Book Safe, The Making of.

When I saw John Butterfield come back from the school library with a couple of free books, an idea formed in my head. Although he wanted to pawn them off on Amazon, I saw potential for a cool project I’d always wanted to do, though on less ambitious reading specimens. He never managed to sell the books (that’s probably why they were free) so I grabbed one before we moved out of the dorms. Actually, two because Matt wanted to make a book safe as well, but was too lazy to follow through.

My only training in how to make one was watching “How-To” videos on youtube and a faint recollection of a project like this in a magazine. That gave me enough of an idea about what to, and what not to do. Some of the ideas floated were:

  • Glue the pages of the book where you want your safe first.
  • Don’t glue the pages first, because you’ll make them wrinkly.
  • Cut carefully, if you start sloppy, things will only get worse.
  • You can use a hole-saw and cookie-cutter your way to a cavity.

Some of these points had more validity than others. #3 was almost certainly fact. #2 could be minimized by compressing the book while the pages dried. #4 leaves you with an ugly product that looks like Frosty the Snowman smashed through your book at hypersonic speeds. I formed my own plan, and plunged into the project.

The first thing I did was to glue the last page of the book to the back cover. Since most of the pages of the book would be glued to each other, this would form the base layer. Next, I put some tin foil over the page where the book safe cavity wold start. This would allow me to paint on glue, while leaving some pages unscathed. It’s nice to have some loose pages to start off the book. The glue was diluted with some water and applied with a paintbrush.

Then came the hard part, cutting. Lots of cutting. I started out with an exacto knife, but switched to a longer-bladed box cutter, so I could follow the sides better. I also decided to use a quarter-inch drill bit to bore through the corners of the cavity, because that’s where I was having the most trouble. It’s hard to fit a knife edge into a tight corner and I found myself going over the same spots repeatedly. No more. I made much better time from here on in. Note: Keep a hand vacuum around to suck up shreds of paper that accumulate.

After about 8 hours spread out over 3 days, I was through to the bottom. Most people on youtube stopped here. But I decided that if it was worth doing, it was worth over-doing (in classic MythBuster form). I also wanted to hide the ugly walls of the carved out cavity. They weren’t perfectly smooth, and in some areas they were sloped. The only way to mask this craftsmanship defect was with something soft and pliable. Cloth.

I found some velvetty cloth my mom used years ago to make a pillow for the couch and cut myself a square. I used a cardboard cutout that fit inside the safe to determine how to cut the velvet. Leaving 2.5″ margins, I cut a rough rectangle and folded back the soft side of the fabric to make a smooth edge. Then, using some basic geometry and folding, I sewed up the sides of the safe. The top edge of the cloth box was glued into the book, leaving a not-quite-taut velvet interior with a few soft folds for character.

I’m rather pleased with the results, as the entire thing has a healthy level of polish to it. I’ll definitely be displaying it proudly. The montage from start to finish has been embedded below. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them either here or on Youtube. Click on the picture at the top to visit my Facebook album of the project.

Tip: Find a book with thicker pages. The one I used was like a phone book, the pages tore too easily.

2 Responses to Book Safe, The Making of.

  1. Not only an excellent video, but an interesting insight into the way engineers should approach any project.

    Did you do something with the spine of the book? It looked to me like you cut it off then re-attached it at the end. But things were moving pretty quickly…I can see why you would want to do that since this would save wear and tear on the spine – but having the book appear well-worn might be an advantage.

    Also, you used a fairly new looking book. This seems like good choice since the pages would be less likely to be creased or irregular.

    Thanks again for the excellent video and website.

  2. Thanks for the feedback!

    I didn’t do much in terms of the spine. The most important thing to me was to make sure it was vertical on the desk when the pages were glued together, otherwise my book safe would be doomed to sit like a parallelogram on my desk for the rest of it’s life. Towards the end, I was mostly trying to dremel away little “paper shelves” that formed when my blade slipped.

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