Intro: Homemade Steampunk Keyboard
This is my first instructable and first ever steampunk project. All in all I think it came out fairly well and I learned a lot that I would like to share with the community that inspired me to do this.
Step 1: Prepping the Keyboard
I first removed all the keys using the key puller that came with the keyboard.
Once the keys were off I took apart the frame which consisted of 3 clips on the back side of the keyboard.
The paint I chose was the Rust-Oleum Forged Hammered Chestnut, this gave it that steam punk look and feel of being made with bronze metal. I painted the front and back of the keyboard using the paint and let it dry.
One problem that arose was that the mechanical key switched were a vibrant blue and would be visible partially from different angles. To solve this I used a silver paint pen to color them as best as I could. From the photo you can see if wasn't very effective but for my purposes it was OK.
Once everything was dry I reassembled the keyboard, leaving the keys in a box for later purposes.
Step 2: The Keys
For the keys I bought 15mm sewing buttons found here: PEPPERLONELY 150 pieces. I chose these because they had a decent inset and were of similar size to an actual keyboard key.
I created an image of all my keys in GIMP, sized to fit inside the sewing buttons inset. I printed out the image on heavy duty card stock to ensure it would hold up to the glue portion.
The tedious part was cutting out each and every button by hand. I tried to find a hole punch the right size but couldn't find one that worked perfectly. I would suggest looking for a way to speed this process up since it was rather time consuming.
All the cut key images were glued to the inside of the button and left to dry.
The final step is to epoxy the buttons, filling in the remaining inset and giving it a nice glaze. I used jewelers epoxy for this purpose. Word of caution this part gets a little sticky(no pun intended). I would suggest mixing small amounts as the epoxy tends to dry quickly and becomes difficult to work with. Do the filling in batches of keys.
It will take roughly 24 hours for the buttons to dry and be ready.
Step 3: Mounting the Keys
Now that the keys are made and the keyboard is ready, they must be combined.
A keyboard keycap is basically a stem with a shell, which led to my original idea of cutting the shell off and gluing the buttons to the remaining stem. However this became rather tedious and ugly very quickly.
With some help from friends I devised the idea to 3D print the stems without the shell. During my research I came across a fantastic site for this called 3D Hubs. I uploaded the 3D file and received numerous affordable quotes from print shops all around me. Within a week I had in my hand 105 keystems that would mount the keys to the keyboard.
From this point it is a simple matter of putting the key stems in the keyboard and gluing the keys onto them user super glue or another form of strong adhesive.
The one regret I have was how the keys I did not make came out, namely the enter button, shift keys and space bar. Due to their size I simply painted them with a metallic nickle spray paint and remounted them. Perhaps a darker color would have been better or some other approach.
As you can see the finished product came out fairly decent.