Most detailed Instruction how to built a Steampunk keyboard
from the workshop of Admiral Aaron Ravensdale
This project is not the first who talks about the construction of a keyboard in stylish design.
But to my surprise I didn’t found a manual anywhere that describes what materials
are used and what are the problems you meet during the construction.
Another problem was that I didn’t find a German description.
So I am proud to present the first German Version (You currently read my translation).
To remedy this, and to help not as technically gifted Steampunker, I decide to close this gap.
I have documented almost every step and building instructions with pictures and text for anyone who is interested in.
I hope it gives you such a large project without pitfalls and failures to achieve.
For the complete project I need over 250 hours!
Next week I prepare a PDF (70 Pages) which shows to every step the picture to use this visit my website and download it.
Don't forget to switch to English upper right is A UK Flag.
You also will find the Keylayout.
If you have questions or even suggestions you can send me a mail or visit my website.
Well Good luck with the replica.
Admiral Aaron Ravensdale
If you can imagine i need serveral days to translate it into English...
If you find some part which are totally rubbish, please translate it into "real" English and send it to me by PM
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Step 1: The Keypad
As a base I have buy an IBM Model M keyboard, which with the “click” buttons.
You will find them in EBay for a price between 70 and 100 €, so it’s cheaper to try to get it from a nerd friend.
After you have removed the screws of the housing you can easily remove the keyboard out of the plastic housing.
Next, I have removed the ground wire top left. Unscrewed and disconnected the control board.
The keys are only clipped in the round plastic tubes and can only be removed with a carefully pull from the board.
The springs remain stuck in the keyboard!
Afterwards, the board with 3 green LED must be removes from the foil. It is fixed with double-sided tape and can be carefully removed with a knife.
The large keys on the Keyboard such as "Enter" and "Plus" have a second guide. It has no
Contacts inside remove the non used guide with the Dremel cut-off wheel (red arrows).
Attention! Some second guides have a small plastic inlet with a hole. Pull it out. One of these inlets is required for the Space key.
It is very important that you don’t remove the second guide of the space bar! (Blue arrow)
Thereafter, the preparatory work completed on the board and we can put aside at times.
Step 2: The Keys
The keys are made of 4 parts.
1. Keys of the IBM keyboards
2. Metal rings of a Continental typewriter from the 40s
3. Glass tiles also from the Continental typewriter
4. A strong paper with hard letter and numbers
It requires 3 Continental typewriters. Continental because it is the only one who you can open the keys and change letters and numbers.
In other typewriters the crimped metal rings and can not be removed without destruction.
Three because a typewriter has 47 keys and your keyboard requires your 104.
All typewriter I have all bought on EBay among 1-5 €. It adds up anyway because the
14 kg machines usually not shipped below 11 €.
In the bid you should look at two things:
First, the metal rings are not rusted and secondly there are two types of metal rings.
Because of these two types of metal rings, I must buy four Typewriters, a mixed construction looks very bad.
On the picture you can see that the metal rings have a different wide rim: One key is 1mm and the second 2mm.
The upper once only looks better because it is polished finished already. The small rimed keys looks much better, unfortunately they are very rare items.
My keyboard is now built with the bigger rims.
If you've got the typewriter pinches the keys off with a large pair of pliers.
Carefully remove the metal rings do not scratch or dent because this damage is hard to remove.
If you have the keys away your typewriter looks like this.
The rest of the machine but still contains a lot of mechanics for other projects and can certainly used.
Next comes the most time consuming part.
Cleaning and polishing the buttons. For this part I required about 90 hours.
Alternatively, the keys can also paint. Here is a risk that paint layer quickly wear out
and then everything looks bad.
First, I have clean the buttons from coarse dirt of years with the Dremel and a brass brush.
Thereafter, I was polishing with a polishing felt and blue polishing paste the button to a high gloss.
If you have the keys so much polished that they shine beautiful, the metal ring can be removed. To do this the three Tabs on the back must be bending with a craft knife up slowly.
Then you can remove the metal ring with a fingernail or a plastic spike.
Push against the small border of the ring.
Because the ring very slightly tilted down should be pushed around evenly.
If a ring does not leave you can put it a couple of minutes in WD40.
The glass windows I've thrown directly in glass cleaner to release the dirt.
Next, I want to show you how prepare the plastic buttons of your IBM keyboard.
The first thing you will notice is that the key consists of two parts, the cap with the letter / number and the basic key.
The caps you can pull off and sell them on EBay they are often wanted.
