*Full disclosure, Blockplate provided me with a free Blockplate 12 for this review.
My search for a seed phrase protector started last December (2020) when the bull run was reaching a point where mainstream news outlets were once again talking about crypto. I realized these were tools people in the space needed to be using, so I began my search. I came across Jameson Lopp's monster of a review site where he took a blowtorch to protectors, dropped them in tubs of acid, and used a press with 20,000 pounds of pressure to try to bend them and then showed us the results. The vast majority of humans on the planet don't have the resources to try Jameson's tests at home, so I used his reviewed protectors as a jumping off point. What I noticed his review site lacked, was usability, since he lives out in the middle of nowhere and can test products to that degree. As someone who lives in urban Los Angeles in an apartment complex with neighbors, my experience using them would be far different than his. I decided to test from his list and only chose the seed phrase protectors he gave all A's to. My reviews will examine three areas: security, re/usability, and price.
The Blockplate 12 (6 words on each side of the metal plate) arrives in a plastic ziploc style bag.
*Inside the bag is a foam cover for the metal plate and two vinyl overlays to line up the grids to avoid punching the wrong grid box. It does *not* come with a center punch and the website was currently out of them so I bought one on Amazon for $20 (the center punch I bought is great, I highly recommend it).
*One vinyl sticker for each side of the Blockplate. I didn't write the first four letters of the words on the vinyl overlay because my pen wouldn't write on it. A normal Bic pen might work, but all mine are fancy...because apparently I'm fancy and didn't realize it.
*I should have had something else in the picture for scale, but it's about 3 inches by 3 inches.
*The lines, letter and numbers are etched pretty deeply into the metal. You won't have to worry about them disappearing in a fire.
*Solid thick piece of metal.
*That's how it looks after using the center punch.
How to Use
Blockplate is set up for BIP39 and SLIP39 wallets which you have to read up on before using a Blockplate. If the wallet you're using doesn't use one of these standards, you'll be SOL down the road.
First you cover the metal plate with the vinyl sticker, making sure to line everything up. Then use a center punch to punch in the firt four letter of of your seed phrase (6 words on each side). Peel the sticker off, wipe it down with a wet paper towel and you're done. Super simple.
The center punch isn't that loud, and over the vinyl sticker, the sound is muted even more. I wore ear plugs, but probably didn't need to.
Thick piece of metal that doesn’t bend and leaves no physical impression on the other side after using it.
Clean and simple. They could have had a grid and entered letters or numbers in the boxes to make it go slightly faster, but that would have made it much more difficult to see the punch.
Decent price. For the thickness of the metal and the simplicity and clean lines, the price is decent at $49 for the 12 word and $69 for the 24 word.
I would always suggest getting the 24 word if available. If you’re only using a 12 word phrase with it, you have a backup in case you mess up and can just turn it over. Or if you end up using a second 12 word wallet, you don’t have to go buy another one.
My biggest complaint with Blockplate is the lack of space to label it. The assumption that a person will only have one wallet is a little presumptuous since the people who are going to spend money on a seed phrase protector most likely have multiple wallets spread out across multiple platforms (iOS, Mac, cold storage, etc). The only way I can envision labeling it is to hope that space along the bottom isn’t used, ie. The words you’ve been given don’t have letters along the bottom and then use a stamp tool to stamp in a label. If Blockplate added a small strip of untouched metal along the top, enough to fit average sized stamping tools, it would fix this problem. I personally wouldn’t mind paying an extra couple bucks more to have that ability. Outside of that, the only way to lablel it is to attach a piece of paper to it (useless if it were to get caught in a fire and that's whole reason for buying it to begin with) or to keep a running list somewhere else to remind you what wallet it’s attached to which Blockplate. If you have more than one Blockplate though, this becomes even more difficult to keep track of.
*Update: I did have some spare space as it turns out and stamped in the letters of the Exodus wallet I was testing this with. WARNING: Stamping letters in a peice of metal this thick is LOUD. I wasn't wearing ear plugs and still have ringing in my ears.
Retouching on only allowing the first 4 letters of each seed phrase word: the only danger is not all wallets use this standard, which I didn’t even think of when I started the process. Luckily the wallet I tested it out on (Exodus) does, so when I went back to re-enter the words it worked.
*Side note: Some wallets will autofill the word for you after you enter the first four letters, but not all do. If the wallet doesn’t (like Exodus), you have to go to a site that lists the BIP39/SLIP39 word lists and find the first four letters and then use that to finish the rest of the word, found here and here.
*Psuedo related side note: Exodus does not delete your wallet history from iOS devices (I don’t have an Android and can’t test it) so if you delete a wallet thinking it’s safe from prying eyes, it’s not. If someone were to gain access to your wallet, they could re-download the app, it would open automatically and they could send all your funds off the wallet without needing to enter a single password if you forgot to click that feature (they don’t have it turned on by default). I cannot recommend enough not to use this wallet until this has been addressed, but if you do use it, please turn on all security options just in case. I've moved all my funds off the wallet for now.
Another con is a lack of privacy. Since both sides are used, if someone were to come into contact with it, they could easily snap two quick photos of it and have your phrase. At that point it wouldn’t take long to get access to your funds (I’m assuming) and clean you out. I’ve chosen to keep it in the padded sleeve it came in (that would melt in a fire) to keep prying eyes off of it. A quick fix to this would be a thinner piece of metal that could be snapped on over it. It doesn’t need to stop people from physically getting access to it, but from worrying about anyone seeing it and being able to see the punches. This is a complete extreme, but something to think about.
Another issue is it's permanance. This is a one wallet protector that can't ever be used again, like some others can. If someone were to ever get a hold of your phrase, you have to move your funds of that wallet and abandon the Blockplate forever and buy a new one for the new wallet. While $49 isn't super pricey, it's still a decent chunk of change and something to think about since it doesn't come with any protection from prying eyes.
The last con is the tiny spaces. The wallet comes with the see-through vinyl overlay to better help you not make any mistakes, but it’s still a possibility if you have any sort of eye-sight issues or are doing this in suboptimal light. Be very very careful when using this because if you make a mistake, you have to buy another one.
Who would I recommend this for?
If you only have one wallet and the value of crypto on it is appreciating to the point where you’re a little nervous about protecting it then this is a great option for you. It doesn’t entail a ton of time like stamping protectors do (Reviews of some of those to come), and the sound isn’t loud enough to piss off the neighbors. And if the noise does bother them, it won’t last long. It’s also super durable, so if you don’t have fire proof safe at home, then this is right up your alley. When the 24 word protector becomes available again (currently sold out) I’ll buy one and keep a digital record of what wallet I have attached to it because it's just that good.
This is also great for someone who has a safe and can drop it in and not have to worry about having to keep it covered and out of site from nosey family or visiting friends.
Overall, outside of it’s few downsides, I highly recommend Blockplate for protecting your seed phrase.