Introduction: Custom Special Character Keyboard

Picture of Custom Special Character Keyboard

My girlfriend is currently going into her senior year at the University of Oregon, studying various aspects of Native American culture and history. One of her main foci is language. She has taken a couple of years of Chinuk Wawa (the language of the Grande Ronde Tribes), and now she is studing Ichishkíin, the language group of the Yakima, Warm Springs, and Umatilla tribes. It's the same language family of her own tribe, the Klamath, and she is now a language steward, working to keep dying languages alive.

I have watched her more than once typing up her homework using a photographic reference to the custom keyboard software she's loaded. To be honest, it seems like a pain in the butt...so I came up with a great alternative!

Since the software is already loaded, it's just a matter of making the images on the keyboard match what they'll actually type. So, I took a standard keyboard, painted over the standard English characters, added the special characters to match the software!

It took some time, but the results were pretty great. It's a keyboard you'd never be able to find in a store, but it looks good and will help keep her at the top of the class!

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials

This is a pretty simple project and takes only a couple of ingredients:

  • Keyboard
  • Black, Red, Yellow, and White spray paint
  • Red, Yellow, and White acrylic paint
  • Paper
  • Masking tape
  • Fine tip paint brushes (or fine tip paint pens might be better)
  • Clear enamel spray paint

Step 2: Remove Keys

Picture of Remove Keys

You're going to be doing some spray painting, and you don't want stray paint gumming up the works!

Most keyboards are simple in this regard, just get something thin and stiff under the key (a butter knife is my implement of choice), and gently pry upwards. Be prepared for keys to go flying!

Step 3: Tape Off Key Spaces

Picture of Tape Off Key Spaces

In preparation for the paint, get some masking tape and paper. Completely tape off the key areas, as you don't need spray paint getting up in the inner workings of the keyboard!

Step 4: Paint the Keys

Picture of Paint the Keys

Separate from the board itself, and press them into cardboard so that only the key top is sticking out. This will protect the bottom side from any contamination. Give the keys several light coats of paint from different directions, so all the keys get a uniform coat.

Step 5: Paint the Keyboard

Picture of Paint the Keyboard

I suppose I could have just made this a functional tool, but I wanted it to look good as well. I chose a simple design, the colors of a medicine wheel overlaid on the keyboard.

Using a piece of cardboard I'd cut into an L shape, I used it as a stencil to paint one quarter of the keyboard at a time in black, white, yellow, and red. I arranged it so the black part would be in an area without any keys so I wouldn't have to worry about how exactly to differentiate that area from the white area.

Step 6: Add Special Characters and Finish Up

Picture of Add Special Characters and Finish Up

With the help of a pdf showing the keymap, I got to work painting the individual keys. After some experimentation I found it easier to paint on the keys while out of the keyboard, painting while they were installed meant they would have a tendency to dip inward if I pressed too hard. I also discovered I'm not great at detail work! If I'd planned this better, I think fine tip paint pens would have been better than paint brushes.

When the paint dries, give it a couple of coats of clear enamel, and you're done!

Step 7: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading! This is my first instructable in a while and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I think this sort of thing would be really useful for anyone who needs a special keyboard for a language with too small of a speaking population to warrant mass produced hardware. It's a low cost, quick and effective solution to the problem.

Please take a moment to rate, subscribe, and favorite! I'd love to hear your thoughts so take a moment to sound off in the comments.
Finally, if you use this instructable to make your own special character keyboard, post an "I Made It!" comment, and I'll send you a 3 month pro membership as well as a digital patch!

Comments

pokiespout (author)2017-09-07

Nicely done! How excited is she?

I'm really glad that you painted out and then repainted all of the keys, even the ones that would have been white and contain no new information. Is that for the noble reason of making it all integrated and whole, or is it because you painted all the keys black before you decided how you were going to paint the housing? If it were me, the actual reason would be the latter, but I would be comfortable claiming the former.

depotdevoid (author)pokiespout2017-09-08

Well she hasn't really had a chance to try the thing, I finished it up right at the end of the school year. She's starting up again in a couple of weeks, so we'll see!

I painted over everything because I knew there'd be no way my painting would match the factory printed characters. I try more and more to make my projects look good rather than just be functional.

seamster (author)2017-09-08

Nice work sir!

depotdevoid (author)seamster2017-09-08

Thanks, it was a fun little project!

KEUrban (author)2017-09-08

What custom keyboard mapping software does she use?

depotdevoid (author)KEUrban2017-09-08

I don't think they actually use a custom keymap, they just install a font (from http://www.languagegeek.com) that corresponds to the changes needed to type in the language in question. That way, changing between typing in English and typing in Ichishkíin is quick and easy.

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