Picture of How To Make a Cryptex
In this Instructable I'll show how I made my cryptex.

There is already an Instructable on making a cryptex published lately, but I wasn't satisfied by that one. That cryptex was held together on the outside, like this. I prefer my cryptex held together from the inside, like this. That is by the way the 'real' cryptex, like it is used in the film. Those are harder to make.

A cryptex is a kind of lock with a password, that holds a roll of paper. Author Dan Brown said in his "Da Vinci Code", a book from some years ago, that Leonardo da Vinci invented it, to let messengers carry secret papyrus rolls that the messengers themselves may not read; only the sender and the recipient know the password. If the messenger would smash the cryptex to read the message, a vial containing vinegar which was rolled inside of the papyrus roll would also break even earlier than the cryptex itself, the vinegar would spread over the message, disolve the ink, making it unreadable.
The term 'cryptex' is actually made up by Dan Brown. I don't even know for sure that it's true that Da Vinci invented it, he never actually made one, he would have made a blueprint in his diary, but I never found that page of his diary(so I made my own blueprint, see the next step). What I do know, is that the vinegar thing doesn't work. It doesn't disolve the ink so much that it gets unreadable, it becomes only a little more vague. I tested it with Black Indian ink, several kinds of pen inks, marker pens, ecoline, pencils, and some more; it never worked, just like Wikipedia says.
In the Da Vinci Code, the cryptexes were used different than how they were meant by Da Vinci, in the story they use it as a part of a big puzzle, the answer to a riddle is the password of a cryptex, which contains another riddle that leads to another cryptex, etc. To my opinion the use of cryptexes in such a way is a bit ridiculous, the characters in the book could've just put the cryptex in the freezer so that the vinegar gets frozen, then they could saw it open without danger. But they didn't think of that easy solution in the book.

In the comments below, 'cavingboy92' came up with this genious way to make use of the vinegar vial: on the paper around the vial, don't write with ink, but also with vinegar. If you want to read the message, pour a PH indicator on it(like red cabbage juice), and you can see the text. Or you can just hold it under a low heat source like a light bulb, then you can see it too, because the acid will oxidate.
If the vial breaks, the piece of paper gets all drenched in vinegar, so it's absolutely sure that it's unreadable!
Here is the proof that it works, tested by cavingboy92.
You could also just put the same inkin the vial as the ink where you wrote with on the paper, that would also destroy the message.
If you want more ways on how you could use a vial-break-delfdestroy mechanism, read throught the comments below, there are a lot of people giving suggestions for it, and also on improving the cryptex.
Finally, if you disolve a lot of salt in the vinegar, I think you can lower the freezing point of it so much that it can't get frozen in a normal kitchen freezer, then the freeze method also won't work so easily, you would have to find a special freezer in a lab or something.
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Smccln2 years ago
But, really with trial and error, you could crack the code...

But, i still want one
Ggg101 Smccln9 months ago

trial and error won't work. This one has over 308,915,776 combinations and only one is correct. There are 26 letters on all 6 dials. It's highly unlikely that trial and error would ever work

Istarian Ggg10123 hours ago

Trial and error will work just fine, you'll be there a long time though. The biggest dilemma is that a well-built cryptex will require you to discover each digit in the combination before you can test if it's right because no movement is possible until all the pegs are free to move...

CigarSmoker22 months ago

this would make an excellent lock for a pocket door. At first I didn't understand how it worked, but I get it now, thank you.

Law_dud8 months ago
Yes the original cryptex had papyrus . Which was paper of long ago and the vinegar would dissolve the paper . Paper used to be held together . It was tree pulp held together so the vinegar would break the bond . New paper is different but papyrus was a different paper. You can try making your own paper and using a solvent that would be undone by vinegar

Write your message on a glossy paper using watercolour paints or use a nib pen and write with printer ink. Everyone has some old print cartridges that are no longer useful, but still have a good quantity of ink left. Just empty the cartridge into a container and fountain pen away. Any liquid including water should mess up the printing fairly well. I'm thinking a lighter colour ink would be easier to dissolve.

