Handcrafted Gadgetry

Projects > Buccaneer Keyboard > Build Log

This project was started after seeing the excellent Steampunk Keyboard created by Jake Von Slatt. We were looking for a decent mission to cut our teeth on, and so decided to make our own version.

The keyboard began as a Das Model S Ultimate, chosen for its distinctive sound and suitability for our design. The first part of its conversion was to make the brass keys. The plastic keys were popped off the Das, then snipped down with tin snips so that just the stem remained.

Next we cut brass tubing down to size with a chopsaw, while sanding a rim on the end after every cut. The rim was added so that the keys closer resembled that of a typewriter, and to get rid of the saw marks the chopsaw left.

Snipping the keys down to their stems with tin Snips Sanding a rim on the brass tube with sand paper.

Oak doweling was then cut to length, and the bottom drilled so that the key stems could be slotted into the dowels and glued in place. The doweling was adhered into the brass tubing, filling the hole.

Cutting the brass tubing to length with a chopsaw.

The lettering was designed on the computer, printed off, and then punched out with a hole punch. Protective plastic end caps were also punched out. Both were then inserted to give a completed key.

Closeup of a complete windows key, polished with brasso.

Plans for the keyboard were roughed out then designed to scale in a graphics program, and finally printed onto a large A3 template.

The template for the parts of the keyboard.

Next step was the faceplate. Measurements were transferred from the template to a panel of high quality birch plywood, and drilled so that it would slot down neatly over the keys. There was not a lot of room for error here, as if the holes were out the keys would not slide up and down freely.

Drilling holes in the plywood faceplate with a drillpress. Early mockup of the steampunk keyboard.

With that done, the hand-tooled genuine desk leather (made for us by a local craftsman) was attached to the birch ply and then punched through from the back using the drill holes as a guide, so that we had perfectly matching holes in both the leather and the ply underneath.

Tooled skiver leather attached to the faceplate. Punching holes through the leather.

Holes punched through the tooled leather.

The sides were cut to shape with a scroll saw, with one of the sides needing a hole cut into it so the USB ports can be accessed. After cutting, the wood and brass were sanded and filed.

Cutting the usb access hole out of the side. Needle filing the usb access hole.

For the front and back supports a piece of wood was hand planed with a curve to match the shape of the side pieces. A sensible person would have bought, borrowed, or stolen a router for this one! After that all the wood was stained and waxed.

Hand planing the wood in a vice. Wooden curve in progress.

A brass cover was cut and drilled to slot over the vintage rhinestones and hold them in place. The picture to the right is of an unused earlier design being cut with the scroll saw.

Brass LED cover after drilling. Unused design for the LED cover.

We wanted to include an engraved name plaque on the keyboard but lacked engraving tools, so we decided to make our own out of a screwdriver by angle grinding and filing it to shape. When the engraving was complete, the plaque was cut from the brass sheet and inlaid into a chiselled out space on the wooden front support.

Hand engraving the brass name plaque. The screwdriver modified into an engraving tool.

The final stage was to make a wooden tray for the Das' controller and main boards to sit inside, and secure it with brass screws to the front, back and side pieces, with the faceplate on top.

With this done the keyboard was complete!

Rampkins' Buccaneer Keyboard - A Steampunk Keyboard Mod

More pictures of the Buccaneer Keyboard can be found HERE