How to Hollow out a Book in 80 Easy Steps

Lessons borne of trial and error and error

Pick out a hardcover book.

Pick out a hardcover book.

Make sure it's structurally sound and kind of pretty, but wouldn't stick out too much on a bookshelf. Bonus points for a nice book jacket too, but more on that later.

Make sure it's structurally sound and kind of pretty, but wouldn't stick out too much on a bookshelf. Bonus points for a nice book jacket too, but more on that later.

Gather materials: Ruler, X-Acto knife, 3 or 4 fresh blades, pencil, tape, scrap paper, plastic wrap.

Gather materials: Ruler, X-Acto knife, 3 or 4 fresh blades, pencil, tape, scrap paper, plastic wrap.

Wait, there's more! Glue, a little cup for glue, and an old paintbrush.

Wait, there's more! Glue, a little cup for glue, and an old paintbrush.

Take a minute and appreciate the book you're about to totally destroy. Go on, feel a little guilty. Remind yourself that true art is ephemeral and move on.

Take a minute and appreciate the book you're about to totally destroy. Go on, feel a little guilty. Remind yourself that true art is ephemeral and move on.

Open up the book and find the prettiest page. Not this one ...

Open up the book and find the prettiest page. Not this one …

Meh …

Meh …

Plants are so weird …

Plants are so weird …

Nah …

Nah …

It's perfect!

It's perfect!

Use the X-Acto knife to carefully cut the page out of the book as close to the spine as you can. Don't use too much pressure if it's a fresh blade; you only need to extract The One.

Use the X-Acto knife to carefully cut the page out of the book as close to the spine as you can. Don't use too much pressure if it's a fresh blade; you only need to extract The One.

Set it aside, out of harm's way. While you're at it, take off the cover if it has one and set that aside, too. You won't need them anytime soon.

Set it aside, out of harm's way. While you're at it, take off the cover if it has one and set that aside, too. You won't need them anytime soon.

You will, however, need that plastic wrap soon, so whip it out.

You will, however, need that plastic wrap soon, so whip it out.

Tape, too!

Tape, too!

Flip to the back cover. Get a nice big piece of plastic wrap and line it up with the inside of the spine.

Flip to the back cover. Get a nice big piece of plastic wrap and line it up with the inside of the spine.

Close the book so you're looking at the back cover.

Close the book so you're looking at the back cover.

Wrap the plastic around the cover and tape it in place because you're a cautious person.

Wrap the plastic around the cover and tape it in place because you're a cautious person.

A really cautious person.

A really cautious person.

Now open up the front of the book and flip through the first few pages. Choose your favorite left-side page. (There was nothing too great in this one, so I just chose the table of contents.) Now – this is important! – turn exactly one more page. You should not be able to see your chosen page anymore!

Now open up the front of the book and flip through the first few pages. Choose your favorite left-side page. (There was nothing too great in this one, so I just chose the table of contents.) Now – this is important! – turn exactly one more page. You should not be able to see your chosen page anymore!

Wrap these pages up with the cover the same way as before.

Wrap these pages up with the cover the same way as before.

Make sure the plastic on both sides is as close to the spine as you can get it.

Make sure the plastic on both sides is as close to the spine as you can get it.

Squeeze some glue into your glue cup.

Squeeze some glue into your glue cup.

Now add a little water to the glue. I find that 80% glue, 20% water works best. If you make it too thick, the glue will be harder to spread and more noticeable on the edge of the pages. If you make it too watery, it will be weaker, warp the pages and take forever to dry. It's a delicate balance.

Now add a little water to the glue. I find that 80% glue, 20% water works best. If you make it too thick, the glue will be harder to spread and more noticeable on the edge of the pages. If you make it too watery, it will be weaker, warp the pages and take forever to dry. It's a delicate balance.

Mix it up with your paintbrush.

Mix it up with your paintbrush.

Start applying your glue mixture to the page edges, working your way out from the spine. Don't be afraid to use a lot of glue; it will dry more or less invisibly.

Start applying your glue mixture to the page edges, working your way out from the spine. Don't be afraid to use a lot of glue; it will dry more or less invisibly.

… not that it's particularly visible at this stage, either. No matter.

