Introduction: Fridge Magnet Keyboard

About: Swiss expat in Germany, husband, father, teacher, cyclist, tinkerer, former theatre propsmaster 🇨🇭 🇩🇪 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 👨‍🏫 🚲 🛠️ Heimwehschweizer in D, Ehemann, Vater, Lehrer, Radfahrer, Bastler, Ex-Requisiteur

Some time ago, while cleaning out storage at work, this old keyboard from 1975 fell into my hands. Bound to be thrown into trash it cought my eye with it's nice coulours and it's space age vibe. I kept it and put it way for further use. It remained in my storage cabinet for a long time until I got the right idea: Why not convert the letter keys into fridge magnets an use the base as storage.

So I got onto it...

Step 1: What You Need

What you will need / what I used for this project:

  • old PC-keyboard (obviously)
  • small neodymium magnets (I usually get them from here)
  • glue (I used this one)
  • set of screwdrivers
  • needle nose pliers
  • side cutter
  • small wrench
  • M3x5 flathead screws an matching nuts
  • some clear plastic bags or similar
  • plastic bowl
  • some cleaning stuff
  • tape

Step 2: Disassembly

Now take everything apart and collect all the keys.

In my case it was possible to pop off the keys with a large flat screwdriver. Be careful on this part to not destroy any part of the keys.

The remaining black and white mechanical parts on the keyboard where screwed on any very easy to get rid off. They revealed some kind of contact. These were soldered on to the board on the back side. I simply removed them with a side cutter.

ProTip 1 on the side: take a picture of the keyboard layout before taking it apart....

ProTip 2 on the side: I usually keep all the bits I take apart until the very end of the project. You will never know, if you need them again along the way!

Step 3: Cleaning

Next, I rinsed all the keys in standard dishwashing liquid and gave them a thorough rub with a cloth to get rid of all the collected grease and dirt of unwashed fingers typing on the keyboard...

To completly dry them, I put the keys into a bag together with some old uncooked leftover rice and left them in there for a few days.

Step 4: Enjoy the Beauty Off Old Tech...

Along the way I took some close-up pictures of the old board. I think old tech has it's own kind of beauty.

Step 5: Set the Base for the Key Magnets

Luckily the holes in the keyboard fitted M3 screws. So I used flathead M3x5mm screws as base for the magnets. This step is very simple:

Every hole from a key contact gets a screw inserted from the frontside and a matching nut on the back. Do not thighten them to hard as you may destroy the board.

Step 6: Inserting the Magnets Into the Keys

To choose the right magnets, carefully measure the inside "gap" on the keys. Mine were almost exactly 4x4mm, so I ordered matching magnets in 4x4x2mm size.

Into most of the keys I could just press the magnets in and they stuck. But nevertheless some needed some glue and clamping to convince them to stay where I wanted them. The glue I used comes with recommendation from the company selling the magnets. They tested a lot of different types of glue and stuck with this one (pun intended).

ProTip3: To be sure that the polarity on the fridge magnets is always the same direction, tape a spare magnet underneath the table you're working on and the magnets on top will magically pop into the right position.

Step 7: Finish the Base

I decided to make the base magnetic as well (instead of making it wall mountable).

On the backside of the board where originally to aluminum rails fixed to it. I drilled four additional 3mm holes into them and mounted four pot magnets to it.

Then I screwed the rails back on (remember ProTip 2 in step 2: Never throw anything away until you ar really finished!)

Step 8: Enjoy the Finished Product

If you enjoyed following this instructable as much as I did writing it (and of course making it) feel free to vote for me in the contest(s).

If you make it, put a picture of your finished magnetic keyboard in the comments.

Pocket-Sized Contest

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Pocket-Sized Contest

Trash to Treasure

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure