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Boxes with hidden internal locks

Gilw's picture

Could anyone help me find illustrated plans for a wooden internal "magic" or "hidden" locking mechanism for a wood jewelry box?

yogi's picture

(post #92572, reply #1 of 21)

I've run across the occasional "puzzle box", but I'm still looking for the animal you describe-  I saw one where a Shaker type cabinet latch secured the top on a stem connected to one of the feet, which you turn to operate-  I'll be curious to see if you get any help-

Woodlockplans's picture

Wood lock plans (post #92572, reply #17 of 21)

Hi, if you are still looking for wood lock plans, email me at and I can email you our catalogue. 



Gilw's picture

(post #92572, reply #2 of 21)

Thanks for the offfer of what I hope is in your memory--the puzzle box operated via a box's foot. As you can see, it is the only promising response. ie-I would gratefully accept your generosity.  

I recall seeing, years ago, in a magazine or WW book, a box that had a sliding mechanism that opened the box only if you moved the slide just a certain distance--not all the way, since that would re-lock the mechanism, frustrating entry.



jhounshell's picture

(post #92572, reply #7 of 21)

I've been looking for plans for puzzle boxes for some time now with no luck. I sent the editor(s) of the magazine a message requesting they do an article on such a thing.

I'm thinking about buying a puzzle box off the net, then tearing it apart to see how it works. But they are rather expensive, and I can't see spending that kind of money just to ruin the box.

If you have any luck, please let me know.


Mike_D's picture

(post #92572, reply #8 of 21)

When I was a boy, a staple of China Towns all over the US was a small, 3"x3"x2", box that could only be opened by solving the sliding puzzle.  Typically you could select from about 5 variations.

I still see examples of these in shops that sell to tourists all over the country.  The boxes are all nicely finished and sell for from $15 to $25 each. 

Soooo, there's plans for them out there, somewhere.

Orrrrrr, find a shop that carries them, buy a set, and take them apart - not that big of an outlay, all things considered.

Mike D

saschafer's picture

(post #92572, reply #9 of 21)

"When I was a boy, a staple of China Towns all over the US was a small, 3"x3"x2", box that could only be opened by solving the sliding puzzle.  Typically you could select from about 5 variations."

Those are known generically as "Japanese Puzzle Boxes," and plans for even the simple variations are apparently very hard to come by. I've looked without success.




Mike_D's picture

(post #92572, reply #10 of 21)

I guess that just leaves reverse engineering.

Good luck!  Those are tiny little joints.

Mike D

kidgenius's picture

(post #92572, reply #11 of 21)

It's interesting that this comes up, because I was looking for plans just last week. About the only thing I could find was this:

It gave some insight into one type of latch which could be modified to do a whole slew of other things.

Woodlockplans's picture

Wood lock plans (post #92572, reply #18 of 21)

Hi Jeff,

You can have a catalogue emailed to you regarding the wooden locking systs you seek. Email me at



Steinmetz's picture

(post #92572, reply #3 of 21)

How about a rare earth magnet that drops into a recess, thereby locking the unit.
To open, place a piece of steel over the hidden area and the magnet will rise when attracted to the steel. Steinmetz.

JohnWW's picture

(post #92572, reply #4 of 21)

I don't know how you could track this down, but Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazine did a how to article with 6 or 8 hidden lock mechanisms.  I remember reading it as a kid, which places the date back in the late 50's or early 60's.  

One of the mechanisms used a ball bearing that you had to run though a simple maze, that you couldn't see, until the ball struck the latch.  You would have to know the maze layout to know how to move the box in the proper order of tipping motions to advance the ball to the end of the maze. 

A few others use a weighted disc that would move a gear to releases the latch.  You would have to rotate the box, end over end several times, to advance the gear to release the latch.

John White, Shop Manager, Fine Woodworking Magazine 

John White Shop Manager for FWW Magazine, 1998 to 2007

KzooRichie's picture

(post #92572, reply #5 of 21)

I really like the idea of a hidden lock, I hope it is posted here if anyone ever finds it, Or even an article in FWW. It seems like I read somewhere about a guy who made jewelry boxes or something like that for his daughters or nieces. They had hidden compartments, I think it even had a type of locked. As I recall there was a note or something in the compartment that the builder hoped would be found long after the gift was given. I thought that was a cool idea.

danmart's picture

(post #92572, reply #6 of 21)

The photo is a box with a sliding raised panel as the lid. In some cases, I make a "false screw" in the bottom that acts as a pin going from the bottom to the lid. The pin keeps the lid from opening. It can be spring actuated or any other way you like. Not a big request item over the years but fun to get creative and use the tricks I employ on a patchbox for a rifle.

box by osl


Edited 11/11/2007 11:50 am ET by danmart

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walnut_lid_3.jpg117.44 KB
yogi's picture

(post #92572, reply #12 of 21)

Some sources:


"Wonders In Wood" and "Puzzles In Wood" by Edwin Wyatt-

""New Wood Puzzle Designs" by James Follette-

"Making Working Wooden Locks" by Tim Detweiler-


Beau Jenkins's picture

Hidden Locks Question / Sample (post #92572, reply #13 of 21)

I found and used a lock mechanism that is sold as example in old or antique toys.  It is a small box that utilizes a steel ball bearing that must be tilted or moved to one side of the "box" before the box can be opened.  I simply used the design and enabled the construction wherein I could "Move" the ball and open the desk drawer with a magnet.  I believe in a web search of making antique toys or puzzles you may find the same plans.  If I can locate the actual pamphlet that I got with the original toys I will resubmit.  The "toy" was constructed with three layers of various wood types and was oval in shape.  The layers are held together with brass screws on each end and the "top" layer will pivot or rotate and expose the inner compartment.  This will only happen when you invert the box, momentarily prior to opening, allowing the inner steel bearing to fall and clear the inner catch to the top.  Hope this helps or gives an idea.

KellySnake's picture

I have plans... (post #92572, reply #14 of 21)


I have plans for sale, just building a new website, will have all kinds of wooden locking systems, some are combinations, some require a magnet, some require solving some kind of trickery.  Here is a video to show you what I mean, ...  I do have many other styles, but not all are ready for distribution just yet.



burro4nurseman's picture

a long time ago I saw a (post #92572, reply #15 of 21)

a long time ago I saw a magazine that had a lock box. it was really quite simple. a captured ceramic magnet to keep it from moving. over it was a steel rod with a tapered end which passed through a hole in the locking mechanism (a turned, spring loaded button on the front). the trick to open it was to hit the top of the box, which jars the rod enough for the button to be pushed and allow the top to open.the lid might have been spring loaded too......

sorry if its not clear, but think about it and it makes sense.

Woodlockplans's picture

Wooden lock plans (post #92572, reply #16 of 21)

Hi, I couldn't help but notice you are looking for plans regarding wooden lock plans.  Email me at and I will send you a free catalogue chocked full of easy to follow plans.  


Best Regards,


masudali's picture

Wooden Locks (post #92572, reply #19 of 21)

Basically locks are something that are put in windows , doors , etc to secure you and your things.Also wooden locks are such kind of locks which are made to secure your jewellery, money as well as other important papers or documents which are of great use in your life. A certified locksmith is a person who can do excellent job with such kind of locks and also they can help you in dealing with these locks when they need repair or replacement.

adamcarrick's picture

Such type of lock boxes are (post #92572, reply #20 of 21)

Such type of lock boxes are made to secure the costly itmems and they are meant for high security. Consult this with locksmith near by you as they have the work dealing with lock related items for security and they will get to know you which one is good for you.

leminhtien's picture

Download over 16,000 (post #92572, reply #21 of 21)

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