Adventure in Retr0bright

User avatar
hellothere

21 Jun 2020, 21:05

https://www.retr0bright.com.

I see several different stories on this forum regarding their experiences trying to retr0bright. Let me tell you mine. Sorry that I currently can't provide pics. I've had to pack a bunch of stuff for a remodeling project.

Anyhow, I have an NTC 6251EA v.6 Zeos-branded 'board from about 1990-92 with Tai-Hao TH-5539-5 caps, which are double-shot, but incredibly thin. All the keys were slightly yellowed. I'd call it about one shade of yellow beyond the original keycap color. I broke some keycap stems, so I bought replacements from someone who had the identical caps. Those were noticeably yellow. Like, if someone asked you what color the keycaps are, you'd say "yellow."

WANING: I mention using stuff below that can hurt you. Take care to use appropriate hand and eye protection. Make sure you read all the labels on all the products. Make sure the products don't contain solvents. Hydrogen peroxide in the below concentrations might be unobtainable/illegal in your country. You probably don't want to do any of the below if you have pad-printed keycaps. Make sure you remove key stabilizer bars. Also note that I'm just some random poster on teh intarnet. I could just be an incredibly well-coded bot.

What I did:
1. Soaked keycaps in warm-ish water and soap for 24 hours.
2. Drained water.
3. Put keycaps in a freezer bag filled with 12% peroxide Marianna - Super Star Creme Developer 40 Volume from Amazon ($9.20 US). Took about half the bottle (16oz) to cover them all.
3. Put the mixture under a UV blacklight and waited for 24 hours.

Results: better, but still noticeably yellow.

I re-did the same process, but added two cups of OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover ($4.20) and, instead of using a freezer bag, I used a glass baking dish that was about 457mm x 228mm x 50mm. I stirred the keys whenever I thought about them and made sure the keys were always covered by the mixture. I again waited 24 hours. This time, the keycaps came out mostly the exact color of my original ones and a couple came out even better, so great success!

What I will try in the future:
1. Soak keycaps in warm-ish water and soap for 24 hours.
2. Drain.
3. Put keycaps in an ultrasonic cleaner, now that I have one, with a little bit of Simple Green cleaner and degreaser ($5.43).
4. Put keycaps in a glass baking dish with 2 cups of OxiClean and either 15% peroxide 50 Volume Developer ($8.26) or even 18% 60 Volume Developer ($17.99)
5. Put the mixture under a UV blacklight and stir occasionally.
6. Check keycaps occasionally to make sure they're not melting or bleaching white. I'd probably let the concoction sit for 2-3 days.

I watched a few videos that said that you should put the mixture in bright sunlight to get those UV rays. However, I live in a desert. The ambient temperature is currently 110 F/43 C. If I put keycaps in the sunlight, they'd melt. I saw some other videos saying that you should have some heat, but no real specifics beyond saying that an incandescent light bulb would be heat enough.

If anyone has any other ideas or wants to tell me that the above will kill me the next time I try, please post.
Last edited by hellothere on 11 Sep 2020, 00:36, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
hellothere

22 Jun 2020, 20:04

Thanks for sharing, ntv242. I've been thinking about doing some research on WYSE boards. I see there were some with Green Alps. That would be interesting to play with!

I can't think of a good reason not to try Retr0bright-ing, other than if you have pad-printed keycaps. I'm adding the ultrasonic instruction just because I have one, but if I didn't, you're only out around $25 for the Developer, OxiClean, latex gloves, and protective glasses. That's less than most keycap sets, especially for Alps-mount, and you'll generally have enough to do multiple batches of keycaps.

User avatar
hellothere

11 Sep 2020, 01:01

I've done a bunch of keyboards and key caps, so I can give you some updates.

* It's extremely important that the case and/or key caps are clean before retr0brighting. I now have a cheap Wal*Mart ultrasonic cleaner that works OK-ish. I just give the caps 8 minutes in water that has some Simple Green de-greaser/cleaner added to it. Simple Green also works amazingly well on the case.

