Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Steampunk Keyboard Mod

Here at last....the much anticipated Holy Grail of my projects thus far....how I turned my run of the mill Dell keyboard into a sassy, steamy, typewriter looking, fully functional, keyboard supreme mother clucker.
This tutorial is NOT easy, in fact if you do not have patience turn away now, or just admire the pictures. Here is a picture for your viewing pleasure:

I have to say had I not known people in the machine shop field...those keys would not look that good...having said that I want you to know you can totally do this without a cnc lathe. You can easily make the keys out of the existing key board keys, a torch, a steel tube, and a drill press. I even saw a tutorial on heating up an Xacto knife....on second thought....do not attempt that. I nearly lost digits that way.
Ok let's start this project up!
Get a keyboard with easily pop-off-able keys, use a flat head screw driver or some pliers to just pop them off super quick. Take a picture or keep the keys in order, as some of them have different size bases, just for faster assembly.

Unscrew the face plate from the keyboard! Be sure you save all the screws and keep the underside of the keyboard safe, as you want to be able to use the keyboard when finished. If you want to keep anything the way it is (the little window for the Caps Lock/Num Lock etc,) tape it off with some painters tape. Spray paint the face plate whichever metal color your prefer. I always like the silver/gold tarnishy combo, so that took a few layers to accomplish. I can not stress proper spray paint technique enough. It's the key to a smooth finish, and you want that. If you let the paint gunk up, the keys may not fit back on. Hold the can of spray paint at least 8 inches away from the face plate and lightly/evenly coat the face plate, let it dry and go back in with the next or same color, always letting it dry in between. After you let it completely dry, screw it back into place on the keyboard.
Ok...now for the hard part. Those pesky keys! You can make then whatever shape your heart desires, so long as you keep the post that pops into the keyboard the way it is. I wanted typewriter round keys. To achieve this, you could do something like this: Make keys round with a drill press
I know people at a machine shop, so they took the keys and cut them on a CNC lathe. Then you have something that looks like this:
Next: to paint the keys. You can totally skip this step if you want, if you will be covering them with a sticker or decal. I wanted them to be sassy and brassy, so I had to paint them. If you choose to paint them DO NOT PAINT THE LOWER 1/4 inch OF THE "STEM". You don't want to paint the part of the key that pops back in to the keyboard. Paint layers make it too thick to smoothly pop up and down, it will get stuck and be hard to pop back out,which is also not exactly suitable for a working keyboard! Two ways I thought of to do this, you could tape off each key bottom, or you could take a cardboard box, and stick the keys into it, up to the part you want to be painted. This way you can paint more/all at one time.
The bouquet holder option: DO NOT use styrofoam to hold your keys, it will melt onto the plastic key when spray paint hits it.
So...two-three layers of spray paint later, pop your fully dried keys back onto your keyboard. Do not worry if at first they stick, just pup them up and down a bunch of times and they will work again. You can choose to stop at this step:
But why stop? Take some antique finish paper ( I will show you how to make your own in a later tutorial with just white paper and tea) and print out typewriter style key covers, like these:
Cut out carefully with a detail cutting tool.
It was semi time consuming to make the new keys on Publisher, but if you'd like a copy of my PDF which has all the standard keys and a few blank ones leave a comment here or go to my Facebook and message me, and I can send you the file. Apply them with glue + a clear coat or Gloss Finish ModPodge. SHAZAM! You can also stop here...but again, why? I had some metal embellishments that were rather Victorian left over from my Halloween projects. Using super glue I attached them around the window for the lights and covered the Dell logo:
This thing is a beauty. It even sounds a bit more like a typewriter than it used to. And for inquiring minds...YES!!! I will be doing the rest of the desktop step by slow step. I will share my progress (however slow) here with you all!

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