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  1. #1
    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Question about holding a prospect door in place

    I have a rather unique problem that I wanted to run by the experts. I have been building a set of drawers for my Dutch Chest/Tool cabinet conglomeration. In addition to the six drawers I had a large section to the right for which I could either build a large drawer or do something else with. I decided to do something with it that would involve creating a secret compartment. Like my other projects this is for practical use and not for entering into a contest of any kind. That being said, I discovered a wonderful piece of furniture in our collection that I knew about before but had not really discovered until this summer. It is a Philadelphia secretary bookcase that resides in the library of Tryon Palace. It has a secret compartment in its prospect section that is amazing. Like none I have seen before. You open the door and there is a three-drawer cabinet locked in place. Slots on the underside of the shelves of the cabinet slide in and unlock the cabinet so it can be pulled out, revealing three additional drawers at the back of the section. I decided to replicate that. Now I won't try to replicate the mechanism under the shelves. I've decided on another way to lock it in place.

    This is the original desk with the prospect door open.

    This is the prospect cabinet removed from the desk, flipped upside down to show the slots that are moved to tabs that lock and unlock the cabinet in place.

    And of course the hidden drawers inside.

    My primary issue right now is trying to find a way to keep the prospect door closed. The original features a lock. Iíd rather not go that route because then there is a key you have to keep around. I bought a lock at Lowes that I can use if I have to but would rather return instead. I'd rather use a knob that matches the knobs I have for the three drawers. Iíve experimented with a magnet attached to the side of the opening and another on the door, but there has to be exact contact in order for that to occur. Since the cabinet has to be able to freely slide out of the prospect there canít be anything really sticking out for a magnet to catch like on a kitchen cabinet. Iíve experimented with things attached to the door that wonít get in the way of the cabinet when it is open and out of the way.

    Any ideas?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    If you use neodymium magnets then you can recess them flush with the wood surface and still have very respectable holding power so long as any air gap is kept minimal and an appropriate sized magnet is selected. You can also install the magnets in steel cups that act as directors/keepers for the magnetic field that effectively doubles the power of the magnet by redirecting the opposite sides magnetic field. The opposite side of the magnetic retainer can be either another magnet, with the poles opposite the first, or a piece of steel like a screw or washer, depending upon what might work best for your application. But there is no need for anything to necessarily protrude in many cases depending upon your project needs nor need you necessarily be confined to ready manufactured options as magnetic catches are pretty easy to make and you can embed the magnets by drilling out a snug hole and epoxying them in place. Experiment a bit and you may discover some clever solutions that can be applied to your project.

    But use good quality neodymium magnets as the cheap ones have very thin nickel shells and will often turn to dust over time because they do not do a good job protecting the magnetic material from corrosion (namely from moisture ingress).

    If you do not need especially strong magnets then you can also opt for the ceramic ferrite magnets (those topically black to brown magnets you often see) which can still have respectable magnetic qualities (though pale in comparison to comparably sized rare earth magnets like neodymium) and are not sensitive to corrosion.

    Of course you could also consider alternatives like springs that hold things closed, catches that are slid back and forth to lock or unlock using a magnet to "unlock" the invisible catches from the front side, etc.

    Good luck and have fun with the project...and give yourself permission to have fun and try creative solutions until you discover what works best for you and your project!

  3. #3
    Newbie Wyatt Co.'s Avatar
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    Ball catches.
    Happiness is a direction not a destination. ~Athena Orchard

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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    If you lost the key to your old John Deere Tractor, a screwdriver made a good replacement. If you want a simple keyed system, maybe talk to a locksmith about a universal key.

  5. #5
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    That's a pretty clever locking mechanism.

    Pic #2. I'm supposed to be looking at the sliding lock mechanism but it's got me confounded. Are the locking tabs extending from the left and right side of the prospect cabinet with the "finger tabs" just inside of the cabinet walls? What is the rectangular opening in the center of the shelf bottom and what slides where when opened or closed?

    Pic #3. Hidden drawers. Funny looking drawer pulls but maybe it's just the picture and my view. Is that one of the locking slots on the right hand side of the box frame?

    These are good and may work.

    http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/pag...=1,42363,42348

  6. #6
    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff View Post

    Pic #2. I'm supposed to be looking at the sliding lock mechanism but it's got me confounded. Are the locking tabs extending from the left and right side of the prospect cabinet with the "finger tabs" just inside of the cabinet walls? What is the rectangular opening in the center of the shelf bottom and what slides where when opened or closed?

    Pic #3. Hidden drawers. Funny looking drawer pulls but maybe it's just the picture and my view. Is that one of the locking slots on the right hand side of the box frame?
    Remember that the cabinet is flipped over in Pic 2 so you are looking at the underside of the shelves that hold the drawers. So right side up, the bottom shelf tab goes into a small hole in the inner prospect on the left and the top shelf goes into a hole in the prospect on the right. The holes in the prospect don't go all the way through which is why I couldn't find them when I pulled the two letter drawers out. I failed to mention that this piece confounded me the first time I explored it. I new the drawer cabinet pulled out but I couldn't figure out how. It wasn't until the second time that I decided to see if the square holes under the shelves moved. Indeed that is how I found out. I knew that pins were holding the cabinet in place because I had used a business card to probe in the gaps to find the tabs. Again, I've worked with 18th century furniture for over fifteen years and not seen anything like this before.

    The drawer pulls on the hidden drawers are common for the time period. You want something you can grasp but won't take up room. A cotton ribbon or leather tab is most often used. And yes those holes on the third image are the slots that the tabs lock into.

  7. #7
    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    Quote Originally Posted by ehpoole View Post
    But use good quality neodymium magnets as the cheap ones have very thin nickel shells and will often turn to dust over time because they do not do a good job protecting the magnetic material from corrosion (namely from moisture ingress).
    Thanks for the very good information. Actually I already have some very powerful rare earth magnets but they are too large for this project. I also got some black magnets that you can buy at the hardware store and made one flush in the side of the prospect.

    I've also considered some other options including a knob attached to a tab that can be used like the key idea but without the separate key.

  8. #8
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    Thanks Richo. Yes I knew that the box was upside down but was trying to visualize how the locking mechanism worked.

    If the box was right side up and locked in place what would I feel, and where would I feel it, on the undersides of the shelves? A little finger hold to slide right or left?

  9. #9
    User Richo B's Avatar
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    Re: Question about holding a prospect door in place

    You'd feel a little square cut-out. You can see the notch on both tabs in the second photo just by either wall of the cabinet. That's what I felt when I checked it the first time. Due to the age of the piece and environmental factors (climate control) the tab didn't move freely so when I felt the square notch I wasn't sure what it was. I was thinking there were posts holding the cabinet in place but I couldn't figure out where to pull the posts from in the document drawers. Some of the drawers had releases where you pull out the drawer beneath it and then push your finger through a hole in the desired drawer to release a wooden spring to open it. I wondered if that was the case with cabinet but it wasn't.

    I've just never seen a slot system like this before and couldn't imagine how to make it work with the poplar wood I'm using for this project. Obviously really made for doing with mahogany.

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