Custom Keyboard Makes the Case for Concrete

One of the worst things about your average modern keyboards is that they have a tendency to slide around on the desk. And why wouldn’t they? They’re just membrane keyboards encased in cheap, thin plastic. Good for portability, bad for actually typing once you get wherever you’re going.

When [ipee9932cd] last built a keyboard, finding the right case was crucial. And it never happened. [ipee9932cd] did what any of us would do and made a custom case out of the heaviest, most widely available casting material: concrete.

To start, [ipee9932cd] made a form out of melamine and poured 12 pounds of concrete over a foam rectangle that represents the keyboard. The edges of the form were caulked so that the case edges would come out round. Here’s the super clever part: adding a couple of LEGO blocks to make space for the USB cable and reset switch. After the concrete cured, it was sanded up to 20,000 grit and sealed to keep out sweat and Mountain Dew Code Red. We can’t imagine that it’s very comfortable to use, but it does look to be cool on the wrists. Check out the gallery after the break.

Concrete is quite the versatile building material. We’ve seen many applications for it from the turntable to the coffee table to the lathe.

Thanks for the tip, [Itay]. Via r/mechanicalkeyboards.

36 thoughts on “Custom Keyboard Makes the Case for Concrete

  1. Can someone explain the mania over extra heavy duty clicky keyboards?

    I’m a (supposedly) professional coder, been sat at a computer most of my life, and frankly I’m more than happy prodding away at my £5 Logitech K120.

    Sure I’ve used IBM model M or whatever (used M1779 terminals for some years) and it’s a novelty but I really can’t see how that would be preferable to have to bash away at all day long? Certainly I can’t imagine why I’d want to spend £100 on a keyboard?

    Are y’all banging them with hammers or something?

    1. it isnt about the click being heavy, it is about the feedback the click provides, with a proper clicky keyboard i feel as if i have a better grasp at when i have tripped a specific key, whether or not that is actually true i dont know but it does feel like it.

    2. Like oodain said, It’s not about the click being heavy, but the precise tactile feedback the actuation of the switch provides. With a membrane keyboard you get a kind of a range where the key might actuate and they feel mushy, but with mechanical switches you get a very precise distance where it actuates. The general consensus of the community is that the best switches are cherry switches.

      Blue switches which are very loud and clicky.

      Green switches which are heavy, loud, and clicky.

      Black switches don’t have a click at all, they just slide up and down.

      Brown switches have more of a bump feeling.

      Red switches don’t have any feedback and are very light to press.

    3. The difference between a 2 pence keyboard and a 5 pounds keyboard is certainly more than between a 5 and 100 pounds one. For me it all comes down to how hard I have to press for a key to register, not that I hammer away at keyboards or anything, but having to press hard hurts my fingers and I’m sure can’t be good on RSI grounds.

      Cheap keyboards that flex mean you have to press harder, membrane keyboards generally mean you have to press harder as you’re pushing until you hit a solid surface. My IBM Model M on the other hand doesn’t need pressing all the way to the base, it doesn’t flex, it gives audible and tactile feedback when it’s activated and you can stop pressing. I’m sure there’s more to it than that but that’s as far as it goes for me, I’m happy on a decent ultrabook keyboard, I’m happier on my Model M.

    4. I have a minor sensory issue with both my fingers and toes which has reduced tactile feedback. Combined with arthritis in my hands I have some difficulty maintaining a consistent key-press. Nearly 50 years ago I learned to touch-type, and with most cheap keyboards the touch feedback is so slight that I can’t feel it and my typing goes haywire unless I slow right down and watch my fingers. I currently use a Lenovo SK-8825 which is not as good as an Cherry or similar, but has quite a long key travel, and a definite “bottom of travel” which makes up for it.

      I’m sure there are many others with similar problems, so just poo pooing on the basis that “my keyboard is the best” is really petty and stupid. This is Hack-A-Day where people make things out of other things (and some times out of other stuff!) I found your comment really offensive.

    5. For someone who (supposedly) spends his professional life using a keyboard all the time, you should at least try to find better tools for your job.

      Let’s put aside all the marketing hype and stay at the facts. Mechanical keyboards are expensive, yes. But computer keyboards always were an expensive part of the computer, that’s why rubber dome keyboards were developed at the first place and became common at the end of the 1980’s/beginning of the 1990’s.

