Introduction: How to Pimp Your Keyboard


Stuck with a dull old 90's keyboard? Want a cool blue backlit keyboard on the cheap? Say no more...I'll show you how to upgrade your sleep-inducing boring old keyboard into the next century.

Step 1: Tools and Materials You'll Need:

materials:

- 1 dull keyboard
- 3...6 high brightness LEDs (I used blue, but you can use any color you want, or even mix)
- current limiting resistors (depends on keyboard voltage and LEDs, see further)
- wire, not to thick.

tools:

- soldering iron
- glue gun
- dremel
- small drill
- sharp knife
- screwdrivers
...you know, the usual stuff.

Step 2: Disecting Your Keyboard

Locate the screws on the backside and open your keyboard. Don't force it if it doesn't open easily after you think you removed all screws ;sometimes they hide a screw under a label.
Remove the bottom part with the electronics and put it asside for now. On most of these old keyboards the top part will just hold the keys themselves.

Step 3: Decide Where to Put the LEDs

On the inside of the top of the keyboard, locate the spots where you want to put the LEDs.
Some hints:

- make sure there is enough room for the LEDs to fit. I didn't at first and had to use an electric paint stripper to soften up the plastic to get the LED in position.
- it might be a better idea to use 3mm instead of 5mm LEDs, a I did.
- try to pick some spots where LEDs shine inbetween the rows of the keys, so the light gets spread under them.
- keep in mind each LED will also get one resistor, so you'll need room for that too.

Once your happy with the spots:

- remove the keys on the top near the LEDs choosen position
- mark the spots
- start drilling, using a drill slightly bigger than the LED . Give the LEDs some room so you can point them in the right direction, we'll fix em later with the hot glue gun.




Step 4: Mount the LEDs

Put the LEDs in the holes to see if they fit. if they don't enlarge the hole with the dremel or a file or whatever. Remove burrs with a sharp knive, remove plastic dust.

Now, on the bottom side of the keyboard (with the controller) locate GND and VCC near the connector where the cable gets in. Use a voltmeter for this. I found 4.5V supply voltage. No idea if this is a "standard" keyboard voltage.
Then calculate the current limiting resistors you need, using ohms law. I choose 15mA for the LED current. The blue LEDs from my junkbox had a drop of 4V@15mA (must be really crappy ones).
Solder a resistor to each LED.
Solder wires to the LEDs ( white=VCc, green=GND in the pictures)
Do a dry test with a battery or power supply.

Happy? Position the LEDs in such a way as that they shine in between the rows of keys.Get medieval with the glue gun and fix their position.

Step 5: Key Cutouts:

if you use 5mm LEDs (as I was stupid enough to do) it might be that the keys near the LED are blocked, so mark where it is stuck, get the dremel out and remove the offending plastic from the keys.

Step 6: Route and Solder the Wire

Route the wire towards the controller. Use the hot glue gun to fix it every 5 cm or so.
Make sure your wire uses a path that doesn't interfere with the keys functioning.
You might have to cut away some plastic on the inside here and there, to get your wires through.
Then solder the wires to the power points (observe polarity).
With the keyboard open and connected to your computer, do another dry test.



Step 7: Close It Up and Enjoy.

Close the keyboard making sure none of the wires gets squashed. Replace all screws.
turn over and hookup.Pray everything still works and switch on.
Enjoy your newly pimped ultra-cool backlit keyboard!


Step 8: Some Ideas and Hints

The pictures only show how to put the two LEDs to the left in. The procedure is the same for more LEDs.
You might want to experiment using different colors. For example blue on the left side and yellow on the right to make a nice gradient.
I recently added some more LEDs, in the top row, however the "backlit" effect works better if the LEDs are inbetween rows, like the ones on the left and right.

