Restoring key caps?

Does anyone have any experience with restoring key caps? I am about to acquire a vintage computer that has a keyboard that looks to be in rough shape. There is only one other known example of this computer so I don't have any options as they are multi-legend/ multi-color key caps. I did not ask the seller any questions about the keyboard so I only know what's in this picture. I am hoping the keycaps are just dirty but I've seen keycaps that have worn down and were destroyed before. Has anyone seen key caps in this shape and were they able to be restored? Any key cap restoration stories in general are much appreciated.

keyboard.jpg
snuci
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Unread post25 Aug 2017, 21:17

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snuci
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Its no help but it looks like a chemical reaction of some sort. Case looks good, if they where worn down the case would show more wear I would have thought. Almost looks like salts, before you do anything might be a good idea to do a pH test on it as it might effect the cleaner used. Just a thought.
chip chop
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Unread post26 Aug 2017, 00:04

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The resolution and overall quality of the picture is too low to be sure of anything. None of them look warped in any way and still hold their true form. If they have surface damage you could always get away with sand blasting them. Wodan made a brilliant thread on that showing impressive results on ABS
workshop-f7/keycap-sand-blasting-t12946-60.html
Granted the keycaps he restored weren't anywhere near as filthy or fucked up as those in the picture, however I'd bet money on the majority of the crap on those keycaps can be cleaned off with some simple soap and hot water... and lots of scrubbing. You can just about make out the keycap legends underneath all that white stuff... I dread to think what that is :lol:

Post updates when you get it in your hands, hopefully it can be restored.
wobbled
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Unread post26 Aug 2017, 00:12

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Here's hoping they are double or tripple shot, as then you could just polish them with toothpaste for a kind of micro abrasive, though if they aren't that could rub the legends off. Might just take a regular cleaning with hot soapy water though, so I'd start with that first.
orihalcon

Unread post26 Aug 2017, 02:26

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I'd try looooong ultrasonic cleaning treatments first. It'll pull any chemically altered material away from the base substrate, which will minimize the removed material.
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Unread post26 Aug 2017, 04:48

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Thanks for the replies so far. It does look like salt or some form of calcium deposit yet the edges are clean so I don't think it's severe plastic oxidation; at least I hope it's not as that would be the worst case. I was just curious if anyone has seen anything like it. The case does look pristine for a metal case so it can't be salt or the case would look disastrous.

If it is oxidation, this would mean that material would need to be polished off and I do have a multi step plastic restoration set of polishes and cleansers but this keyboard is from 1970 or so so I am a little worried that it has engraved legends and there are specialized multi-colored legends on the keys below.

I guess we'll see how it goes if I am able to acquire it but I appreciate the tips.
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Unread post26 Aug 2017, 13:54

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That was my thinking re: Salt. Looks like it but can't be it due to the case condition. All speculation till you get your hands on it anyway. I guess the best starting point is take it slow. Plastic could be fragile as well dependant on the enviromental effects on it.
chip chop
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Unread post26 Aug 2017, 14:32

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I've seen kinda similar thing happening (to a much less effect) on a 464 amstrad keyboard, keycaps plastic has become dull, white and porous, don't know if it was salt though didn't lick the keys. Never could get the original color back. Solution was to polish, but ohaimark is surely of better advice here, ultrasonic being by far more harmless, but if it's plastic degradation it won't help. It maybe also be mushrooms, in that case clear vinegar or teatree oil.
mecano
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Unread post28 Aug 2017, 15:14

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Further to this, I am still waiting for the computer terminal to arrive (should be here by the weekend) so I hope to tackle it then. I will definitely use ultrasonic cleaning once I determine it's safe (if it's really porous, it may do more damage then good).

There is only one picture of this keyboard (and the computer components) on the Internet (that is not from a magazine ad or manual) and it's at the Computer History Museum. Here's what it will look like if I can restore it.

Spoiler:
This keyboard is from between 1969 and 1971 and I believe it may use use optical encoder technology.

Image

I really hope I can restore it.
snuci
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Unread post06 Sep 2017, 00:48

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seems... really weird to me = =! sorry that cannot give you any other advice except.. discarding it...
sandylu1995

Unread post07 Dec 2017, 12:33

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Thanks for the comment. I actually posted how it turned out in another thread and should have referenced the new thread. Came out pretty good. workshop-f7/restoring-a-viatron-system-21-keyboard-t17312.html
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Unread post07 Dec 2017, 12:35

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