Introduction: Keyboard Thumbtacks

Picture of Keyboard Thumbtacks

Old hacked up keyboard keys + push pins = awesome keyboard thumb tacks! In just a few minutes I modified some keys from old keyboards, hot glued push pins inside of them, and presto, made some keyboard thumbtacks.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
This project only requires a few things:

  • liberated keyboard keys

I got mine from the fine folks who work at the Computer Museum of Austin during Maker Faire Austin this year, but you can take any old keyboard and wedge a screwdriver between the keys and the keyboard to break them off.

  • map style push pins

The heads of thumb tacks are just too large to fit inside the well on the back of the keys. Classy map push pins are the perfect size. I used something like this.

  • Dremel tool, or a pair of pliers, or small hand saw, or an exacto knife
  • drill with drill bit to match the diameter of the head of the push pin. Mine required a 3/16" drill bit.
  • hot glue gun

Step 2: Choose Some Good Keys

Picture of Choose Some Good Keys

Not all good keyboard keys make good keyboard key thumbtacks. Choose ones that have a large enough hole, or "well" on the back of the key to easily accept the head of the push pin.

Check out the picture below to see what I mean.

Step 3: Cut Off Excess Plastic on Key

Picture of Cut Off Excess Plastic on Key

The keyboard key has too much plastic on it to make a good thumbtack. Using the cutoff wheel on a Dremel tool, or a small hobby saw, or even a good exacto knife, carefully cut off the excess plastic so that whatever was there to mount the key to the keyboard is now flush with the key itself.

Step 4: Drill Out a Hole for the Push Pin

Picture of Drill Out a Hole for the Push Pin

Next, drill out a hole to clean up the cut you just made with the Dremel and clear out a place where you can glue in the head of the push pin. The push pins I got required a 3/16" drill bit.

Be careful not to go all the way through and ruin the key, or drill into your finger.

Step 5: Put Hot Glue in the Hole

Picture of Put Hot Glue in the Hole

Shoot some hot glue into the hole.

Step 6: Insert the Head of the Push Pin

Picture of Insert the Head of the Push Pin

Carefully push the head of the push pin into the little pool of hot glue making sure to submerge it far enough so that it's good and stuck, but not too far so that an insufficient amount of the pin is left sticking out.

Use your pointer finger to hold the tack in place (vertically) as the glue sets.

Step 7: Repeat to Make More

Picture of Repeat to Make More

Make as many as you like and then use them on your cork boards instead of regular thumbtacks or push pins. They work they same way, but look cooler!


CobyUnger made it! (author)2014-03-23

I did a laptop key version too. Great idea.

lindseyb93 (author)2013-12-12

Brings out my inner nerd.

swaroop911 (author)2012-12-23

awesome..! :)

sorjynx (author)2010-04-15

 nice revolutionary and techy idea.. i got bunch of broken key and now i got a great innovation for them

Treknology (author)2010-04-04

Warning! From the left in the reject box, #2 is an ALPS switch top and #3 is a Cherry switch top. I don't recognise the other two off the top of my head,

These are extremely valuable and are proving harder and harder to find--and a well worth something on eBay for people trying to built "just the right keyboard".

The four in the lower "OK" boxes are obviously from membrane keyboards--so go for broke.

I mention this here, because in your Part 1 Instructable, it seems you have used Cherry and ALPS tops as well

PoeDunkMae (author)2010-01-17

Great idea!

man58562 (author)2009-12-14

Cool idea.  I have a great boss that just doesn't get the idea of dual monitors.  The second mopnitor he uses as a post-it board.  I'm going to use this, plus I'm planning on gutting a dead LCD and replace the screen with cork board.  I get another working monitor and he keeps his post-it holder and geek-cred is slightly upped.

AspenHarper (author)2009-12-07


comander01 (author)2009-12-07

April Fool's idea--- Drill a hole in the TOP of the key. Follow the rest of the instructable but glue the tack to the keyboard and replace the key. When someone hits the key, they stab themselves! Instant Comedy!

ozh (author)2009-12-07

Veeeerry cool idea. I think I'm going to convert keys into fridge magnets also :)

Kaiven (author)2008-11-03

Nice! Ju*t wi*hed I didn't pull out the "$" on my keyboard...

Mehehehful (author)Kaiven2009-12-06


freekofnature (author)2009-12-02

it might be better to not push the pin all the way so that you have more of the sharp pointyness

freekofnature (author)2009-12-02

hey i was wondering if you could just glue on the pin without drilling the whole

jmacfarlane823 (author)2009-09-22

hehehe i like the magnets idea, the thumbtacks will work great too:P i just got 6 or 7 keyboards from my school, so i have over 700 keys to use *evil laughter*

dollywild (author)2009-09-19

Very cool- I think I will make some for the co-worker gift exchange. Would be a cool gift for a kid, too, using their mane letters.

James Longpaw (author)2009-07-28

this is a great Idea! I was wondering what to do with my old dead keyboards, now I Know what to do.

djpolo98 (author)2009-04-18

you also can put magnets on the place of the pin

Kopolis777 (author)2009-01-24

This was in a popular science magazine. Props man props!

