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Project Keyboard: Prototype
bacon, healthy, wrapped, hotdogs, healthfood

Of late, I’ve really been in the mood to make things! The Maker movement and all of the people in it have really jazzed me up, and I see around me tons of opportunity to make, modify, customize and take-apart things. And one of those things I saw was my keyboard. My new ergonomic one, to be more accurate. I wanted to paint the shit out of it, maybe add lights to it, who knows. But knowing me, I would not be able to get it on my first try, so I found an old keyboard that we didn’t really use anymore (Anne’s!) and I practiced on it. Here’s what I did and how I did it.

First thing I did was research, and I found a few helpful resources to get me started.

Here’s the keyboard that I’ll be painting. They keyboard is pretty old, and actually kinda filthy.

Keyboard Unmolested

First thing I did was pop all of the keys off. You can see here that it’s pretty disgusting underneath. Also, not surprisingly I found out that this keyboard uses the cheapest method of making the keys bounce.

One key gone

More Filth!

Next step was to take the rest apart, so I could paint it in pieces with out botching the electronics.


Because of the filth, I decided to clean the keys. This might not have been a good idea because I’m pretty sure this is how I lost some of keys, thanks to our kitties. In addition, cleaning individual keys is really tedious. Actually, almost everything involving the keys was tedious.


NOW I could finally start painting! The color scheme I was imagining was white for most of the top and keys. Pink for the plastic guard around the media buttons, and green for the home row keys and the bottom. Painting was going to be the most difficult part for me because I’d never done anything of the sort. I was planning on using Krylon Fusion paint but they didn’t have it at OSH so the people there suggested I use some Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch. Below is the base coat!

Base coats

I realized as I was adding coats of paint, that I shouldn’t put too many layers on the key mount things, or else there’d be too much contact and the keys wouldn’t slide smoothly. So I covered it as best as I could manage.

Too much paint on the key-parts!

Like every step before it, the most annoying part was dealing with the keys. To paint them, I finally decided to punch holes in cardboard boxes and stick the keys in ‘em so they’d be more or less secure as I was painting them. I also labeled a sub-set of the keys, which was a mistake. I should have labeled all of them, because as I found out later, NOT ALL OF THE LETTER/NUMBER KEYS ARE THE SAME SHAPE. There are actually quite a wide variety of subtly different key shapes that actually affect how the keyboard feels.

Preparing the keys

I didn’t take any more pictures of the painting process because it took a while thanks to my busy schedule, and took place over several days. This involved steps of base coats, color coats, clear coats and wet-sanding. Basic procedure (theoretically) for non-key parts:

  1. 3-4 base coats of white
  2. When dry, wet-sand it smooth
  3. 3-4 coats of color
  4. Dry and wet-sand again
  5. 1-2 coats of clear-coat
  6. Final wet-sanding.

Emphasis on theoretically. Because this spanned several days and I was having issues with getting enough paint coverage on the sides, the process was a lot messier. I also didn’t wet-sand the keys (except the space bar) because it seemed amazingly tedious. But for my next one, I probably will.

I also tried to put little letter stickers on the keys, but this was after I painted the keys and realized they were different sizes. So I only got ‘em on a few then said fuck it.

So finally…the complete keyboard!



This was a pretty fun project, and I learned a lot! Most important take-aways:

  • When you wash the keys, dry them in a place that kitties can’t get to.
  • Label all the keys before you paint them, or at least have some way of identifying them.
  • When you paint them, choose a day when you have an hour or three to devote to it, it’ll come out nicer. Especially the keys.
  • Wet-sanding is totally worth it.

Cross-posted on my non-personal blog, Grasping Widgets.

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WOO! Cool! What's wet sanding?

It's almost exactly what it sounds like, hahahaha. You get a really fine grit sand paper, get it wet and then sand the paint. It makes it super smooth :O :O

Also, I bought the material for making my own bag!

:D He's a rapper! Was he the one with the pineapple hair, like the really high-pitched singer from n'sync?

You should post photos of the difference between pre and post wet sanding.

Cool project! I wanna see it up close.

Unfortunately, most of the difference in wet-sanding is tactile :'( And with my nab photography skills, I probably couldn't snap a picture of the difference. But you can totally feel a difference though.

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