80s kids mourning the loss of the gadget-based society they were raised in are naturally drawn to crypto cold storage. For every device (portable radio; spirit level; tape measure) that was subsumed into the iPhone, there’s another that hardware wallet (HW) manufacturers have seen fit to develop and isolate from the smartphone in the name of opsec.
A hollow steel cylinder despatched with 800 lettered tiles, the Cryptosteel Capsule is what it sounds like and nothing more. Assemble the letters to form your wallet’s seed phrase, thread them onto the metal dipstick and screw the capsule shut, safely entombing the key to your crown jewels inside an unassuming piece of hardware. Stash it in a toolbox alongside some masonry and no one would be the wiser.
The Re-Gadgetification of Things
There is a logic in wanting to keep your hot assets – i.e anything connected to the web – separate from your cold – typically those you cherish the most and have no intention of liquidating in a hurry. That said, it’s sometimes hard to tell how much of these aftermarket HW accessories are actually helping, and how much of it is just cold storage theater.
That there are benefits to keeping your crypto assets safely stashed where hackers, phishers, and SIM-swappers can’t operate is clear. What’s less evident is whether entombing your hardware wallet in a hermetically sealed vault kept at absolute zero with a pack of rottweilers guarding it and anti-tank guns watching the skies is absolutely necessary. Until we see empirical studies on the success rates of extreme opsec compared with, say, scrawling your seed phrase on a scrap of paper and stashing it in a drawer, it’s really hard to say.
The Cryptosteel Capsule comes with 800 character tiles
The Mother of All Backups
Delivered in a smart tray that evokes a luxury chocolate box, the Cryptosteel is described as “the mother of all backups.” Not the daddy, not the son, and certainly not the creepy half-cousin: the ‘steel is all momma. The device, available singly or in packs of up to five, is described as being “compatible with most secret sharing and key generation algorithms.” By that, its manufacturers mean there’s enough numbers and letters in the box to cover most 12-word seed permutations. You can cram 123 characters onto the stick before it’s maxed out.
Unfortunately, the stick isn’t quite accommodating enough for a 24-word seed: in testing, I managed 21 words before running out of space. Given that the capsules retail for $100, it seems a little excessive to require multiple capsules to store a single seed. That said, 12 words should suffice for most wallet seeds, and you might even fit on 24 words if they happen to be short and you remove the word separators that are meant to be inserted.
Better Than a Steel Punch in the Face
I like the Cryptosteel Capsule, despite its limitations. It’s not as alpha as using a steel punch, but it’s a lot easier to create your wallet seed with, and feels almost as permanent. Just be careful when the time comes to unthread it, as one slip and your painstakingly assembled seed will be alphabet soup. It’s hard to say whether sitting in bed threading steel beads onto a metal stick is the financial sovereignty Satoshi dreamed of, or simply a regression to making macaroni art in kindergarten, but it sure is fun. More importantly, it’s a secure way of recording your seed provided you can keep the innocuous looking capsule in a safe place away from prying eyes.