Super rusty IBM 5251 keyboard restoration Log

riccardo1105

13 Jun 2021, 01:23

Hello, first I wanted to thank everyone that helped me during this long process, it was the first time that I had a board in such a bad condition and I had to ask around a lot of things :D .

This shouldn't be taken as a guide since I didn't document all the parts, I just hope to help other people that find a rusty keyboard like the one I found.

This was part of a haul where I got 9 IBM 5251 (7 keyboards, 1 with broken case) + IBM AS/400 (weighs something like 120kg) + Ericsson Twinax terminal + IBM 5170 + IBM Model M (Silver Badge, both normal & 122) ​ + Strange clone boards

What am I going to do with all this stuff? I'll try to restore as much as possible (with also the help of some friends) and donate a few of them to my school museum, or maybe other museums :D

Step 1: damage assessment
Spoiler:
  • Case: there weren't big scuffs, only a lot of dirt and dust collected over the years
  • Keycaps: a lot of shine but all the keycaps were present (the Q and W were removed to check the internal plate)
  • Internal condition: rust, rust and rust. All the keycaps stems were rusty and so were the two plates, stabilizers, and other metal parts.
Photo before starting the restoration (sorry for the low quality but I always forget to take a good one before)
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Internal condition
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More internal conditon close-ups
Spoiler:

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The foam just came off, didn't need alchol or anything
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Step 2.a: solve the rust problem of the plates
Spoiler:
The most critical step was to remove all that rust from the plates. I evaluated a lot of different options (evaporust, or other chemicals) but in the end, the easiest and cheapest way was to just sandblast everything. With the help of a friend, it came out perfectly.
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Next, a protective coating was necessary to prevent rust, a friend of mine works in a factory where they chrome plate things so I just gave him the two plates, the result was very surprising! For the bottom plate, he just sprayed the protective coating without the reflecting one.

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The process isn't very cheap if you ask around in shops but he makes me good prices (paid 20 euros for this), so if you want to chrome plate something PM me, I might be able to help you :) .
He said that this plating is more protective than electro-plating and should last for at least 30 years.
Step 2.b: remove the rust from the switches and other metal parts
Spoiler:
The first thing to do was to open the switches, here I made a very big mistake. To open them I just pulled straight with a lot of force
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After opening all of them I noticed that about 10 of them had a little crack on the plastic stem and when reassembling one the metal stem didn't stay in place. So if you need to open them I suggest using the fork method, a friend (Erdem) suggested trying this one and it is much safer.
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When all the switches were opened I needed to remove rust from the stems and the springs.
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I soaked both in vinegar (here in Italy I didn't find white vinegar only the wine one but I think they are the same) for about 15 hours and then cleaned them with baking soda and demineralized water.

For the protective coating, at the hardware store I found a thing called Zinc Spray so I just sprayed all the stems with it and the result was very good. I also did this for the stabilizers, screws, and other metal parts.
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I cleaned the switches very thoroughly with just hot water, soap, and a toothbrush. The result was very good.

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Step 3: clean everything and re-assembly
Spoiler:
To clean the case I just used soap. The foam I used was the EVA 2mm art foam, here's the link for anyone that lives in Italy, it's very hard to find in a local shop. For testing the keyboard I temporarily installed a compact beamspring controller since I'm working on restoring the 5251 terminal and the AS/400 server, stay tuned for that! :D .

Final result
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The 5251 that needs to be restored, I powered it on, broken caps perfume
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User avatar
Jesseg

13 Jun 2021, 02:03

Great job! Keen to see the terminal in action :o

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SneakyRobb
THINK

13 Jun 2021, 02:23

Hi,

Very impressive! The level of rust on these uses modules is low and you should be able to restore them all.

Good job

Robb

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Weezer

13 Jun 2021, 04:19

Blue modules! I've not seen that before. Guys has a beamspring with blue modules popped up before?

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Bjerrk

13 Jun 2021, 09:51

Great job, thanks for documenting!

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