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Build your own Cardboard Cryptex

This year I deicded to make Lily a cryptex for her birthday. If you read Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code or saw the movie, you know what a cryptex is. The cryptex hides something inside and gives it away only when you turn the code correctly.

You can make your own cryptex and make use of things that would otherwise end up in your trashbin, such as toilet paper rolls or pieces of cardboard.

These instructions show you how to make a 5-piece-cryptex of concrete size, if you want a different size and/or more or less pieces, just adjust the size.

You’ll need:

  • 3 rolls of different diameter (the widest 6 cm, the other two thinner) and 23 cm long (you can glue together several toilet paper rolls)
  • some cardboard
  • color paper
  • Paper stripes with the code – 19, 7 cm long and 3,8 cm wide.
  • scissors and exacto knife
  • glue, event. glue gun
  • drawing compass
  • pencil
  • something to fill the cryptex with

First cut the widest roll into 2 pieces 2 cm wide and 5 pieces 3,8 cm wide.

Cut the middle roll lenthwise and cut of 1,5 cm from the long side.


Draw and cut 3-5 circles with the diameter of 4,5 cm from cardboard. Then glue as many circles together to reach the width of just under 1 cm.

Glue this thick circle inside the middle row aligning it with the edge.

Now draw 5 circles as wide as the pieces made from the widest roll.

In each circle measure 1 cm from the edge (red dots) and connect them to make a smaller inner circle. Mark 1 cm on the small circle and right under it 2 cm on the bigger circle and connect their edges. Then cut out a circle with an opening as shown in the last picture.

Take these 5 open circles and glue them inside the 3,8 cm pieces. Glue 4 of them just at the edge and one 1 cm below the edge.

Now draw and cut out 4 circles of 6 cm in diameter and glue them on both side of the two pieces 2 cm wide.


Place one of the 3,8 cm wide pieces on the roll you cut lengthwise (open roll). Align the piece with the edge of the roll. Then take the piece that is 2 cm wide, apply some glue to the center and place the roll on it. The roll and the 2 cm piece will glue together and the wider piece will help you align and center everything. After it’s centered, take the wider piece off.

Place the thinnest roll inside the open roll and then place all the wide pieces on both rolls. If the thinnest roll is longer than 23 cm and you didn’t cut it shorter, do it now. Apply some glue to the upper end of the thinnest roll and then place the last remaining 2 cm wide piece on it aligning it with all the other pieces.

Take the cryptex apart and glue some color or decorative paper on both rolls and the 2 cm pieces that are glued to them.

Let’s decorate the pieces that make the code. Cut the stripes with the code and glue each stripe to one 3,8 cm wide piece. IMPORTANT! The characters that make the code have to be placed over the opening of the open circle (see photo with the letter “Y” – this letter is part of the code). The piece which has the open circle glued 1 cm below the edge has to bear the last character of the code.

From the cardboard, cut 3 stripes 1 cm wide and 10 cm long. Glue the stripes on top of each other and then cut the thick stripe to 5 pieces 1 x 2 cm.

Place the thinnest roll in the open roll and then place the first piece on the rolls. Align the opening in the circle with the opening of the roll. Mark on the thinnest roll the edge of the 3,8 cm piece. Then take the inside roll out and glue one of the small cardboard pieces there where you’ve made the mark.

Again place the thinnest roll inside the open roll and then place the first and also the second piece on the rolls. And again, mark the edge of the second piece and glue another cardboard piece on the thinnest roll.

Continue with all the other pieces until all the 5 tiny cardboard pieces are glued to the thinnest roll.

Take the open roll and mark where the opening is (see the arrow on the picture), that will be the place where the code has to be for the cryptex to open.

Fill the thinnest roll with sweets or anything you want the cryptex to hold.

Assemble the cryptex and turn the 3,8 cm pieces.



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