Metal keycaps

daphnis

11 Jan 2020, 15:37

I was thinking the IBM Model F is perfect and the only thing I
would change about it is the key material, as I'd prefer keys
in the same material as the frame. Is there any reason except
cost that they are not?

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fohat
Elder Messenger

11 Jan 2020, 16:33

There was a sculptor in England who made some metal caps for buckling springs, it was probably 5 or more years ago and I don't recall his name. He sent me a few of them that I used in a few odd places, but not a whole board full.

They were great but he had cast them out of a pewter-like metal so they grayed and discolored somewhat.

I think that skin oils and acids won't play well with metal surfaces, but if don't mind patina it will work.

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SneakyRobb
THINK

11 Jan 2020, 21:08

daphnis wrote:
11 Jan 2020, 15:37
I was thinking the IBM Model F is perfect and the only thing I
would change about it is the key material, as I'd prefer keys
in the same material as the frame. Is there any reason except
cost that they are not?
I think it is probably just up to not many have tried and there is not as much of a market. On many new Cherry style keyboards you see a lot of artisan keycaps, variety and "flare" for lack of a better term. It is part of the fun for people and that is perfectly fine.

Most Model F you see posted are usually straight stock setup. Beige and gray tones. Some people might have a red esc key and even less often people paint them. For me its like how you see "modded" new cars, but rarely classic cars are modded with new stuff."

For production it's far from impossible, but you need to have a certain amount of equipment and funds to experiment to make them work.

I'd estimate it would take some hundreds/more of dollars for supplies and a few weekends to produce metal buckling spring caps.

Some kind of aluminium/zinc/stainless metal probably would be fine for skin oil/acids as fohat mentioned.

For at home production, soft metals like pewter are far easier as they melt at lower temperatures. Something like steel would require high temps and quite the backyard setup

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vometia
irritant

20 Jan 2020, 14:46

fohat wrote:
11 Jan 2020, 16:33
There was a sculptor in England who made some metal caps for buckling springs, it was probably 5 or more years ago and I don't recall his name. He sent me a few of them that I used in a few odd places, but not a whole board full.

They were great but he had cast them out of a pewter-like metal so they grayed and discolored somewhat.

I think that skin oils and acids won't play well with metal surfaces, but if don't mind patina it will work.
I'm reminded of the early push-button phone boxes where the keys always seemed to remain shiny no matter how grimy everything was and how many people had peed in it. Dunno what they were made of. Obviously some sort of magic space-metal to stay shiny even after being used by so many proles who smell of wee, etc.

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Touch_It

20 Jan 2020, 17:26

I might get laughed at, but I watched a Linus tech tips vid on the most expensive keyboard they could make. They got sent a tkl keycap set made from milled brass. I think they said it cost something like 2500-3000. not sure if USD or canadian.

IDK what my point really is, other than a full set of metal caps is either going to be insanely expensive for quality caps, or crappy.

Stainless might actually be a great material for caps, but good luck getting a set for buckling spring.

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SneakyRobb
THINK

20 Jan 2020, 18:26

Touch_It wrote:
20 Jan 2020, 17:26
I might get laughed at, but I watched a Linus tech tips vid on the most expensive keyboard they could make. They got sent a tkl keycap set made from milled brass. I think they said it cost something like 2500-3000. not sure if USD or canadian.

IDK what my point really is, other than a full set of metal caps is either going to be insanely expensive for quality caps, or crappy.

Stainless might actually be a great material for caps, but good luck getting a set for buckling spring.
The underside of the keycap has some areas that do flex a bit when you insert the keycap, which might pose some minor difficulties.

Buckling spring keycaps are different from cherry keycaps, in that the buckling spring keycap forms part of the mechanism. When you take a cherry keycap off you can still press the switch.

When you take the buckling spring keycap off, you can't press the switch anymore really. You have removed part of the mechanism.

I would think then that the easiest way to get the aesthetic would be to focus on making the top part of the 2-piece Model M style keycap metal. That part would be much easier relatively to manufacture than a 1-piece Model F style cap

Like this. It might be hard to get metal that thin if you are machining it I am not sure. If your goal is looking good, I would try to just make the top part metal and keep the plastic bottom part. As the mechanism involves the keycap and barrel sliding against eachother, I am not sure how making 1 part metal would change the feeling, I am not sure it would be improved.
keycap.jpg
keycap.jpg (15.24 KiB) Viewed 675 times

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fohat
Elder Messenger

21 Jan 2020, 00:51

I probably didn't say, but what I got were metal caps that fit onto standard plastic stems. That is the right way to do it, obviously (to me anyway).

To Vometia's point, there are many formulas for stainless steel (aka Inox in the rest of the world except the US) and you are always trading off properties, eg bright appearance vs brittleness vs manufacturing difficulty, etc

User avatar
Touch_It

21 Jan 2020, 18:49

SneakyRobb wrote:
20 Jan 2020, 18:26
Touch_It wrote:
20 Jan 2020, 17:26
I might get laughed at, but I watched a Linus tech tips vid on the most expensive keyboard they could make. They got sent a tkl keycap set made from milled brass. I think they said it cost something like 2500-3000. not sure if USD or canadian.

IDK what my point really is, other than a full set of metal caps is either going to be insanely expensive for quality caps, or crappy.

Stainless might actually be a great material for caps, but good luck getting a set for buckling spring.
The underside of the keycap has some areas that do flex a bit when you insert the keycap, which might pose some minor difficulties.

Buckling spring keycaps are different from cherry keycaps, in that the buckling spring keycap forms part of the mechanism. When you take a cherry keycap off you can still press the switch.

When you take the buckling spring keycap off, you can't press the switch anymore really. You have removed part of the mechanism.

I would think then that the easiest way to get the aesthetic would be to focus on making the top part of the 2-piece Model M style keycap metal. That part would be much easier relatively to manufacture than a 1-piece Model F style cap

Like this. It might be hard to get metal that thin if you are machining it I am not sure. If your goal is looking good, I would try to just make the top part metal and keep the plastic bottom part. As the mechanism involves the keycap and barrel sliding against eachother, I am not sure how making 1 part metal would change the feeling, I am not sure it would be improved.

keycap.jpg
Ever sound really smart in your head, and then go completely dumb whenever you post? This is every post I've ever made, lol. Well said.

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