I take old technology and make useful things from them. One of the things that I make and sell are pencil boxes made from old 3.5" floppy disks and wire ties. I decided to upgrade one of these with a MineCraft inspired theme. I say inspired because the iconic images from the game are 8 bit graphic images. This means that they are created using an 8X8 grid. I wanted to use key from old keyboards for my box. These however would only make a 5x5 grid on my floppy disk, so the images are not duplications but close approximations, therefore "inspired".

Step 1: Prepare Your Floppy Disks

For this project you'll need the following:

  • 5 - 3.5" floppy disks
  • 12 - small wire ties (color is not important)
  • 2 - old black keyboards
  • 1 - old white keyboard
  • drill with small bit
  • pliers
  • scissors or wire cutters
  • adhesive

Begin by drilling holes in the top part of you floppy disks. Generally the bottom has a square hole and another square hole with a slide tab. This tab is usually closed blocking the hole. This was to allow writing onto the disk. Slide the tab into the locked position (to prevent writing onto the disk) and the second square hole opens. I take two disks and put them face to face / head to tail. that puts the square hole on the bottom one disk to the top of the other disk. I use these square holes as a guide to align the top hole. Using a bit that fits easily into the square holes I drill through one disk, flip them both over and drill through the other. You can try to drill through a stack. When I do that I will use masking tape to hold the disks all in place.

Repeat the process until you have 5 disks prepared with 4 holes each. A word of caution. Drilling may cause the disks to split apart, crack or "punch through" a disk leaving a rough hole. Slight separations can usually be closed and punch through can sometimes be cleaned up (sometimes they can't). Make sure you have a sharp bit and have the disks held firmly while you drill. They may also try to spin with the bit if they are not being held firmly.

Step 2: Start Joining Your Disks

Take 4 of the disks and join them together using 6 of your wire ties. You do this by taking 2 disks, put them side by side going in the same direction, and put wire ties through the back of one and then the front of the other. This puts the square tie lock inside of the box when finished. It is easier to work with them in the front, and for general purpose pencil boxes that is fine and it add to the utility look of the box as a repurposed item, but for this job we'll be putting keys on the front. The ties themselves are going to be enough of an obstacle without the box ends.

When you tighten the ties DO NOT pull them tight, You'll do that later. For now you just want to have 4 disks tied together. These should lie reasonably flat on your work surface. Turn them over and get ready for the fun to begin.

Step 3: Begin Design Assembly

The first step here is thinking about your sides and what you are going to place on them. You can do this right on the disks with loose keys or plan ahead with a 5x5 grid on a piece of paper. Use a pencil to shade in your areas for black keys. That way you'll have some idea of your design AND how many of each type of key you'll need before you get started.

Next you'll need to pop the keys off of your old keyboards. I used laptop keys because the are flat but desktop keys will work just fine. You may have better luck finding white keys (or off white) with the desktop keys. I'm fortunate to have access to old MacBook keyboards for my white keys. A possible work around solution would be the old crafters friend - spray paint. You could paint a keyboard white or any color you'd like. The only difference would be that you won't have the characters. Not important!

Layout your design on the disk with the keys. Each keyboard's keys may be slightly different in size. It's good to know about how they'll fit before you start to glue the keys down. One of the black keyboards I used left a bit of the disk showing at the top. Fortunately I could use the "F" keys to cover that space. Once you have the keys planned out you can begin gluing. The choice of adhesive is up to you. I used a fast setting epoxy so I had to mix it in small batches. Enough for a line of keys. Don't glue your keys onto the corners with the ties. You'll come back to those when the ties have been tightened.

Step 4: Form the Box

Once you have the keys on all 4 disks (except for the corner keys) let your box sit over night to allow the adhesive to cure and harden. Now, fold your disks into the box shape and tighten the wire ties. At this point you'll also add the 5th disk to make the bottom. I use 4 ties but you can use 8 if you want. It's a bit much but you'll have a more uniform look on the bottom. All holes on the bottom of the side will have 2 wire ties. This step take a bit of patience since you're doing all of this tightening inside of the box. A couple of long needle nose pliers come in handy here. Just take your time and pull all of the ties tight. Once you have them all tight and the box shaped up, take a pair of wire cutters or scissors and trim all of the tails off of the wire ties, Cut them off as close to the box as possible. Again, this step is easier to do when the ends are on the outside but that is not for this project.

Step 5: Finish Your Project

Now you can go back and glue your corner keys onto the disk. You'll need to play around with these a bit since they are going on top of the wire ties. I would glue the four onto one side and put a weight on it to press them down. Let that side dry and then turn the box and do the next side. Repeat until all four sides are done. Again let dry overnight.

Depending on the adhesive you used and your care in application, you may or may not have some excess glue to clean up from the keys. You might be able to use some cotton swabs and alchol or acetone to clean up. Try it on one of the spare keys first to see if it discolors the key. This would be especially critical if you painted the keys. In that case a small brush with a bit of the paint might be a better solution. Spray the paint onto a small paper plate, enough to make a small puddle, and dip the brush into that and cover over any excess glue with the paint.


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