Need help with beamspring restauration

User avatar
Lalaland124

09 Apr 2021, 10:58

Hey!

I just got veeery lucky and acquired a beamspring keyboard in amazing condition compared to some photos I've seen online. However, there's still some work to do. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of experience doing restorations, hence I want to be as careful as possible so that I don't break anything. And for this reason I wanted to ask more experienced people than myself what I should do and what not :)
Here are a few pictures of the board:

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1) Tools:
What tools should I get for the restauration job? Obviously basic things like a good keycap puller, maybe an ultrasonic cleaner? Recommendations would be great, as I have a high budget for the build :)

2) Good things to know before disassembling:
What are things I should be cautious about? - Keycaps, case etc. I've heard that the keycaps are very hard to take off - I think I have to do a back- and forwards motion while pulling right? If there's something I should be careful about please tell me :D

3) What even needs to be restored:
I've seen a lot of people cleaning the membrane with some special chemicals or even cleaning each individual switch. Is this necessary or just something nice to do? Obviously properly removing the contamination shield will be one of the first things I will have to tackle. Also I will have to make a fitting foam for the keyboard - any experience what foam (height etc.) works best?

4) Overall cleaning:
Should I just wash the keycaps as well as the case in soapy water or do I have to use something more special for that so that it doesn't rust in the future?

5) Converting the keyboard:
I live in the EU and it would be amazing to be able to use the beamspring as an actual daily driver. I would love to convert it to usb + be able to use the solenoid, is there a converter in stock for that that ships to my location :)?

Thanks in advance! I really want to give this beauty the makeover she deserves.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Apr 2021, 11:05

Score!! 8-)

So, how does it feel when you type on it right now?

I didn't need to do much with mine. Your contamination shield is much more intact so I'd be tempted just to leave it in place, if the key feeling's good. You don't actually need to tear these boards down just for the hell of it!

Cleaning caps is easy. Pulling them can be hard on the first try, however. Definitely use a good wire key puller and rock them back and forth, towards and away from you, as the switches are aligned that way. No side to side! Then once they're off, a good soapy bath does the trick. Just be careful with the front legends and be extra wary about taking off the spacebar. It can be a bugger to get working right again.

Conversion? Absolutely! You just need a drop-in replacement controller. I've Xwhatsit's original. There are others. With one, these boards work magnificently as native USB with NKRO. Be sure to use Pandrew's QMK firmware. Take a read at the instructions to get an idea what lies ahead. While you get your hands on one of these:

Image

You'll also need the solenoid driver board to get your clicker up to speed. Who doesn't want that? ;)
Muirium wrote:
15 Mar 2021, 10:27
But, uh, how do you toggle the solenoid? I know I could pull its cable, but I like to be able to toggle it on and off at will. Right now, it's firing on every keypress and I'm getting a headache! :lol:
The black 1u caps are quite swappable, so I'd be tempted to take your arrow square and swap it over to make an inverted T on the far right 4x3 block, making it more like a modern TKL. Square arrows are weird… I mostly use my smaller 3276 in HHKB mode instead, as I'm so used to that in my "compact" (in this case gigantic) keyboards.

User avatar
Lalaland124

12 Apr 2021, 10:09

So, how does it feel when you type on it right now?
It doesn't seem bad - it feels amazing :D

I think I won't do too much for now. There is a little bit of rust inside the case which I'm going to remove as well as an overall clean of keycaps and case.

I'm slightly worried that I will ruin the keycaps when cleaning them - as you can see the PF14 key is kinda weird and I don't want that to happen to other keys when I clean them, so maybe should I just use warm water as they aren't too dirty?

For the rust, I'm just going to use some sort of rust remover. And I don't know yet if I will replace the foam, maybe that will have to wait a bit.
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User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Apr 2021, 10:27

My strategy with caps is always hand wash them like they're dishes / cutlery. (Unless they're NIB obviously. :D ) Gentle soaping, gentle rubbing, never seems to do any harm to front legends when I do it. Then let them dry naturally on kitchen towel for a good long time till they're bone dry before they go back on the keyboard.

