Steampunk Mouse




Introduction: Steampunk Mouse

About: You might call me "Jane of all trades, mistress of none"; "all" is definitely an exaggeration but I am interested in lots of "trades" and try to master at least the basic steps so that I understand what the re…

 I am fascinated by steampunk for quite a while and kept looking at all these great pictures and creations.
Unfortunately nowhere could I find in-detail instructions how to modify a computer mouse in that manner. What I saw was always the finished product. 
Finally I said, I can do that too and help those who are looking for some advice and a guideline, like I did not to long ago.
This said, enjoy my first instructable. Comments, positive criticism and an exchange of ideas is greatly welcome.

Vote for this Instructable by clicking on the stars on the right side. Thank you :)

Visit my my Steampunk Keyboard and NEW NEW NEW Steampunk Monitor

Step 1: Preface

I had a few tools, a nice basement to work in and being kind of a packrat should help too. Not to forget a good friend with a full equipped workshop who would help me if everything else would fail.

Unfortunately I didn't have any old mice laying around so I ordered two cheap ones ($5) from the Internet just in case I ruined one.....

Tools used:
My beloved Craftsman mini drill with all kinds of attachments
Set of screwdrivers
Set of sandpaper 120 - 600
Hand-me-down drill press
Soldering iron
Assorted pliers (needle nose almost a must)
Metal files
Hack and coping saw
Propane torch

Materials used:
1  optical USB mouse with scroll wheel
1/2" copper pipe and assorted fittings and connectors
Brasstubes in different sizes (1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 3/16)
Copper wire remants you may have laying around (gauge 16,14,12,10)
Brass screws (No 6 and 8)
Marbles (Dollar store)
Styrene (1/32" = old poster from the post office)
LED's ( I got 100 white 13.000mcd with matching resistors for 5V for about $6 online , I might not use them all but compared to Radio Shack ....)
Whatever parts and pieces you might find laying around)

Costs, depending on what you have  $20-40

Of course I made several trips to my nearest hardware store and hobby shop and acquired necessary materials and also tools I was missing; that always happens when I tackle a new project ...

Pictures are not always in chronological order, rather to show certain steps in fabricating the mouse.
Manufacturing the steampunk mouse is more conceptual, exact implementation is left to you dear reader.
Read the whole Instructable before you start with your project.
Wear protective equipment, especially safety goggles! Copper and brass parts will become VERY hot when soldering, grinding and polishing so let them cool before you touch them; cutting can/will leave sharp edges so be careful when holding them. Try to find ways to hold these little pieces securely or they will go flying through your workshop and you may spend hours finding a piece you spent hours on fabricating.
Use common sense. (I know that's difficult.)
In case everything goes wrong use it as paper weight or with about 14 oz. it makes a frightening weapon swung on it's cord.

Step 2: Get (find) a Mouse

As mentioned, I didn't have any spare mouse laying around so I looked for a cheap one online and ordered 2, just in case or maybe I find the energy to make a second steampunk mouse. I got away using only one.

First find out how to open the mouse. The screws on mine were hidden under the obligatory sticker and the upper part also held by a little plastic hook. Pry it open carefully with a screwdriver or similar.
(Another place to hide the screws is under the feet)

Step 3: Inspect the Innards

That's what I found after opening the mouse. Two, actually 3, microswitches, the scrollwheel, an additional blue LED to illuminate the scrollwheel and mouse body and the optical assembly. As I also wanted to add additional LED's , I needed to find the 5V + and - wires. Usually they should be red and black but these wires were blue, green, red and golden. With the help of a multimeter I found the right ones, in this case the red and golden ones.

Step 4: Remove the Mousewheel

The wheel rotates in a direction detector which I wanted to move in a different place to be used by my thumb. The 3rd microswitch was of no use to me. I desoldered both with the help of some stranded wire to suck up the surplus solder. I used some extra wires to build an extension and moved the direction detector in a new spot. It was very close to the IC so I put some electric tape underneath to prevent possible shorts. Also extra wires were soldered on for additional LED's. (Some pictures taken at a later stage)

Step 5: Building New Buttons

Playing around with parts and pieces I found that a 1/2" copper tube fit snugly over the micro switch. Over this went a 1/2" pipe connector. The new buttons would sit nicely in them. I cut off 2 pieces of copper tube and 2 brass squares from the thin brass sheet to cover top and bottom. To be honest, I needed several squares till I got it right as this was my first attempt with the propane torch and such "big" pieces of metal. The trick is to clean all the oxide and dirt off and heat the parts evenly (Do not overheat!). Use liquid flux and silver solder. Finally I got the hang of it. Followed by cutting the extra off, grinding, sanding and polishing..... This and a smooth polished inside of the connector guarantees a nice flawless action.

