Make Cool Stuff: Concealing Your Secret Lair
by Mindy Holahan on March 7, 2011
Admit it. You’re prepared should a radioactive accident turn you into a superhero. You have your super name picked out, practiced the intimidating stance that will bring villains to their knees, and you’ve even considered how to combat your primary weakness.
Where to go next? Put down your spandex and pick up your hammer because it’s time to build your secret lair.
Keeping It Secret
Secrecy is the most important aspect of your lair. Its location should only be shared with your closest associates, such as your trusty sidekick and your lifelong manservant. While there are several builders online willing to design and install a concealed door for you, should the fate of the world rest on a contractor’s ability to keep your identity under wraps? I think not, unless you plan to spend all your time fending off home invasions from super villains. No, you need that time to brood over your damaged childhood.
If you want your lair to be secret, you’ve got to build it yourself. For the superhero on a budget, the internet offers up many excellent tutorials for building a secret hideout in your own home. Today we’ll focus on concealing the entrance to your lair.
Behind the Bookcase
This tried and true concealment method was employed by Batman in the 1960s tv series, as well as in The Addams Family movie. It is an excellent method for hiding a full-sized door and it adds storage to your lair’s antechamber.
While 1960s Batman’s bookcase slid open automatically, we’re going to focus on an easier method, swinging the bookcase open on a hinge. Here are two options, one that swings on a steel frame and the other that rolls on wheels:
- Steel frame: Hidden Door Bookshelf
- On wheels: Bookcase with Hidden Han Solo in Carbonite Door (yeah, you read that right!)
Jump to 1:08 for the action shot!
The steel frame will accommodate a large amount of weight (500+ lbs), whereas the Han Solo set of plans utilizes store-bought bookcases and may be easier to execute. When using store-bought bookcases, focus on the sturdiness of the bookcase’s back, otherwise the bookcase may lose its structural integrity and flop to one side.
Ideally, I would tell you how to open your door by moving a particular book, as in The Addams Family. Unfortunately, I can’t find plans for this (come on, internet!), so if you know of any, please share them below in the comments.
Behind the Fireplace
What if you don’t have a full-sized door leading to your secret lair? Many basements have half-sized storage spaces that could be turned into a small secret lair.
Rather than covering over the door with a bookcase, camouflage it Clue-style with a faux fireplace:
- Decorate the door to look like brick
- Paint a brick pattern (jump to 8:00 minutes in on the video)
- Cover it with brick wallpaper or faux brick panel (available on Amazon and at major hardware stores)
- Install a faux fireplace façade
The downside to using a fireplace for your secret entrance is that you’ll have to stoop or crawl to enter your lair and that’s not very super.
Build a False Wall
If you don’t have a whole room free for conversion to your secret lair, perhaps you can spare a portion of a larger room. In that case, check out these plans for installing a false wall in an existing room. Bonus: motorized entrance!
Unlock with a Secret Knock
If you are part of a syndicate of crime fighters, it may be useful to institute a secret knock to unlock your clubhouse door.
As long as at least one member of your syndicate knows how to solder and program an Arduino, give the Secret Knock Detector at try.
Read Before You Build
Good luck building the entrance to your secret lair! Please make sure to read all the plans thoroughly (and do your best to understand them) before jumping in. Follow directions and precautions the authors provide, as neither they nor I take responsibility for errors. Have fun and try new things.
This page offers a lot of good advice for first time builders, including explanations about selecting tools and lumber. A couple of these projects require some Arduino and electrical knowledge. Check out your nearest hacker space or community college for classes.
Now go make some cool stuff.