Comments

author
zhollett made it! (author)2016-12-23
author
Kajnjaps (author)zhollett2016-12-26

Nice work, Zhollet!

author
Bjarke (author)2013-07-02

Could you ad a potentiometer to change the brightness?

author
Kajnjaps (author)Bjarke2013-07-03

absolutely!

author
dirfan (author)2011-07-29

wow !!!!!!! ..... im gonna try tht ........

author
kdcsatx (author)2008-08-05

do you think it would be possible to do this witht a macbook keyboard...does anyone know of a keyboard that i can buy for a macbook that illuminates?

author
Kajnjaps (author)kdcsatx2008-08-06

I'm not sure, since I don't have a macbook. but if you decide to do this yourself, it is better to use 3mm LEDs or even SMDs and not 5mm's as I did.

author
kdcsatx (author)Kajnjaps2008-08-07

i found 3mm high flux leds's they're kinda flat so possibly i can kinda inlay them throughout the keyboard

author
Redgerr (author)kdcsatx2010-07-08

could work, im possitiv it will void any warrenty you have though

author
tanmanknex (author)2010-04-06

I have this exact keyboard (or at least a very similar one) and i modded it to Dvorak.  In Dvorak, because the keys from different rows are different heights, it has a nice wavy three dimensional effect.

author
bowmaster (author)2010-04-06

Cool, good idea for people who can't afford real gaming keyboards.

author
tubanator-2.0 (author)2010-04-04

looks awesome may have to do this when i get the parts and will be awesome for gaming at night when i cant see the keys and might put one in my mouse.

author
Kajnjaps (author)tubanator-2.02010-04-06

Thanks!

have Fun,
Kajnjaps

author
DanCat (author)2008-09-27

Dude, this is really cool. Im doing this and am planning on adding a layer of aluminum foil underneath the LEDs. Totally cool.

author
Kajnjaps (author)DanCat2008-09-28

thanks, the aluminum foil is a great idea! have fun!

author
Arbitror (author)Kajnjaps2010-02-25

No it's not, use aluminum tape instead. It sticks my itself, and it's a lot more smooth (and flat)!

author
MattGyver92 (author)2009-04-07

I'm curious. Could you use EL wire as the light source instead? Is there any way to make the light illuminate the charactars on the keys? I'd like to try this on one with flatter buttons (possibly using RGB LEDs).

author
Kajnjaps (author)MattGyver922009-04-09

you could try EL foil. it can be cut in all sizes. make sure upfront you can fit everything in the keyboard.

author
MattGyver92 (author)Kajnjaps2009-04-09

I thought they only made EL wire and panels... Does it glow on both sides? Here's why I ask-look at this picture: I had an idea for a CTF (Capture the Flag) set that you can see in the dark. Although you can't hide them well, it was made to be played in the woods at night (thought possibly not the safest activity). The trick is to get the cloth to glow.

CTF.png
author
Kajnjaps (author)MattGyver922009-04-11

I think they only glow on one side

author
MattGyver92 (author)Kajnjaps2009-04-11

That shouldn't be a problem...I'll just need two pieces back to back. I'd probably use white and have the color cloth of my choice covering it. Thx for your help

author
zedlafa (author)2008-09-21

lol thats cool

author
mweston (author)2008-08-28

I have a keyboard thats translucent, so if I align the LED's to shine "into" the frosted platic, it should illuminate the entire keyboard, kind of like how the lighting works in the back of an LCD screen.

author
codongolev (author)2008-07-08

I really want a flat keyboard (ie, like a laptop's keyboard) but I can't find a place where it isn't a buttload of money. any suggestions?

author
robots199 (author)codongolev2008-08-01

well forget my mac keyboard idea. lol :P

author
codongolev (author)robots1992008-08-02

?

author
shaphieh (author)codongolev2008-07-28

you can by a YAhoo keyboard for about $50

author
Dorkfish92 (author)codongolev2008-07-08

I have this one, it is pretty close to a laptop keyboard. Don't try removing the keys though like it says you can, they just break.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823126022

author
codongolev (author)Dorkfish922008-07-08

i'll look at it. thanks!

author
Kajnjaps (author)codongolev2008-07-08

Maybe it is possible to rip one out of an old laptop? I'm not sure if the controller would be on the keyboard or the in the laptop itself.

author
codongolev (author)Kajnjaps2008-07-08

I only have one old laptop (windows 95, 10 minute battery life, 50 pounds) and I use it to play music. and I would also probably ruin the keyboard by taking it out.

author
TheCheese9921 (author)codongolev2008-07-08

check tiger direct and Newegg, also try posting this in the forums

author
codongolev (author)TheCheese99212008-07-08

hmm.... i'll try. also, do you know any keywords to type into ebay (ie, slim, thin flat)?

author
bomberman3 (author)2008-07-29

I had the same exact idea and was about to post it in the burning questions forum when I came across this. Good job, 4/5.

author
Kajnjaps (author)bomberman32008-07-30

Thanks! would be cool to do a keyboard with blue on one side and yellow on the other.

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