Quick and Easy ‘Secret Passage’
Good news for Scooby-doo enthusiasts and other grown-up children: Rockler and Lee Valley now offer hardware to create your very own “secret passage,” in the form of a folding bookcase known as the “Murphy Door.”
(Believe it or not, secret doorways are more popular than ever, according to a 2006 New York Times article.)
Hanging a simple frame-and-panel door can be difficult enough, since it must be “true” on all three axes, even if the frame and/or jamb is not. But building a secret-bookshelf-door is far more complicated, given the the extra weight, the depth, and need for disguise. The seams must be unnoticeable, and overall you’re dealing with exceptionally tight tolerances. The hinges must be hidden and carry the weight consistently over time, or, given the tight tolerances, it will be stuck in a hurry. On top of all that, the case must move smoothly and close softly (and quietly), so the contents of the shelves aren’t disturbed.
The hardware for the folding bookcase (which also includes a piano hinge, tracks, pivots, and gusset plates) is surface-mounted to the wall outside the door casings, and accommodates a bookshelf up to 73-in. wide. According to the manufacturer, it can hold up to 300-lbs of books and knick-knacks, in addition to the weight of the bookshelf.
The “door” can cover any opening up to 72-in. wide (59-in. or less and it won’t restrict the size of the doorway when it’s open). The case also needs 2-1/2″-in. clearance on both sides, so you can’t fit it tight between two stationary bookcases. There is plenty of room to customize the case (as in the photo, above), but according to the manufacturer, the hardware requires that you use 3/4-in. stock.
The Murphy Door could be a cool addition to a kid’s room, or a great space saver for an apartment, but if I was going to build a secret-passage-door, I’d be tempted to go the full Scooby-doo, with a solution more like these. Or these.
Corner hardware. Notice the casing is intact.
The best example of Murphy Door customization I could find.