How to create a do-it-yourself Unchained Capital multisig vault

First published: 11/15/2021
| Last updated: 01/18/2023
| -- min read

If you understand the benefits of using multisignature to secure your bitcoin and why our vaults are one of the best ways to do so, you’re well on your way to being sovereign over your wealth. The next step is setting up your account, adding your keys, and creating your vault, so you can start moving your bitcoin onto our platform—all while keeping complete control yourself.

Check out Concierge Onboarding

Before we get started, I’ll note that our Concierge team is available through the Concierge Onboarding package to walk you through every step of this process. With our white-glove Concierge Onboarding service you get an onboarding call with a vault specialist, training on how to use our open-source external recovery tools, exclusive access to continuing education webinars, ongoing support, and 90 days of access to our Concierge Client service. With Concierge Client, you can get expert help well beyond the initial setup.

If you would prefer to opt for a do-it-yourself vault, simply follow this guide to get started.

Create an Unchained account

The first thing you need to do to to set up your Unchained vault is create an Unchained account.

You will be able to begin adding keys as soon as you create your account.

Set up your bitcoin hardware wallets

The next step toward building your own Unchained multisig vault is preparing your hardware wallets. Unchained supports Trezor, Ledger, and Coldcard, and before you can add them to your Unchained account, you need to install firmware and create a new wallet using your wallet manufacturer’s official software. You can download Trezor Suite or Ledger Live for those wallets, or check out the official guide to getting started with Coldcard. If you aren’t comfortable setting up your wallet yourself, we recommend Concierge Onboarding.

How to upload public keys to Unchained

Once you sign in to your new Unchained account, you should click Keys to view the list of keys in your account (if this is a new account, you shouldn’t have any yet!). From here, you should click Upload New Key.

Give your first key a name

The first thing you need to do for your first key is give it a name. Don’t stress about this too much—it doesn’t directly affect the security of your wallet and it mostly serves to differentiate the two (or more!) uploaded keys within your Unchained account. You’ll need to upload at least two separate keys from two separate hardware wallets before you can create an Unchained vault.

For my first key, I’m going to give it Key Name “aragorn”.

Keep it simple, easy to remember, and if you’re uploading multiple keys, it might be a good idea to choose names that are related to each other (like “aragorn” and “legolas”, for example). Don’t reveal too much information with these names; names that reveal anything about the device’s security (such as location) or the physical device itself (like Black Trezor) are not recommended.

Choose which hardware wallet you’re uploading a key from

On the next screen, you’re going to choose the type of wallet you’re uploading your key from. This is Ledger, Trezor, or Coldcard. For my first key, I’m choosing Ledger.

Export the public key from your hardware device

Now the most important part of the upload process: exporting the extended public key (xpub) from your hardware device. Here, we’re exporting the extended public key from a Ledger wallet that was previously set up in Ledger Live. In the case of Ledger, you must install the bitcoin application and run it on your device before using the Ledger bridge to export your key directly from your device.

As the bridge (the interface that appears after you click Connect to Ledger or Connect to Trezor) will verify, you’re exporting a public key with this process. At no point during the key creation process are you sharing a private key with Unchained.

An important note about Trezor and passphrases

If you’re using a Trezor, the Trezor bridge will ask for a passphrase when exporting your public key. Please note that a passphrase and a PIN are two different things. Your PIN is the several-digit code you established when initializing your device. The passphrase that the Trezor bridge asks you for when exporting your public key is a 13th or 25th word that adds a second layer of security to your seed phrase. If you don’t know how to handle passphrases, leave this field blank and click Enter when exporting your public key. It is generally best practice not to use a passphrase in conjunction with multisig. To learn more about how passphrases work, read our explanation.

Review and create

If your export from your wallet worked correctly, you should see the following screen with the public key that was exported from your device.

Finally, you’re shown a Review Key page which shows you a summary of everything you’ve done so far: the Key Name, the Currency (Unchained only supports BTC), the BIP32 Path (this is the default path unless you have changed it using advanced settings, which is not recommended for most users), and the Public Key itself. From here, click Create to finalize the key add process.

Do it all again with another key!

After you’ve completed the process of adding one key to your Unchained account, simply click on Upload New Key on the Keys page once again to go through the process with another key from another wallet. The first key was from a Ledger wallet called aragorn, but now you need to upload another key with another name from another wallet—the second hardware device can be another Ledger device, a Trezor device, or a Coldcard. I’m going to add a Trezor, and call it “legolas”.

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After you’re done, your Keys page will look like this:

How to create an Unchained vault

You now have two keys uploaded to your Unchained account, and you can move forward with the creation of an Unchained vault as soon as your account has been approved for Tier 2.

To get started creating a vault, simply navigate to the Vaults page and click Create a New Vault.

Choose an Unchained custody model

In creating your vault, the first thing you need to decide is the custody model. The default custody model involves you holding two keys with Unchained holding the third. This model makes sense for most bitcoiners seeking to get the benefits of a multisig wallet with the fewest compromises.

With this model, you can withdraw or transfer funds on your own, without Unchained’s involvement, and your second key can be held by yourself in a different physical location or even by a trusted partner, colleague, or friend. The multi-institution model, if you’re interested in it, will require further onboarding. We recommend contacting us directly if you are considering this model.

Choose default signing method

The next thing in the vault creation flow is to choose the default signers. You can always change this later, but you can choose between the default being Sign On Your Own (you using both of your hardware wallets to sign the transaction), or Unchained Cosigns (you signing with one key and paying Unchained a fee to sign with the Unchained key).

If you plan to keep your Unchained vault as cold storage and don’t plan to withdraw bitcoin often, sign on your own probably makes the most sense for you. If you want the security benefits of keeping your two keys in difficult-to-reach separate physical locations, but want to hold one key with you at all times and want the Unchained key to sign for all your transactions, the latter option is better for you.

Name your Unchained vault

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve reached the end of creating your Unchained vault. Simply name your vault, select the two keys you uploaded to your Unchained account earlier, review your vault, and click Create.

You will be presented with the following overview screen with a look at your multisig wallet balance, options to Deposit, Withdraw, or Transfer funds between vaults, a balance history, and the two keys you chose to set up this vault.

Important: Back up your wallet configuration file

You should also download the wallet configuration file for your new multisig wallet. Click the three dots dropdown within the Transact section and choose External Spend Information and click Download.

This file does not include private keys (and hence does not create a high risk situation for your funds), but it does include public keys and information critical to recovering your funds in a doomsday scenario where Unchained’s platform is offline or ceases to exist. Store this file in a safe place such as a password manager.

Where you should be now and next steps

With that, you’re done creating your own Unchained vault. If you aren’t: we can help you make it happen with Concierge Onboarding.

As a quick review, you should now have two hardware devices and two backup seed phrases (for recovering your wallets if you ever lose the devices themselves!). These are the tools that created your Unchained vault and afford you complete control of your bitcoin as long as they remain in your possession. However, with a multisig Unchained vault, if you ever lose access to both a hardware device and a seed phrases, you can recover your funds by requesting a withdrawal using Unchained’s key to author a transaction.

Given changing balances, risk profiles, and personal circumstances, Bitcoin wealth management and security is a process that never ends. Your keys are worth holding, but they aren’t going to hold themselves. We recommend taking some basic next steps with your Unchained account like setting up proper 2 factor authentication, and recording an identity verification video so that real humans at Unchained can confirm your identity if you ever depend on us for signing a transaction or initiating a swap or replacing one of your keys.

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