Introduction: Cardboard Cryptex Vault

Picture of Cardboard Cryptex Vault

Cardboard model of a Cryptex.  This is a 5 letter model that allows you to build and set your own combination.

You have seen this type of device in the movies now build your own. Average assembly time can be up to 7 hours. I know that it is long but the process is rather satisfying upon completion.

Included is an engineered build plan along with the cardboard shapes that you must cut out and assemble.

You will need to supply the cutting tools and glue. Recommended is super-glue (cyano type), glue-stick and hobby knife for cutting and assembly.

Step 1: Download and Print.

Picture of Download and Print.

The files included are for you to print on your computer printer. I recommend cardstock as this will provide rigidity and support. Standard paper will work but the finished model will be quite flimsy.

The cutting of the shapes is best accomplished with a sharp x-acto type knife but scisors will do in a pinch.

You will need to print 5 of the 26Wheel file, 1 each of the remaining. The assembly7 file is meant to be printed on standard copy paper.

Step 2: Cut the Shapes From the Print-outs.

Picture of Cut the Shapes From the Print-outs.

All solid lines need to be cut out from the printouts while the light or dotted lines ar there to represent folds. The included PDFs show the assembly steps.

Each outer code ring has 26 flat sections for lettering later.

You will need to assemble 9 code rings for a 5 letter combination.

Precision cutting is key here so take care in this step. The better your cuts, the better your finished item will look.

The first step is to assemble the code rings as shown in the pictures. The clue of choice here is Cyano type or crazy glue if you prefer. This is a rapid setting type glue and works exceptionally well on paper or cardboard.

Do not worry about any discolouration of the paper as this will be addressed later.


Step 3: Make the End Caps

Picture of Make the End Caps

In order to make the vault portion of the cryptex you will need 2 end caps. Cut and assemble the pieces as shown, again using the cyano type adhesive.

Refer to the PDFs.

Step 4: Make the Vault

Picture of Make the Vault

The outer vault is a simple tube with a strip cut from it. This is glued into one of the outer caps with the key-way or slot aligned as shown.

The inner vault is a tube with pegs glued to its surface. again this is shown in the PDF files. it too is glued to into the other end cap.

Step 5: Assemble the Outer Vault

Picture of Assemble the Outer Vault

Beginning with the outer vault assembly you will need to place the 9 previously assembled code wheels. The first one is movable and the second one is glued in place. This is repeated until all 9 code wheels are in place

Refer to the diagram. You will have 5 movable code wheels and 4 stationary ones.

The last section is a side of one of the code wheels. It is used to as a retainer for the last movable code wheel. It is glued in place as shown.

This alternating assembly is the key to the vault.

Step 6: Set the Code

Picture of Set the Code

With the slots aligned in the outer vault the inner vault will slide in.

This is a ideal time to put a finish on the vault.

I chose to paint that with a gold spray paint by Krylon. Be sure to coat all surfaces and let it dry completely befor continuing.

Using the printout labeled Assembly7 you will cut the code strip and glue them in place with the glue stick. The stick will not discolor the paper and will hold the strip in place.

These strips are to be glued in place on the movable code cylinders. The code word is directly above the slot on the code cylinders. I chose NORTH for this one.

A code placement line is inscribed on the non-movable cylinders above the slot.

Step 7: Enjoy

Picture of Enjoy

This is a great way to present your rent check to your room-mate...


Caribou Elizabeth made it! (author)2016-02-15

I made this as a Valentine's Day present for my boyfriend. I was incredibly pleased with the final result! It took a decent amount of time to put together (my fault for starting it only the day before the 14th). The whole thing is very sturdy which was a nice surprise. The only thing I didn't do was spray paint it because I worried about doing a shoddy job and messing up my work. Thank you for the tutorial!

BehradB (author)2015-02-23

hi, do you have the solidworks models?

Random_Canadian (author)BehradB2015-04-01

Sorry for the late reply.

Sadly I lost these in my great hard drive crash of 2014.

simonu1 (author)2015-01-11

what kind of cardboard did you use?

Random_Canadian (author)simonu12015-01-28

Standard cardstock.

Sorry for the late reply!

DUO0037 (author)2013-08-15

It's so cool. I'm going to make one for sure. :D

webbhost (author)2012-09-27

loving the idea of this... I'm thinking through, rather than making it out of cardboard.. using the cardboard as a "mould", and filling the rings for example with filling plaster?

Once its dried it would be pretty solid and give it a nicer feel, only problem would be ensuring that the plaster gets into every little corner...

The middle section would also be a good challenge, I'm thinking of making a cylinder shape and placing another piece in the middle to make the hollow part... once this has set, fill the insides "again" which will make the centre piece, and hopefully with the cardboard being in the middle I can take the final middle piece out.... could be interesting and if I try it I'll make my own instructable, making reference to this one as my original source :)

MattGyver92 (author)2012-09-09

Interesting. Would you mind if I use this mechanism on a book? I have an idea on how to implement it so that the book cannot be physically opened unless the rings are in the correct alignment.

oswin42 (author)2012-08-10

I love it. will make it tomorrow probably. pics to come I think. might make a half wood one with stuff I "borrow" from my dad. he won't miss them anyway. thank you :)

tinker234 (author)2012-03-10

wow very cool is there there a space i could store something so you have to unlock this to get to it

goffymew56 (author)2011-09-19

im stuck on the end caps do i cut out where it says for tube alignment

The tube alignment circles are not cut.

