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How to Make a Cipher Wheel

Craft Ideas | 7-14 yrs | Learning Pod, look and take

What is a Cipher Wheel?

In a cipher wheel, you replace each letter of the message you want to send, with another letter further along the alphabet. You shift the alphabet so it is also called a shift cipher.

The key is the number of places the alphabet is shifted. For instance, if we use D to represent A, the alphabet has shifted three places. This kind of cipher is also called a Caesar cipher. Julius Caesar used it to send messages to his troops.

What You Need

  • 2 concentric circles of thick paper, one 10 cm, another 12 cm
  • Pin
  • Eraser
  • Protractor
  • Pencil

11 Steps to Make a Cipher Wheel

  1. Place the smaller circle on top of the bigger one, so that their centres are the same.
  2. Place the eraser below the papers’ centres.
  3. Push a pin through the centre of the smaller circle so that it goes through the centre of the big circle too and in the eraser.
  4. You should be able to spin the inner circle.
  5. Use a protractor to divide the whole circle in 26 equal sections. They should be 13.8 degrees each.
  6. Write the letters of the alphabet in order, on both circles.
  7. Spin the inner circle, so that the letters line up with the ones on the outer circle.
  8. Make another cipher wheel for your friend.
  9. Decide on a ‘key letter’ to set the wheel.
  10. Spin the inner wheel so that the key letter lines up with the latter A on the outer wheel.
  11. To write your message, find each letter in your message on the outer wheel. Write the corresponding letter on the inside wheel to code your message.

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