Wooden Keyboard With Scrabble Tiles Goes The Extra Mile

[Steve M. Potter] loves and respects a good, solid keyboard as much as we do and wanted to build an heirloom-level battleship to grace their home office. Well, you couldn’t ask for a better donor keeb. [Steve] used a Unicomp, the modern Model M. The cases on them are nowhere near as nice as a real model M, but hey, where else are you going to find a keyboard with new buckling spring switches? You’re not. (If anyone has a line on new buckling spring switches by themselves, please let us know.)

Although it has those wonderful buckling spring switches, this body is made of solid cherry. After dialing in the general shape of the case, [Steve] carefully routed out all the key cluster holes using a plunge router. This appears to have been the easy part, because making the keycaps looks terribly tedious.

The alphas a number row are all made from 3/4″ maple dowel rod cut down into cylinder nuggets and topped with Scrabble tiles. The F keys and modifiers are cut out of square poplar rod with bird’s eye maple veneer for a unique look. We particularly like the colored F keys — they look like candy or whisky stones, and just happen to be in resistor color code order. But our favorite part has to be the Caps Lock light. We’ll never understand why in situ lock lights went out of fashion.

Like the look of this keyboard but don’t have this much time to invest? Macropads look good in wood, too.

Inputs Of Interest: My First Aggressively Ergonomic Keyboard

Ever since my RSI surgery, I’ve had to resort to using what I call my compromise keyboard — a wireless rubber dome affair with a gentle curvature to the keys. It’s far from perfect, but it has allowed me to continue to type when I thought I wouldn’t be able to anymore.

This keyboard has served me well, but it’s been nearly three years since the surgery, and I wanted to go back to a nice, clicky keyboard. So a few weeks ago, I dusted off my 1991 IBM Model M. Heck, I did more than that — I ordered a semi-weird hex socket (7/32″) so I could open it up and clean it properly.

And then I used it for half a day or so. It was glorious to hear the buckling springs singing again, but I couldn’t ignore the strain I felt in my pinkies and ring fingers after just a few hours. I knew I had to stop and retire it for good if I wanted to keep being able to type.

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Mechanisms: The Spring

Most people probably don’t think about springs until one kinks up or snaps, but most of the world’s springs are pretty crucial. The ones that aren’t go by the name Slinky.

We all use and encounter dozens of different types of springs every day without realizing it. Look inside the world of springs and you’ll find hundreds of variations on the theme of bounce. The principle of the spring is simple enough that it can be extended to almost any shape and size that can be imagined and machined. Because it can take so many forms, the spring as a mechanism has thousands of applications. Look under your car, take apart a retractable pen, open up a stapler, an oven door, or a safety pin, and you’ll find a spring or two. Continue reading “Mechanisms: The Spring”

Laser Etching Brings New Life To An IBM Keyboard

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[Evan] was perusing his local thrift store when he found a beautiful IBM Model M 122-key keyboard made in 1987.

“This is my keyboard, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

~The Typist’s Creed

In [Evan’s] case, this might actually be the only one like it still in use today. An idea formed in his head. What if he took this ancient keyboard, gave it a USB driver, and customized the keys on a hardware level to do exactly what he wanted.

The first step was converting it to USB. He’s using a Teensy 2.0 mostly because it is super inexpensive, and its able to act as a USB HID device. In addition to wiring up the keyboard to the Teensy he’s also added foot pedals that connect via 1/8″ stereo plugs — these kind of act like extra mouse buttons, allowing him to scroll through galleries left to right, add page breaks, and other macros to increase efficiency.

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