Bill in Detroit (author)2008-12-28

This would be especially cool with old terminal keyboards ... more keys, different words, usually double-shot (letters slower to wear off).

Chico (author)2008-12-11

I loved this idea and I tried it right away. I made a couple of discoveries, it's hard to cutoff the plastic with the Dremel, so I just used the wire wheel on my grinder (a wire wheel on a Dremel would probably be too weak). The wire wheel chewed off the excess plastic within seconds and I gripped the keys with a pair of pliers to hold them securely (and away from my fingers). The other thing was that it's dangerous to push the push pin into the key with your bare finger (mine had to be jammed in there a little bit). A thimble works great for that!

thatfeller (author)Chico2008-12-27

gripping the shaft of the pin with needlenose pliers is as safe as the thimble, and has two advantages for some of us guys: a) it doesn't dull the end of the pin, and b) they're more likely to be in a guy's toolbox than a thimble.

duckducrot (author)2008-11-03

Love this idea. I'll try this with little button magnets. I use a metallic message board. I plan to adhere the magnets with extra-strength permanent glue dot adhesive. These would make nice, inexpensive holiday (for me, Christmas) gifts. Up-cycling is so in right now.

bustedit (author)duckducrot2008-11-06

i like the magnet idea - w enough keys you could even leave messages on the fridge, spellt out!

Bicycleman (author)bustedit2008-11-07

Great minds think alike, I had the same idea when I saw this instructable! I'm thinking using keys from a laptop (if I find any) would be nice for magnets as they are thinner. I think the thickness of the magnet will make the key stand out just enough to look good but not so much as to be knocked off when brushing past the fridge. I like the big keys with complete words like "home" and "enter". Used keyboards often have worn out unreadable blank keys. It would be cool to paint in new words or characters like "hope" or smileys so that people wonder what kind of keyboard they're from.

Derin (author)Bicycleman2008-12-25

My dad types so much when I look at his keyboard i see some of the letters are polished unlike mine which is still textured and dull.

Lol, even before i read the comments i thought of spelling things out with them...

dz0004455 (author)2008-12-09

that is very very cool!

paulareno (author)2008-11-07

Not the smartest thing but if you have alot of experience with drills and power tools like me and from the looks of it Noah aswell you should be fine. Ps, drilling your fingure really does hurt :(

digitaltripper (author)paulareno2008-11-14

hehe...Yeah I tried to drill the carbon fiber outta the mount hole where a skid broke off in my blade CP+ R/C heli....Small bit, went thru the side of my index finger stopped at the nail....Yeah it hurt for awhile. I learned that 11.99 for the heli frame was cheaper than trying to repair it !!

RMConstruction (author)paulareno2008-11-08

*not rudely* how do you know? have you done it yourself? if so, ouch!

paulareno (author)RMConstruction2008-11-09

Yeah i done it once when i was trying to trill a tiny piece of plastic, the bit jumped off the plasit and straight into my fingure and wow there was blood everywhere and my fingure hurt for like 3 weeks. i was about 10 yrs old at the time and from than on i have always used a vice while drilling ;)

RMConstruction (author)paulareno2008-11-10

Ouch... lol

kewlkiwi (author)2008-11-07

Brilliant idea! Great way to salvage *something* from the old keyboards that seem to collect in the closet.

This is an 'Ah-hah!' instructable...

mysterygirl154 (author)2008-11-03

If this was published on the third, how can that comment be on halloween? Great idea by the way

pyrocop1 (author)mysterygirl1542008-11-06

The person who posted on Halloween has already built a flux capacitor from a earlier instructable

Maybe a collaborator or something like that. idk. Strange. Lovely instructable none the less.

King Crab (author)mysterygirl1542008-11-03

Wow. That's kinda weird.

beauwalker23 (author)2008-11-06

do not it this way! you will make a hole in your fingure!

rattyrain (author)2008-11-06

This is just wonderfully marvelous.

hominid (author)2008-11-05

noahw, Hi, this is really snappy and innovative, appeals to my OCD.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-11-03

VOTE NO ON 8 YEAH BOY GET SOME!!! Noah, you have kids?

noahw (author)GorillazMiko2008-11-04

Who says I'm going to pick up my kids? Little people will do a lot for carrots.

GorillazMiko (author)noahw2008-11-04

It says "Pick up kids" so... :o

Chicken2209 (author)GorillazMiko2008-11-03

i think he means his carrots they grow up so fast

+5/5 stars, by the way.

rimar2000 (author)2008-11-04

Very interesting idea. But warning, the photo in step 4 is DANGEROUS: when I was a fool, doing something seemed to that I did me a hole in the hand. The security is the first thing.

noahw (author)rimar20002008-11-04

You are totally right. That was a dangerous thing to do, and drilling into your hand is certainly a behavior that I shouldn't support or model. Thanks for safety warning.

Waxmonster (author)2008-11-03

this is such a great way to use a broken keyboard! i'm gonna go do it right now! this is pure genious!

=SMART= (author)2008-10-31

That is so awesome !!!!!! What a fantastic idea, i have a keyboard in the loft, i'm gonna try this now !! Fav + 5*

About This Instructable




Bio: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs ... More »
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