~ An entryThe Winner in the Steampunk Weekly Challenge! See it here: (Link) ~

Greetings, my kind fellows, and Welcome to my brief (Sarcasm alert!) tutorial on how to construct a Steampunk Keyboard - Without having to completely demolish the board in the process! Even better, you probably have most of what you need at home.
This project cost me about $4.00 in the end. Thrifty! However, it also took me about 11/2 months to build, so only make this if you don't mind having a long-term project on your hands. This was my first large-scale Steampunk project, and boy, was it an adventure! I hope you wouldn't mind having 11/2 months' company with me as I tell you exactly how to duplicate my Steampunk Keyboard... Let's get started!

I also put this in the County Fair in my area... see the last step for pictures of the keyboard on display, and the 2nd place ribbon I got for it!

Step 1: Materials, Supplies, and Tools Needed:

Remember, this project (and most other Steampunk projects) is supply-heavy, though 90% or so of what I used was already in and around the house. I can't guarantee that you'll have the same lucky streak, but who knows?

To coin a popular phrase, ~~"YOU WILL NEED:"~~
  1. A Keyboard (Of Course). Make sure that it's boxy-looking for best results. - $3.00 at a thrift store.
  2. 1/2" Copper or Brass pipe - at least 26" long (I used Copper because that's what I had on hand)
  3. Gold or brassy paint
  4. Wood textured Con-Tact paper ($7.99 at my local OSH, but I only used about $1.00 worth of it)
  5. A good word program (Wordpad or Wordperfect should work - but NOT Notepad!)
  6. Some old-looking, maybe off-whitepaper
  7. At least 30 sticks of Hot Glue - I'll explain why later on.
  8. E-6000, also known as "Household Goop" More info here
  9. A tube of Super glue
  10. Shellac - and it has to be Shellac! Not Polyethylene or anything else.
  11. A Large Box to help contain your project (Optional)
Tools needed:
  1. A Hand-operated Pipe-cutter
  2. Super-Heavy-Duty Scissors(Or regular scissors and a Hacksaw or, better yet, a Dremel)
  3. An Xacto knife
  4. A Hot Glue Gun
  5. A Printer
  6. Pliers
  7. A very small Paintbrush
  8. A Creative Mind
When you have all of these items, continue to the next step.

Step 2: Cut the Pipe

 First of all, count the number of keys on your keyboard that is to be "Steampunked". (It will usually be 104.) Each key that's cut has to be 1/4" wide, therefore the pipe has to be at least 26" long.
 Now, using your pipe cutter, cut 104 1/4" pieces of pipe. This might take a few days by using the manual cutter, but you'll be much happier with how it turns out. It looks much cleaner when hand-cut.
 Don't forget to save all of the "rings" in a bag or box. You'll need every one of them.
When you're (Finally) finished with this and your hands have recovered, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Building the Keys - 1 of 4

 Still here? Good. Now, place the pipe pieces evenly in an 8x8 fashion on a sheet of off-white paper and start heating up your Hot Glue Gun. When the gun is ready, Squirt enough hot glue into each pipe piece to fill them almost to the top. (High-Temperature glue and glue guns work best for this, because it takes a longer time to dry, therefore giving it more time to spread to the edges.)
 Allow about 10 minutes for the glue to cool, then use your scissors to Cut each piece from the paper in a square shape. If any of the rings refuse to stick to the glue and the paper, use the Super Glue to attach it. When the Super Glue is dry, Cut the paper PRECISELY around the edge of the "key-in-progress", so that no piece of paper is hanging off of the bottom of the pipe. (See pic for a better understanding of what I'm saying. I'll probably have to take some more for a more accurate description.)

Step 4: Building the Keys - 2 of 4

 Time to use the computer! Pull up your word-editing software and select the font "TypoUpright BT". Now turn on CAPS LOCK and Type all of the letters and numbers, and in a smaller size, spell in abbrev. all of the keys like "Sft" and "Num". I recommend setting the font size to 36 and the word size to 12.
 Type these letters, numbers, and figures into your word program:

A     B     C      D      E      F        G     H      I         J      K        L        M    N    O      P      Q      R      S       T       U      V     W     X     Y      Z

1      2      3      4       5       6      7      8      9      0      `

Tab         Caps             Sft             Crtl              Alt             Menu                List               Back        Insrt          Dlte         PrSc          ScLk        P/B      

   Esc       Num          End        Home        Pgup         Pgdn            Del            _              +                  *              /          →          1        2      3        4  

      5        6        7        8           9        0         -         =         \          [             ]           ;         ‘          ,          .         /         F1          F2           F3            F4      

      F5          F6           F7          F8            F9         F10            F11             F12

 A lot of typing, I know, but I suppose you could Copy and Paste the above text into the program. Once you have all of this typed in the correct sizes and font, Print the characters on two more sheets of off-white paper. Once you've done that, use one of the new keys to outline precisely where to cut - Basically, place the character sheets on a soft surface like carpet and press the key directly on top of the characters. Cut along the inner line.
 Finished? OK, let's keep going! Next step, here we come. ->

  Also, if any of the keys are broken, or "Dead", then substitute the appropriate paper key with a "Skull and Crossbones" key - Make it by using the "Wingdings" font and typing a capitol "N".

