Getting Started with rust-hwi

By Wszdexdrf on 8/17/2022 - Tags: BDK, Development, Hardware Wallets

bitcoindevkit/rust-hwi (opens new window) is a sub-project for bitcoindevkit (opens new window) (BDK) which is used to interact with hardware wallets using the Rust programming language. It is a wrapper around bitcoin-core/HWI (opens new window) and its behaviour is closely linked with the same.

# Fundamentals

As mentioned before, rust-hwi is a wrapper around bitcoin-core/HWI. The functions in it, when called, pass on the arguments to related functions in bitcoin-core/HWI. More information about the functions and their arguments is available on rust-hwi docs (opens new window) and bitcoin-core/HWI docs (opens new window).

rust-hwi uses PyO3 to call the Python functions from Rust. Let us take an example from the documentation:

use bitcoin::util::bip32::{ChildNumber, DerivationPath};
use hwi::error::Error;
use hwi::interface::HWIClient;
use hwi::types;
use std::str::FromStr;

fn main() -> Result<(), Error> {
    // Find information about devices
    let devices = HWIClient::enumerate()?;
    let device = devices.first().expect("No devices");
    // Create a client for a device
    let client = HWIClient::get_client(&device, true, types::HWIChain::Test)?;
    // Display the address from path
    let derivation_path = DerivationPath::from_str("m/44'/1'/0'/0/0")?;
    let hwi_address =
        client.display_address_with_path(&derivation_path, types::HWIAddressType::Tap)?;
    println!("{}", hwi_address.address);

In the first line, we call HWIClient::enumerate(). This function is equivalent to HWI's enumerate function, which returns a list of connected devices. Here, HWIClient::enumerate() returns a Vec<HWIDevice>, where HWIDevice is a struct representing a single device and contains all the information related to it, for example, fingerprint, path, etc.

Then we store the first device available into device, which is straightforward. We then call HWIClient::get_client() and pass the reference to the device info and the Chain we are going to use that device on. (the boolean is for setting expert mode, which allows for some more functions and detailed information. That is implemented in bitcoin-core/HWI, see the docs (opens new window)) There are 4 chains available, as usual, Main, Test, Regtest & Signet.

HWI contains a python base class known as HardwareWalletClient. All the functions and their arguments are defined in it. Hardware Wallet developers create their own implementations of the base class. The function get_client() returns an instance of HWIClient struct, which contains a reference to the Python object of HardwareWalletClient (and also a reference to the Python code of HWI itself). rust-hwi's HWIClient struct tries to mimic the base class HardwareWalletClient and thus all the functions used for communicating with a hardware wallet belong to HWIClient.

In the next line, we generate a derivation path and use the client instance we created to get an address for the aforementioned path. We then print out the address and return an Ok.

# Integration with BDK

BDK is an amazing project. It is one of the easiest ways to integrate Bitcoin wallet features into any application. rust-hwi aims to help BDK to work with hardware wallets. One of the ways to do so is to implement a Custom Signer.

Let us look at a basic example from BDK's docs:

use bdk::{FeeRate, Wallet, SyncOptions, SignOptions};
use bdk::database::MemoryDatabase;
use bdk::blockchain::ElectrumBlockchain;
use bdk::electrum_client::Client;

use bdk::wallet::AddressIndex::New;

fn main() -> Result<(), bdk::Error> {
    let client = Client::new("ssl://")?;
    let wallet = Wallet::new(
    let blockchain = ElectrumBlockchain::from(client);

    wallet.sync(&blockchain, SyncOptions::default())?;

    let send_to = wallet.get_address(New)?;
    let (mut psbt, details) = {
        let mut builder =  wallet.build_tx();
            .add_recipient(send_to.script_pubkey(), 50_000)

    let finalized = wallet.sign(&mut psbt, SignOptions::default())?;


This creates a wallet instance with the given descriptors and uses an electrum backend to sync the wallet. It then creates a new transaction and then signs it using the same wallet.

If we were to do this using a hardware wallet, how would we do this?

First, we create a client instance of the device.

let devices = HWIClient::enumerate().unwrap();
let client = HWIClient::get_client(
        .expect("No devices found. Either plug in a hardware wallet, or start a simulator."),

We would then need a descriptor from the device for BDK.

let descriptors = client.get_descriptors(None).unwrap();

We would now need to create an instance of a custom signer. A basic version is provided in bdk/wallet/hardwaresigner/HWISigner. The basic signer has no extra features, it just takes a psbt and simply hands it over to the hardware wallet.

let custom_signer = HWISigner::from_device(devices.first().unwrap(), types::HWIChain::Test).unwrap();

We now create a wallet instance using the descriptor from the hardware wallet and add the custom signer.

let mut wallet = Wallet::new(

The rest of the PSBT signing process remains the same!

let client = bdk::electrum_client::Client::new("ssl://")?;
let blockchain = bdk::blockchain::ElectrumBlockchain::from(client);
wallet.sync(&blockchain, bdk::SyncOptions::default())?;

let send_to = wallet.get_address(New)?;
let mut tx_builder = wallet.build_tx();
    .add_recipient(send_to.script_pubkey(), 50_000)
let (mut psbt, _tx_details) = tx_builder.finish()?;
let finalized = wallet.sign(&mut psbt, SignOptions::default())?;