Art of Concealment - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Art of Concealment

 In November 2016 #228, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

02pwm1116hiddenThis table hides your laptop, jewelry
and other small valuables in plain sight.

by Matthew Dworman
pgs. 32-39

Hidden compartments – just saying those words puts a smile on the face of most woodworkers. There is something magical about a secret space that reveals itself to only the person who knows about it. Since the origins of furniture, hidden compartments have been used for storing valuables, documents and other important belongings. With modern safes, security by obscurity is no longer commonplace. Finding it both fun and challenging, designing and building hidden compartments has become my specialty, and I incorporate hiding spots into nearly every piece I make.

I integrate them in one of two ways: either taking advantage of an otherwise wasted space, or designing into an area that appears to be structural, but isn’t. In this seemingly simple Shaker-style table, we will use some trickery from the practice of magicians – misdirection and illusion – to do both. The end result is a hidden compartment that is unlocked by pressing a button hidden in plain sight. A door pretending to be an apron falls open to reveal it, and a secret drawer masquerading as a front rail provides additional storage.

Legs & Layout
After surfacing and cutting the carcase pieces to final size (note from the cutlist that there are several different thicknesses required), start on the legs.

Lay them out, marking the sides that will be tapered, and mark the locations for the dados that accept the lower stretchers. With stretchers and tapered legs, it’s easy to get mixed up. I mark out in big bold letters which sides get tapered and where the dados go.

It’s much easier to cut the dados for the stretchers before the legs get tapered. Set up a 3⁄4″-wide dado stack, and with a crosscutting sled cut 3⁄4″-deep dados. (After tapering the legs, the dados will be only about 3⁄16″ deep.) It’s also easier to cut the mortise for the stretchers now, though not critical.

Website: See more of the author’s work at
Class: Take a class on incorporating hidden compartments with Matthew Dworman at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in May 2017.
Video: Take a video tour of this table.
Plan: Download a free SketchUp model of this project.
In Our Store: “A Winchester Desk: Joinery Inside & Out,” by Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton.

From the November 2016 issue, #228

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