Introduction: Steampunk Keyboard

Picture of Steampunk Keyboard

This is how i built a steampunk keyboard. Tired of the ever present brass frame i wanted a wooden frame with hand made brass keys.

Step 1: Select a Keyboard

Picture of Select a Keyboard

Select a keyboard that will allow you to wrap the wood in one axis. More than one axis will complicate the process to an unbelievable level. Remove the top of the keyboard and all of the keys . Do not damage the key stems as yo will be reusing them later. Steam the wood to allow it to bend to shape. If you choose a very hard wood it will crack and splinter as you bend it around the keyboard frame. The next step is to use cyanoacrylate to adhere the wood to long edge of the keyboard. Leave some overlap on the sides of the keyboard , you will be cutting them off later. With a thin seam of thin quick dry glue adhere the wood to the plastic frame until the entire face is covered. Once the forward face is covered. Cut the side bars to cover the sides of the face of the plastic frame. Once the sides and top of the keyboard are covered with wood cut out the holes for the keys. some will be square and some round. square holes will require a great deal of extra care for the wood will split.

Step 2: Stylize the Surface

Picture of Stylize the Surface

Here is the departure between a worn surface look and a new ready to be abused look. prep the keyholes and cut and additional feature holes and markers now to save yourself the headache of damaging the finish later. Use sandpaper that matches the hardness of the wood to finish the surface and take any blemishes out. The finer the wood grain the finer the sandpaper you want to finish with. Use a light poly spray to seal the wood . Repeat over and over with the finest sandpaper available until satisfied.

Step 3: Keys 1

Picture of Keys 1

Wow 104 keys. Yeah but at 4 parts per key and 9 or so steps per key . First select a brass tube size that works with your keys. next get a metal yes metal plastic does not work! metal tube cuter to cut your keys with. cut 130 or so key tall sections of tubing. if you can use a table saw with a tube cutter attachment please save yourself the time and do so.

Step 4: Keys 2

Picture of Keys 2

use a section of tube to make a blank cutter. use a rotary tool to cut sections out of the tube. again at 130 times you will appreciate the time spent. Use a small diameter wheel to sharpen the inside of the tube. this will create wood sections with a trapezoidal shape allowing them to slide into the cups.

Step 5: Keys 3

Picture of Keys 3

take all 130 circles and insert wood blanks into one side. next print out the letters number and symbols you want on the face of the keys. use a permanent marker to darken the inside of the cup where it meets the brass. set all the cups on plastic wrap. Cut out the inserts and set them aside. Drop 1-2 drops of thin cyanoacrylate into the cup with the wood insert in the bottom. drop the paper insert into the still wet ca (cyanoacrylate). once the paper discolors from the glue drop one or more drops of ca on top of the paper to seal the paper to the wood.

Step 6: Keys 4

Picture of Keys 4

Once the glue is dry take a polymer pour product (resin/hardener product) and fill the cups. use a stick to dribble the resin into the cups until just over the top of the cup (slight convex? shape to the liquid. as in out at the center in at the edges). sorry no photo just does not translate into still. even if it did you will have to get right down to the table and look across the top of the cups to judge the fill level.

Step 7: Keys 5

Picture of Keys 5

cut the around the tops of the keys

Step 8: Keys 6

Picture of Keys 6

cut the key head off at the seam between the surface and the empty center of the key. adjust the depth of the cut to match the key height and difference in each key head.

Step 9: Keys 7

Picture of Keys 7

Allow 2 days for the filler product to dry. then attach the key head to the key post. Use gap filling ca. then wrap scotch style tape to the brass section of the key let the overhang section stick off the (top) bottom of the key. this when placing the key upside down will prevent paint from getting on the clear face of the key. paint bottom of key

Step 10: Keys 8

Remove paint and buff the brass round of the key. after buffing insert the key into the keyboard.

Step 11: Connect Accent Light

Picture of Connect Accent Light

in this case i removed the numb lock led and used a bright blue led inside of a brass tube i mad to create an accent light controlled by the numb lock key since almost always on it works out well.

Step 12: Finished at Last

Picture of Finished at Last

By now you will have invested a lot of time and effort into your keyboard have fun!!!


bronieblaze (author)2014-04-30

Reminds me of the keyboard that Artie uses on Warehouse 13.