* I no longer bother with UV lamp. Direct sunlight. As mentioned above, I live in a desert. I mentioned that I was concerned about ambient heat, but I haven't had problems with any case or key caps being left out for 8+ hours. Usually the retr0brighting takes 3 hours or less, anyhow.

* Neither the generic brands nor the liquid versions of OxiClean work well. You want the granulated kind.

* For 101 keycaps, I need a teaspoon of OxiClean. I just fill up that glass baking dish with developer until the caps are covered. I then stir the caps every half hour or so.

* I've had real issues on two keyboard cases: an Adesso Mac keyboard, which wasn't high-end, back in the day, and an NEC blue oval switch. Both took multiple applications to look acceptable and I'm thinking of doing one more.

* Nobody mentioned it to me, but when the retr0bright is working, you get the "Elephant's Toothpaste" effect.

User avatar
hellothere

17 Nov 2020, 18:07

I was staring to have some problems retr0brighting. I'd use all the same stuff I was using in the past and I would only get a shade lighter. I also noticed that I wasn't getting as much "Elephant's Toothpaste." I think that all this was because we've dropped from temps of 110+ to the 80s (that's 60 milliamps to 1.4 milliamps, metric). Solution: keep the keys/cases in the retr0bright mixture longer. I went from hours to days.

The problem with changing from hours to days is that your stuff can get a little too bleached. I have an Apple Extended Keyboard II (AEK II) top case that's all of about a half shade darker than the keycaps. The solution is just to check every few hours. I also mixed the retr0bright every few hours and made sure that my glass baking dish full of keycaps and my plastic-lined box for the case was always pointing at the sun. This worked quite well on some badly yellowed keycaps and the top case for my Chicony.

mr_a500

17 Nov 2020, 22:29

Why are people still doing Retr0bright when it's been shown that plain sunlight does the job equally well?
Another test:
https://www.classic-computers.org.nz/bl ... n-only.htm

My previously lemon-yellow Apple IIc:

Image

viewtopic.php?p=450104#p450104

User avatar
hellothere

18 Nov 2020, 00:54

I read the whole thread and watched the vid. Regarding the vid, I like the voice. Right up there with Chyros and Roman Mars. Chyros' jokes are MUCH better than the guy on the vid, tho. Come to think of it, Roman Mars' jokes are, too.

I have an Apple Extended Keyboard II that has an extremely yellowed (about the banana range) top and I don't have any major plans for it over the next week. I have no problem trying the sun-only method now that it's cooler out. I remember the stories of folks leaving Models M or Models F in their car during the middle of summer and the keyboards warped or shrank.

I was fairly unimpressed with the examples in the video. There were a couple examples that were noticeably different, but the others were so slight I couldn't tell. Additionally, the color looked uneven: some parts were more yellow and some were less yellow.

When I find the case, I'll take a before pic and update daily. It could be fun!

User avatar
zrrion

18 Nov 2020, 01:42

sun bleaching is just that, bleaching. It really only works on beige parts as it will degrade the dyes in the plastic rather severely. retrobriting can still mess up the dyes but it is way easier to control the conditions when you retrobrite and so that is easier to avoid. You can't really control the sun.

mr_a500

18 Nov 2020, 02:18

zrrion wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 01:42
sun bleaching is just that, bleaching. It really only works on beige parts as it will degrade the dyes in the plastic rather severely. retrobriting can still mess up the dyes but it is way easier to control the conditions when you retrobrite and so that is easier to avoid. You can't really control the sun.
Bleaching with bleach is just that, bleaching. ;)

I suppose you could share your experiences with sun-only vs. retr0briting. You also tested with non-beige parts? Please show your results.

I did try it with non-beige parts: a Dasher D2, Commodore 64, Victor 9000, Atari 600XL and others... and didn't notice any severe degrading. They just went less yellow. I have seen people try to ret0bright non-beige items and end up with a smeared, bleached mess.