Step 5: Building the Keys - 3 of 4

 Now that you have all of the key bases and all of the key tops, it's time to put them together! Put a small drop of Super Glue in the middle of the Hot Glue in the key and slip a character under the lip that was formed by the hand-cutting of the pipe, then press down the piece of paper for about 10 seconds to hold the bond. Repeat 103 more times.
 All right, on to the next step!

Step 6: Building the Keys - 4 of 4

 Now you need to Shellac over the top of each key. Place some (Anti-Messy) newspaper over the work-space and organize the keys the same way you did with Hot-Gluing. Take the small paintbrush and Spread a very thin layer of Shellac over the top of each key. Let the keys dry overnight.
 You are finished with the new keys - for now. Next, we move on to the keyboard.

Step 7: Modding the Keyboard - 1 of 3

The following step may take quite a bit of time and energy, might be very wearing on the hands, and could cause damage to your tools, unless you are using a Dremel.

~You have been warned.~

Start with the "Esc" key. Use the Pliers to pull out the key, then Use your Heavy-Duty Scissors, Hacksaw or (Best Option) Dremel to cut off the edges of the key. Push the key back into it's original slot and RECYCLE the plastic chips. (Love the environment and it will love you back! :D )
Continue to the next key in line, "F1", and repeat above instructions. Move on to "F2", etc. until all of the keys have been stripped and reduced to seemingly useless little nubs. (You'll use them later, so make sure that each one goes back into it's own hole!) Note: When you cut off the ends of the Space Bar, SAVE THEM. You'll need them later.
My Scissors snapped when I was about 95% finished with this step, so I finished the job with the Hacksaw. I couldn't find my Dremel during this step, so I'm sorry I don't have a demo. Special thanks to HighWing for reminding me about the Dremel!
You might want to use some canned air to blast the dust out of the key-wells, assuming that your keyboard is very old.

When you're finished, move on to the next step. (Naturally.)

Step 8: Modding the Keyboard - 2 of 3

 Let's do something with that Con-Tact paper, shall we? (This is why your keyboard needs to be as boxy as possible!)
 Measure your keyboard in all directions. It will usually measure about 18" by 1" by 6" to 8". So however long your keyboard is (Up and down) Cut a piece of Con-Tact paper to match. For example, if your keyboard is 18" by 1" by 8", you'll need to cut a piece that's 18" by at least 16". (You should add a couple of extra inches to that just in case.) Once you have it cut, gently lay it over the key-wells and, using your Xacto knife, cut out the places where the Con-Tact paper is covering them. You need to cut just inside the edge of what's outlined, so as to not run out of material.
 When you've done this, start VERY CAREFULLY sticking the paper to the keyboard - by first taping one end to the back base of the board, then slowly peeling off one or two inches of the backing at a time and smoothing it on. Continue around in this fashion until you're about two inches away from the cord. Make a small slit to fit around the cord and put down the last of the paper.
 This has all been quite a bit of work, huh? Don't worry, we're closer than we've ever been to the end now! Let's keep going. ->

Step 9: Modding the Keyboard - 3 of 3

 Get out the paint and (This will take a while) Paint all of the key-well bottoms and key bump-ups. DO NOT PAINT THE SIDES OF THE KEY-WELLS. After the paint has dried, measure the depth of the key-wells. (Usually 1/2".) Cut several strips of Con-Tact paper that are a half inch wide and line the walls of the key-wells with them. Optional: If you "Just happen" to have a piano hammer, I've found that they're excellent at smoothing down Con-Tact paper.
 While you're at it, paint the key nubs as well.

 That's it for this step. Continue.

Step 10: Building the Keys - 5 of 4 (?!?)

 Now that the keyboard itself is all tricked out, it's time to return to the keys! I know you're probably breathing a very heavy sigh right about now, but we're getting very close to the end. (The following step is a precision operation, so make sure you're steady!)
 Get the new key-heads, the key nubs, and the E-6000 for this one. Grab a key-head and take note of what letter, number, or figure is on the front of it. Turn the key-head upside-down and put a dollop of E-6000 on the back of it. Now Press the matching key nub DEAD CENTER, CORRECT ROTATION onto the glue on the key-head. Make sure that it's perfectly matched up, because you'll only be able to do this once! Repeat this step 103 times with all of the other keys. Let them dry, then put them in their appropriate slot.
 Stay with me, we're almost there!

Step 11: Modding the Keyboard - 4 of 3 (?!?)

 Remember when I told you to save the Space Bar? You need it now! Paint the entire surface of each half of the Space Bar with the gold paint, wait for it to dry, and take some grey or dark brown paint and lightly brush it over the gold to make them look a little used. Once done, use the E-6000 to glue each half on either side of the new Space key as shown.
 You're pretty much finished with your new Steampunk Keyboard! Unless, however, you want to make that cord a little less industrial-looking.

Step 12: Wrapping It Up - Literally.

