UPDATED: IBM Model F restoration - May 2019


22 May 2019, 12:18

Having looked around for a few months I got lucky and recently acquired an IBM Model F XT for GBP 12.5. In fact I am typing on it right now :wink:

Here's the thing in all its glory, when it arrived...un-restored
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One of the first things I did was to open it up. The label has a date of 24-12-1985! Christmas Eve of 1985!

I hooked up my pro-micro and was pleased that every key worked!
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Look at all the the rust on that plate!

However, the worst hadn't come yet. I was in for a shocker when I opened it up and removed the keycaps ....
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That's the worst form of rust I've seen on any piece of metal ever! That keyboard may have well been salvaged from a ship wreck in the North Sea.

What follows is a restoration post with tips and tricks on how to restore this...

Opening up the top plate was not easy. I tried to pull it out, its impossible to get this done alone.
Being the impatient guy I am, I took a pair of pliers and pulled the lower set of clamps outwards. I don't regret the decision one bit, I personally think that may be the most fragile way to remove the top plate.
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All the barrels and flippers were intact. The foam surprisingly seemed fine as well, except for the rust marks. Once I pulled out the foam it completely disintegrated. The back of the front plate was completely rusted.

I used a highly concentrated vinegar bath for the plate and let it stay overnight. The left over residue looked like some sort of dark brown slurry. I never knew vinegar cleans so well. That's how the plate looked like just after a vinegar bath.
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I spent 15 mins sanding it down with sandpaper. I started with a 80 grit paper and eventually finished with a 120 grit paper. I ended up with a fairly clean top plate
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Time for the spray paint. I chose a silver spray paint as its neutral enough to not stand out under the keycaps.
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Assembly was easy, except for the flipper that will not stay put on the space-bar. The only way to get it in place is to hold it down with a loop of thread or floss. I used a loop of floss and held it down with a finger while I placed the back plate on.
Once again I used the pliers to fold back the hinges onto the plate and that completed the job.
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Time for a test, works perfectly! Here's the original cable cut out with the connection to a pro micro.
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Job completed. Here's how it turned out in the end.
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Some additional remarks:

I never removed the PCB from the back plate. I just couldn't manage. Every time I tried, I was bending the PCB and I was afraid I'd break it. So I let the PCB stay and sanded the rust off the back plate wherever I could.

I didn't use any foam. The keyboard works and sounds exactly the way it did before I restored it. I couldn't be bothered to find the right foam and cut 83 holes into it.

The bottom metal outer shell had bad rust as well. I sanded that down and spray painted. At some point I'll get it powder coated.

I used a separate Pro Micro in the end, as I gave the original connector to a friend who wanted to get a converter for his Model XT.

The new pro micro had a problem when I cased it into the shell, the culprit was that the Clock and Data cables kept shorting. It seems when I put the lid back on, it would press against the cables and my solder joint wasn't strong enough to keep the cables from shorting. A quick re-solder job and insulation with electrical tape solved the problem.

One of the flippers got chipped during the cleaning, it still works but sometimes gets stuck - so I moved it to one of the function keys that I am never going to use. A special shout out to user darkcruix who is sending out a replacement flipper for FREE.

I remapped the keys to represent the modern day layout. CTRL is now CAPS, Original ALT is now CTRL, Original CAPS is now ALT, Scroll Lock is DEL and Number pad + is Enter. I will post the remap file later in the evening.
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That's the layout I went with. Leave a comment if you have some suggestions.

I wish I did fix the keyboard stabilizer, the actuation force required on it is way too high. If someone has suggestions, please comment.

At some point, I'd like to use an ultrasonic cleaner to clean the keycaps. When looked at in direct sunlight, some of the keycaps show stubborn marks that's difficult to remove with a standard wash.

In all I spent about 10 euros (5 for the spray paint + 5 for the Pro Micro) and 2 days in restoration (1 night for the vinegar treatment + 1 night for the spray paint to dry).

Last but not the least, I want to credit a few folks:

The Legendary Soarer, missing in action since 19 Mar 2014, 01:00 without his (or her) efforts none of these old keyboards could have been brought back to life.

A special shout out to user lucar whose video inspired me to take up my restoration. Here's his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPOe0Pmd3gs&t=1s
and his channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7vGew ... HBuk-n8usA

All other restorers. I read all the posts before even attempting to buy this keyboard. The floss trick to hold down the space bar has been mentioned on several forums - and is the only guaranteed way to align the flipper.

Some more pics
33 years old.jpg
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Last edited by kmnov2017 on 14 Nov 2019, 15:22, edited 18 times in total.

John Doe

22 May 2019, 12:23

I thought its f107 in first glance, the first pic stretched too much.


22 May 2019, 12:30

I wish I had found an F107 for 12 quids!

User avatar

22 May 2019, 12:33

GFL, that indeed looks terrible. What's the state of the flippers and the PCB?


22 May 2019, 12:36

Wow great find may I ask where you got this keyboard from for £12.5 as I live in the UK and don't find many of these Keyboards also I look forward to seeing the restoration log.



22 May 2019, 22:51

As promised, here's the remapping entries I used:




User avatar

23 May 2019, 03:36

After seeing the rest of the post: WOAH! Congratulations! Now enjoy that keyboard for the decades to come. :)

Just one question: why don't you map the `¬ key to the */PrtSc key below Enter?


23 May 2019, 08:33

What key is `¬ ? And why would I need that ?

User avatar

23 May 2019, 10:54

Great work!

And what a rust! I personally would have sprayed an antirust paint first on the plate as a prep to the final paint , but that's a matter of preference.

Thanks for the cross link to my Model F restoration video!!!


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