How to make a paper cryptex

Written by grahame turner
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How to make a paper cryptex
(Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Cryptex is an invention supposedly created by Leonardo Da Vinci, although there's little evidence outside of Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" that Da Vince ever actually had one. These small, portable document carriers function much like the mechanism on a bicycle lock, allowing a user to dial in a word on the letters and unlock the device. In the novel, they were made of metal and wood, but you can make one out of paper with the right template.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cryptex template
  • Thick paper or card stock

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  1. 1

    Download the Cryptex template from Open the files and print out the first and second pages onto thick card stock.

  2. 2

    Cut out all of the pieces of the Cryptex model from the card stock and set them aside. Take the end-cap pieces: a filled circle minus one slice, the thin gold strips from page 1, the C-shaped gold strips and the full circles with inner tabs.

  3. 3

    Glue the circle shape into a cone. Bend and glue the thin strip into a loop, and then glue that inside the cone.

  4. 4

    Attach the C-shaped loops to the exposed tabs on the end cap. Finally, attach the inner tabs on the final circle to the inside of this end cap. Repeat these steps to assemble a second end cap.

  5. 5

    Find the indicator strips, which have arrows on them. Glue one into a loop, and attach the end cap to the loop. Make sure the arrow faces away from the end cap. Repeat with the other indicator.

  6. 6

    Find the blank core piece and bend it into a ring. Fold the tabs inward and glue the loop onto the filled back plate. It's a full circle with a faint grey outline. There should be a small gap on the core, which is where the cylinder fits in. Sandwich the tabs between the back plate and the blank ring piece.

  7. 7

    Glue this outer core to the rear end cap, making sure the gap lines up with the indicator arrow.

  8. 8

    Bend a letter strip into a loop; fold all of the tabs inward and glue together. Attach two rings with slots to these pieces, pointing the slot toward the letter for your five-letter code word. Make sure the slots line up together. Repeat with the other strips until you have a total of five letter wheels.

  9. 9

    Slide the letters onto the core, lining up the slots so they match the gap on the core.

  10. 10

    Slide the remaining blank slotted ring over the core, so the slot lines up with the gap. Glue the tabs onto the inside of the ring. Glue the gold-slotted ring to the other side of this, again lining up the slots.

  11. 11

    Glue the outer core, which has outlines for knobs on it, into a fixed loop. Glue this core onto the closed circle with a gold background. Again, sandwich the tabs between the full gold loop and this back plate.

  12. 12

    Fold the five gold knobs into T-shapes. The knobs appear as gold rectangles with shading, so fold the shading half and then bring the tabs down. Glue these onto the knob outlines on the outer core.

  13. 13

    Glue the last end cap to the end of the inner core, lining up the knobs with the indicator arrow. Leave the device to dry overnight.

  14. 14

    Slide the inner core into the outer core, making sure the knobs line up with the slots.

  15. 15

    Turn the letter wheels to lock the device. To open the Cryptex, spin the letters to spell out your code word.

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