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Old 07-19-2013, 12:12 PM   #1
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Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB

As part of getting our van ready for our recent month-long western roadtrip, I tried to figure out how we were going to securely store our small cache of pricey electronics. DSLR camera bag, laptop computer, nice binoculars, etc. I thought about installing a small safe somewhere, but we didn't really have the room and I couldn't find one that was both small yet big enough to fit the stuff we wanted to bring.

So, I started thinking about hiding things in plain sight. In our cabinet stack on the driver's side there was a small cabinet at the very bottom that had a face plate with a small, swing-down cabinet door, situated right next to the air return vent for the Starcool. It was pretty much useless do the size of the door. (It originally had a 10-disc CD changer in there, which I removed when we bought the van.) at first I thought about installing a fake air vent there, removable via magnet catches. Then I hit on the idea of creating a fake panel, made of oak plywood, designed to look like it was a permanent part of the cabinet stack.

I cut a panel to size, drilled holes around the edges to install cut-off screws that didn't go all the way through (to make it look permanent), and then installed cabinet magnet catches on the inside to hold it secure. The panel fits flush with - or even somewhat recessed from - the front of the cabinet stack, and even if you knew it was removable, would be very difficult to remove it without prying it out somehow. To remove it easily, I drilled a hole in the top middle, installed a threaded T-nut on the back, and then took a screw and cabinet pull and created a removable cabinet knob. When traveling we leave the knob in, but if we park and want things more secure I simply unscrew the knob and toss it in the silverware drawer. The space is big enough (just) to hold all our electronics, and worked great on our 30 day trip.

Things I'd change: I went a little overboard with the fake screws. I'd put less in. I drilled the hole for the cabinet knob a bit too high, and it interferes with the cabinet door above it when in. But, if I drilled it lower, it might look like it didn't "fit" with the rest of the screw patterns. As it is now, it looks like one of the screws fell out there.

Pictures below mostly tell the story...



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Old 07-19-2013, 12:13 PM   #2
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB



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Old 07-19-2013, 12:15 PM   #3
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB


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Old 07-19-2013, 06:17 PM   #4
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB

That's really slick, I like it. Just stay away from those Border Patrol checkpoints on I-10. They'll find it it a second and tear you a new one looking for more.
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Old 07-20-2013, 11:39 AM   #5
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB

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Originally Posted by Viejo
That's really slick, I like it. Just stay away from those Border Patrol checkpoints on I-10. They'll find it it a second and tear you a new one looking for more.
+100 on that! On an given day, any of the border crossings, Mexico or Canada, can be bad. My wife and I (both senior citizens) were crossing back into US at a checkpoint in upper Washington State a couple years ago. We were on a month-long trip and had a lot of luggage and the typical sack full of medicines that any senior couple has these days. All US prescriptions. We spent 3 hours sitting, more or less under guard, at the border crossing while they literally took our car apart, rummaged through every bag we had, and questioned us repeatedly about the meds.

Who knows why? She has a slavic last name, maybe that was it. We had nothing out of line, they found nothing, and eventually said "you can go". Took us almost another hour to get everything in the car repacked!

Welcome to the USA.

Way back in the day, when we had our boat, we were stopped once by the coasties on our way back from the Virgin Islands, same thing -- plus, they sawed open what they called "inaccessable voids"...took forever to get compensation for the repairs, but they did eventually pay.
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Old 07-20-2013, 08:44 PM   #6
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB

Really good point! We almost went into Canada on the way home, but ran out of time. Didn't even occur to me to worry about that. If we ever cross the border or go through a checkpoint, I'll be sure to either have the door removed/open, or have the knob on it so it's easy to open like any other cabinet door.

Thankfully, we took I-40 through Texas/NM/Arizona, so didn't run into any of the infamous checkpoints.
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Old 07-21-2013, 10:49 AM   #7
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB

Quote:
Thankfully, we took I-40 through Texas/NM/Arizona, so didn't run into any of the infamous checkpoints.
Good call. As long as you stay at least 100 miles from any border or coast, the Constitution still applies...for now. Enjoy it while you can.
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Old 07-21-2013, 11:01 AM   #8
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Re: Project write-up: making a "hidden" compartment in SMB



Quote:
Originally Posted by Viejo
Quote:
Thankfully, we took I-40 through Texas/NM/Arizona, so didn't run into any of the infamous checkpoints.
Good call. As long as you stay at least 100 miles from any border or coast, the Constitution still applies...for now. Enjoy it while you can.
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