Simple Vault Mechanism




Introduction: Simple Vault Mechanism

About: Most of the things I build usually relate to either astronomy, physics or woodworking in general.

Sometimes, a simple latch just won't do. In a recent project, I had to design a circular lid that would lock from the inside. However, as I didn't want any hardware showing on the outside of the lid, I needed to keep all the moving parts inside. Using this vault-like mechanism has the advantage of being easy to build if you have access to a laser cutter.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

You will only need a few common items to build this lock.

  • 1/4" Birch Plywood
  • 4 small screws
  • 1/4" dowel
  • Wood glue
  • You preferred wood finish (I used wipe-on polyurethane)

Even though, this mechanism can be built with traditional tools, it will be way easier if you have access to a laser cutter and a drill.

Step 2: The Lid

The diameter of the lid is up to you. It doesn't even have to be a circle as long as the arms of the lock still protrude when they are in the "locked" position.

A smaller circle is cut in the centre of the lid. This part, when rotated will give motion to the arms of the lock. In my design, this circle is hollow because I needed to accommodate room for a threaded rod.

Step 3: The Arms

The arms of the lock will slide on a 1/4" dowel. The length of the hollow part of the arms dictates how far these will travel outwards of the lid. Make it longer if you need a longer travel.

Step 4: The Axis

4 hole pockets are drilled on the inside of the lid. Dowels are glued in place. 4 caps are laser cut and drilled halfway through. These will keep the arms in place.

Step 5: Arms Assembly

The arms are screwed on the rotating centre. You can now fit the whole assembly on the inside of the lid, making sure that the axis go inside the arms pockets.

Step 6: The Lid Handle

To rotate the centre of your lid, you will need a handle. I decided to cut a circle slightly larger than the rotating part and glue those 2 together. The fact that the handle is larger prevents the central ring from being pushed through the lid.

Step 7: Finishing

In my project, I use the lid to close the opening of my telescope. As the lid does not have any support, I added some small tabs on the side to make it flush with the end of the tube. It also prevents the whole lid from spinning when rotating the centre part.

If you want to protect the wood from stains and humidity, you can apply a few coats of polyurethane varnish or some linseed oil. As birch doesn't stain very well, I decided to go with a clear finish.

Step 8: The Result

This mechanism is very basic and can be improved on many aspects. However, it is a good starting point for more complex movements. It is also a good project if you are new to laser cutting as almost all the parts can be cut from a small piece of plywood.

If you want to build your own, I am providing an SVG file of the whole mechanism. Have fun with it and please let me know if you've successfully built your own!



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    52 Discussions

    Wonderful 'ible!!! One comment - the side walls of the peg slots look awfully thin. The quantity of operating cycles this item would experience in its lifetime might be so small that it wouldn't matter, but simply doubling the thickness would make a huge difference for potential wear problems and would make it appear a bit more solid. Operation cycles could be surprisingly high if it had a long lifetime.

    1 reply

    You're absolutely right. In my case, there's not much stress applied to it as it serves as a cap for my telescope. But it you use it for a door, you might want to enlarge these walls. Also, the peg caps can be made larger to cover the entire slot. That way the arms won't be bending on that weaker spot much when someone's pulling on the door.

    Please do a couple of instructables for telescope making.

    Can't get the reply to work so adding comment here instead.

    1 reply

    I have a few astronomy related Instructables coming up. In case you missed it, here's the one about the telescope

    This is exactly what I was thinking of using for a box project I'm planning. However, I'd like to cover the mechanisms to protect them from damage by the contents. Any suggestions? I was thinking a kind of "shell", like a hollowed out board covering the whole thing or a framework just to support a veneer, unless there's a better option.

    3 replies

    A plexiglass panel can be a good option if you want to protect the moving parts while keeping it visible.

    A flat round piece glued to the dowel caps in step five?

    Ah, yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking. And I forgot to mention that my plan is for a square lid on a cubic box.

    looks great. May use this in something I am making

    1 reply

    Great, post a picture once it's finished :)


    2 years ago

    I like your application as well as your execution, but it's not a new concept. Most garage doors use a similar method of locking, rotating two bars into holes in opposite sides of the door. Similar two-, three- and four-point latches have been used on security doors and odd-shaped doors (like the round ones seen in The Hobbit) for many years.One of the nice things about them is that they don't have to be in any particular position on the door - just change the lengths of the bolts..

    1 reply

    You're right, this mechanism has been in use for a while. I thought I would make an Instructable to share the concept with other makers. Thanks for mentioning the fact that the rotating part doesn't need to be in the center.

    Cool project. This is exactly what I was looking for. I will build one, but without a Lasercutter. If it is done, I post a picture here. Thank you for sharing your idea!

    1 reply

    Glad you like it. Of course you can make one without the laser cutter. It just makes things quicker if you have access to one.

    Nicely done. Who cares if you did not invent a new concept. Most concepts here are just variations of an existing idea. Nice to show a way to do it. Keep it up please!

    This is exactly what I've been planning on using on the lid of a dry/wet tumbler I've been working on. Thank you :)

    1 reply

    I was thinking the same thing , although I would use steel =P