bought my first model M and have a few question about modding and cleaning


07 Sep 2019, 02:17

first, let me say how much I love this thing!

the thing is from 1986 and is an xt model.

it fully functions and it feels like there is no issues with it whatsoever.

The thing is filthy, has dirty keycaps and the case is dirty inside and out (knowing it's age I thought it would be worse)

I opened the case just the see what was awaiting me, and it wasn't too bad. all of the electronics look fine, the plate, pcb, and barrel plate weigh much more than I thought they would.

Last thing I noticed was that some of the plastic rivets were sitting at the bottom of the case

With all that info, should I clean up all of the nasty bits and then just use it as is?

should I send the keyboard to and let them take care of it (which would end up costing over $150.

Or should I clean it and do the bolt mod all at once on my own (dad would probably help me)

this is my first model m. I have never done any form of modding on a keyboard so drilling it and taking it all the way apart sounds a bit frightening but I think I'm willing to do it.

What should I do deskthority?


07 Sep 2019, 12:55

This is what I do for all my Model M restoration's

1) Take all the keycaps off.

2) Remove all screws then separate the top and bottom case.

3) Place all the keycaps and key stems into 2 containers then soak them in some warm water with dish soap and let them soak for a

4) Scrub all the keycaps clean using a toothbrush.

5) Get bowl of soapy water and clean the top and bottom case using a bigger scrubbing brush.

Then Bolt/screw mod the keyboard only if you have lots of rivets missing if the keyboard works fine and the key feel is completely consistent between all the keys I would say just leave it and don't bolt/screw mod the keyboard or just do a part bolt/screw mod meaning you only replace the rivets that are missing.

Side note if you do decide to do a full bolt/screw mod it will give you the opportunity to clean the barrel frame completely in soapy water also. Beware to be gentle with the barrel frame as they can crack under too much stress so i would put something under the middle of the barrel frame to support it when drilling.

Hope that helps.


07 Sep 2019, 13:22

I actually think Model M keyboards are super easy and convenient to clean for several reasons.

I simply let the keycaps soak in boiling water with Fairy Liquid, although I'm sure there are more elegant solutions out there. :P

The case does not scratch easily, so you can be as rough as you want with one of those dish scrubbers. You could let it soak, although it's not something I've done myself.

Once all the keycaps are off, you can use a brush and vacuum cleaner to get rid of loose dust on the barrel frame. You could use some IPA if it's particularly grimy. Don't worry about dirt getting into the assembly - there's a rubber sheet under the hammers, so it should be fine. Try not to get the insides of the barrels or switch assemblies dirty, as you'll probably feel it.

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07 Sep 2019, 13:25

Some videos and photos that we have made in the past few years about IBM model M cleaning, disassembly and putting it all back together.

Inside look: Restoring and rebuilding a 32-year-old IBM model M ... 02500130/

Proudly restored by hand. ... 608841203/

3 hours well spent. Repairing an 84-key 1987 model M SSK in 2018 ... 8426026203

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07 Sep 2019, 16:30

There can be a lot of satisfaction in doing it yourself. The downside though is the time cost as it likely will take you more than 3 hours as it will be your first one as it takes time to research and filter through the various guides and methods to doing a bolt mod. You also have to procure the correct drill bit, dremel or power drill, screws and/or nuts and bolts and potentially risk a cracked barrel frame but that's not a major concern if you exercise a bit of caution. Also this part is replaceable at least if it happens to crack or is already cracked.


08 Sep 2019, 18:51

Yesterday I cleaned the case and the keycaps and let them all dry for about 12 or so hours, my god what a difference.

I think I am gonna order the screws, nuts, and bolts that I need and do the mod next weekend. Luckily, I do have a drill press, a full socket set, and a very handy dad who I have been linking guides all of Friday and Saturday. (want to make sure he has a good idea of what we need to do)

thanks all for the tips and advice!


08 Sep 2019, 20:42

If your rivets are intact (and you aren’t missing more than 5/6 of them), I would not recommend bolt modding. If your keys register fine, skip the bolt modding....


13 Sep 2019, 01:06

I took the keyboard apart today because I was bored and curious, I am missing quite a few rivets.

Actually explains all of the minor issues I've been having.

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Elder Messenger

13 Sep 2019, 03:25

Not always a problem, but if several are broken in the same area you will have a mushy spot.

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16 Sep 2019, 15:08

If only a few rivits are missing, just drill out using a 1/16" bit and replace with M2 6mm machine screws. I generally only screw mod the keyboard if it physically doesn't work.


18 Sep 2019, 05:15

I decided to replace the membrane while I'm doing all of this so I don't have to worry about it later.

Is there a way to combine using screws and nuts and bolts to avoid the deformation of the back case? While I do use the thing with the feet out, I would rather not have the back bulging.

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Elder Messenger

18 Sep 2019, 15:09

I use pan head M2x8 screws and they have never caused me a problem at that bottom row if I forgo the washers. I have always run the screws in through the barrel plate first, so that the threaded ends and nuts are on the metal back plate side.

At the very front it is a different story and you might consider doing something different such as self-threading screws or no nuts.
Last edited by fohat on 18 Sep 2019, 23:21, edited 1 time in total.


18 Sep 2019, 18:45

at the very front, you mean near the space bar correct?

If that is the case, any idea what size screws I should use?

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Elder Messenger

18 Sep 2019, 23:18

consensual-penis wrote:
18 Sep 2019, 18:45
at the very front, you mean near the space bar correct?

If that is the case, any idea what size screws I should use?
Wait, no, I'm sorry, my mind drifted. I start the screws on the key side (top), and put the nuts on the back (bottom, adjacent to the metal back plate) with or without washers.

Near the space bar you will get into clearance issues, and in that ridge below (even farther forward of the space bar) it would interfere more or less depending on the variant. I use M2x8mm pan head Philips screws throughout, 6mm would be better for clearance but you might have trouble catching the nut with so little length. If you drill 1/16" (Imperial) holes then the screw threads cut their own way in and you might forgo the nuts. You might even buy smaller shorter self-tapping screws for that front-most row, but many people just ignore them and leave them out. They don't do much and the case shell is tight there anyway.

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