When you separate the key collar with the cutting wheel nearly 3mm below the flat surface, be carful.
It is important that you not cut too deep as the base of the key guides and has anti-rotation.
If you cut to deep the key will clamp or jig.
Exceptions are the "special keys", so all the buttons are larger and of course the Space button.
If you have completed the cutting you must smooth and thin down the key to about 2-2.5 mm.
Also here it is important to make sure the foot is not damaged during work.
Here I would like to give you a tip: Use an exhaust hood! The plastic becomes very hot and it stinks. Moreover, the dust is very mean to your lungs.
Now the tip on the tip:
Use an empty dust bag or micromesh shown in the picture before. It will be very often that a key will pulled out of the hand and flight straight into the vacuum cleaner!
If your keys have finished they look like this.
After that, I've been using a grinding stone for the drill press to getting buttons from the square in the round Shapes.
The diameter of the metal rings is slightly larger than the edge length of the button so you need only the corners to round.
Try from time to time if the metal ring already fits on the key, rather more tightly than to lose. This prevent later that the ring can turn on the key.
If you are on this point the goal is not that far away.
In short, reversal is meaningless! Staying on is the motto!
Now you can paint all gray plastic keys with a brass colour. You should do this because when you have finished your keyboard and have a closer look from the side on the keys, it is possible that you see that the keys are made of plastic.
While the paint dries you start your PC.
Open Photoshop, Gimp or a similar graphics program.
Feel free to download and use my Photoshop template.
So you only need to change the characters as desired.
You can customize everything wonderful, because each character is on a new level.
The thin circle that you see for each character is a punch line, and therefore you need a special tool that you should make because you will save a lot of work/time and many jobs are still very accurate done.
The tool is a sharpened stainless steel tube.
Originally it was a gas spring of a trunk lid.
The measurements are 12.9 mm inner diameter and 15.2 mm outside diameter.
After I have sharpened the outside and inside of the tube, it had an internal diameter of 13.4 mm.
The metal rings from the typewriter has an inner diameter of 13.8 mm, with this tool you are able to punch out extremely accurate the paper letters.
Because the part of the punching one is smaller than the tube you can’t see if you punch correct. I added a second bigger circle around the character, this serves as an ruler of the punch tube.
If you have stamped the characters, it's already at the final assembly of the keys.
The characters must first be glued on the plastic buttons.
For this I used a glue stick. The glue out of the glue pen is strong enough because the paper must only fix on the key.
The keys have 2 slots and a direction for fitting the longer slot is the front side (to you)!
Now I have the keys properly plugged into a small bench vice, so that the square of feet are aligned exactly and glued the characters.
Then the glass is cleaned again placed in the metal ring and pushed on the button from the top.
Take the glass slices best with a pair of tweezers so you do not afterwards finds that the fingerprints are under the glass and can not be wiped away.
Then turn the three blades of the metal ring with your fingers.
Now, the keys are mounted roughly.
To assure that all the metal rings and the glass really solid and rattle-free set it’s necessary that the wings are tightening strong.
Because a pair of pliers would damage the metal ring, we use a trick to get the wings tighten.
You put the key with the metal ring down on a pencil eraser and now nip the wings of the metal ring with pliers and it will never slip again.
The space bar was made of a decorative panel of a drawer knob.
I prepare the main key (middle) like other keys and the second guiding spike (left) I make so small that I can glued it like the main key on the drawer knob.
Now the keys are ready.
Step 3: The Frame
The framework is quite simple to build.
You need two side frames (e.g. wall candle holder), 1 meter brass tube 8 mm, brass washers, Brass cap nuts and 4 bolts with round head (6.9 mm) and the dimensions M4x30.
Maybe you require 2 drawer knobs. I cover the holes in the candle holder with them.
First I have cut the brass tube 2 times into the length of the keyboard main plate minus 4mm.
Say, the crossbars have to be a little shorter than the board and clamp it after mounting.
Then I have stick the bolts with the head first into the tube and pushed so far inside that the thread looks far enough out so that side panel, two washers and the nut still can fitted.
After I had the degree, the screws were soldered into the tube at this position. For this I have pushed a little solder flux and some solder into the tube and heated it with a burner pencil.
Now we are seeking the best position of the pipes through the side panels so that the keyboard in a reasonable Angle. I find some perfect holes and had not drilled some.
Now the board can be test mounted and you have a taste of the finished Keyboard.
Step 4: The Wood Inlay
After some simple part it follows something heavy.
