Lathe-Turned Cryptex Keeps Your Secrets Safe

Woodworking Workshop
Lathe-Turned Cryptex Keeps Your Secrets Safe


A cryptex is a term for a special cylindrical lock. The term was coined by novelist Dan Brown in his best seller, The Da Vinci Code. In the story, Da Vinci used the cryptex as a means of attaining fifteenth century password protection on the original PDF or papyrus document format. The cryptex allowed messengers to transport secret papyrus rolls that the carrier could not read. The theory was that only the sender and the recipient would know the password. If the message carrier broke the cryptex in an attempt to read its mysterious contents, a vial containing vinegar — which was rolled inside of the scroll of papyrus — would break and the vinegar would dissolve the ink, rendering the message unreadable.


People have been making their own cryptex projects since 2004 and, in the video below, Carl Jacobson shows — with good detail — how to make a five-letter solid maple cryptex. This is Jacobson’s second attempt at the project and he brings with him tips and suggestions on how to achieve the smoothest operation and design.

Be sure to watch the whole video to hear his tips and tricks on how to conserve wood, know which pieces to oil and/or wax at specific phases of the project, as well as suggested dimensions. At the video’s close, Jacobson does offer suggestions on how to use less wood than he suggests at the project’s start.

pins inside cryptex

If you aren’t familiar with the design of a cryptex, here is how it works. Each of the five wooden letter wheels have a groove in the internal workings of the device. When the correct letter on that particular wheel is selected it aligns with the pin on the shaft and unlocks that specific wheel. When all five wheels are aligned, the cryptex will open allowing the user to retrieve the hidden message. This fun and whimsical project is sure to delight anyone who is privileged enough to be let in on its secrets.


3 thoughts on “Lathe-Turned Cryptex Keeps Your Secrets Safe

  1. Bcook65 says:

    “Maker” nice project.. guess i’ll have to clean up my wood lathe.. :)

  2. Lathe-Turned Cryptex Keeps Your Secrets Safe Carl Jacobson says:

    Hi Leia, thank you for sharing this. This is one of my favorite projects so far. Here’s another one I made, he used it to propose to his fiance.

  3. Lathe-Turned Cryptex Keeps Your Secrets Safe Carl Jacobson says:

    Oops here’s the pictures.

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Leia Gatch

Leia is a crafty mom who loves to create. Sculpture, painting, drawing, and crafting are some of her greatest passions. Her favorite projects are the ones she does with her family.

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