As the key feel is fine, then I suggest you go straight for a replacement controller and get this beast back into the land of the living! :lol:

User avatar
Lalaland124

12 Apr 2021, 10:33

Thanks, then I will try to ''do the dishes'' ;) Did you replace the foam on yours or didn't the key wobble bother you?

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Apr 2021, 11:00

Doing the dishes indeed! It's just as relaxing, especially when you're cleaning classy vintage caps like these. You really get a feel for their curves. Just use another washing up bowl from your usual stuff. That grime's got to go somewhere. :P

I've had two 3276s through my hands. The first I bought was a German model from the Dresden rustmaster. It had… corrosive character! One of my pics made it to the final round of the DTAs here, but the original thread itself and the pictures are lost to bitrot.

viewtopic.php?f=84&t=9312

That 3276 was quite wobbly. I went inside to restore it, and didn't much like all the mess! The foam was rotted, of course, but also most (but not all) of the metal surfaces. Beamspring switches come out as complete modules, however they're open at the bottom, and the exposed mechanism is two different flexible metal pieces which have to mated just-so. The fly plate is suspended by just two points of contact, recessed deep inside the shell. Putting them back in is real fiddly, and you have to do it a lot…

Image

Imagine theses guys caked with rust and grime from other bits above them—fortunately the switch innards themselves remained good, once brushed off—and you'll understand where my reluctance comes from! Once I scored my second thanks to Cindy, I sold my German model to Seebart for a price about a tenth they go for now. :roll:

My second 3276, the American one, was in much better shape so I let it be. I cleaned the caps, but I don't recall ever opening the whole thing up. It's already plenty good. :D

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Apr 2021, 11:02

Archive.org to the rescue.
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https://web.archive.org/web/20151024171 ... t9312.html

The whole thing had a crusty feel thanks to all that corrosion. The switch stems are made of a different metal than the insides and were rotted as well, despite being protected by those caps, so tight upon them! It was a real fixer upper that one.

User avatar
AJM

12 Apr 2021, 11:31

I'm also in the process of restoring/cleaning such a keyboard at the moment. (The slightly smaller version without the 3 rows of the right)
I expect the keys/switches feel very loose and wobble all over the place and you will probably want to put in a new sheet of foam. As has been said - removing the old one (which usually has turned into a tar-like substance) is highly disgusting and annoying. Because of that I'm tempted to try putting the new foam on top of the old one, this time, but I haven't opened the key assembly yet...
Judging from your pictures, I would hope the switches themselves are ok and probably don't need to be disassembled. In this case be very very careful, when you take them out and store them - to prevent the lowest part to jump off.
Like on buckling springs keyboards it is important to not use foam that is too thick. On these beamspring keyboards is much easier to assemble, because it's screwed together, but if the foam is too thick the metal parts (as sturdy as they look) will still bend which messes up everything.

User avatar
Lalaland124

12 Apr 2021, 12:08

Thanks, Muirium for the pictures :D !
My second 3276, the American one, was in much better shape so I let it be. I cleaned the caps, but I don't recall ever opening the whole thing up. It's already plenty good.
That's what I was hoping for because I'm afraid I'm going to break the keyboard in the process of replacing the foam, especially after what AJM said. Also, I still have to replace the foam on my model f, maybe I will try doing that so that I can prepare for the hideous process the beamspring will take.
Judging from your pictures, I would hope the switches themselves are ok and probably don't need to be disassembled. In this case be very very careful, when you take them out and store them - to prevent the lowest part to jump off.
Yes, they seem fine themselves, that's why I wanted to leave them in place as they are. (Wasnt there a method where one puts O-Rings in the holes of the plate to tighten the switches so that you don't have to replace the foam?)
Like on buckling springs keyboards it is important to not use foam that is too thick. On these beamspring keyboards is much easier to assemble, because it's screwed together, but if the foam is too thick the metal parts (as sturdy as they look) will still bend which messes up everything.
That's what I was thinking about. Is replacing the foam a necessary step to preserve the beamspring for the future or is it just a thing you do if the wobble annoys you too much?

