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Atomic Turtle - Secret Door

The Secret Door is an enhanced door that replaces the door to our laundry room. It looks and functions like a built-in alcove with shelves and has working cabinet doors. The primary requirement for this door was that it would hang on the existing door hinges with no modifications required for the doorjamb or supports. The only exception we made to this requirement was the latch mount, which required a little chisel work on the interior door moulding. The finished Secret Door absolutely looks like a built-in alcove even upon close inspection. All door mechanisms are hidden and you have to know what you are doing to open the door.

The door is opened by pulling back on one of the books. The book pulls a lanyard that lifts a hidden gate latch. An unexpected benefit of the gate latch is the dungeon-like clanking sound it makes when it opens. To close the door you simply grasp the bookend and pull the door shut. The bookend has no meaning but did feature a dog that was built at the right angle to make a great handhold. The bookend is bolted down to the shelf and is quite solid. If you are inside the laundry room when the Secret Door closes you can easily open the latch manually to get out.

The items on the shelves include hand-drawn original comic art from Gary Larson and Bill Watterson as well as a Peanuts comic modified by Robert Lloyd. There's a jar of sand we scooped up from Santa Monica Pier and another jar full of seashells from my time in the Philippines. There is also a framed Transportation Safety Administration flyer I pulled from my luggage from one of the many times my luggage was searched during the ten years I was on their watch list. (Long story) All the books but the one that serves as the door latch are removable and there is one hidden compartment for small items on the shelves. One of the books is Willam Shatner's Get a LIfe!

Below the shelves are two working cabinet doors. Spring loaded hinges keep the doors closed even when the Secret Door is in motion. The interior is 15cm deep and 102cm tall, making the cabinet tall enough to hold rolls of wrapping paper. We can store many rolls of wrapping paper on the left side of the cabinet. The right side of the cabinet is occupied by storage boxes that hold bows, gift bags, tissue, labels, and other supplies used to wrap presents.

This was a more difficult project than most because it required a fairly high level of precision. The thin pieces of wood that interface with the doorjamb warped when painted, the thickness of the paint caused other problems, and we had to take the entire door back to the garage five times to sand everything back down to where it would fit. We were frustrated by this and almost started over but were finally able to get things working.

Why did we build it? First, it's just plain cool, very fun, and I would wager that most people reading this page wouldn't mind having something this awesome. Second, my teenagers left the laundry room door open all the time, including when the machines were running, and I figured this would be a good way to get them to close it. I was right. Also, we are now safe from people who might break into the house to do laundry.

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