What small, cool things can I put in the secret compartment of a box?
August 14, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

So, I finally finished my dad's (now extremely late) Father's Day gift: a handmade wooden box with dovetail joinery and a "secret" pull-out compartment. Now I'm wondering what cool thing I can put in the secret compartment before I send it. Any ideas? Further details and dimensions, etc., within.

The box itself is about 5" wide by 7" long by 4.5" deep. The "secret compartment" is basically a false-bottom thing accessed by pulling on one end of the base trim, and spans the full length/width of the box, with about 0.5" vertical space above.

Obviously the BEST thing I could put in there would be a treasure map, but that's not really feasible. Nothing perishable or time-sensitive either, as if at all possible I'm going to *try* and avoid telling Dad about the compartment so he can find it himself and be all "oh wow, what's this?" (I suspect he'll find it pretty quickly, but still, best to be on the safe side.)

So...bottom line: I guess I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions for objects no larger than 5" x 7" x 0.5" that would be nifty to discover in a secret compartment of a box they received as a gift. Links to examples of neat things people have put/found in small compartments would be awesome, as would anecdata from anyone who has done something like this or received a similar gift.

If it helps, my dad is in his 50s, kind of geeky (he basically got me started on sf/fantasy as a kid), frugal, and into DIY-type stuff. He is also much more sentimental than materialistic and thus doesn't want/need cash or gift cards from me. Still, it'd be nice if whatever I put in the compartment was not something it would take me a long time to put together as I'm already a couple months late on the gift overall (not that my dad is concerned, I just want to get the box out of my house so I'm not tempted to keep perfectionistically messing with it!). Thanks!
posted by aecorwin to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about a note to him expressing what an awesome dad he is, how much you love him, how much he influenced you, etc.?
posted by Sassyfras at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

A picture of the two of you, maybe from when you were a kid?
posted by Area Man at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A note: "This box was built in the summer of 2013 by [real name] for her father, [dad's name], who taught her how to use her hands and so much more."
posted by Etrigan at 11:19 AM on August 14, 2013 [15 favorites]

Go to a vintage store or on Ebay and pick up a Little Leather Library book. Some can be had quite cheaply. Also on Etsy.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:22 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

A combination of Area Man and Etrigan: the note plus your favorite picture of the two of you.
posted by easily confused at 11:23 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps the height is just enough to get a tiny mechanical music box inside. Possibly the kind where you can punch your own tune into strips of paper is too big, but there are tiny ones with one-melody snippets. Put on top of box for better resonance, was my thought...

[My dad, a harpsichord maker, once put a handwritten note into a completely closed area of the inner framing of one of his instruments, saying "who is being curious here?" For accessing that box, you would have to remove the glued-on bottom of the instrument, for example when restoring it (after 200 years of use or whatever). Works for hidden drawers too, I guess]
posted by Namlit at 11:38 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Could you fit a paperback copy of "I Robot", with a photo of the two of you in there?
posted by HuronBob at 11:52 AM on August 14, 2013

Best answer: My rule in life: when in doubt, go for creepy and disturbing.

Or mysterious.

...so, in this case, what with it being your father and all, I'd say go for mystery and leave a small object of some kind (pocket knife? magnifying glass?) and an coded message. Leave the object(s) loose so they rattle from time to time, prompting investigation.

Then never speak of it again, and do not provide any clues to the message. Simply say "I have no idea what you are referring to", like a modern Bartleby.
posted by aramaic at 12:11 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

picture of you as well
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2013

A lucky talisman of some kind - maybe a coin, or a ring, loaded dice, horseshoe, gem, four leaf clover, or even a key.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:38 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

A compass. A sweet note and a photo.
posted by amanda at 5:31 AM on August 15, 2013

A small notebook, for those longer notes?

This is a really cool idea.
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:35 PM on August 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! Y'all got me thinking in the right direction. If I'd had more time I would have probably gone with a multi-piece "treasure cache" (notebook, compass, other nifty object etc.) but what I ended up doing was just writing a little personal note on a piece of scrapbook paper that was printed with an old-fashioned map pattern. I folded that up and put it in the secret drawer. The box has now been mailed off and my dad should have it any day now. Hooray!

Oh and for anyone who is curious, here is a picture of the box, with the bottom compartment visible. :D
posted by aecorwin at 9:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

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