Note on Signing Ethereum Transactions on Ledger Nano S with ethereumjs-tx

December 5, 2017    Ethereum Crypto Misc

I ran into some problems with ethereumjs-tx when attempting to make use of Ledger’s Node API for transaction signing. The Ledger API is pretty straightforward: it takes a BIP32 key path & a hex serialized transaction, and returns the signature data for the transaction.

let eth = ... // create ledger eth object
eth.signTransaction_async("44'/60'/0'/0'/0", "e8018504e3b292008252089428ee52a8f3d6e5d15f8b131996950d7f296c7952872bd72a2487400080")

Since ethereumjs-tx takes care of structuring and rlp encoding transactions, you’d imagine that a signature could be as easy as:

const txnData = {
    nonce: web3.utils.toHex(/* the nonce */),
    gasPrice: web3.utils.toHex(26000000000),
    gasLimit: web3.utils.toHex(21000), // simple tx always consumes 21k gas
    to: /* some address */,
    value: web3.utils.toHex(web3.utils.toWei(/* some amount */)),
const txn = new tx(txnData);
eth.signTransaction_async(keyPath, txn.serialize().toString('hex'));
.then(signed => {
    // Use the signature data
}).catch(err => console.log("Failed..."));

Formatting the transaction

The hex string to be passed to the ledger actually requires some doctoring. Because of EIP155 empty signature data is included in the transaction, and one field is replaced with the chain code. So instead of (v, r, s) it’s (chainCode, 0, 0), but it must be part of the hex data signed by the ledger. ethereumjs-tx ought to take care of this when it serializes the unsigned transaction, but it doesn’t unless you sign the transaction via its API. Luckily the changes are simple to make:

const txn = new tx(/* the data */);
txn.v = 1;
txn.r = 0;
txn.s = 0;
const hexSerialized = txn.serialize().toString('hex');

Using the signature data

Once the signature data are reported by the ledger, they need to be formatted properly & injected back into the transaction object.

// Create the transaction & hex-serialize it
const txn = new tx(/* the data */);
txn.v = 1;
txn.r = 0;
txn.s = 0;
const hexSerialized = txn.serialize().toString('hex');

let eth = ... // create ledger eth object
eth.signTransaction_async(/* some key path */, hexSerialized)
.then(sigData => {
    // Format it to be inserted back into the txn object
    const formattedData = {
        v: new Buffer(sigData.v, 'hex').slice(0, 1),
        r: new Buffer(sigData.r, 'hex').slice(0, 32),
        s: new Buffer(sigData.s, 'hex').slice(0, 32),

    // Inject the signature data manually
    Object.assign(txn, sigData);

    // Now you can do whatever you want with the txn...
    web3.eth.sendSignedTransaction('0x' + txn.serialize().toString('hex')).then(res => {
        alert("Transaction broadcast! " + JSON.stringify(res));
    }).catch(err => {
        alert("Transaction failed to broadcast! " + err);