more quickly with a jigsaw, but clamping the book in position is key to ensuring a straight line. Pull both the front and rear covers back until they touch, isolating the drilled pages in the middle of the book. Use two small bar clamps or Quik-Grips to clamp the pages to a scrap 2x4. Keep the board clear of the back side of whichever straight line you plan to cut. Turn the and reposition the board and clamps as needed to create a clear path for the saw. As the jigsaw blade oscillates, it must be able to emerge from the back side of the cut—if the blade tip cannot be seen as it retracts into the saw body, either shorten the stack of pages to be cut or begin two separate cuts from both the front and rear faces of the stack. (Mark a guide line on the rear-most page if you plan to cut from both faces.)

7. Clean and glue. Remove the clamps and close the book. Open it to inspect the cut edges along the cavity walls. Use the utility knife to clean them up as needed to make sure they're straight and vertical. Paint the cavity walls with the glue mixture, close the cover, add weight and allow it to dry.

8. Add a finish coat. Once the inside edge is dry, paint both the inside and outside edges again with the glue mixture, close the cover, add weight again, and allow it to dry and cure completely.

9. Stash. When both the inner and outer edges are dry to the touch, remove the plastic wrap, fill the cavity with small, desirable possessions—jewels, drugs, money, porn, ultra-porn—and place on a bookshelf.

Or, if you're lazy:

Check out the Pommes Frites Etsy page for a variety of books designed to hold a variety of valuables—like your emergency flask.

Image: Pommes Frites / Etsy