What’s the most important part of the keycap? The average user-who-cares might tell you it’s the look and feel, but a keyboard builder would probably say the mounting style. That’s where the rubber meets the road, after all. For anyone trying to make their own keycaps, ‘the mount itself’ is definitely the correct answer. Try printing your own keycaps, and you’ll learn a lot about tolerances when it comes to getting the mount right.
Conversely, you could use a subtractive process like a wood mill to make keycaps. Sounds easy enough, right? But what about all of us who don’t have access to one? [cbosdonnat], who has no CNC, has blazed a cellulose trail, combining hand-tooled wooden keycaps with 3D-printed mounts to create fully-customized keycaps. It’s a great project with concise how-to, especially when it comes to building the jigs needed to keep the keycaps consistently sized and shaped.
It makes a whole lot of sense to start by hollowing out the bottom instead of shaping the business side first or even cutting out the key shape, since the mount is mechanically vital. Why waste time on the look and feel if the foundation isn’t there yet?
Hardwood is a must for DIY keycaps, because the walls need to be thin enough to both fit over the switch and within the matrix, and be sturdy enough not to break with use. We love the look of the varnish-transferred laser-printed logo, and only wish there was a video so we could hear the clacking.
There are all kinds of ways to put legends on DIY keycaps, like waterslide decals for instance.