Thursday, October 2, 2008

Building the Steampunk Keyboard

Building the Steampunk Keyboard

I thought some might be interested in the process of making a steampunk keyboard. There have been blogs about this before, with a pretty good step by step. I don't intend to go into great lengths about the exact process of building the piece; this is art. These pictures will (hopefully) give a glimpse into my process, and serve as guidelines for anyone attempting this project in the future.

To start: This keyboard is based around a Dell Slimline (not sure if thats really the model name) keyboard. A pretty basic keyboard, and perfect as I didn't want all kinds of extra task buttons and such to get in the way; I thought they would detract from the overall look, prove difficult to integrate into the cosmetics, and make the piece look less 'rustic'.

For the key touches themselves, I used vintage typewriter key tops. I got most of mine from ebay (the old Royal typewriter sets with the neat rectangular keys that prove wonderful for the larger keys on the board), and some from my personal collection of 'scrap' typewriters. Here's a shot of them pulled appart, labels removed, cleaned up, and backs ground flat. Its a process in itself, and quite time consuming. This is only a fraction of the keys needed; I wound up using 2 complete sets of Royal keys, and the "F" number keys were from an Underwood typewriter (slightly different style, used for conformity).

In the project itself. You can see the keyboard in the background, with the keys removed, stalks painted a brass hue, and (hard to see) felt lining between them. I re-made all of the labels for the keys, printed them out, and hand cut each label to fit inside a key touch to replace the existing character (necessary since many keys from the modern keyboard like ALT, and different arrangements of number shift symbols don't exist on old typewriters).

Some keys taken appart in varrious stages, visible is the newly cut ALT lable.

A better picture of the painted key stalks and felt backing. To get the pieces of felt cut exactly, I made templates. Using card stock, I cut a shape to exactly fit the area of felt needed. I repainted the square openings of the key stalks, and pressed the cardstock down on them This left a perfect layout of the spaces between the keys. I taped this to the back of my felt pieces, and used an exacto knife to cut out the square holes. You can see my arrow keys in place here.

I'll follow this shortly with the process for making the complete individual keys...

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