Have you ever needed to type up a paper in the middle of the night, but don’t want to turn the lights on and wake up your mates? Or have you simply wanted a Red/Green/Blue LED keyboard but don’t want to break the bank for one? Now you can turn your grandma’s old Dell keyboard into an RGB LED back-lit keyboard with color-cycling capabilities for just $15 dollars! With a little bit of time, money, and a couple of tools this affordable keyboard mod can become a reality!
Step 1: What Do We Need?
The First thing you will need to do upon deciding to embark on this project is to gather the appropriate materials. Specifically you will need:
A hot glue gun.
A screw driver.
A membrane keyboard (preferably an old, cheap one).
A drill with an acceptable set of drill bits.
An RGB LED strip, the one I used can be found here (LED Strip)
OPTIONAL - If you want the light to shine through the letters you can 3D model key caps that have hollow letters as seen above.
Step 2: Disassembling the Keyboard
After gathering your materials you can begin assembling your RGB LED keyboard, but before you can assemble you have to disassemble. You can begin by finding the screws that hold together your membrane keyboard. After you have found the screws, unscrew them! The locations of my screws are marked by the red arrows. After the screws are removed the front panel the contains the keys can be removed as well. This reveals the rubber sheet that houses all of the rubber domes. Under that is the circuit board which recognizes all of the key presses.
Step 3: Prepping the Fascia
After your keyboard is disassembled you need to remove all of the key caps from the front fascia. Mine were removed by squeezing the two tabs on the underside of the keys (marked by the red arrows) and popping them out. Once all of the keys are removed you can start drilling holes to allow the light to shine through. I used the smallest drill bit in my set and really you can use whatever size drill bit you want. Just remember not to pick a drill bit so big that you drill through the key stem. Also remember that the bigger the drill bit, the more light is going to be present. Here you can see I’m drilling the holes through the underside of each plastic key-domes. After each of the key-domes has a hole your front fascia should look like this.
Step 4: Making Room for the Wires
After this you can move to the bottom half of the keyboard which contains the rubber sheet. As you can see the wire feeds into the keyboard through this little rubber block marked by the red arrow. You should be able to lift the little block out of its crevice like I did here. After the block is out you need to drill a hole for the LED wires. I recommend choosing the largest drill bit to give your wires the most room. When you drill the hole make sure it punches through the top of the block so that the the wires can be placed down in the hole. This is necessary because the connector for the wire is too large to thread through the hole; this means that the wires must be placed in the hole and not threaded through. After the hole is drilled you can place the block back into its position.
Step 5: Assembling the LEDS
Now we can begin assembling the LEDs in the keyboard. First, decide how you want to run the LEDs. I decided to take the simple route and run one short strip across the top. This made my top keys slightly brighter than my bottom keys, to fix that you would just bend the strip around and do a run on the bottom. Make sure to take note of where the connector is for the LEDs. It needs to be able to extend through the little block as seen here. Also make sure the LEDs don’t interfere with the rubber domes. After you have decided where you want your LEDs you can start gluing. I started from the top of the strip and worked my way down gluing about an inch at a time as I went. After your LEDs are in place you can move on to final assembly.
Step 6: Final Assembly
First you should re-attach the key caps to the front fascia. I looked up a picture of a keyboard on the internet and used that to figure out where each of the keys go. My keys were attached by simply positioning them and pushing them into their stems until they snapped into place. After all of the keys are assembled you can place the front fascia onto the rest of the keyboard and re-fasten the screws. After your keyboard is put back together you can plug in the LEDs and watch it shine!