Only the magic word can open this Durin Box of secrets

Touching two stars to power up a Raspberry Pi, which then listens out for the magic word, is the only way to open this Durin Box.

durin box lid

John Pender made this beautiful inscribed wooden box with a secret for his Lord of the Rings-loving son. He describes it as “three projects in one” due to the woodworking, electronic circuitry, and voice recognition software elements.

Lord of the Rings tribute

This project takes its name from The Doors of Durin, which were built by elves and dwarves in Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings. They could only be opened by saying the magic password: “Mellon“, which means “friend” in the Elvish language Sindarin.

A little Doors of Durin refresher from the (now 21-year-old?!) film

How does it work?

Without the secret knowledge, the box lid will remain locked tight with solenoids. Those who have had the secret bestowed upon them know to push the two stars at the bottom of the lid, which mark the location of capacitive switches. Then a Raspberry Pi Zero embedded in the lid gets the magic started.

Watching the inscription light up is truly magical

LEDs sitting behind the box’s inscription light up the words to let you know the microphone is active. They also give you a clue as to what the magic password is. For those who don’t read Elvish, the words say: “Speak friend and enter.”

Raspberry Pi Zero runs word-recognition software and uses the microphone to listen out for the password. Just like the real Doors of Durin, when the word “mellon” is said aloud, the solenoids retract and you’re able to lift the lid.

durin box underside
Electronic secrets stashed on the underside of the lid

This is probably the most beautifully crafted and thoughtful Raspberry Pi-powered gift we’ve seen. We are also dying to know what his son has stashed in there.

John has kindly shared a detailed walkthrough, so you can recreate the Durin Box for your own Lord of the Rings fan.

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