Home Projects Fine Woodworking Secret Compartment Floating Shelf made from Walnut

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf made from Walnut


I have always been fascinated with the simple look of a floating shelf and now is the time to add one to our home but we wanted to take it a step further! This build is for a floating shelf with secret compartment made from walnut plywood featuring continuous grain around the shelf and custom solid walnut trim.

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Hidden Compartment Floating Shelf

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 2 customer ratings
(2 customer reviews)



2 reviews for Hidden Compartment Floating Shelf

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Jerry W Peel (verified owner)

    Great project!

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Dave horn (verified owner)

    Awesome projects, thanks for sharing

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This project is built from PureBond plywood, if you aren’t familiar with PureBond hardwood plywood it is made in the USA and Canada, formaldehyde free, and available exclusively at The Home Depot.


Floating Shelf Stock Prep

Did you know you can get plywood in the mail!? Neither did I up to this point but you can get PureBond project panels shipped directly to your house for very little shipping cost. One 2’x4′ walnut project panel is needed to make this floating shelf.


As with most projects, I started at the table saw to break the sheet down to it’s proper dimensions.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h16m32s682 Miters

Besides the hidden compartment one feature I really wanted on this shelf was a continuous grain pattern wrapped all around the shelf. I was able to make this happen by cutting the sides and front of the shelf from the same strip and carefully making the cuts using the miter saw.


A little bit of painters tape on the deck of the miter saw will really help prevent tear-out. You can wrap your piece of wood but this method allows you several cuts before you need to replace the tape.

You will need to have a beveling miter saw to make these cuts the way I am doing it. If you don’t have a bevel saw you can make the cuts using several other tools.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h17m58s629

I used a digital angle finder, typically used for the table saw to make sure the miter saw was exactly 45 degrees.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h18m13s871

I also added a stop block to make sure I could cut both sides exactly the same.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h18m19s999

Shelf Assembly

The shelf is assembled using wood glue and some pin nails to hold everything together while the glue dries. Some painters tape on the outside corners allows you to get a really tight miter joint.

Be sure to get wood glue on all surfaces.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h18m50s060

Add glue to the base of the shelf and wrap the sides around making sure everything stays square.Floating shelf sides

At first I tried to use clamps, lots of them but I had to resort to pin nails to hold the miters together while the glue dried.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h19m10s143

Adding the back / Mounting bracket.

The back of the shelf also acts as the mounting bracket and has “arms” that extend from the wall to support the top of the shelf. I used a small section of wood to space the arm away from the side of the shelf to prevent any friction. These parts were assembled with wood glue and brad nails.

Be sure to keep a close on on glue squeeze out as it will effect the clear finish you will want to apply to the walnut plywood.


Adding hinges for the Secret Compartment

The hinging motion is added to the shelf using a pair of concealed euro hinges that allow the shelf to swing away from the wall as it opens.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h19m51s142

I used a handy little jig from Rockler to help me guide the bit for countersinking the hinges. Be careful as the hole is almost completely through the 1/2″ plywood.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h20m17s211

And mound the hinges to the mounting bracket as you would any other hinge application.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h20m30s903

Once the frame of the shelf is together you can add the top, this is assembled using only wood glue and some clamps.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h20m40s266

And the edges that will be visible when the shelf is opened are edge banded with iron on walnut edge banding.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h20m46s560

Trimming out the Shelf

I detest buying trim and I am not even sure where to get walnut trim so my solution was to make my own! Since it really doesn’t have anything to do with the shelf build you can watch a video about making that trim (Here). I installed the trim using only wood glue and held it in place to dry using painters tape and bandy clamps.

The bead trim on the bottom of the shelf was installed using wood glue and pin nails.


Adding Locks

The hinges have no problem holding the shelf closed but I wanted to add a lock to prevent anyone from opening it to easily. These are child safety locks that are opened using a magnet. Link here


And a chain to capture the shelf when it is open and prevent it from slamming up against the wall.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h21m53s259

Finish and Mounting

A quick sand with the ROS and 220 grit sandpaper to prep for finish. For finish I used general finishes Arm-R-Seal in a satin sheen.vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h22m27s984

Mounting to the wall is completed using 2, 2 1/2″ deck screws with a washer through the back bracket in the studs of the wall. Not going anywhere!vlcsnap-2017-02-16-18h22m41s939

Be sure to check out the Build video on our YouTube channel to get more detail.

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