… not that it's particularly visible at this stage, either. No matter.

Gather up your roommate's MCAT review and cookbooks (unless you are that weird roommate who likes cooking and going to med school, in which case, use your own, freak). Plop 'em on top of your book. If necessary, enlist the help of your heavy fish bowl.

Gather up your roommate's MCAT review and cookbooks (unless you are that weird roommate who likes cooking and going to med school, in which case, use your own, freak). Plop 'em on top of your book. If necessary, enlist the help of your heavy fish bowl.

Hi, Maurice!

Hi, Maurice!

Make yourself a nice hot beverage while you wait for your book to dry.

Make yourself a nice hot beverage while you wait for your book to dry.

Go ahead and dick around with your camera while you wait, too.

Go ahead and dick around with your camera while you wait, too.

Oh my god, is this thing seriously still drying? It's been like 20 minutes.

Oh my god, is this thing seriously still drying? It's been like 20 minutes.

Uggghhh. Can I start slicing yet?

Uggghhh. Can I start slicing yet?

It's dry! Test for structural integrity. If the pages aren't pretty well bound together at the edges, apply another coat of glue and wait for it to dry again.

It's dry! Test for structural integrity. If the pages aren't pretty well bound together at the edges, apply another coat of glue and wait for it to dry again.

Open to the first page that's not wrapped in plastic.

Open to the first page that's not wrapped in plastic.

Use your ruler to measure and mark a half inch border around this page.

Use your ruler to measure and mark a half inch border around this page.

Don't worry if you go overboard with the pencil; it will be covered later.

Don't worry if you go overboard with the pencil; it will be covered later.

Line your ruler up carefully with one of the corners. Use your X-Acto knife to trace the line, as neatly as you can, around the whole page. Tip: You can speed up the cutting later, but now is the time to cut with extreme patience and care!

Line your ruler up carefully with one of the corners. Use your X-Acto knife to trace the line, as neatly as you can, around the whole page. Tip: You can speed up the cutting later, but now is the time to cut with extreme patience and care!

Remove however many pages your slicing has now freed. In general, don't force pages out; make sure you've cut all the way through, especially at the corners.

Remove however many pages your slicing has now freed. In general, don't force pages out; make sure you've cut all the way through, especially at the corners.

This pile is about to get a lot bigger.

This pile is about to get a lot bigger.

Continue slicing and removing pages. At this point you shouldn't need the ruler anymore.

Continue slicing and removing pages. At this point you shouldn't need the ruler anymore.

Whenever it starts getting harder to cut, feel free to swap out your X-Acto blade. I usually go through at least three per book. If you try to make them last, the cutting process will take a lot longer, and you're not allowed to sue me if you develop chronic wrist pain.

Whenever it starts getting harder to cut, feel free to swap out your X-Acto blade. I usually go through at least three per book. If you try to make them last, the cutting process will take a lot longer, and you're not allowed to sue me if you develop chronic wrist pain.

Keeping your corners clean is the hardest part, but once you get sloppy it only becomes harder, so it's worth it.

Keeping your corners clean is the hardest part, but once you get sloppy it only becomes harder, so it's worth it.

You have an audio book, right? At least some podcasts, I hope. I recommend This American Life and The Moth if you're into that kind of thing.

You have an audio book, right? At least some podcasts, I hope. I recommend This American Life and The Moth if you're into that kind of thing.

Check how far you are from the back so you know when you're close to finishing.

Check how far you are from the back so you know when you're close to finishing.

You made it!

You made it!

You weren't as attentive as you thought and sliced right through to the back cover. Way to go, champ.

You weren't as attentive as you thought and sliced right through to the back cover. Way to go, champ.

Say your goodbyes.

Say your goodbyes.

You probably want to rewrap the back cover at this point since you carelessly sliced through the plastic.

You probably want to rewrap the back cover at this point since you carelessly sliced through the plastic.

Apply an unholy amount of glue to the inside of the book, and to the ½ inch border of the first page. Really, go nuts! If it doesn't look like a six year old was responsible when you're done, you screwed up.

Apply an unholy amount of glue to the inside of the book, and to the ½" border of the first page. Really, go nuts! If it doesn't look like a six year old was responsible when you're done, you screwed up.

