It's nice to sit on the couch and play games, watch videos (or maybe even work) with your big-screen TV as a computer monitor. Wireless game controllers and combination keyboard/touch-pads like the Logitech k400 are an option, but sometimes (often) you need a real mouse. Unfortunately, using a mouse on the couch is awkward at best and most folks choose not to do it.
So what if you attached a keyboard and mouse pad to thin, lightweight board and came up a way to keep the mouse from falling off? You'd have the subject of this Instructable, which we could call a "Couch KBM" because... hey, why not?
This project is super easy to make and customize to your own preferences. I've made several and use them all the time. The wrist rest and flexible "keeper" around the mouse pad leave the mouse free to use without interference, yet the whole thing can be stored and carried vertically without the mouse falling off. Velcro keeps the keyboard attached while allowing you to remove it for other uses.
Note: I just got a Steam Link box in the living room, and the Couch KBM board works great with the Steam Link!!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Saw: to cut the board. Electric jigsaw is best, but other types could work too.
- Pencil or Sharpie to mark pattern on the board
- Scissors to cut duct tape and core material for mouse keeper
- Drill and drill bit (optional) if you want to cut holes for a built-in handle
- Wireless Keyboard and Mouse: I like the Logitech models with the 'Unifying Receiver' since you can use mouse and keyboard with one USB dongle. I like the Microsoft wireless keyboards and mice also, but for some reason (interference?) the MS devices sometimes get laggy around my house, so I don't use them too much.
- Mouse Pad: A wrist rest is essential to keep the mouse from sliding off during use, due to tilt of the board. A mouse pad with a built-in wrist rest is best, but you could use a flat mouse pad (or none at all) and attach a wrist rest separately. I made a decent wrist rest out of a knee-high sock partially filled with popcorn kernels... get creative.
- Board: 1/8" - 1/4" thick material that's big enough for your keyboard and mouse pad, about 12" x 24". Wood paneling, masonite, pegboard, luan plywood, plexiglass -- just about anything would work as long as you can cut it and make the edges smooth.
- Velcro (Keyboard): 4 pieces of Industrial Velcro or Scotch Extreme Fasteners hold the keyboard nicely and allow you to remove it at will.
- Contact Cement or Double-sided tape: to attach the mousepad/wrist rest to the board. Contact cement is best if you have it, there are also a number of good spray adhesives in the glue section of hardware stores.
- Duct Tape: Used to construct and attach the mouse keeper. There are many colors and varieties to choose from, so go wild. In my example, I'm using some olive drab gaffer's tape I bought online ages ago, but any variety will work.
- Cardboard, leather, cork or plastic sheet: this is the core of the mouse keeper which provides a little stiffness (you don't want too much). A strip of thin, flexible material about 1-1/2" wide and 16-20" long will do nicely. It will be covered by duct tape, so don't worry about what it looks like too much.
Step 2: Mark Layout, Cut and Sand Board
Arrange your keyboard and mouse pad on the board to suit your preference and trace the outline for cutting. Note: in the pictures, I'm recycling a bigger board I built earlier so the mouse pad is already glued to the board. Life would be easier if it weren't there, so I don't recommended gluing the pad before cutting.
Here are some things to consider:
Try the Layout before marking and cutting
Try out the position of your layout by sitting with keyboard and mouse and find an arrangement that feels best. Then mark and cut. (I would've liked the keyboard to be a little more centered on the mouse pad, but again, was limited by the shape of the previous project.)
Flat Edge on the Right
Make right edge of the board flat so it will stand up vertically against a wall or coffee table when not in use. If you mouse lefty, then obviously reverse everything said here.
Put a radius on corners to avoid sharp points. A round object 1" - 3" in diameter will make a good template.
Best Length vs. Chair Arms
If you plan to sit on a couch, a chair with widely space arms or no arms, you probably want to make the board as short/compact as possible (just because smaller in the living room is nicer). It's up to you whether or not to include a few inches extra length on the left for a handle, which does make carrying the board easier without accidentally mashing random keys, etc.
If you plan to sit on a chair with closely spaced arms such as an upholstered chair, rocker or recliner, chances are the minimum length will be too long to fit fully between the arms. So make sure the board is long enough to span both arms (with a little to spare) and sit stably on top of them. This will prevent the board from falling off the arms at a critical moment, and/or gouging the upholstery of your furniture.
When the layout is done:
- Cut the board according to the layout you marked. (please be safe, don't cut yourself, etc)
- If you decide to make a built-in handle, drill holes big enough for your jigsaw blade and cut.
- Sand the edges thoroughly to avoid splinters, snags in fabric, carpeting, etc
Note: You could also make a handle by drilling 2 holes and using some kind of cord. Again, many possibilities.
Step 3: Glue or Tape the Mousepad to the Board
Contact cement (or spray adhesive) is the best way to permanently attach the mouse pad, IMO. Double-sided carpet tape works OK, but in my experience it doesn't stick to rubbery surfaces that well and comes off over time.
Also, you don't want anything thick enough to cause a bump in your mouse pad's surface, so avoid the thick foam kind of double-sided tape (unless you're willing to cover the entire area of the mouse pad bottom evenly).
Again, best to use a good adhesive and follow the directions on the label. With contact cement, paint both surfaces and allow to dry to a light tack.Make sure of your alignment and be really careful when joining the two surfaces! Contact cement is really strong stuff and once one side touches the other, there's no getting them apart without destroying something.
Step 4: Construct the Mouse Keeper -- Base
Next we'll create the little fence, or keeper, that keeps the mouse from falling off the edge. This has a base/fence that keeps the mouse in during use, and top/flap that holds the mouse in when the KBM board is put into vertical position.
