Wintereenmas Ideas: Keyboard Bracelet




About: A very hairy manchild studying illustration whilst playing around with as many different strange and intersting techniques and still trying to have a good time while i am at it (much to my tutors horror). I ...

Just a quick gift idea for your favourite geeks. How to turn an old keyboard into jewelry for nothing(ish) using tools that eveyone has in their laboratory.

Wintereenmas is a festival created by Tim Buckley in his webcomic Ctrl-Alt-Del - well worth a looksee. It usually occurs at the end of january (25th-31st) yet wherever geeks meet it lives on! As i'm studying in the wilds of wales it has become the only time i get to meet up with my mates from college for any period of time and so it has replaced christmas for the exchanging of gifts, eating what you shouldn't and generally not moving from one spot.

Step 1: Ingredients

An old keybaord that you dont mind breaking up. Year round, thousands of unwanted keyboards lead a miserable life on the streets. You may find them huddling in dumpsters or near places of technology (universities, pc stores etc), pressing their noses against the windows and remembering the time when they too were loved and the 's' didnt fall off all the time.
Adopt one of these poor individuals today..... and then rip its guts out!

A soldering iron - no self respecting geek should be without one... even if it is for poking holes and melting things.
Various flavours of pliers - i found the needlenose ones the most useful
Cord or stretchy elastic
Any of a multitude of flavours of tape - here i'm using parcel tape but gaffer/duck, masking or sellotape is good. As a general rule, double sided is a no-no if you are as hairy as me O_O This is only for a rough fitting so dont go using your best tape (admit it, you have one dont you!)

All of these i had knocking around except for the elastic which was scrounged off a mate... thanks jess!!

Step 2: A Note on Keys

In my excitement yesterday i got a bit ahead of myself and de-keyed the keyboard without taking any photos. This is easy to do - you could unscrew each individual screw and deconstruct the keyboard neatly... or give it death with a pair of pliers, either way is effective and leaves the keyboard defenceless, enabling you to get the tasty insides out.

As for the keys themselves, you want quite tall profile keys with a decent amount of height on them as we are going to be sticking holes through the sides. Laptop keys or more modern keyboards use the black art of ergonomics and so have a tendancy to produce only short keys that arent really much use for this project (but can still be useful)

Keep a hold of the innards and extra keys, you could use them in such fine projects as a wiring wallet, name badges or even fridgemagnets. (I really like the pad circuitry designs and am already thinking of turning it into lampshades or visors)

Step 3: Deflower the Keys

With the aid of needlenose pliers, perhaps even wirecutters/snips for troublesome patches, remove the back part of the key. This is the bit that would normaly press the contacts in a keyboard but will instead stick into you and generally cause a lot of annoyance. Try and get the insides flush with the front so there are no bits sticking out that could potentially main/ catch on things.

Step 4: Layout

Once you have a decent number of the keys deflowered, get a piece of tape that is longer than across your wrist or wherever you want your jewelry to end up. Place sticky side up on a table and line up your keys on top of it, next to each other. Test the bracelet every once in a while to see if it reaches all the way around your wrist. Bear in mind that if you are using elastic then it can be slightly shorter, but you need to get the thing over your hand in the first place. Using non stretchy cord works around this, but will feel looser and need tying/untying when you want to get it on or off.

If you are making this for a friend bear in mind that there is no universal wrist size, use yours for comparison but make adjustments. Also dont stare at their wrists for long periods of time, it wierds people out.

Feel free to spell out humerous sayings, netspeak or simply rude things about microsoft/macs/rival house of geek.

Step 5: Get Stabby

Fire up your soldering iron and open some windows because plastic fumes and lungs do not get on well together.

Poke 2 holes in the side walls of the keys, opposite each other. repeat with all the keys in bracelet. Make sure that you can get the cord though the holes and that you dont accidentally make them too big and take out the wall completely. when they are cooled you could trim off the excess plastic that splurges around the sides for neatness sake, or just leave it there as it has rounded edges and thus wont frey/cut/catch on the cord, extending the mileage.

Step 6: Thread Them Up

Thread your keys together and secure with a knot, making sure that you have enough breathing room to get the thing over your wrist or even blood into your hand. We dont want that dropping off now, what would the neighbours think? Tying the knot inside of the keys keeps it all neat looking and you can then trin the excess when you are truly sure that its a decent fit.

If you are using cord then you might want to add some kind of clasp or fastening device for ease of removal.