I need 4 days to find a solution to this problem.
As a wood plate I used aircraft ply wood. This is very flexible and can bend the keyboard shape but it's still hard enough to not scratch. It also has a beautiful grain.
The task is now to transfer the exact position of the holes for the buttons to the wood panel.
The problem was the holes as accurately as possible to bring in the wood panel, that’s no
big gap between the wood and any button.
The idea of a paper template to transfer the bore holes was quite fast there, but unfortunately it was not so easy to make this possible.
After some experiments with stamping ink on the key tubes, I failed and have rejected this kind of idea.
The problem is mainly in the curve of the keyboard. This causes the distance at the base of key tubes is less than at its end.
If you make a pattern of the surface of the key tubes and you try to fit it you will recognise that you can push it only a half centimetre down on the keyboard then it stuck, because the distance would be smaller.
In short, you should make a template with the end position of the wood inlay.
But how you will measure the exact position of 102 holes and transfer it on wood with your tools at home?
Simply it’s not possible...
I have put my keyboard on an A3 scanner and make a copy.
Unfortunately, because of the keyboard is slightly larger than A3 I must take two right-aligned and left-aligned.
Then it turned out that the scanner has the same problem: when you stamp out the key-holes the holes distance in vertical direction is too small.
But in the longitudinal direction, I got the exact distance between the holes!
This is a very accurate starting point where you can build on.
I started to bring the holes into the paper. For this I use again the punching tube we build before.
After this step I divided the keyboard into areas. Because we know that the template is correct in the horizontal separation, I have cut the paper every two rows of buttons.
Now you are able to put the template on the keyboard. And now you see the missing gab between the buttons that based on the curved form. To get again one complete template fixed the single paper columns with adhesive. This gives the template the required balance columns.
Take off the template and put it down on the wood and transmit the holes.
Then I have drilled in every circle a small hole.
You need this hole to remove the punched wood chips out of the punching tube.
Now our punching tool will use the 3rd times.
Sharp it again very tidy and makes sure that it stay sharp during work!
Now the holes are punched out with the punching tool remove the punching tool with rotational movement out of the wood.
Make a proof fitting on the keyboard after every punched hole sometimes you must make corrections for the next hole. Sometimes I have adjusted a hole for 1-2 millimetres or make a hole a little bit larger.
If you have any holes in it, is even with 320s sandpaper on both sides. Then paint the black wood stain over it. I paint two layers on every side.
The stain on the wood does not really protect against scratches, and the surface is matt finish. For protection and a perfect finish I sealed with wax.
You get a beautiful silky sheen and excellent texture on the wood surface.
Step 5: Brass Strips
Short and simple. You cut the brass angle to the length of the wood inlay.
Polish it with a drill press to high gloss.
Later you can glue the strips on the wood - what I've done it with Pattex.
Don’t glue it yet because you have yet to mess with the wood several times and still fit the status lights. This would scratch the polished brass.
Step 6: Status LEDs
As with all previous steps, here is room for your own idea and implementation. I have a few parts combined that I had there and were relatively easy to assemble.
The three status lights are made of three brass ring eyelets for canvas cover, 3 full typewriter keys including tin pot on a laser printer foil.
First I flat the pin pot and drilled a hole in the centre with the same diameter of the brass eyelet.
Then paint the tin pot with a brass colour layer over and let dry.
Meanwhile, you can drill three holes for the LED's into the wood the diameter depends on the width of the eyelets.
It is the best if they sit very tightly in the hole.
Now put some glue on the collar I used Pattex again and stick the brass eyelet from the rear into the wood panel.
If all is well dried, the metal tin pot is placed on the eyelet. Set a piece of wood under the tin pot to hold it into the right level. Then you soldered it in place with a soldering iron.
After everything had cooled down, I fix the LED circuit board with the LED through the eyelet from the back of the wood panel.
To name every LED, I have printed the text on the foil.
If the LED lights up, the text can read the text.
After the first test I find out that first the glass and then foil must fit into the tin pot.
Only then was the light diffusing enough that the complete text was illuminated.
Unfortunately, the foil with the printed text is on the top and would fully worn with the time.
To get the colour on the backside of the foil you must print the text mirror inverted.
If is the foil cut and fix everything in the tin pot, attach the metal ring and bent the three sleeves together with a small screwdriver or knife fold.
Step 7: The Control Circuit
The control board was very stable fixed on the bottom of the keyboard, because you plug and unplug the connectors several times without the danger that everything goes lose.
