Spring Open Drawer Box

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Project by PhilosopherSteve posted 06-28-2015 01:44 PM 1356 views 4 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is a technique I have been yearning to figure out for years and I finally got it. I love the antique boxes with spring activated drawers but there is so little information on how any of these actually work. Moreover, none are made with parts you can buy from, well, anywhere. But, with the help of some other’s here (like Brice and his Betjemann box!) and a few well placed searches, I found some information.

The drawer’s power usually always seems to come from a flat spring on the antiques. You can still find companies who will make such springs, but I’m guessing it’s not cheap. I first tried the coil spring that acts as a winder for a chainsaw. It worked, but was a bit too small. So then I took off my overly dull bandsaw blade and tried that. It worked great (and now I have to go file off the teeth!). I just snipped of a section and then carefully bent it so that each “arm” was the same length and about the same bend. Since the bandsaw blade isn’t real wide, I fastened it with the two little wooden plates (I’ll replace the screws with pan heads once I can head out to grab some).

The catch is just a flat stick with a wedge glued on. It sits in a track and at the back end I put a pen spring under it. The little screw in front keeps it in place but lets it move. The lip on the bottom of the drawer catches on this when it’s closed. The pin at the back just depresses the catch, releases the drawer and the springs pop it out.

This is my prototype. It’s a bit clunky, but I wanted to figure out how the mechanisms worked before trying to refine anything. I’m fine making the springs, but I do wish something else existed for the catch, since wood has to a certain thickness not to fail. A reason to keep searching!

Oh, and with a bit of room that existed because of the mechanism, well, I added more secret space!

I also put together a video to talk about how this works :

5 comments so far

View Andre's profile


992 posts in 1224 days

#1 posted 06-28-2015 02:25 PM

Looks very nice, you could try some harder exotic woods for the catches, they can be cut much thinner and will last forever. Wait until Kiefer sees this, he will have a very easy solution!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View observer100's profile


232 posts in 528 days

#2 posted 06-28-2015 05:51 PM

Good job on the YouTube video Steve. I enjoyed it. I was thinking that the weight of the items in the drawer might influence the amount of spring strength required to open the drawer and I assume the friction of the drawer slides would also be a factor.

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 3503 days

#3 posted 06-28-2015 06:35 PM

Observer100 – yes, the weight of items in the drawer is definitely a factor. Just for a test I put 3 pairs of pliers and a large tape measure it. It still opened, but only about 2 inches or so. I’ve also noticed that when the top panel is in place the opening is limited – which I’m guessing is due to air pressure or something like that.

This would be meant for light weight use. Maybe some special valuables or if it was designed for tea some silver ware. Things like that. Still, just knowing it opened with a few lbs of tools in the drawer was nice. Keeping the drawer waxed will help. On my next box I may try using runners and see how that works. Or another way to limit the friction surfaces.

Thanks for watching the video, I’m glad you enjoyed it. As I learn to make these boxes I want to document it so that these techniques don’t stay lost. Too bad no one can x-ray a Roentgen piece.

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2285 days

#4 posted 06-28-2015 06:55 PM

This turned out nicely.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2726 days

#5 posted 06-29-2015 05:14 AM

Have you tried using compression springs? They are readily available and you can find them in a variety of sizes and strengths and could be fastened in a number of different ways and multiples…

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