Not long ago I came across this funky computer keyboard that someone had made and labeled his Steampunk Keyboard, and I thought that was the coolest thing ! I wanted one so bad, but the man sells them for thousands. I didn’t become financially secure by spending thousands of dollars for a fancied-up computer keyboard, although that’s not to say this man isn’t putting in tons of labor and genius.
It just means unless I build one myself, it ain’t gonna happen.
As luck would have it, this dude generously posts very detailed instructions on how you can build one yourself – all it takes is a keyboard, some eBay savvy, a few power tools and loads of spare time. Well, I have one of those brains that will latch on to something, usually something it has no business latching on to, then be unable to let it go.
Which meant I wanted to try this. His instructions looked reasonable, and I have the power tools. I wasn’t so sure I could find an old manual typewriter, let alone the two required to supply enough keys, and once finding them I was pretty sure I’d have a hard time bringing myself to destroy such beauties. Then there was the metalwork. Steampunk keyboard dude, as I’ve come to call him, fashions a cradle for the keyboard, since he completely dismantles them in the process, and that adds to the overall look.
I can do metal work, sure, but that takes more tools, and loads more time. But I’ll admit, I was giving that serious thought.
Then it hit me – this guy’s already making Steampunk keyboards. The world doesn’t need another one, and what I’d really love is a manual typewriter – not one that I had to destroy to copy someone’s design and turn it into a computer keyboard.
But I couldn’t let it go. There was something calling to me, something about this keyboard that wasn’t letting me go. So I started looking around, and contemplating (all while feverishly writing my novel, I assure you) then I had a thought . . . I don’t have a plethora of manual typewriter keys lying around, but I DO have rocks.
Yeah, don’t we all? No, I mean I have ROCKS. I’m surrounded by my other passion – the lapidary arts. And somewhere in the middle of thinking about this, and pondering out loud with Lori and Pete, it hit me that I don’t need to make a Steampunk keyboard, I need to make a Stoneage keyboard !
I realized I could replace the typewriter-key look, with agates and jaspers. Polished rock that I cut and tumble, then adhere those to the key stems. The challenge of using a keyboard of this type would be the lack of markings. We’re talking touch-typing only. Or, as Lori and Pete suggested, I could carve Runes into the faces of the stones, adding to the Stoneage appearance.
Well now I was hooked. I had to try this! I found a keyboard I wasn’t using, and popped off a few keys to take a look. Then I read up on the Steampunk dude’s method – realizing I had to cut off the plastic skirt, leaving only the stem, or peg, that you actually depress when typing. It’s on that peg that the typewriter keys are adhered. Now, his method made sense – you can watch a video he uploaded that shows how he does it. Using a drill press (check) two different diameter metal tubes (I could buy) and a plumber’s torch (check). It looked easy, and yet it also looked like a lot of work.
So I pondered. And I bugged Pete and Lori no end with my ponderings. And I even haunted one of the blog comment trails with my ideas and ponderings. And in all honesty, while I might be the one doing the physical experimenting, I credit all of my blogging/writer friends with the conception.
I promise to follow this post, during the weekend, with photos. And even if I fail in utter humiliation, I’ll post those details as well in the hopes that someone else might figure out how to make it work if I can’t.
But so far – – I’m having a blast. I didn’t want to use the method Steampunk dude used to cut the skirting off the pegs, because it would involve resetting my drill press, and right now it’s set up for rock drilling. So I pondered, and I thought, and I came up with my Dremel and some new cutoff wheels. I stood in the garage, freezing my yaya’s off, and found that applying the Dremel to the plastic keys, was like sending a hot knife through butter !
Sure, it was hard at first, figuring out how to hold the peg, cut the skirt, and not damage the fingers that are busily winning the Penman Shipwreck. But after a few minutes, I got a rhythm going. I found I could cut off the skirting and leave more surface above the peg, for more strength and surface to adhere the stones to. I even realized I could keep a general shape to some of the larger keys, like the Enter, Delete, and Space Bar. With more room on the plastic, the rocks would have more surface to adhere to, and more strength when struck.
I had to stop working before I was finished, because my garage isn’t heated ! But this weekend, I’ll finish up a complete set of keys, then practice adhering stones to test glues and strengths and such. The plastic frame of the keyboard is staying in place – I can’t really remove that the way Steampunk dude does, because of the keyboards I’m using right now – removing the case exposes the internals, and I’m not trying to copy his designs. Add to that my lack of understanding when it comes to the workings of the circuit board – and I don’t want to ruin the keyboard I’m trying to build.
So in place of the metal frame work, and black felt coverings of his keyboards (which are fantastic), I’m spray painting the cases with a faux-stone look (let’s face it, the stone keys are going to add heft to the keyboard, anything else might send it over the edge). My plan is to leave the bottom/back of the keyboard alone, so it will set properly on a desk.
Ultimately, my plan is to color-coordinate a keyboard, using one type of agate for the letters, another type for the numbers, a different jasper for all function keys, etc. And ultimately on top of that, I’ll carve Runes into the letter stones.
My dream ? To make and sell these Stoneage keyboards, to become known as that strange writer who builds odd keyboards and demands people write novels by hand, and to also market a line of just keys, for people who want to build their own keyboards at home.
My reality? Probably make a big mess, embarrass myself on this blog, and glue my fingers together.
Stay tuned, and find out 😀
Oh, and let’s not forget – I also found that a shiny new penny fits the number pads, and arrow keys perfectly, and a shiny new dime is perfect for replacing the letters. So there’s another possible keyboard mod in my future – maybe the Greed Keyboard, or . . . lemme see, 26 dimes, 20 pennies, a handful of quarters . . . it could be the Advance Check keyboard ! 😀