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Apr 2021, 12:15

Lalaland124 wrote:
12 Apr 2021, 12:08
That's what I was thinking about. Is replacing the foam a necessary step to preserve the beamspring for the future or is it just a thing you do if the wobble annoys you too much?
The latter. The foam's not doing any harm. If it crumbles to bits, vacuum cleaner it out. It's not corrosive to anything around it, as far as I'm aware.

User avatar
AJM

12 Apr 2021, 14:48

Lalaland124 wrote:
12 Apr 2021, 12:08
... (Wasnt there a method where one puts O-Rings in the holes of the plate to tighten the switches so that you don't have to replace the foam?)
I haven't read about this technique so far (which isn't saying much).
It would certainly be possible to use O-rings instead of foam, but I can't see a way to install them without opening the inner assembly and taking the switches out. And then I can't see any advantages compared to foam (quite the opposite).

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Apr 2021, 14:57

^^ Agree.

Beamspring is similar to Model F in the tear-down sequence. You can’t pull out switch modules (or barrels in F’s case) without exposing the foam. If the foam is in a bad state, upon opening you’ll find you have board full of fluff and crumble right in front of you. Only sensible option at that point is clean the old stuff out and install new foam: new foam with rings cut in all the right places.

User avatar
Lalaland124

13 Apr 2021, 13:06

Those are all good arguments, I think I will do it :D Wish me luck that I don't break anything :mrgreen:

User avatar
Muirium
µ

13 Apr 2021, 13:12

You think you'll do what? My argument is to do as little as you can! ;)

User avatar
Lalaland124

13 Apr 2021, 14:45

Muirium wrote:
13 Apr 2021, 13:12
You think you'll do what? My argument is to do as little as you can! ;)
Just opening the whole thing up and looking at the overall damage and if I happen to disassemble the whole keyboard anyways because of cleaning, then why not replace the foam in the process :D But yeah goal is to do as little as I can ;)

User avatar
AJM

13 Apr 2021, 15:29

I've opened my switch-assembly last night for the first time. Visually the foam looks perfectly fine, but - as usual - it has no "strength" in it and is totally flat under the switches.
In this condition the key-feel just isn't, what it should be, so I have to do something. But I don't dare to remove the old foam, because I know the now very clean parts will become very messed up, if I try.
When I restored my 5251 keyboard, it was not much fun trying to create a new foam with all the holes in the right places, either. In the end I had do make many holes bigger, because they weren't placed exactly enough.
My current plan this time (not my own idea) is therefore to create a little square foam piece for every switch, so the whole process can be controlled better and the new foam will not interfere with the old one in the places, where it hasn't been compressed by the switches.
Now I "only" have to find the right foam - shopping isn't that easy at the moment.

User avatar
Lalaland124

13 Apr 2021, 15:47

That's also a good idea! I also took a look at the assembly one more time.. I would love to do the same but my foam is so dry and crumbles away so easily that even if I would leave it in place to strengthen it with a new one it would mess up all switches, so I'm guessing I'm going for the full replacement.
Good luck tho!

User avatar
Lalaland124

18 Apr 2021, 17:39

Well, so far so good. I successfully removed the old foam and the only thing that I screwed up in the process was the stabilizer hole in the space bar (fortunately I was able to find that little plastic thing after hours of search and some "Sekundenkleber" did the trick :D )

Here are some pictures:
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Is the plate clean enough? There is some foam spots left but after multiple propanyl, vinegar etc. baths I just can't anymore :lol:

Unfortunately some switches are rusty so I will have to disassemble them..

Also, on what parts can I put Ballistol on in order to avoid future rusting :)?

User avatar
Weezer

18 Apr 2021, 22:41

I'm just seeing this thread. Beamsprings are my favorite switch, I daily drive them. I've owned more beamsprings than I can count so I speak from lots of experience when I say the following:

I would highly recommend removing all old foam from a beamspring, because the type of foam that IBM used off-gasses as it breaks down and starts to damage the plastic that makes up the switch housings. It also causes corrosion on the metal where the foam is attached. As the foam continues to break down, it also becomes a prime location for mold spores, and creates a bigger, stickier mess for you to eventually clean out when the foam beaks down so much that the switches get too loose.