I live in Thailand, I see you're describing is very easy to understand.
Thanks you verymuch

brainiac120 (author)2011-08-09

I really wanna make it but we're out of cardstock D:

jbend (author)2011-06-22

How can you put vinagar in it like the movie.

techno guy (author)2011-05-05

I'm making a cryptex out of toilet paper rolls since all I have to do is cut them a little to make the pieces.

tobyscool (author)techno guy2011-06-08

made mine out of toilet paper rolls too :D

techno guy (author)tobyscool2011-06-09

Nice :)

tobyscool (author)techno guy2011-06-10

Good luck with yours :D

techno guy (author)tobyscool2011-06-16

I already finished, it works pretty good, my classmates liked it when I showed it for show-and-tell.

Erfunden (author)2011-05-06

I was sick and stuck in bed yesterday so I made this. I shortened mine to four disks, though, and made some other changes on the fly. Used a light cardstock that deformed slightly as I worked with it. Still, it works and looks pretty good. Thanks for the great plans!

Random_Canadian (author)Erfunden2011-06-04

Good to see that the plans have been put to good use. Excellent job.

Random_Canadian (author)2010-12-31

I have added another file to the mix. It is a set of complete build instructions. Please check out CryptexInstructions.pdf.

Enjoy and good luck with your builds.

Woefully sorry, but I've been looking all over the Instructable for the Instructions.pdf and I can't seem to find them. A little help please?

The file in now on the first page that you see.. If you still have problems email me and I will send it to you directly.

New file is like a book... LOVE IT!!!!
I'm about half was through.
I wish I had a laser to cut the shapes..


I decided to put this in a booklet form for ease of downloading and printing.

Be sure to post back with your finished project and comments.

U.S.CouchPotato (author)2011-01-22

That is so Cool with a K!. But i want to know....... Did you use Cardstock paper???

I used cardstock for all except the letter wheel covers.

Thanx A lot. This is awesome!!!

valgerth (author)2010-12-15

I think that I might use this as the base for the CAD work to get these rings machined out of metal and make a real good quality one as a gift, or maybe if I get get tight enough tolerances and come O rings I'll use it as a final puzzle for part of a geocache.

jimmyt9574 (author)valgerth2010-12-19

That would be an epic geocache. Please tell me you live in Southern California.

valgerth (author)jimmyt95742010-12-30

Unfortunately I'm from NJ, however I have family out there I might ship one to if you ask nicely. :)

klercke (author)jimmyt95742010-12-19

So true!

madmada (author)valgerth2010-12-22

As soon as i saw this i too thought that would make an awesome geocache!
Made me think of ones i have completed in Wagga, nsw, Australia.
Refer, GC1KM3H , GC1M7XG , and GC1JRKH. (these are in a series of caches, "Rubik's Tube 1,2 and 3."
Now this instructible has got my mind ticking over.......... :)

iPodGuy (author)valgerth2010-12-16

Pretty much what I thought!

tobyscool (author)2010-12-27

Hey i cant download it :(
i there another file ??

vaberon (author)tobyscool2010-12-28

... get adobe reader

Dantheman1993 (author)2010-12-23

Might use my schools Boxford router to make a wooden version!
Just gotta turn this into a cad file... fun :D

tranoxx (author)2010-12-21

If its cardboard... couldn't you just cut it open?

Random_Canadian (author)tranoxx2010-12-21

Sure, but that is not the point. 99.99% will solve rather than destroy...

More secure options are shown on this site...

beehard44 (author)2010-12-21

ooh, thanks!
Now i know what to do with our group's old math project (10 pcs 1/2 illustration board, what a waste to throw away)

berky93 (author)2010-12-19

This has inspired me to design a version that can be printed on a 3d printer. Let's hope it turns out well!

Random_Canadian (author)berky932010-12-20

I have lots of Solidworks models if you need them...

berky93 (author)Random_Canadian2010-12-20

Nah that's alright. It's less that I need or have any use for a cryptex and more that I like using projects like this to challenge myself. Thanks, though.

equinox777 (author)2010-12-20


jeffreyshi (author)2010-12-20

I am soooo gonna try this... u are sooo smart! hopefully i can get some good paper... :D I like the design!

vaberon (author)2010-12-20

holy **** you're a genius!!!

rorpen (author)2010-12-20

I tried making a different 'ible but it was too complicated, and i got bored with it.
this looks easier-kind of...

Random_Canadian (author)rorpen2010-12-20

This can take a little while to complete but it works great... Good luck...

About This Instructable




Bio: Bit of a background in various electrical and mechanical fields, obscure sense of humour and typically willing to help...
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