Also, I would not drill new holes into the circuit or keyboard.
The only possible connection was gluing something on that it makes possible to use the old holes in the circuit.
I chose the rest of the brass angles. So I was able to mount the circuit in the right distance to the keyboard.
For this I have soldered the nuts in the right height on the brass angle.
After that I fit the circuit board very loose to the brass angles and search the optimal position on the keyboard marked it and glued the brass angles with Pattex in this position.
Now this job is done and you can remove the board first again.
It will be modified again the next step when we install the lightning.
Step 8: The Keyboard Light
The keyboard light is of course optional, but I need light in my application.
Here was the task that it should look noble but not too futuristic.
With a little searching, I have bought in a model shop brass ship bells, which have the form of a Lampshade.
Now the question was which is the right lamp for this application?
Clear was that it must be very small, large shining angle and not to have a high electricity consumption.
LED's were the first choice.
After some measuring I decided to search a LED with a 3 mm diameter and 60 degree shining angle and high light output.
Something was found quite quickly (Conrad, Reichelt and Co.).
Now, the question of colour was in the room I decided to use white LED’s.
After I had held a trial on the keyboard it was immediately clear: pure white light is not suitable.
So the catalogue taken out and again the search go on.
And I found a LED inside the Conrad catalogue with the name Golden White LED. With 3mm and 60 degrees all I need.
In the photo the light looks orange - yellow.
Of course the price was 20 times as higher. But with 2.35 €per piece are still acceptable.
After a first test run I was hooked. The light looks 100% like a gas lamp light.
This LED is worth every penny!
So we start with the design of the lamps.
I use a flower wire to make a layout of the lamp stand.
Then I have cut off two pieces of a 3mm thick brass tube.
Take about 5 cm longer than your length of the flower wire is.
To bend the small brass tubes is necessary to filled it with sand!
Only if your pipes filled with fine sand you can bent the brass tubes, otherwise you pipe kink directly and is destroyed.
Fill the tubes with bird sand and sealed at the ends with electrical tape.
To bend the radius of the pipes I use a brake pipe tool from Hazet (Art. Nr. 2193-1), you can use it for all pipes.
Once your pipe is in the right form, it goes to the lamp shade.
First polished inside of the bell later the light will be brighter.
Then, drill a hole on the back of 2mm, so that the connections of the LED pass through.
Now is the shade should be soldered on your tube, to centre it I used a match which I stick through the hole.
I then soldered a brass washer on the other side of the tube. It is necessary because the tube will slide down in the hole of the frame where the lightning will be placed.
Then we start with the electrics.
LED’s require only minimal power so we need only a very thin wire.
I use a simple PC IDE cable. There are many small wires close together is cut of two of them.
Two wires are stick through the lampshade and pushed down.
Solder the LED on the wire and isolate it well. It may be that if you push the LED through the hole, the isolation is damaged and a short circuit occurs.
On our keyboard the complete brass frame and the metal sheet of the keyboard has contact to the ground connection.
Measure best with a multimeter on both wires to the tube if exist a short connection to the tube.
For a better look I have built a small cable pipe on the side panel to avoid that the cable is loose in the air.
Then I drill a hole in the upper right corner of the keyboard and drilled also on the same position a hole into wooden board.
Then I a normal toggle switch to switch the light on/off.
As an ornament, I use a clock gear.
Now I soldered a cable at the position indicated by the arrow on the circuit board. On this point you can suck the positive 5 volts of P/S2 the plug for your light. Because the LED's only required 3.8 volts there is a resistor needed.
To get the perfect brightness and the best colour I use a small pot with 100 Ohm, and just under 50 ohms I got the best light.
Step 9: Attaching the Wood Inlay
To adjust the wood perfectly and to use it noiseless I glued some struts to the keyboard.
I use rectangular wooden strips. Three pieces in 5mm x 10mm and in the middle
8mm x 5mm.
The struts are higher than the small star-shaped base to the button guide, so you have a level surface.
Now, I use double-sided carpet tape, stick it on the strips of wood and glued to the wooden board carefully in the final position.
Now you are ready to mount all the buttons.
Step 10: Trim the Bottom
The lining of the bottom I'm still not entirely happy but for now it's enough.
I buy three thick sheets of brass-coloured paper and also fixed them with double-sided carpet tape on of the brass bar in front and rear.
Then I cut holes for the plug in.
Step 11: Finish Pictures
Here are some impressions of the finished keyboard…