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  • Writer's pictureeconoalchemist

The Domino® Bitcoin Steel Plate Backup

This article demonstrates how to use the Domino® stainless steel plate, by BitPlates, to secure the recovery information for a Bitcoin wallet against fire & flood. This article is also featured on the Bitcoin Magazine website here.

Congratulations on taking the leap into bitcoin self-custody, by doing so you no longer need to rely on 3rd party permission to access and use your bitcoin however or whenever you see fit. An added benefit of self-custody is mitigating 3rd party risk, you no longer need to worry about an exchange hack depleting all your bitcoin from your trusted custodian's control. Self-custody put you in control of your bitcoin, ensuring that you maintain access to your bitcoin in case of a catastrophe is facilitated with the Domino®.

By stamping your BIP39 Bitcoin wallet recovery words into a stainless steel medium like the Domino®, you can rest assured that you have the necessary information secured to restore your Bitcoin wallet and re-gain access to your funds whether you lose your mobile, desktop, or hardware wallet and/or you are the victim of an environmental hazard such as fire or flood. If you secured your Bitcoin wallet with an added passphrase during initial setup, it is possible for you to purchase multiple Domino® plates to secure that information as well.

BitPlates offers several different options in two different grades. The Industrial Grade is made of 304 stainless steel and the Marine Grade is made of 316L stainless steel. There are three sizes available in each grade: Pocket, Original, & Grande.

The larger the plate, the more space there is in each square for stamping the appropriate dots.

Each plate is 3mm thick and 100mm tall but the widths very depending on model:

  • Pocket: 3mm x 100mm x 75mm

  • Original: 3mm x 100mm x 100mm

  • Grande: 3mm x 100mm x 125mm

The Generation 2 line of plates feature an etched alphabet on the left-side of the plate. As compared to the Generation 1 plates which did not include the alphabet. Every Domino® also includes a 3mm hole which can be used for a range of storage techniques like hanging the plate behind a picture on your wall or attaching the plate to a lanyard.

For this guide I will be demonstrating the Industrial Grade Original Domino®. I used a 24-word seed phrase generated by a ColdCard which is the hardware wallet I recommend for reasons I outline here. You can use any BIP39 compatible Bitcoin wallet. If you are looking for guidance on the available choices, here are recommendations I make for getting started with Android, iPhone, and desktop. The Domino® can be used for any BIP39 compatible seed phrase such as 12, 18, or 24 words.

Only the first 4-letters of each word are necessary as no two words on the BIP39 word list share the same sequence of the initial 4 letters. Start with a permanent marker just in case you make a mistake and then double check your work before proceeding with the spring-loaded punch. The Alphabet Template can assist in keeping the letters properly aligned while moving across the grid.

On the first side of the plate, use a single dot for words 1-6 and a double dot for words 7-12. If any words share a common character, stamp 3-dots in that square. Some words from the BIP39 list are only 3-letters in length so the 4th square in those instances will be left blank if not needed. Use the reverse side of the plate and repeat the process for words 13-18 and 19-24. Ensure that the words are kept in order 1-24.

Here is a video demonstrating the process:

Once finished, you can clean the permanent marker off of the plate with rubbing alcohol or acetone and the results are a clean, legible, and organized backup.

Now that the Bitcoin wallet recovery seed words are secure, let's test the durability of the Domino® against white-hot temperatures of ~1,500°C, just below melting point. Then we can verify that this backup method is guaranteed to withstand a house fire. After you have checked and double checked your backup by restoring your wallet then consider safely burning the paper copy.

The Domino® survived the test and all 24-words are 100% recoverable!

In conclusion, the Domino is a robust Bitcoin wallet backup method. One of my favorite features is that it is thicker than most steel backups at 3 mm. I also like that it is available in multiple sizes to fit a wide range of needs or hiding places. Multiple plates can be used for backing up more advanced security methods, such as an additional passphrase, a SeedXOR or multisig. For example, a secondary Domino could be used to stamp a second set of words from the BIP39 list and this could even generate a decoy wallet with some duress funds stored in case of emergency. Then the first six words, for example, could actually be the passphrase for the primary wallet secured by the first Domino. This video demonstrates the technique. There are many clever solutions you could implement to secure your Bitcoin wallet using a high degree of entropy.

To learn more about BitPlates and their line of secure Bitcoin backups check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or check out their How to video guide here.


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