The only degrading of dyes I saw was in the dyesub Apple IIc keycaps. The text went slightly purple. I bet retr0bright would do the same or worse.
hellothere wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 00:54
I was fairly unimpressed with the examples in the video. There were a couple examples that were noticeably different, but the others were so slight I couldn't tell. Additionally, the color looked uneven: some parts were more yellow and some were less yellow.
What about the examples in the link I posted?

https://www.classic-computers.org.nz/bl ... n-only.htm

User avatar
hellothere

18 Nov 2020, 15:19

mr_a500 wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 02:18
zrrion wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 01:42
sun bleaching is just that, bleaching. It really only works on beige parts as it will degrade the dyes in the plastic rather severely. retrobriting can still mess up the dyes but it is way easier to control the conditions when you retrobrite and so that is easier to avoid. You can't really control the sun.
Bleaching with bleach is just that, bleaching. ;)

I suppose you could share your experiences with sun-only vs. retr0briting. You also tested with non-beige parts? Please show your results.

I did try it with non-beige parts: a Dasher D2, Commodore 64, Victor 9000, Atari 600XL and others... and didn't notice any severe degrading. They just went less yellow. I have seen people try to ret0bright non-beige items and end up with a smeared, bleached mess.

The only degrading of dyes I saw was in the dyesub Apple IIc keycaps. The text went slightly purple. I bet retr0bright would do the same or worse.
hellothere wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 00:54
I was fairly unimpressed with the examples in the video. There were a couple examples that were noticeably different, but the others were so slight I couldn't tell. Additionally, the color looked uneven: some parts were more yellow and some were less yellow.
What about the examples in the link I posted?

https://www.classic-computers.org.nz/bl ... n-only.htm
Sorry; I missed that link. I've just looked. Those are better examples but, going along with zrrion's comment, take a look at the "Atari" label on that first one. That's pretty badly damaged.

I have one keyboard that needs a small amount of retr0brighting or something, because it's slightly yellow. However, the case and many of the keys are an off-purple color. I don't want to lose the purple, just the yellow.

FWIW, I have retr0brighted several sets of white and grey keycaps that are all probably dye-sub and double-shot. I haven't lost the black legends. However, I also have a 1993 Model M, which has PBT keycaps, where the legends are slightly purple. You need a magnifying glass to see it.

User avatar
zrrion

18 Nov 2020, 18:14

mr_a500 wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 02:18
The only degrading of dyes I saw was in the dyesub Apple IIc keycaps. The text went slightly purple. I bet retr0bright would do the same or worse.
PBT (the plastic those caps are made out of) doesn't yellow so there's nothing to fix by retrobriting/sun bleaching them. The only thing that would happen there is the dye degradation you described. (The space bar is a different plastic than the rest of the caps and can yellow)

Smeared messes happen when folks use hair cream. No idea why anyone uses this method as it is just about the worse way to do it on account of the high chance of smearing/unevenness

User avatar
hellothere

18 Nov 2020, 18:28

Since I have no clue where I put my AEK II top case (I had it yesterday), I'll use this top case from an Apple Standard Keyboard (M0116). A thing that's as shocking to me as much as to you, the photos I took on my potato again do match real life, so the colors are accurate.

The orange painter's tape is over the Apple rainbow logo/design, as I don't want that to lose its colors. It's 4 or so layers.

If it gets windy, I'll take it in. However, the 10 day forecast says winds under 10 mph (that's 12 Teslas in metric) for the next 10 days. UV index says 4 out of 10 or lower.
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Regarding the hair cream, i.e. 40V to 60V developer, zrrion has a point and I've seen that happen, even during my own adventures. Submerging the case in the developer/OcyClean works relatively well, but it's somewhat annoying to do: you either need a big plastic or big glass tray that has sides taller than your keyboard. I looked hard for one that wasn't extremely expensive. I couldn't find one, but I do have cardboard boxes about the right size. I cut them down then line the box with a garbage bag. Alternating between top up and top down and flipping the case every few hours is the best method I've tried. Just remember that you want the whole thing submerged, both when face up and when face down.

User avatar
Willy4876

19 Nov 2020, 04:34

You would probably be better off using an xacto knife to cut the painters tape to the apple logo unless you want a nice yellowed stripe.

mr_a500

19 Nov 2020, 12:51

hellothere wrote:
18 Nov 2020, 18:28
Submerging the case in the developer/OcyClean works relatively well, but it's somewhat annoying to do: you either need a big plastic or big glass tray that has sides taller than your keyboard. I looked hard for one that wasn't extremely expensive. I couldn't find one, but I do have cardboard boxes about the right size. I cut them down then line the box with a garbage bag.
Plastic storage bins are cheap and big enough. I bought one as a pool for the wash bears. I think it cost $8 or something. The wash bears love it.