Step 6: Finding the Right Design

Of course I had seen all these awesome Steampunk mice doing a picture search and I had a general idea how to make one but I wasn't sure how it would work out . So I arranged spare parts around and over the mouse circuit board. One first attempt looked like this. Others I liked better and you can see that I can't do without copper pipes. (Some pictures were taken at a later point of construction)

Step 7: Making a New Base

Once I had a general idea how my new steampunk mouse would look, I needed a new base. In this case a 1/4" plywood piece that was left from some renovation project. I traced the outline of the circuit board on the plywood, making sure I left 3 'ledges' for the board to sit on. I cut the opening with a coping saw. The ledges were sanded down with my Craftsman and a grinding wheel to accommodate the thickness of the circuit board to make sure it sat nice and snug in the opening.

Step 8: Adding Parts and Pieces

This part is not so well documented and should you tackle your own steampunk mouse, I assume you will find your own methods anyway. I have a knack for copper pipe, which should be obvious. It's just like LEGO. Adding a piece here, a part there and my mouse took shape. On the left side I needed to make a new bearing for the thumb wheel. The bottom built up with additional styrene sheet. The direction detector glued on, on top a brass support for the built up axle. On the right side I made a 'cage from gauge 10 copper wire (where did that come from?) which works fine as palm rest. At this point of time the copper pipe and fittings were already soldered together. I tried to drill the holes as evenly spaced as possible, more or less eyeballing it. (Also visible my attempt on a new key for the soon to come steampunk keyboard).

Step 9: Winding a Coil

I wound a few coils from #14 copper wire. The screwdriver had the same diameter than the brass tube I wanted to insert in the coil. Winding goes easier if you hold a piece of wood against the wire. To straighten a crooked piece of wire fasten it in a vise and draw it repeatedly between 2 pieces of wood.

Step 10: Rounding It Out

Marbles I had in a dish as decoration fit perfectly in the copper pipe and would make a 'magical eye'. An old halogen bulb would be lit by the original blue LED of the mouse and fit, with some shimming, into a 1/2" pipe. I also added the self-made copper and brass scroll wheel.

Step 11: Wiring the LED's

I have to admit, I hate soldering. I had gotten me a 'Third Hand' for a few bucks at Harbor Freight which helped a lot but it still is a pain in the neck. To prevent any shorts, I used shrink tubing and electrical tape. Once assembled, a makeshift 'reflector' from aluminum foil holds one of the LED's in place.

Step 12: Adding a Bottom

After determining the final shape and cutting it out I added the new bottom made from 1/32" styrene sheet. That slides quite well but I decided to reuse the original feet of the old mouse bottom. I also covered the edge of the plywood with 3/8" wide copper foil.

Step 13: Finishing Up

The top is held firmly to the baseplate by 3 screws. A spring prevents the buttons from sliding out. A mesh covered styrene sheet hides the innards. The wires got tucked nicely underneath the cover.

Step 14: Covering the Cord

This and the next steps need to be done before you solder the cord back on the circuit board!
To give the mouse cord that 'old time' feel I got the longest boot lace I could find and removed the inner string. The outer sleeve would cover the 4 wires coming from the USB plug. I attached the 4 wires to a stiff and straight piece of #14 and pulled them through the sleeve.

Step 15: Making the Plug I

Of course there are several ways to do this, but my plug should match the mouse. If I would squeeze a 1/2" copper pipe along with 2 pieces of a connector and shave off the corners of the plastic USB plug it would work out nicely. (Also a way to make a matching memory stick...sounds like a project...) Cut the copper pipe to the desired length for the plug. Slide the connector pieces over it and squeeze it to an oval shape in the vise.