Here's a switch thats plastic was in the process of being damaged when I opened the keyboard. I had to take a video of it to capture the crystals on the surface where the plastic has chemically deteriorated.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSvRPAZ7Sw4
Those are physical crystals on the surface of the plastic. The correspond with the damaged areas of the plastic.

Here's an example of a damaged switch that has been cleaned
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Here is a NOS switch that was never put into a keyboard or stored in harsh conditions:
Image

Note the differences in the texture of the plastic after the damage has occurred. It doesn't affect the feel much but it's much better to prevent any further damage that you can.

I would also highly recommend replacing the rubber mat that separates the PCB from the bottom of the switch housing. The mat also off-gasses and will visibly damage the metal plate as well as make it extremely nasty and gooey. The mat is also extremely flammable and will give off toxic gasses if burned.
Here's an example: The black in the picture is mold (product of the way the keyboard was stored). The white is corrosion caused by the breakdown of the clear rubber mat used in all USA models except the Displaywriter, which uses a black mat made of a different, more stable rubber.
Image

I would also highly recommend removing the contamination shield as it will only continue to crumble, and eventually tiny little sand sized pieces of the shield will work their way into the switches as the shield crumbles away and this will completely RUIN the switch feel, because they will scratch up the plastic in the switch. The feel of a switch isn't something that I can show on a forum but the shields are extreme pains in the ass to clean up once they have begun to disintegrate. If yours is still intact, you are lucky and should take it off while you still easily can.
Last edited by Weezer on 18 Apr 2021, 23:00, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Lalaland124

18 Apr 2021, 22:51

Thanks for all the input! I did already remove the contamination shield and the only foam that's left are those tiny spots you can see in my last picture. If you say they are really bad then I'm going to let it sit in Isopropyl tomorrow again and hope to clean it 100% this time.
Weezer wrote:
18 Apr 2021, 22:41

I would also highly recommend replacing the rubber mat that separates the PCB from the bottom of the switch housing.
If I remove the rubber mat with what do I replace it as otherwise PCB and the plate would be in direct contact.
Also I guess it makes sense to open all switches and clean every part individually right? I think that's the only way to remove all leftovers of foam and pieces of contamination shield.
Thanks for all the tipps :)

User avatar
Weezer

18 Apr 2021, 23:07

Lalaland124 wrote:
18 Apr 2021, 22:51
If I remove the rubber mat with what do I replace it as otherwise PCB and the plate would be in direct contact.
Also I guess it makes sense to open all switches and clean every part individually right? I think that's the only way to remove all leftovers of foam and pieces of contamination shield.
Thanks for all the tipps :)
You can replace it with any material that's convenient to you that's nonconductive. It just acts as a spacer. The thickness of the material doesn't matter as long as it's within reason. I've used: large sheets of printing paper, wood veneer, and non-corrugated cardboard on various keyboards. I chose those because they are substances that won't break down easily, and they were also available to me for free. You might also want to use some eco friendly art foam or a safer type of rubber. I prefer using the box from a 12 pack of soda (USA) because it's already the perfect length and width.

For the keys the correct way is to take each one apart and clean each piece fully. But if the keys feel nice already you can get away with not taking them apart. Instead what I would do is remove them from the metal housing, then take some Q-tips and dip the end into some ethanol or isopropyl alcohol and clean the sticky foam off the top of each switch. I'd then take some compressed air and just spray a little bit into the switch (careful not to dislodge the flyplate) to remove any dust that might be in there.

The thing that I was trying to stress though was the removal of the foam and rubber that will continue to break down even after you've finished the restoration and cause problems down the line.

That said you did a nice job on the contamination shield and your keyboard looks really nice!

User avatar
Lalaland124

19 Apr 2021, 06:54

I think I get your point, I will try my best to remove the mat as well and replace it with something else. Really appreciate the help of you and all the others, helps a lot :)
Weezer wrote:
18 Apr 2021, 23:07
That said you did a nice job on the contamination shield and your keyboard looks really nice!
Thanks! I really took my time. The only thing I managed to screw up was the spacebar :oops: I mistakenly pulled on the wire stabilizer and broke the tiny fixing hole in the space bar. However, I was very lucky and found the little plastic piece that broke off, hours later :D
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User avatar
TNT

19 Apr 2021, 16:11

Lalaland124 wrote:
09 Apr 2021, 10:58
Hey!