Carefully pull one page out of the plastic wrapped pages and press it down on top of the glue-covered border. Smooth it out as well as you can, starting at the spine.

Carefully pull one page out of the plastic wrapped pages and press it down on top of the glue-covered border. Smooth it out as well as you can, starting at the spine.

Close the book again …

Close the book again …

… and reacquaint it with Maurice, MCAT reviews, and The Joy of Cooking. Let it dry for a few hours; since the inside is completely enclosed, it will take a little longer than the edges did.

… and reacquaint it with Maurice, MCAT reviews, and The Joy of Cooking. Let it dry for a few hours; since the inside is completely enclosed, it will take a little longer than the edges did.

Open it up when you're pretty sure it's dry.

Open it up when you're pretty sure it's dry.

Carefully slice the first page open (bonus points for autopsy-style), starting at the corners.

Carefully slice the first page open (bonus points for autopsy-style), starting at the corners.

Now carefully cut the page along the edges.

Now carefully cut the page along the edges.

This part is really satisfying.

This part is really satisfying.

Tadaaa!

Tadaaa!

Admire your handiwork some more.

Admire your handiwork some more.

Hollowed book pr0n

Hollowed book pr0n

Okay, enough of that. Remember how you haphazardly sliced up the back cover? Here's where we fix it.

Okay, enough of that. Remember how you haphazardly sliced up the back cover? Here's where we fix it.

Go get that page you set aside at the beginning.

Go get that page you set aside at the beginning.

Line it up so it looks nice when the pages are laid against the back cover.

Line it up so it looks nice when the pages are laid against the back cover.

Mark where you want to cut the page so that it doesn't hang over the edges …

Mark where you want to cut the page so that it doesn't hang over the edges …

… and slice as needed to make it fit where you want it.

… and slice as needed to make it fit where you want it.

Ah, much better.

Ah, much better.

Okay, now set your pretty, cut-to-fit page aside once more and get out the book jacket, if you have one. (If not, just scroll past all this book jacket stuff.)

Okay, now set your pretty, cut-to-fit page aside once more and get out the book jacket, if you have one. (If not, just scroll past all this book jacket stuff.)

Wrap the book jacket around the back cover, under the pages, so that it would look natural if the book were closed.

Wrap the book jacket around the back cover, under the pages, so that it would look natural if the book were closed.

This is how you'll be gluing it.

This is how you'll be gluing it.

Now, apply glue to the back of the interior-facing book jacket fold and press it against the back cover. Close the pages to help it dry flat.

Now, apply glue to the back of the interior-facing book jacket fold and press it against the back cover. Close the pages to help it dry flat.

If the edge is sticking up, place your ruler over it to hold it down while it dries.

If the edge is sticking up, place your ruler over it to hold it down while it dries.

It shouldn't take long.

It shouldn't take long.

Once it's dry, glue the loose page on top of it.

Once it's dry, glue the loose page on top of it.

Use the ruler to get rid of that pesky bump, then simply glue the pages to the back cover.

Use the ruler to get rid of that pesky bump, then simply glue the pages to the back cover.

The book jacket should be able to move freely; there's no need to glue more than that one strip on the back.

The book jacket should be able to move freely; there's no need to glue more than that one strip on the back.

You're done! Give it to someone who has a lot to hide, perhaps with a heartfelt card to that effect.

You're done! Give it to someone who has a lot to hide, perhaps with a heartfelt card to that effect.

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Finished product

Addendum: Making a hollowed-book coin bank

You can make a hollowed-book bank for coins without too many adjustments to the process above

You can make a hollowed-book bank for coins without too many adjustments to the process above:

  1. don't bother saving any pages when you cover the front in plastic wrap
  2. cut out a rough coin slot at the top before you glue the edges
  3. be as sloppy as you want when cutting out the pages
  4. stick your ruler in the coin slot as the pages dry to keep it open
  5. glue both covers to the pages at the end

This excessively photographic guide to hollowing out a book is brought to you by Heather Rivers, who begs forgiveness for her sins against bookdom and would offer to the appalled that her book-lovin' karma is still in great shape after having spent two years of college working in a rare book preservation lab preserving priceless treasures that they might continue to be celebrated by book fetishists like you for many years to come.