NPGmember (author)bronieblaze2017-10-19

Yeah. I was thinking the same. A lot of steampunk in that series..I miss it :(

Travdog 1000 (author)2016-08-24

this SOOO cool I wish I had the money and resources to do this

LandyVlad (author)2016-06-06

What thickness of wood are you using? Laminate?

When you glue the wood to the keyboard is the result such that it will be impossible to open up the keyboard if needed for future repair?

vdubuk (author)2016-01-15

To save time cutting the brass pipe for the keys. You could use Brass olives from a Plumbers supplier. The come in a range of size from 10mm to 54mm

taunts01 (author)2015-11-18

You saved a lot of money :)

Nice job!

Jharv (author)2015-11-02

Does this actually work for a computer.

inventor jdawg (author)2014-10-26

wow... i think my ADHD would stop me from starting this project but it's a neat one...

rlebeau (author)inventor jdawg 2015-05-28

nope... it doesent has to stop you, i know a little about ADHS and i would say: lets try ! 'cause hyper-focussing is something only persons with ADHS could....
you could work on this project and " fade-out" the rest of the world.
? you just need a project that realy interests you ( sry for my cruel english.... )
Best greetings, Remy.

nerd7473 (author)2014-08-27

I want to buy one but I also want to make one...

you use a hole punch

nerd7473 (author)inventor jdawg 2014-10-28

I wasn't asking a question... that my friend was a statement about me wanting to make one... sorry for the confusion

I was trying to leave a comment for another commenter... lol... I'm new to the hood..

nerd7473 (author)inventor jdawg 2014-10-29

Welcome to instructables...

Journeyman crafter (author)2014-05-10

How did you go about cutting the holes in the wood for the keys. The wood does not look thin enough for a stylist of exact o knife to cut through...

you use a hole punch to make the key pads

bubblebut (author)2011-07-10

hello phirzcol I think that this is such an amazing project that I think that you should try to produce more keyboards because i would really like to buy one and i'm sure a lot of other people would too. Please Respond Soon.

evindrews (author)bubblebut2011-07-27

not to be mean, but there seems to be alot of people who would like to buy stuff on instructables...

mhandy (author)evindrews2011-09-11

Ya there does seem to be, but aside from overlooking the "D-i-Y" aspect of it...maybe with the great importance of economic values today..a person that finds out that their "Artwork" or project is valuable enough to catch another's eye..that they may finally find the way to become happy at doing what they love instead of working at a job that they hate

DIY-Guy (author)mhandy2014-04-27

I agree with your comments Mhandy, I feel the same way. Now if I could just clean the garage enough to start making one of these projects....

DIY-Guy (author)evindrews2014-04-27

That's absolutely inspirational to hear people want to buy these projects!
Etsy, here I come! (Now if I would just settle down and make one of these...)

mhandy (author)evindrews2011-09-11

Although i have no projects on here...i can look for hours and hours and be fascinated at some peoples creativity and dedication...and i think im slowly becoming more of a fan of the "Steam Punk" Genre

phirzcol (author)evindrews2011-08-16

Artifact :Magic item, in fantasy, any object that has magical powers so powerful that it cannot be duplicated or destroyed by ordinary means

bubblebut (author)evindrews2011-07-28

ok i know that a should'nt exspect him to mass produce them and also what if the materiels are to hard to find or order online and maybey some people don't have a month of free time so onistly would'nt you like to buy this because if you don't i say that you have no taste in steampunk art like this

phirzcol (author)bubblebut2011-08-16

Working on a solution. Could produce something nice for 45 usd retail.

theburn7 (author)bubblebut2011-08-03

There's somebody on ebay that sells these for 500 USD each.

jackjackboom (author)2012-10-21

Bluetooth???? that would e cool but I dont want to ruin a $200 Apple bluetooth keyboard.

Samw (author)jackjackboom2013-03-27

You can pick up an Apple bluetooth keyboard for $70. Or even better, just a no-name for 20-50.

