A Secret Security Cabinet

A scrapped applience with a hollow body can become a secret security cabinet for your valuables, provided you make a few modifications.

| January/February 1983

  • security cabinet - four panels
    All it takes is a gentle nudge to persuade this seemingly ordinary appliance to show its true side. By removing the magnetically fastened cover panel and unlocking the access door, you'll expose a well-protected storage area that's roomy enough to accommodate anything from a pocket watch to a 12-gauge. The idea can, of course, be adapted to a water heater of any size
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • security cabinet - four panels

According to statistics, an American home or apartment is burglarized every 20 seconds, and those folks who believe their residences aren't potential break-in targets are likely fooling themselves. The fact is, current crime trends indicate that "average" citizens are increasingly becoming the victims of a new wave of "proletariat plundering" which seems to thrive on the nonselective sacking of many households, rather than of just a few wealthy ones.

Of course, the most effective deterrents to home burglary include the use of security doors, windows, and hardware; door or window alarm systems; or sophisticated intrusion detectors. But the cost of such devices is often steep, if not downright prohibitive, and as many people are finding out from sad experience, locks stop only the honest thieves! So, since you likely can't guarantee the security of your dwelling, the next best thing is to hide the valuables within it. The made-from-trash security cabinet that MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Dennis Burkholder cobbled together would be pretty hard to beat for doing just that.

Besides costing only a few bucks to make (many of its parts, including the scrap water heater, are commonly junked items that most folks'd be glad to get rid of), we're willing to bet that this "undercover" work-a-day appliance — installed in the corner of your basement, laundry room, or utility closet — will attract no more attention than would ... well, an unobtrusive old hot water heater!

The secret of our hidden safe's success, you see, is that although it functions as a security cabinet (complete with a storage shelf and a lockable door), it looks just like a working heater, right down to its copper pipes and electrical service line. For convenience, though, the whole affair rests on hidden casters that allow the cylinder to be turned about-face to reveal a sheet-metal hatch cover that conceals the safe's access door.

To fabricate your own, you'll need (of course) a defunct electric water heater, with its skin and all its fittings intact (we used a 40-gallon job, though any size will do if large storage capacity isn't a concern), a couple of panel (or hasp) locks, six magnetic cabinet latches, a strip of sheet metal measuring 3" x 9", a 1" x 14" piece of 1/8" flat stock, a 1 1/16" x 29" continuous hinge (or several butt hinges), five roller-skate wheels, and a hunk of 1/2" plywood large enough to serve as an inside shelf.

The required hardware includes five 1/4" x 1 1/2" bolts with double nuts, two dozen 1/8" x 1/4" pop rivets or No. 5 x 1/4" machine screws, and — if you don't have access to a welder — fasteners to secure the hinges, stops, and support tabs.

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