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How to Hollow a Book for Stashing Secrets (or Candy)

October 31, 2016

Many years ago, I happened upon a hollowed book. I was in the back of a coffee shop scanning a shelf of used books that were a dollar, and for some reason I felt the urge to pluck a red one off the shelf. I cracked it open only to find the pages had been carved out and a message in a small plastic bag was tucked inside.

And so began my intrigue with hollowed books. Hiding in plain sight, your standard hardback book houses a little nest for treasures, rainy day cash, or in the case of the aforementioned red book, a geocache. I had to learn how to do it.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Please Note: No rare books were harmed in this craft. In fact, they were either found on a stoop or less than $3.

What you’ll need:

  • A hardcover book
  • An X-ACTO knife or box cutter
  • Matte Mod Podge
  • A paint brush
  • A sheet of wax paper
  • Binder clip, optional
  • Something heavy

How to hollow your book:

Photos by Mark Weinberg; video by Gabrielle Mangino

1. Pick your book.

You can really judge a book by its cover with this craft. Be sure to use a book with a reasonable number of thicker pages (say, 300 or so that aren't tissue-thin). Keep your eyes peeled for the brightly bound Reader’s Digest Condensed Books or any other delightful tomes on the giveaway table at your library.

2. Prepare the book.

Flip about 1/8th of the way in your pretty yet soon-to-be unreadable book. Keeping a chunk of non-hollowed pages at the front helps the case that this is indeed a book and definitely not hiding or stashing anything at all. I like to binder clip the “normal section” so it stays out of the way.

3. Mark the hollowed section.

Use a ruler to mark the area you want to excavate. You’ll want to give yourself a healthy margin on all four sides. If your pages or margins are thin, there might be some ripping. If that happens (no big, it happened to me), just tuck them in in step six. It all comes out with the Mod Podge.

Begin the excavation. Photo by Mark Weinberg

4. Start hollowing.

With a box cutter or X-ACTO knife, cut along the lines of your soon-to-be compartment. Depending on the sharpness of your knife and the pages of your book, you might be getting 10- to 20-page chunks at a time. The trickiest part here is cutting the corners with precision, but if you’re like me, you'll find that a little unevenness only adds to the charm.

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Keep in mind you can also carve the compartment to the shape of the object you're stashing, if you're feeling especially artistic.

Bye, pages! Photo by Mark Weinberg

5. Prep for the Mod Podge.

Once you’ve hollowed as much as you’d like, wrap a piece of wax paper around the front part of the book (the front section with the loose pages). Secure with a rubber band or binder clip. This ensures those pages stay free while you seal up the back section of the book.

6. Seal it up.

Using your paint brush, liberally paint the inside and outside hollowed pages with matte Mod Podge. Glob it on the sides of the secret compartment. For the exterior pages, hold the book loosely closed allowing the Mod Podge to get in the crevices of the pages. Then, close the book a smidgen tighter and wipe any excess away.

Globbing on the Mod Podge. Photo by Mark Weinberg

7. Apply weight and let dry overnight.

Stack something heavy on top. I used three coffee table books, and that worked like a charm. Let it dry overnight.

8. Remove wax paper.

In the morning, ever so carefully remove the wax paper, and there you have it—a book ready to stash. I was surprised at how solid one coat of Mod Podge zipped up the book. If you’re finding your pages are still a big loose, apply another coat and let it dry for another night.

Happy Halloween! Photo by Bobbi Lin

What other day-of Halloween crafts are you tackling? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • RubyDu
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
  • Hannah Margaret Allen
    Hannah Margaret Allen
Fancies a thrifty craft, making Bundt cakes, and listening to Patsy Cline. Possessor of two names as one. Manager of writer-types at Inverse.


RubyDu October 31, 2016
But wait a minute. What was the message that you found in the bag in the original hollowed out book?!?!?!?!?!
Lindsay-Jean H. October 31, 2016
Add me to the curious list, I want to know, too!!
Amanda S. October 31, 2016
Me three!
Hannah M. October 31, 2016
Inside the bag was a little log of names and a golf pencil, which turned out to be a geocache (a GPS-enabled treasure hunt of sorts)! I had hoped for a love letter, but it was still pretty thrilling.