Bone's Cryptex




About: I'm a former industrial software developer / Quality Control and Production Line Foreman / jack-of-most-trades. Currently persuing a career in Hacking, changing stuff into better and sometimes more fun stuff!

Hello everyone, this is my first instructable, so with that in mind.. please bear with me. lol

I'm a huge fan of Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code series of books / movies. When I first saw the Cryptex in the movie I was like "WHOA, That would be something cool to have / build." but alas, I had nothing at the time with which to accomplish that. I still don't have the equipment, but, my interest in another project got me started into 3D modeling and design. I had an idea to build something that is not that common and may fill a niche. I won't get into that project here, yet. This potential project would entail developing some prototype parts that do not exist and the fastest / cheapest way for rapid prototyping is 3D Printing. I started looking into 3D printers that are currently offered retail. I can't really afford even the basic one of these, and I needed something with a fairly large build envelope. So.. my research lead me to this site "" and I was floored with the types of things that were being build/hacked/explained, I was hooked. I found Taulman's instructable on his hacked Combination CNC mill and 3D printer ( ) I could definitely do that. (I was an industrial software developer working in motion control and system controls in a former life.) 

All of this lead to where I'm at now. I've downloaded and experimented with several 3D CAD softwares and I eventually started working with 123D from Autodesk. Now, I took an AutoCAD class back when I was just out of high school, but that was WAY BACK in the early 80's, and things have definitely changed. Some of the current software have fairly steep learning curves. 123D was relatively easy to pickup and get things from my mind and digitize it. I eventually found that Autodesk offers full versions (Inventor Pro 2013) for free for students. SCORE!! Yea, there's a watermark on all of the prints that can't be erased when imported into a "real" version, but what do I care? I'm just interested in tinkering around and seeing what I can work out. The .stl's are clean and should work fine for 3D printing. 

Ok, enough with that nonsense, on with the instructable...

The Hacked Cryptex. 

First off, These are all original, from scratch designs. I drew inspiration from several examples posted here and other places. Honestly too many to list. Google cryptex and see how many examples there are. lol 

There are a few examples on Instructables that are really well done, but the combination is either really hard to change or can't be changed. So I set out to design one that would be relatively easy to change the combination and be able to be printed in one go on  a 3D printer that was capable of such a thing. (** note, This CAN NOT be printed on a conventional hacked 3D printer. the frame of the cryptex is designed such that the rings cannot be removed and therefore, cannot be placed on it if the parts were to be individually printed. I have another design that will be able to though, I'll post it soon!)

The design has a lock ring on the end, that when removed, provides the needed freedom of movement required to change the combination by rotating the lettered rings (black) on the floating ring (red). The lock ring cannot be removed unless the inner cylinder has been completely removed. 

Step 1:

Ok, the nitty gritty of it.

This is a 7-letter design, more combinations, harder to crack, (unless you use a hammer.) I did some quick research on what length of word, in the english language, is the most common. All of the sources unanimously claimed that 5 was the magic number. PAH!! I like 7, and I'm sticking to it! 

Each pair of letter ring (black) and floating ring (red) rides on the frame of the cryptex. The floating rings have clearance for the tabs on the inner cylinder so that they can rotate. All except the last one which has been shortened to allow clearance for the lock ring. The lock ring has a notch that when properly fitted, will allow the inner cylinder to be inserted into the frame of the cryptex. 

Step 2:

If you look at the frame of the cryptex, you will see the small flange that is on the outside of the open end. This is what prevents the floating rings and letter rings from slipping off of the cryptex. Now, because of the thin wall of the frame it might be possible to get the rings off and on, but not without a little work and the added chance of breaking the frame. The main intention was to prevent the "accidental" loss of the rings. 

The lock ring itself is pretty simple. It has 4 cogs that when inserted and rotated into position will shorten the clearances of the rings and prevent them from them moving around too much, which would make the cryptex harder to work.

The inner cylinder is pretty much what you'd expect it to be. A number of cogs located along the keyway that will lock it into the frame when the rings are scrambled up. Oh.. notice the little inlay work on the end there. That was a bit of design inspiration and I used the Instructables Robot to pay homage to the site that got me hooked on the path of my current obsession. 

Step 3:

I downloaded an example of the Instructables Robot graphic from here and then started to figure out just how I could include it on the Cryptex. I eventually had to come to the conclusion to insert it into a sketch and use the spline tool to trace the outlines. A bit tedious, but, the result is definitely passable. I also used this techinque on the back of the cryptex frame with something that better fits me, hehe. The cylinder pictured actually has the robot graphic inlayed into the surface of the cylinder. I have a version of it with just the graphic embossed / extruded slightly if the inlay would not be printable. (I don't yet have a 3D printer to test this out myself.) The inlayed version would only be fully utilized on a 3D printer that could print 2 colors and if the level of detail could be obtained. The embossed version is probably what will work best on most of them, I think.

I've included both .dwg 's along with a .dwg of the robot. 

Thanks for Checking out my first Instructable!!!!



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    14 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Just awesome. I'm a huge fan of this Instructable. I'm going back to school for CADD/Solidworks/Inventor this May - this is the sort of stuff that just inspires me.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    hey there ,awesome build, i would love to get a copy of the .stp file.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I did. It is pretty much the "full" version of 123D. The basics are relatively the same, but Inventor has many more "bells & whistles" hehe.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    i was wondering if you could save it as a .sldprt so i can open it in solidworks

    6 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I used Inventor to create/save the files. It can export to several different file types. Unfortunately .sldprt is not one of them. I can export to :

    .ige .igs .iges
    .stp .ste .step

    I guess the main question would be, what file type can you import?

    and which part?


    In my experience, stp works fine with SolidWorks.

    Great design by the way. I have shied away from having anything 3d-printed yet, seeing how I never seemed to be able to come up with a design that is both complex enough to actually make use of a 3d printer's abilities (i.e. not more easily done with plywood and hot glue), but also has at least some practical applications...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    It's getting header and harder not to take the plunge and buy a 3d printer, and your instructable may be the one that pushed me over the edge... Thank you :)

    Seriously, great instructable. Small suggestion:, it might be even clearer if you stated in the text that the floating rings were the red ones and the letter rings the black ones.

    Many thanks!

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi oldmicah,

    You're welcome.. hehe.. I found a clip on Youtube the other day where some financial expert within the tech industry commented that 3D printing will be as influential as personal computers and the internet were to our society.

    As for the suggestion, you are very right. After working with the files for a few days getting them "just" right, it's hard to see what things should be highlighted. We become too familiar with them and we forget that everyone else might see them as we do. I'll edit in some changes to clear that up, Thanks


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    should be,,, " might not see them as we do." .. lol, need an (edit) button for comments..