DIY-Guy (author)Samw2014-04-27

I think the no-name keyboards are the way to go. Or thrift stores. There's a possibility of using "dome decal" crafting technique to make semi-legitimate looking keys that look old fashioned.
This is nice, looks great in the finished photos!

duergars_gift (author)2009-01-21

couldn't you just salvage keys from an old typewriter? i know you'd have to come up with some of the keys because of the functions (del/home/etc) but wouldn't that save you a whole bunch of work?

boocat (author)duergars_gift2014-04-17

I dig this fancy font on the homemade keys better than the plain fonts on actual typewriter keys.

Also, why not just learn to wire the typewriter itself if you have one? It's a waste in my opinion to ruin these beautiful things just for the sake of making something cool

wyrm (author)duergars_gift2009-12-23

That would work: others have done so to good effect. However, there exists a limited number of surviving, nifty-looking, antique typewriters, and any given artist has few, if any, available for salvage operations. This method allows those with common modern resources, but no historical samples, to create something awesome, too.

Bad Maxx (author)duergars_gift2009-11-17

In my experience the type of typewriter with the old round keys, if you can find one with all of the keys in tact, are very expensive. An average of $75 and some upwards of $500 - $750

And even if you find the old typewriter keys, most of them only have 48 keys! Then you have the task of trying to match them for consistancy... or go with an ugly mis-matched keyboard. If you use a more modern keyboard you aren't going to have the steam punk look. Time is not always the enemy, and for me at least the satisfaction of building something myself far outweighs saving a whole bunch of work..

nerd7473 (author)2014-01-04

do you know where I can buy a steampunk keyboard?

memorris027 (author)2012-08-23

Super cool!

Blaise_Gauba (author)2012-03-15

Really nice work.

jballantyne (author)2011-11-06

Is there a way that I can buy an already built steampunk keyboard and how much would it cost?

If you buy the materials, I could build it.

Sulfurite (author)2011-12-31

nice tutorial there :)
surely i make one of these keyboards :D

greencat1477 (author)2011-12-16

Sorry if I missed it but could you possibly send a list of the supplies used.Thanks

chadeau (author)2011-12-12

..and somewhere between the SP genre and modernicity,I removed the keys from a nicotene-stained keyboard.The asset being that the key tops (letter surface) are permanently yellowed,and multi tone metallic spray bombs were available.Using strategic color placement,said keyboard looks like a metal salvage dream-Antique Gold,Brass and Bronze keys with a heavy -looking malleable housing.The key tops are reminiscent of ivory keys,and are prominent (but not bright) thamks to the metallic tones of their sides and housing.

gbredemeyer (author)2011-10-18

Very awesome, i hope i can catch someone at a maker faire sometime with similar stuff.

-Graham, -The online community for makers

Win Guy (author)2011-05-17

This is cool! 5/5 I'm making my own version with real copper keys! I'll let you know how it turns out when I'm finished!
Win Guy

Win Guy (author)Win Guy2011-05-19

UPDATE: Resin is too expensive, so I put the copper rings (soon to be keys) on a piece of paper and filled them almost to the top with hot glue. I then cut out the keys (paper and all) and slipped the paper letters into the rings (the rings have a natural lip from being cut that holds the piece of paper in place). So far, the keys seem pretty solid and stable.
I'll keep you posted!
Win Guy

Win Guy (author)Win Guy2011-05-26

STATUS REPORT: About 2/5 of the keys are finished now! I purchased a keyboard at a thrift store for $3.00 ( ! ) and it looks pretty boxy - perfect for this project! I also discovered that the "Insert" key on the new keyboard doesn't work... So I made a "Skull And Crossbones" key (toward the right) to represent the "dead" key.
More in a few days!
Win Guy

Win Guy (author)Win Guy2011-06-06

I'm almost finished with all of the keys, and I'll be cutting the key shafts soon. I might just paint the keyboard copper-ish instead of making it look woody, because that's what I have on hand... I've probably only spent $4.00 on this project so far!
I'm sorry if I'm a bother, what with all of the commenting here, but I just want to show you the process through which I'm going to build this.
Win Guy

Win Guy (author)Win Guy2011-07-26

Sorry, I was going to post an update sooner, but lost it due to a browser crash.
I'm almost finished with everything, and I'll post it in an Instructable when a good Steampunk or other conest comes along.
Win Guy

ryanmuller (author)2010-04-10

How do you attach the section of brass tubing with the serrated edge to your drill press or whatever you are using? I wouldn't think they'd have ready-made adapters for that...

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