I like to use a stiffening material here because the duct tape is too floppy on it's own and needs some help, but if your duct tape has some rigidity of its own (like, maybe Gorilla tape) you might get away without the extra stiffening material. The main thing is the keeper should be flexible, but not fall down and get in the way of your hand and the mouse during use.
Measure the length required for the base/fence of the keeper
- Measure the perimeter of the edge of the board surrounding the mouse pad to get the length of fence needed. A piece of string or tape measure can be useful.
- Measure from the edge of the keyboard on top, around to the bottom right corner. You don't want the keeper to interfere with your wrist. In this example the perimeter was 18.5", yours will likely be different.
Cut the strip to measured length and cover with duct tape
- Using your stiffening material, cut a piece 1.5" wide by the length you just measured. Here, I had some heavy craft paper that needed to be doubled over, so I cut a piece 3" x 18.5" and folded it length-wise to make a 1.5" wide strip.
- Cover the material with duct tape.
- Angle the ends if you like to avoid a sharp corner at the two ends of the keeper fence.
Attach the fence strip to the board with duct tape
- attach duct tape to the strip so that half the width of the duct tape is stuck to the strip, the other half is free (this will stick to the bottom of the board). You don't have to do the entire length at once, it's OK to do it in sections.
- Starting at the keyboard/top end, tape the free side of the duct tape to the bottom of the board (see picture). At this point it's easier to keep the strip flat and parallel to the board. The edge of the strip should be right up against the edge of the board.
- Next, bend the strip up at a 90 degree angle to form the fence and continue to tape the strip to the bottom of the board until the entire strip is attached.
- When going around corners, attach a bit of tape at a time to the bottom, while keeping the strip tight up against the board's edge so you don't have any gaps.
Step 5: Construct the Mouse Keeper -- Top Flap
Next we'll attach another piece of the 1.5" strip to the top to keep the mouse in place when the KBM board is in vertical position.
- Cut a length of the 1.5" strip to match the length of the middle/straight section of the right edge. (first picture)
- Cover the piece of strip with duct tape, same as before.
- Cut a piece of duct tape the same length as the strip and attach it with half of the sticky side free, as before (second picture)
- Attach the strip to keeper fence on the right edge of the board with the duct tape overhang. Try to keep the edges of the two strips close together. (3rd picture)
- While bending the newly attached top flap at a 45(-ish) degree angle over the mouse pad, attach a 3-4" length of duct tape to the inside of one corner to hold it in place
- repeat process for the other corner
Now, test the angle/height of the keeper with your mouse. Too low of an angle and the keeper will interfere with the mouse and your hand during use. Too high of an angle, and the mouse will fall out when the board is in the vertical position. Adjust it as necessary, duct tape is actually pretty forgiving.
- When the angle is right for your mouse, finish the keeper off by put a strip of duct tape over the outside of each corner.
- Add more duct tape as necessary to neaten up the edges, etc.
Step 6: Attach the Keyboard With Velcro
The best and easiest way to position your Velcro is to pick the locations on the bottom of the keyboard first and attach the Velcro only to the bottom of the keyboard. We'll attach the Velcro to the board in the next step.
Note: It doesn't really matter if you put 'hooks' side of the Velcro (the harder surface) or the 'loops' side (softer, fuzzier part) on the bottom of the keyboard or the board, but it's best to be consistent about whichever way you choose. If you use the Scotch Extreme Fasteners, the top and bottom are the same material.
Do the following for the BOTTOM OF THE KEYBOARD ONLY:
- Clean the area to be Velcro'ed with alcohol, wet wipe, etc & allow to dry
- Remove the protective plastic from a Velcro piece. do this one at a time for best results.
- Locate/stick each Velcro piece on the bottom of the keyboard in a position that won't interfere with switches, battery covers, feet, etc. Also, each piece has to make contact with the mating Velcro piece on the board so avoid placement on deeply recessed areas of the keyboard's underside.
- Apply pressure to each piece in turn for about 30-60 seconds each to make a good bond with the keyboard plastic.
Now that the Velcro pieces are firmly attached to their position on the keyboard bottom, join all the mating Velcro pieces so that the hooks and loops are together, and the protective plastic is facing up (w/keyboard face down).
- Carefully remove the protective plastic covers from each piece of velcro
- A piece of tape is helpful to grab/lift the plastic cover (hard to get with fingernails sometimes)
- With all the adhesive surfaces exposed, turn the keyboard over and place firmly into position on the board.
- Apply as much force as is safe without damaging the keyboard
We still need to apply pressure to the Velcro now in position on the board to strengthen the bond with the wood. At this point, the hooks and loops are stronger than the bond between the wood and the Velcro adhesive and pulling the keyboard off will likely pull the mating Velcro off the wood (this may always be the case!).
Here's how to remove the keyboard without pulling the Velcro off the wood and/or keyboard:
- Using a thin object like a popsicle stick, scissors, dull knife, etc push the object in between the hook and loop velcro pieces to seperate them. Back-and-forth and side-to-side movement helps separate the pieces
- When separated, place a piece of paper/index card/etc between the hook and loop sides to keep them from re-joining
- Do this for each of Velcro location until the keyboard is off
- Now apply 30-60 seconds of strong pressure to each piece of Velcro on the wood to strengthen the bond
At this point, replace the keyboard and only take it off with the above method until it bonds firmly with the wood (sometimes, the Velcro's holding force remains stronger than the adhesive force, so always do the above separating process to avoid ripping off the pieces)
Step 7: Done! Now Get on That Couch and Play Some Video Games!
That's it. Go sit on the couch and pwn some noobs with your awesome keyboard/mouse skills.