Go round up some fellow geeks and show off your bling and above all have a happy wintereenmus

Step 7: Further Ideas

Personalise the keys with paint or *gasp* glitter (is the herpes of craft supplies - demetri martin) If you are into your cyber punk or might even just go clubbing wearing this device then painting the keys in UV reactive paint would attract all eyes to you bling... if they can tear them away from the glowsticks. Adding a layer of clear varnish on top deals with the knocks of life. I'm probably going to try getting a hold of some UV nail varnish at some point and have a go with this, will perhaps post pics up later.

You can also use the larger pieces to make a wider, chunkier bracelet, just remember to space them equally around so that the two (or more) threads wont come apart.

LEDs... yet another use for throwies perhaps??

Perhaps swap out a larger key for a memory stick/ flash drive so you can keep it handy and further level up your geek credentials. And a laser. And a minature spy camera. Perhaps even RFID tags....

If you need help on fitting a flash drive into your keys, popsci have a project for making it all nakey



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40 Discussions

St Jimmy

8 years ago on Introduction

Hooray for Ctrl-alt-del! The comic I mean. Speaking of which, you could, if you had enough broken keyboards, make Ctrl-alt-del repeating around your wrist


9 years ago on Introduction

you could even add a small bead in between keys to cover the elastic and to fit in the holes for stability!


9 years ago on Introduction

is there an easier way to get the "guts" out of the keys on the back side? i am having a hard time with it and can't get all of it out. any suggestions on tools or some kind of technique? thanks.

2 replies

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

 my technique was to grip a side wall of the back guts with a pair of needle nose pliers and twist the key around. This took out all 4 walls of the tab pretty flush to the front of the key.

Let me know if this works for you.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

That was my attempt and I found it very difficult. I wish there was a tool that had some kind of cutters on the tips. I don't have a very strong grip and after doing 3 or 4 my wrist and hand started to hurt. If you find some kind of tool with cutters on the ends please let me know where I could get them. Maybe that would help. Thanks!


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

 its not that bad actually, if you get the tension of the elastic and number of keys right then it doesn't dig in at all. With the back of the keys flush its quite smooth.


9 years ago on Introduction

Looks a bit wierd IMO. I mean the idea's nice and everything, and we all agree that keyboard keys look good almost everywhere, looks a bit jerky, and I agree uncomfortable.

Have you seen those flexible keyboards, non-branded ones are cheap enough, you could try those.


10 years ago on Introduction

HI, Great idea but I had a lot of trouble getting the keys to lie against my wrist as in your step 1 picture. For me they kept flipping upside down as in your step 6 picture. I havent done this yet but I think the only solution would be two holes per key. We did this with the public at our first ever Maker Fair , McMADSAT, on 14th March 2009 in Glasgow. Still have loads left though. see the picture below of our event.<br/><br/>Sources of keyboards: <br/>I asked the local geek club to put them by for me and they kindly provided me with about 40!!! I have had a brilliantly educational time taking them all apart and finding the amazing variety of technologies over the years as keyboards have developed. See some of my makes for what else to do with keyboards and see also my son's use of the metal plates from older keyboards at <a href=""></a><br/>

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Awesome! Glad you had a great time at the maker fair and a bit humbled that you did these. I found out the hard way too that when making a single line of keys, two holes per side stopped it rolling around. Kicking myself that I couldn't make it. :p


9 years ago on Step 5

what do you drill the holes with, a soldering iron? would a drill work?

1 reply

11 years ago on Introduction

WONDERFUL project! You weren't kidding about opening the windows, though - phew! I posted a few pictures of my finished pieces on my web site, and of course I gave you credit! By the way, what is the safest way to clean the melted plastic coating off of the soldering iron? Cheers!!

1 reply

Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

i just use a wad of loo roll dipped in water. Wiping the iron on this makes the plastic set and come off... its not perfect tho O_o

I think one of my favorite comics of his (actually Lucas') is when the customer comes into the computer repair shop and tells Lucas he wants a new computer (something along those lines at least) cause he (the customer) opened the computer and washed down all the circuits with soap and water cause his friend told him he needed to clean out his computer. Then Lucas called him stupid and so did his boss. I was gonna post a link, but it's so hard to find it in the masses.

BTW: The Beginning of Wintereenmas Comic

Here's a [<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket"></a> photo] of my second year of Wintereenmas junk (I still have the scepter, but had to toss the crown cause it took up too much room).... My old CAD Wintereenmas photos (and I do mean old :P )