I decided to add this little tip to the end of this Instructable because I thought that the cord color didn't match Steampunk very well. If you want to make that tacky grey or black cord look a little more "Steampunky", take a 1" wide strip of black fabric and wrap it around the cord all the way to the end. Use E-6000 to stick it together on each end of the cord.
And you're finished! You now have bragging rights to your very own Steampunk Keyboard! This is a very modifiable project, so if you'd like to create your own variation, go ahead and make one - but please be sure to give me credit for the original idea. Actually, phirzcol's Keyboard was my original inspiration, so Thank You!
Enjoy your new keyboard! Don't forget to clean up after your project.

...And since this Instructable is entered in the 4th Epilog Laser Challenge, I'll give you a little bit of an idea of what I'm thinking about doing with it:
  1. I'm an expert at the Claw Machine, and I once won a very nice-looking pocket watch, which I'd love to engrave.
  2. I'm planning on making more Steampunk projects like this one, and the laser would be perfect to cut out little details that would be impossible to do by hand, such as tiny gears and little embellishments.
  3. I'd engrave all of my Altoids tin kits, for reasons not immediately apparent. Maybe if I ever go to an Altoids tin kit convention...?
  4. I have a lot of metal projects that I've made laying around, so I think I'd like to engrave my name on - or at least initial - all of them.
  5. Finally, I'd improve this keyboard by affixing a plaque somewhere at the top that has been engraved with some fancy text. Something like, "This Keyboard was Wrought by the Hands of Win Guy, this Day, the Twenty-Seventh of March, 1863.".
And that's what I'd do if I were to win the Zing® 4th Epilog Laser Challenge. And once again, if you liked this Instructable, please vote for me. Why not? It's just one simple click.

BONUS INFO: I entered this project into my local County Fair... I'm going to go see it on display this Sunday, August 28! I'll take pics if I can!
UPDATE: The photos are up! Check 'em out right here.

Win Guy
Really well done. I totally want one!
I used a tool I made myself. I took a tube of like 10 cm long and a diameter that goes easily around the base of the keys (when you hold the key upside down). Made a sharp edge on one end of the tube, and then mounted the tube around a drill that just fit in it. Clamped the drill in my drill machine, and I had a perfect hole cutter. Hold the key upside down with a pliers or any other appropriate tool and drill around the base of the key. Clear? I don't think so. I'll see if I can add a picture.
This is an amazing but simple steampunkish keyboard, I gotta make it. I'm sorry but I gotta say it, your ribbon says "Butte County." xD
Rather than cutting the keys with a hacksaw or scissors, you can use a Dreamel tool to cut the skirts off and round them out to nubs all in one go. It takes a bit of practice, but you can get down to 10-20 seconds a key. And it doesn't wear on the hands like using scissors.
You know, I considered that idea while I was making this keyboard, but I couldn't find my Dremel. I'll definitely add that to the tools list and Step 7! Thanks.<br> Win Guy
No prob. Happy to help
Very impressive!!! Keep Steampunking!!! <br>It's a winner!!!
I thought that I commented on this! I missed it somehow! Very impressive. I love the steam punk look! Thanks for sharing your hard work and have a splendorous Day! I have to see if you won! <br>Sunshiine
I want to build one of these but I am curious on how durable it is. How long will the keyboard last.
Well, I really couldn't say exactly (I've only had it for a couple of months) but I'd say that if you put enough glue and paint on it, it should hold up for quite some time. It could require some light maintenance, however. For me, it's just guesswork - you might want to check with phirzcol and ask how his keyboard is holding up. He's had one for a lot longer, and his keyboard is very similar to mine.<br> Happy Steampunking!<br> Win Guy
Cool..project ....County Fair pics please :)
park47,<br>You got 'em! I'll see what I can do about getting them up here later today.<br> Win Guy
They're up! View them on the last step.<br> Thanks for commenting!<br> Win Guy
very nice job well written and clear instructions with some added humour going to have to have a go at this as my key board is looking a bit tatty<br>but i think i will use my dremel to cut the keys down<br>also to make the paper look like parchment i recommend going over it with a used tea bag and allowing it to dry before printing
Nice Job. Now if I just had the time I would make one. Maybe a project for next summer.<br>Another trick for the cord is to take the core out of a piece of paracord and put the outer part around the cord. That makes it look like the old style cotton insulated wire. However you have to remove the cord from the keyboard first because the paracord won't go over the plug.
That's an excellent idea! Maybe it could be possible to slit the paracord shell, slip it onto the keyboard cord, and glue it closed...? (It's simpler that way, and my main goal in this 'ible is to make the keyboard as simple as possible!)<br> Thank you for viewing!<br> Win Guy
I want one!
Wow. This is really impressive. Well done!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! Steamy!<br>Definitely gonna make me one of these... im gonna try and use my wireless keyboard for it though... that would be addbassery....
Great job. I really like this idea.

About This Instructable




Bio: I never spend a nanosecond without making stuff! (Mostly MIDI Music right now!) Also, my birthday is February 21st, if anyone would like to give ... More »
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