      As many people said, the main feature of a mechanical keyboard is that you don’t need to press the button all the way down to register it (‘bottoming out’ in the jargon). Combine that with different switches with different springs, different sensorial responses and you have a myriad of options to please (or at least try) all the users’ tastes and preferences.

      This is a site where hacking electronics devices is encouraged, so I’ll list other advantages that common users do not care of:

      1. It’s easier to fix a mechanical keyboard. Even IBM Model M or IBM Model F keyboards can be easily repaired and even converted to modern communications protocols (I’m looking at you, USB). There are many converters out there that brings those vintage keyboard back to life, many of them are open source.
      2. Being able to buy the switches yourself (usually Cherry MX or clones, but ALPS clone switches are also well regarded), you have the possibility to build you own keyboard to your taste. Even the hard part, the communication between the keyboard and the computer, is already openly available on the internet. Just use a Teensy 2.0 or even the bare ATmega32U4 microcontroller, compile a firmware from one of the many open source options available and you are good to go. There is even a site where you can design your keyboard online and after that use the data to have custom cases built out of any material you want: stainless steel, aluminum, acrylics, you name it.
      3. If you want to get fancy, you can even customize mechanical keyboards with aftermarket items, like keycaps and cables (because many mechanical keyboards have detachable USB cables for improved portability), and so on.

      I’ll not say that mechanical keyboards are for everyone. They are expensive. There are people who doesn’t like the sensorial feedback. There are even people who prefers rubber domes or scissors/chiclet keys used on laptop keyboards. But you need to try to decide for yourself if they are or not worth the investment.

    6. The advantage of mechanical switches for typing is mainly that the key actuates before you push it down all the way. This means you can type more softly and put less stress on you fingers, hands, and wrists. The “clickiness” (if i can call that a word) is individual to each key and mainly down to personal preference. Some mechanical keys don’t have a tactile click at all, others click at various different depths of a press, and the spring of a key also varies from linear to logarithmic.

    7. I cant imagine BUYING t shirts ? seriously, I get heaps for free at conventions and expos, why would I need to buy them?

      same concept, true story. Ill use my keyboard for years! its a worthy investment to me.

  2. You must be doing it wrong, my keyboard stays exactly where I put it, it has these remarkable things called rubber feet. I guess if you are the sort of person who can’t keep your desk clean then maybe your keyboard slides around on all the detritus on your desk but otherwise how the hell are you pushing your keyboard around the desk, thumping it like a chimpanzee maybe?

    1. Most cheap keyboards don’t have rubber feet anymore. At best they have silicon feet, and at worst moulded in bumps. I’ve tried keyboards that just slid all over my desk unless i put a rubber mat under them. The mats always cost more than the cheap keyboard!

      1. Right, the quality of the feet have a lot to do with it. Even some theoretically “good” keyboards have crappy feet that peel off quickly or “glaze” and then they slide all over the place.

        One of those cupboard/shelf liner mats, that are all of a buck, might do well for that.

      2. I guess you mean siliconE? Which is considered a rubber, a higher quality one (it is more expensive than other rubbers but have some nice features like tolerating high temperatures). I think what you are thinking of is those useless thermoplastic thingies with some supposed rubber like attributes that are generally useless.

      1. Reddit thread has this comment:

        “Alphas and grays mods are from Tai Hao Olivette, the blue mods I got off /r/mechmarket and were listed as blue mods… I have a whole baggie of sizes, I made the blue and green blanks and the Esc is a /u/badnewscaps Atomic Lucky Cat from the recent raffle.”

  3. It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud. Who knew it would be the line ” made a custom case out of the heaviest, most widely available casting material: concrete” I suppose it would keep people from stealing your keyboard at work.

  4. The skateboarding community has been hacking together ramps out of concrete for 40 years or so now. At this point the ramp building is pretty sophisticated, with thin wall structures, “fill free”, and other cool innovations and hacks being executed all the time. While a still very jockish subculture, the innovation of skateboarders to build what they want to skate with concrete and wood is very DIY and nerdy and HAD worthy IMO. Would love to see more content demonstrating concrete as a material for other things.

    1. I’ll second that. Concrete is a great casting material. Way less hazardous to work with than pretty much any metal, much less messy than any plastic I can think of (with the possible exception of Bondo, another favorite of mine), and you can make really massive stuff from it very cheaply. Along the same lines, plaster of paris and its cousin quick-drying cement (basically a mixture of concrete and plaster) are also good for smaller pieces.

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