Kraplax6 years ago
OMG! This is totally awesome! Oh, why did Instructables digest came so late?! This cryptex idea would fit my puzzle-present for my friend's birthday tomorrow :( guess i'll make it anyway and present him the whole puzzle a bit later :/ I still wonder where to find tubes.. though, i guess i'll try in local store for such things.. Thanks for instructable :)
merijnvw (author)  Kraplax6 years ago
Thanks. I was just lucky, three of the tubes were in my dad's shed, and one tube came from an old damaged tent. But if you are going to make it just for a puzzle, I assume your friend keeps sportive and won't try to lock-pick or break your cryptex or something, you could also make it from cradboard tubes that go around posters. Or just paper... I could think of those tubes made from paper, with 10 or more layers of paper in thickness. It wouldn't hold against a thief, but for a puzzle present it would be good!
Kraplax merijnvw9 months ago

Better late than never ;) Three (or four?) years ago i finally made it from composite water pipes (PVC+Al+PVC ones) and it turned out really great. In case anyone looks for a material that is easy to handle and work with - PVC tubes are great for cryptex!

Well, i looked around for other instructables about Cryptexes, but they don't look that cool. I doubt i'll follow your idea to the letter, but i guess most of your instructable would be done. I guess i wouldn't work that hard on side caps. Maybe some strong glue, but no nails, i guess.
petsenek101 year ago

It says that the video is private?

nstimley1 year ago

I think in the book it said the Cryptex used a special kind of paper so the PAPER itself dissolved. And is there a way to have the inside be hallowed out so you can store bigger objects in it?

apark38382 years ago
Hey, I had a question about doing this without a soldering iron, you say in the instructions you can use an oven what do you mean by "putting something under both sides" specifically. Can you clarify this a bit?
ThaXified2 years ago
xvf.2 years ago
Let me enlighten you. The vinegar is not meant to dissolve the ink but the PAPYRUS itself.
merijnvw (author)  xvf.2 years ago
Let me enlighten you. Read the text or comments for chrissake. Papyrus is not dissolved by vinegar
superrust2 years ago
What did you use to cut the incisions?
altimus322 years ago
this is an awsome instructable especialy for me because i have a lot of nosey family members
thattori2 years ago
What kind of material do you use?
i have made a version of my own here is a link, please leave your thoughts and how you think i could improve it

Great build and a great instructable. definitely favoriting and planning on building a couple as gifts in the future
monkeys983 years ago
you should really sell this as a kit
haha u think that can stop me i can brake into a 79 numbered vault in 5 minutes lol lol lol I CAN"T BE STOPPED MUHAHAHA!
canucksgirl3 years ago
Very cool. Thanks for sharing. :D
Where would you recomend buying the four tubes ?
I have made a lot of different things with tubes and I always go to LOWES.
i would say home hardware in the plumbing section, or any hardware store,if you cant find any ask a clerk or someone
SimonRawr4 years ago
Another way you could make the vinegar vial work is is you wrote on something like tissue paper so the vinegar would dissolve it completely. I also like the idea of adding salt to prevent the freeze method. I was wondering if somebody could figure out a way to make a timed cryptex so that if it wasn't opened in time, the message would be destroyed. That would take some work, but would eventually be worth it for secret spy stuff.
thats actually exactly the point, had merijvnw read a little deeper into Dan Browns book, paper is not the material the note is written on but rather papyrus, which dissolves in vinegar, im not sure if someone else has already commented on this, but if so i just wanted to bring it to greater attention
merijnvw (author)  94todd3 years ago
had 94todd read a little deeper into this instructable, he wouldn't have placed this comment. pfff
Old post, I know.. I would look in to something electronic. Small timer (chip might work best), maybe a motor to crack the vial? Not sure how small it could be though. Sounds like a weekend project for me =)
In the book, pulling to hard on the ends of the cryptex actually moves a lever that has a point attached to it that presses down on the vinegar vile. When enough force is used (less force than required to break the cryptex) it cracks the glass vial containing the vinegar. this acion releases the vinegar which dissolves the papyrus.
bowmaster4 years ago
I plan to use this to make a cryptex flashdrive, encrypt in digitally, then put back-track linux on it for a top-secret hacker drive.
merijnvw (author)  bowmaster4 years ago
XD good luck!
Much better then the "Auto-Hacking Wardrives" on Instructables. This one can be used to actually hack, not just copy random files.
laloworld944 years ago
the paints you are using...wich kind is it? i live in mexico and i think here they dont sell teh citadel paints...
merijnvw (author)  laloworld944 years ago
it's paint from the miniature wargame called warhammer, I have the paint even though I don't play the game. It's a nice type of paint I think
ahurd14 years ago
I'm really excited about trying to make a cryptex. I think I understand the steps, but it should be much easier to understand when I have the actual tubes in front of me.

Thank You
The best Cryptex tutorial EVER
yaly4 years ago
okay cool, now how do you change the password?
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