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User avatar
hellothere

19 Nov 2020, 16:21

Willy4876 wrote:
19 Nov 2020, 04:34
You would probably be better off using an xacto knife to cut the painters tape to the apple logo unless you want a nice yellowed stripe.
I'm OK with that. I think I'd mess up the logo with an Xacto as much as if I did it with retr0bright. Speaking of, if you do use retr0bright on an Apple rainbow logo, the colors come off and you'll get a silver logo. On the one case I did that to, I've bought a new sticker to cover the silver logo.
mr_a500 wrote:
19 Nov 2020, 12:51
Plastic storage bins are cheap and big enough. I bought one as a pool for the wash bears. I think it cost $8 or something. The wash bears love it.
If you do know of a clear bin that isn't like 50x longer and or wider than a keyboard, RSVP with a link! I'd buy one.

User avatar
hellothere

19 Nov 2020, 16:38

It hasn't been even 12 hours, but I'm posting before I forget. Bonus points to the person that can figure out what keyboard I'm working on by the key caps that are scattered about. I flipped over a few so you can see the mount. Hint: yes, some are grey double-shot and some are black double-shot. People that I've bought from/buying from are disqualified from this game :P.

Oh. I did find that AEK II case. I put in a box with an IBM case. I'm going to continue to use the Apple Standard keyboard for this test, though.
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User avatar
hellothere

20 Nov 2020, 22:39

Well, there's a tiny change. Check out the bottom most picture. That's the one with the Apple logo. I removed the painter's tape.
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So, as this does appear to be working ... very slowly ... I'll keep up this experiment. I'm going to leave the logo covered up, though. I'll give it the full week.

Rayndalf

20 Nov 2020, 22:43

Is it possible to remove the logo so you don't have to worry about damaging it?

kelvinhall05

20 Nov 2020, 22:46

Rayndalf wrote:
20 Nov 2020, 22:43
Is it possible to remove the logo so you don't have to worry about damaging it?
The paint on it tends to chip off when doing so, or there will be visible scratches on the badge and/or case. Generally easier to just mask it off.

User avatar
hellothere

20 Nov 2020, 23:26

However, it is nice to know that the colors in that Apple logo haven't faded in 40 years.

An additional thing, as far as the experiment goes, is that I can remove that tape in a week and it'll be easier to see how much yellowing has been removed.

User avatar
hellothere

28 Nov 2020, 18:05

Last day.

So, this is a pic of the inside of the top case, so this is the color I was aiming for.
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Here are pics of the top of the case, in approximately the same positions of the other cases, if you'd like to do a comparison with the other pics:
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Here's the big reveal, where I take off the masking tape over the Apple logo ...
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So, yes, there was an improvement, but not much. I'll again point out that I live in a desert and I had sunny days throughout this test. I also rotated the keyboard 90 degrees every day to make sure there was equal sun coverage throughout.

mr_a500

Yesterday, 14:27

When I put my yellowed stuff in the sun, it only needed 2-3 days, around 8 hours/day to get close to original colour. It was 23˚ C.

I think ozone layer thickness affects speed of de-yellowing. Up here in Canada, we've got a lovely ozone hole (thanks US and China!) which will let the sun fry your skin like a visit to Chernobyl. There's more UV-B reaching the surface.

Image

I remember playing tennis for 5 hours straight in Virginia and not even getting a sun burn; Texas on a 103 degree (F) day felt pleasant to me; but half an hour in Northern Ontario and my skin was fried so badly, it slid off in chunks and I got puffy blisters all over my back. I ended up as freckled as an Irishman.

Hey, I've got an idea... send all your best (and most valuable) keyboards to me in Canada. I'll de-yellow them for you. Oh yes, you can trust me to send them back. :mrgreen:

User avatar
hellothere

Yesterday, 19:25

I think I have a Cherry MX brown lying around ...

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