As I’ve mentioned before, my family makes gifts for one another each Christmas. This year, I decided to make book safes for the guys.
This is a pretty simple project. The steps take some time, but there’s nothing particularly difficult to do. Buy a hard-cover book for a buck at the thrift store. I bought six with the intent to make five safes.
Lay the pages on any wax paper-lined surface with an edge. Pin the first few pages of the book to the front and rear covers and weigh the rest of the pages down so they don’t move.
Mix some glue and water together. I used about a 4:1 ratio of wood glue to water (if you’re making one book, you should mix one tablespoon of glue with 3/4 teaspoon of water). Glue the outer edges of the pages together with a brush to ensure that the pages don’t move when you cut them out later on.
When you’ve put on a thick coat, unclip the covers and let the rear cover hang off the edge. Place some wax paper between the clean pages/front cover and the glued pages to separate them. Weigh down the book so the wet pages don’t wrinkle and swell.
After a couple of hours, put on a second coat of glue and let it dry overnight. Don’t throw the wax paper away after this step. You’ll use it later on. The glue dries pretty clear and should hold the pages firmly.
To cut out the cavity, use a metal ruler to make straight cuts with an Xacto knife. Buy extra blades; it’s worth it. After you’ve cut fifty pages or so, you can stop using the ruler. This is tedious work, but you have to be patient and take your time or else the cuts will become uneven and angled. Go into this step knowing it’ll take about forty-five minutes to finish.
When you get near the bottom cover, insert a sheet pan or something else you don’t mind scraping up between the pages and the back cover. This is to keep the inside of your book nice and neat.
Once the cavity is cut out and you’ve cleaned up the edges with your Xacto knife, it’s time to glue again. Mix another batch of the glue/water mixture. Put your book back on the wax paper with the bottom cover hanging over the edge. Brush the glue all over the inner pages. If you glued the back cover to the pages now, the excess glue would pool inside your safe.
The glue will hide most of your imperfections when it dries. Put on a thick coat and place the wax paper between the glued pages and the clean pages/front cover. Let it dry overnight under a heavy weight, just like before.
The next day, all you have to do is glue the back cover to the glued pages and glue the first clean page over the cavity to hide your errant cuts. Weigh the book down again and let the glue dry for a few hours. When the glue is dry, cut the top page to reveal the cavity.
Fill your book safe with anything you want to hide and place it between other books on your shelf. No one will be the wiser.
Obviously, this is more of a novelty than a secure safe, but it’s a cool and cheap project that makes a great gift. If you were really trying to make a foolproof safe, you could use velcro or magnets to ensure that if a thief knocks everything off your shelves, your book safe wouldn’t open to reveal your valuables. If I had a scroll saw, I could have done this project in a fraction of the time and cut the cavity into any shape I wanted, like this guy did.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking me exactly which blade and glue I used to make these. I used the classic Xacto knife at first, but then switched to a snap-off blade knife for a few reasons. First, the handle is larger and easier to grip. Second, the straight blade on this model is easier to control than the triangular blade of the classic knife. And third, when the blade dulls, you just snap off the dull part and extend a new blade. I highly recommend it. The glue is just standard wood glue. This is the brand I usually have in my workshop.