Make a Techie Name Badge





Introduction: Make a Techie Name Badge

About: Middle aged geek username also works at,,,

Reclaim discarded technology and make yourself a name tag that will forever brand you as a member of the technical elite.

Or at least get you into nerd pride movie night.

Or something.

Step 1: Acquire Keyboards

Keyboards are regularly thrown away. Being continually pounded on by fingers, they break. Being in a position to have things easily spilled or dropped on them, they break. New computers tend to come with new keyboards, and people frequently are so used to their old keyboard that they throw away the brand new keyboard. Computers come with standard bare-bones keyboards, and people want fancy illuminated wireless ergonomic keyboards.

Whatever. Find the junk pile of any high-tech community, and you can probably find quite a few keyboards that no one wants anymore. You'll need one keyboard for each of repetition of the most common letter in your name. "WestfW" needs two keyboards cause it has two W's. "Mary Ann" still only needs two keyboards, but "Beekeeper" would need 5 to cover all thoses E's.

Step 2: Remove and Wash Keys...

Remove the keys by prying them up with a screwdriver or similar tool. This will get easier as more keys are removed; start with near keys that aren't needed for your name, so you can scratch them up and not lose any keys. Throw the keys into a net bag and put them in a dishwasher to clean off the finger gunk and dust. You can probably slosh them around in some soapy water by hand if you don't have a dishwasher...

If you're making more than one badge, or are likely to EVER make more than one, it may be helpful to make SOME effort to sort the keys into some sort of holder.

Step 3: Pick and Trim Keys

The keys come in all sorts of different shapes, with different markings and different heights. Choose a combination you like; perhaps it will look like someone has pushed one or more of the keys. In this case, I particularly wanted the second W of my "name" to look different, since it dates back to an ancient username algorithm: "First five letters of the last name, first letter of the first name." I had to trim weird bottoms off a couple keys so they wouldn't stick up too much.

Be aware that keys are BIG. Typically about 5/8 inch wide. So even my short six-character name comes out over 4 inches wide. "I Make Shooting Things" is not going to make a usable name badge. Keys are also not proportionally spaced, and they're all uppercase, and the actual letter labels tend to be small compared to the keys. (hmm. It might be an interesting idea to incorporate small keys from PDA, Phones, or calculator-type things...)

Step 4: Make a Word Tray.

Line up your keys to make your name, so you'll have an idea of the size of your finished name badge and how it's going to look. Rearrange and swap keys till you're happy.

For my first key-based name badge, I just used a piece of foam double-sided tape to attach the keys to the usual plastic badge holder. This tended to lose keys over time, but it's quick and very flexible in what the finished badge will look like (and you get a choice of attachment methods depending on what kind of normal badge you have.) In this "finished" design, I'm going to use a "backing" of hot-melt glue with enough steel in it to be attached to a shirt by magnets.

Make a little tray of aluminum foil that will be about 1/8 inch deep beyond any reinforcement that will be in the bottom. The easiest way to do this is to cut a layer or two of corrugated cardboard in the size and shape of the finished badge, and push a few layers of folded foil around it.

I used some pieces of carton staples for the magnetic backing; they go in the tray under the glue.

Step 5: Melt Glue

The magnetic metal (if any) goes in the tray, followed by enough hot-melt glue to make a decent thickness of glue after it's all melted. For this badge, which is about 4x0.75 inches, I used three "mini" sized sticks (5/16 inch diameter by 4 inches), which seemed about right. I used a sparkly glue stick for one of them, but it ended up underneath the keys and didn't show...

The key tray goes on a pan and into a toaster (or real) oven at about 250 to 300F till the glue is well melted.

Step 6: Add Letters

After the glue has completely melted, remove the tray (pan and all) from your oven and place the letters. You can move them around a bit with toothpicks or similar implements. You have a fair amount of time before the glue gets hard; no need to rush. Don't worry about getting a bit of glue on the tops of keys, because small pieces will rub off easily later.

Allow to cool.

Step 7: Done!

After the badge has cooled, you can get rid of all the extra material. Most of the outer layers of foil will just peel away. The layer actually attached to the glue can stay there. A file or sanding block will clean up the edges, and then you're DONE!

Attach to your shirt with strong NbFeBo magnets from "Body lights", or bought.

Step 8: Waste Not, Want Not...

You can use the carcass of the keyboard for a name "plaque" for your office door (or cube wall, or whatever) where space is not such an issue.

And the guts of the keyboard can be used to make a Wallet



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    26 Discussions

    Hmm. Smart phone keys would be nice, I think. The thickness is not so much a problem as all the extra horizontal space that goes into making the key finger-sized.

    Why not just put the keyboard into the dishwasher whole before you pop the keys off? Put it in by itself on the top rack, with the keys pointing down. Shake a ton of water out of the keys at the beginning of the drying cycle. Since you're not going to be plugging it into anything, you can take it apart right away after the washer is done. I've cleaned a couple keyboards this way and continued using them after they dry out completely (waiting a week or two to be safe).

    2 replies

    Or you could just take off the front side of the chassis and, leaving the keys in, pop that in the dishwasher. The circuits might still be good, so I'd keep them in working condition so that if you wanted to make something else (like the singing keyboard with the hallmark card thing, or the cheap flexible keyboard)

    Hmm. I guess because in my case I raided keyboards from the company "e-waste" bin over a period of months, extracting vowels and other common letters particular to our family. Popping off keys as you discard, or find discarded keyboards is more space efficient than saving whole keyboards till you're ready to start the project...

    Im going to make a keyring out of one for my brother for Christmas, he's a bit of a techie geek so this will be cheap and perfect!

    Instead of that cardboard. You could use a piece of a motherboard or something. That'd be cool!

    1 reply

    Love it. And love the idea of using smaller keys for stuff too. I am thinking that artist's resin would make a more attractive material, but might lack some geek-appeal. This is quite inspiring! I love it when there are instructables that reduce landfill, and actually highlight the issue generally.

    great idea but I just thought of using the square holes that is used on the keyboard to hold the keys in normally just cut it to size then place keys on after that add tons of hot glue and magnets and your done

    i made one very cool im going to wear mines in school very nerdy/geeky thanxs

    nice job....I wouldn't have thought to put in the oven....good idea......

    You have inspired me sir!! I made a nifty fridge magnet using a dead 2.5" HD. I attached the magnet from the hard disk on the back. Great instructable!


    I might make one of these, but instead of coating the keys in glue like that, I was thinking about placing them on a metal/plastic backing, then screwing on over them a casing with holes for the keys to show, but tight enough of a fit so they won't fall out, just to make the thing look overall a bit more professional.

    This is a fun idea. I might have to try this one out. Add some spare hard-drive magnets to hold it on. I need to start collecing dead keyboard...

    Unless you want to go "1337" and replace some of the letters in your name with numbers. But then you'd look like a dork, not a nerd.

    It's nice, but a little crude. And the office door plaque is superb!