Very Impressive Steampunk Keyboard

After spending more than 250 hours on his project, [Admiral Aaron Ravensdale]’s steampunk keyboard is finally done.

The keyboard mod was designed around a Model M. After removing the keycaps, [The Admrial] upcycled the keys from old Continental typewriters. Because his typewriters only had 47 keys and the Model M needs 104, three typewriters needed to be sourced off of eBay. Polishing the metal rings of the typewriter keys ate up more than 100 hours.

After building a brass frame from 8mm tubing and candle holders, the stained wood inlay was drilled for the keys. Status lights were installed and the PCB was connected. A pair of ‘gaslight’ keyboard lights were fabricated using 3mm tubing and very fitting “Golden White” LEDs.

[Admrial Ravensdale] put up an Instructable walking through the build process of his keyboard. There’s also a German-language PDF build log that shows every picture of every step.

This isn’t [Admrial Ravensdale]’s first Hack A Day feature, but with a build that might one-up the original steampunk keyboard we can’t wait to see what comes out of [The Admiral]’s workshop next.

31 thoughts on “Very Impressive Steampunk Keyboard

  1. pretty impressive keyboard. i like his choice of re-purposed keys, but dislike the typical gear that serves no purpose which seems to plague most steampunk builds..

  2. Awesome craftsmanship, great build.The end product was worth every bit of the time put into it.

    One comment on aesthetics, however, and this is directed not such much toward this build as to steampunk builders in general. As much as I love steampunk builds and the steampunk genre, I somehow find superfluous gears irritating.

    I mean, if a fake gear is there there to imply some kind of pseudo mechanical function, OK then, I get that. But why the gear on the space bar? There’s a beautiful and ornate space bar on this keyboard that screams “steampunk” without the need for a gear glued to it.

    I wonder if the “transistorpunks” a hundred years from now will modding their sugar-cube-sized omni-computers and their direct-to-brain MP3 players by gluing 2N2222’s to their cases. ;)

    All comments aside, beautiful build.

  3. Is “The Admrial” in any way related to Captian Robert of Abney Park, perchance?

    By the way, I would love to listen to “From Dreams Or Angels”, “The Death of Tragedy”, or “Lost Horizons” while using a keyboard like this one :-).

  4. How many old typewriters have to be destroyed for this type of art? (3 in this case I guess). How about just using something that looks like old typewriter keys such as buttons or plastic discs and painting them?

    1. The typewriters were obsolete, they will never work again… So why not reuse them to make something that actually works and looks great?

      In those days, plastics didn’t exist, so using plastic in a steampunk mod would kinda defeat the purpose would it not? Besides, the typewriter keys already had the letters on them, and the fact they’re much easier to mount which = lots of time money and work saved.

    2. But its a better project the more stuff you can brag about having to defile to get there, even if you didn’t need those parts to begin with.

      He spent 100 hours just polishing the rings? I could have turned new brand rings in far less time on a cheap hobby lathe. Hell, the lathe would have cost less than the three typewriters.
      Guess he probably liked raping the three typewrites for parts he didn’t needs to take off of them anyway.

      Next lets see an arduino-powered beer chiller made from cut up parts from Galileos telescope. Awesome, dude!

      I appreciate the work that goes into this, but it still doesn’t justify the totally needless destruction of three century-old devices.

      1. 300 years ago would put it at 1711. And that would be valuable. A prototype of the first typewriter. And over 100 years earlier than the first mass produced ones.

        Think more like 100 years absolute tops. But more likely, 60-70. These typewriters are just not that old, and not at all rare. Because they are built to last, and they do. Then they get kept, because they were expensive things.

        This is not antique vandalism, it’s recycling. Just like when an antique dealer buys a beat up old cabinet and uses the aged wood for repairs.

    3. Most people just throw them away as they aren’t worth anything. My dad have bought a number of old typewriters as decoration for $2~$10, all in excellent condition. Think about them as C64s: mass produced and cheap rather than C65s…

  5. I’m not “into” steampunk. I do appreciate the work that goes into it, and like it like I would any fine craft job.
    But this is an excellent craftsmanship job. Executed very well!

    I knew somebody would comment about destroying the typewriters, but I didn’t think it would be this fast. hahahahaha They’re OBSOLETE!

    I question what it would be like to type on that board though. Does it “feel” the same? Or do you pretty much have to go back to “hunt and peck” to get it to work?

    1. I think it’s worth saving machines close to 100 yrs old, especially such complex mechanical ones. I also like fixing stuff, so I’d rather fix an old typewriter than junk it even if it’s not worth anything now. If more are destroyed then the old typewriters I have will be worth more in the future though. :)

  6. “impressive” and “steampunk” – two words that never, ever, EVER go together.

    Nuke it from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure.

    //and by “it” I mean anything and everything steampunk//

  7. Certainly pseudo-Victorian, but not really steampunk, is it? Being made of brass and having a few cogs glued to it does not make it steampunk. :P

    It’s a very nice mod, though.

  8. The term steampunk baffles me a little. Very few of them involve steam and most of the quality builds look more aristocrat than punk. Victorianesque would be a better term. Even then electricity was well enough known by a large portion of people for much of Queen Vic’s reign.

    Not to take away from this build. It is fantastic (and way beyond my aesthetic abilities)

    1. A brief history of steampunk:
      1. Some people made works of fiction set in a world where the future as imagined by the likes of Jules Verne is a reality. It’s all about modern engineering feats accomplished via purely mechanical or electro-mechanical technology.
      2. Other people expanded upon the ideas of these works.
      3. It became obvious that a genre had been born, and someone comes up with a name for it. Steampunk was a neologism intended to parallel what cyberpunk had become by the dawning of the information age–a vision of the future that had become as charmingly dated as the pay phone booths in Neuromancer. “Steam” was meant to evoke images of whirring mechanisms and development born of ingenuity and creativity rather than coldly rational science. It does not imply that everything is powered by steam.
      4. As the tropes of the genre became firmly established, the hacks showed up to try to use them to paint-by-numbers their way to fame and fortune.
      5. As time went on, the every-abundant pool of would-be authors, artists, etc proceed to make second-rate copies of the second rate copies, each layer of simulacra blurring away more of the nuance that made steampunk what it was. The occasional burst of true creativity (eg Bioshock) keeps the genre alive, but also changes it. The actual artists move on, and the “traditionalists” carry on as they always have, with little self awareness.
      6. People destroy antique keyboards to make novelty items with gears glued all over them. Steampunk has become a mockery of itself.

      These steps are how basically any genre or artistic movement gets reduced to meaningless kitsch.

  9. I have an idea for a steampunk keyboard build that would satisfy both the steampunk crowd and the preservation folks.

    How about leaving the typewriter intact, but fitting the internal parts with small rare-earth magnets. The magnets can be used to trigger hall effect or reed sensors placed in strategic positions underneath.

    The last thing you need is a microprocessor to multiplex the switches, and present a USB output to drive whatever computer you want to use the keyboard with.

    Come to think of it, it would be freaking awesome to bring that to a college class to take notes during the lecture… Clackity-clack-clack-clackity–ba-zing… clackity-clack-clack!

    Don’t forget to wear your top hat and goggles. ;)

  10. Like the look…also wonder if the gears were really neccesairy, but hey it’s your keyboard. Other then that…owning a model m keyboard i’m pretty sure this must type nicely. Have to wonder about the space bar though….do the ornaments get in the way or not?

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