Step 16: Making the Plug II

Now to the tricky part. Cutting out the opening for the plug and centering it perfectly. The measurements of an USB plug are about 3/16" x 7/16" So I tried to get the opening as exactly as possible, first drilling 2 holes with a 3/16" drill and then using files. Once it fit I marked the outline of the plug on the brass sheet and soldered it to the copper sleeve. Easier said than done, at least for me, as my only experience in that field was making silver jewelry.

Step 17: Making the Plug III

The other end needed a round opening for the cord and a whatchamacallit. Mark, these are 2 separate parts that will be connected once the plug is inserted and held there with a screw or any other way you might devise.  I guess gluing might be just as good.

Step 18: Finalizing the Mouse

Thread the USB wires through the cable release and solder them back on the circuit board of the mouse. Put everything together, plug it in and voila there you have your Steampunk Mouse.

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    Dangerously Explosive

    Brilliant. Just brilliant. I'm thinking of doing something similar, except with moving gears and a wire wrapped body.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Go for it! We'll love to see it!

    Dangerously Explosive
    Dangerously Explosive

    Reply 4 years ago

    Alright, I published a version of it. It ended up a lot more diesel-punk and a bit less flamboyant than expected, and after some fiddling I rejected the idea of moving gears and switched over to a "tank" design. I might try again in the future when I have a proper welding kit, and do something a bit more coppery and bronze. Here's the link:

    Oh, and I did credit you as part of my inspiration, I hope you don't mind... :-)


    Reply 3 years ago

    No I don't mind :) Well done!


    4 years ago

    you could make a steampunk desk to match your steampunk creations and hide the main computer or modify that by painting gold and adding pipe and stuff, anyway great instructable. :)

    Adey PopeyeJ
    Adey PopeyeJ

    7 years ago on Step 18

    was looking at datamancers keyboards, loved them, wanted to buy one, saw the price and nearly died.....a little googling and here i am, well done top instructable and im building up my mojo to attempt it myself, thanks for the inspiration, love your work x :)


    7 years ago

    love it. Real steampunk detail.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! I have a few questions for you. First, would it be okay for me to make my own version and sell it? And, if so, would you want any of the profits? I have made usb flash drives using copper pipe fittings, and I think that this would be fun for me to try next. If you don't want me selling them, I will make one for myself (which I would do anyway). Also, I will hopefully be getting a welding machine, soon, and I would like to experiment with adding welded parts to stuff like this. If you want, maybe I can ship you some nice welded things to add to your stuff. The plug is probably my favorite part, because it is so awesome, and is that extra step that puts it well past the "norm" (if such a word can even be used for steampunk!). Also, let me know if you need leather scrap to practice with: I cut up old welding gloves and use those, and I usually dye them with wood stain, unless it is for something that can't be flammable (like my steampunk welding goggles, which I kept functional, so that I can weld with a torch, If I get one).


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your nice comment and of course it is OK if you make your own version of a steampunk mouse! As much as I would love to get some of the millions you make from selling your version of the mouse I can't accept them with good conscience as I got my ideas from many other talented builders. Thanks for the offer though!

    One tip, if you don't get a welding apparatus try brazing as that works great with copper, brass and silver! Good luck and I hope we see some of your creations here!

    what kind of protection is that you are using over the wires? anything specific?

    Hi Miss Betsy,

    I really like your mods. And again this is a very nice piece of art.
    I am allowing me to "steal" the idea to put the wheel to the side. :-)

    Have a nice week,

    Horatius Steam


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What type of resistor do you use?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm almost done with mine :D! I think I'm just going to use 5k resistors if I don't receive an answer soon... I'll post some pics when I'm done!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry that it took me so long to answer.
    Assuming the Voltage of the source is 5V (USB)
    and you use an average LED with a Voltage drop of ~3.1V across
    and ~20mA current through the LED it results:

              ( Vs - Vled)             (5 - 3.1)
    R = ------------------ or ------------------- = 95 Ω
                    I led                       0.02

    For the future, there is lots of help out there like: or


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Not 5k.. I meant 1/2k... Please help!


    12 years ago on Step 3

    In step 3, image 1, what's that piece of rope in the middle of the circuit board?