I just got veeery lucky and acquired a beamspring keyboard in amazing condition compared to some photos I've seen online. However, there's still some work to do. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of experience doing restorations, hence I want to be as careful as possible so that I don't break anything. And for this reason I wanted to ask more experienced people than myself what I should do and what not :)
Here are a few pictures of the board:

Spoiler:
IMG_1838.JPG
IMG_1840.JPG
IMG_1843.JPG
IMG_1839.JPG
Wow, how did you manage to score one of these for a reasonable price?! I'm jealous alright :mrgreen:

User avatar
Lalaland124

19 Apr 2021, 17:13

TNT wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 16:11
Wow, how did you manage to score one of these for a reasonable price?! I'm jealous alright :mrgreen:
That's a very long and difficult story as the seller contacted me and not the other way around :D
Like I said I really got lucky I don't think it gets better than this :roll:

User avatar
Lalaland124

19 Apr 2021, 18:32

Weezer wrote:
18 Apr 2021, 22:41
I would also highly recommend replacing the rubber mat that separates the PCB from the bottom of the switch housing. The mat also off-gasses and will visibly damage the metal plate as well as make it extremely nasty and gooey. The mat is also extremely flammable and will give off toxic gasses if burned.
I took a picture of the mat today:
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Did the mat already damage the plate or could it be that the German one uses a different rubber material?

User avatar
Weezer

19 Apr 2021, 19:49

Lalaland124 wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 18:32
Weezer wrote:
18 Apr 2021, 22:41
I would also highly recommend replacing the rubber mat that separates the PCB from the bottom of the switch housing. The mat also off-gasses and will visibly damage the metal plate as well as make it extremely nasty and gooey. The mat is also extremely flammable and will give off toxic gasses if burned.
I took a picture of the mat today:
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Did the mat already damage the plate or could it be that the German one uses a different rubber material?
Hey that's the good mat that is used on the USA model displaywriter. It breaks down much slower. The mat material that breaks down and creates the damage I showed is the clear mat that is found on the other USA models. All rubber has a lifespan, so it will need to be replaced at some point but it won't break down as fast as the other kind.
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User avatar
Lalaland124

19 Apr 2021, 19:53

Weezer wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 19:49
Hey that's the good mat that breaks down much slower. The mat material that breaks down and creates the damage I showed is the clear mat.
Now I finally think I got it thanks! But just to be 100% sure, so that I don't remove the wrong thing ( :roll: ): I remove the clear mat and the rubber mat or just the clear mat :)?

User avatar
Weezer

19 Apr 2021, 20:01

Lalaland124 wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 19:53
Weezer wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 19:49
Hey that's the good mat that breaks down much slower. The mat material that breaks down and creates the damage I showed is the clear mat.
Now I finally think I got it thanks! But just to be 100% sure, so that I don't remove the wrong thing ( :roll: ): I remove the clear mat and the rubber mat or just the clear mat :)?
Sorry I edited my post to make what I was saying more clear. On USA models except for the displaywriter, a clear mat is used. That's the mat that breaks down aggressively and causes the damage that I showed. You have the black mat that is used on the USA displaywriter model which breaks down much slower and causes less damage.

User avatar
Lalaland124

19 Apr 2021, 20:19

Weezer wrote:
19 Apr 2021, 20:01
Sorry I edited my post to make what I was saying more clear. On USA models except for the displaywriter, a clear mat is used. That's the mat that breaks down aggressively and causes the damage that I showed. You have the black mat that is used on the USA displaywriter model which breaks down much slower and causes less damage.
Ok thanks, then I will try to find a suitable replacement if I have the whole thing open already :)

User avatar
Lalaland124

24 Apr 2021, 18:25

I'm almost done with the restauration and so far everything went pretty well :D I have on question tho, does anyone maybe have a picture of the little compartment for the IBM manual? I took apart the spring mechanism and don't really know how to put it back together :mrgreen:
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