Making of: the Steampunk Alchemy's 1st Keyboard...

It was June 18 2009 when I've realised what I want to do in the future. Well before that i've felt something seeking for me, something that is hard to resist, but unnecessary to do so. You have to let it drag you with itself because it's something new, something extraordinary... A whole new industrial genre has found me!

This is the Steampunk Object-Culture!

I will never forget the day when I saw Jake's keyboard for the first time. I couldn't take my eyes off of it for long-long minutes, and couldn't do so for a few more days onwards... I wanted to know every little detail of it, how it is built and the work phases... The best resource is undoubtedly american e-Bay, but a lot of individually and handmade part will be needed, it was clear from the start. I decided: I have to build one.

jake and rich

picture by slurkflickr

At that time there were practically two people whose names can be mentioned in this Jake-ish area, he himself and a gentleman named Richard Nagy a.k.a. Datamancer who is half-Hungarian as his name shows.

So I begin to plot... The thing that i needed the most is IBM 101 buttons model, called "M" model "clicky" keyboard.

illustration from original U.S. Patent 4,118,611

I started to hunt for real american Royal and Underwood typewriter buttons from 1910-20. After several auctions and sleepless nights i've finally got what i needed. However, I had to get another 3 sets to collect all the 101 immaculate pieces.

Piece by piece, I cut them to size in the right angle. The metal pieces got cleaned from the 70-80 years old dirt and the "vintage" oxid-layer. After that, they could be glued together, for which i used a special two-component composit glue. With that a test "S" button has been done... it will be just right!

The next step was a lot of working hours in Photoshop CS3... at first scanning, then cutting, redrawing, coloring, one by one.

The following step was drawing up the skin-template, masking, test printing. In the process, a few buttons got disqualified.

With a smart move, I managed to make a precise mask about it: I scanned it in two portions, then pasted them in Photoshop. It had to be played with for a while until all the holes fitted in line with the slightly bent shape of the keyboard. It was an awful lot of time, but not in vain, it turned out perfectly. At last, I printed everything out on proof-paper.

The following were the elements of the brass frame. Working out the side and closing sections. A lot of hewing, rasping, and even more handmade furbishing in water with sand-papper and finally polishing. Of course, I did all these in Photoshop first and made a template of my own after Jake's.

Here's the first finished, cut, polished piece, before furbishing...

...and after:


The leds are from an old single-engine plane (although it's just a replication, but it looks surprisingly great). On the left, you can see the keyboard controller.

After that, the assembling process started, first it was the soldering of the frame, then the cutting and piercing of the leather piece with the help of the template made before. The first buttons are on.

It's almost done! Last thing was the labelling of the buttons, wires got to their place, as well.

And the obligatory colorless lacque coating! It protects the brass from direct harm in the first place, and it will oxidize less in the future.

More HQ pictures at the gallery.