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The Antediluvian Keyboard

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The Antediluvian Keyboard is a representation of an interest in civilization and technology from a time that has been forgotten, twisted, or even denied. A time in which only biblical stories, crypto-histories, and ancient artifacts surrounded by controversy are the only clues to this culture’s achievements. I had this in mind when creating the aesthetics of this functional piece. And with this, the final product was a merging of organic materials and technology.

This full sized keyboard was created from an old Model M clicky keyboard solidly made in 1986 by IBM. I was inspired to use this keyboard after seeing the success of it having been modded in a different fashion by an artist named Jake Von Slatt. The keyboard itself is superbly designed and very hefty compared to modern keyboards. Each key uses its own mechanical spring/switch, giving it the solid ‘clicking’ sound when typing. The first Model M keyboard I acquired had a couple flaws to it, so I ended up buying a second. One thing Ive noticed when opening up these 20+ yr old keyboards is that they always contain 20+ yr old Doritos crumbs!


The project took a full month of many tedious hours. Creating the design and template required great patience which is something I’m not used to practicing. The first piece I made was the face plate utilizing a very thin hobby grade sheet of wood (poplar). It needed to be thin enough to allow a slight curve when added to the keyboard. The tricky part was to make a template for all the holes of each key! Yes, you read that correctly, each single key fits through its own individually drilled hole on the faceplate. The template was by far the trickiest part to make especially since the final piece is curved. After the wood was drilled for each key, I stained the wood ebony and added a very slight red tone to it. I like the way this color turned out for it gave a good contrast with the brass details that I added later. To hold the faceplate down and retain the curve, I actually drilled 3 holes through the keyboard itself in which I used to attach the faceplate to securely.

Next, I then stared at a box I had filled with the 100+ plastic keys that I pulled off the keyboard, took a deep breath and started grinding away at them. I know there is probably a better and faster method for modifying these keys, but again, since I do not have a workshop and am lacking in many necessary tools, my dremel and bench grinder had to do. I used the dremel with a saw blade to cut the skirts off and then I used the bench grinder to grind the keys down to about the size of a typewriter key. I did this for every key.

The next step was to create the fonts and graphics for each key. This was tediously done in Illustrator and printed out on high quality glossy paper. Each graphics was then cut out with an exact-o-knife using the glass from one of the typewriter keys as the template. Two and a half full sets of vintage typewriter keys were then taken apart and put back together, but with a new graphics cutout installed in each. I then used black silicon to attach eye typewriter key the keyboard key stalks. After this, I needed to take a mental break from this project to ensure a future stable state of sanity.

Once my ability to even look at the keyboard returned to me, I knew it was time to work on the frame. I decided to carve the sides out of wood which will eventually be the support for the keyboard’s frame. I quickly hand drafted a shape that followed the curve of the keyboard itself and allowed for two support feet and a mount for these Reedbuck horn tips that I planned to utilize. The pieces were then cut from 3/4″ oak with a scroll saw. Mini Victorian molding/trim was then used to decorate the feet and horn mount edges and small brass claw feet were attached on the back to legs.

The wooden sides were then drilled to fit 4 rods. I used 2 metal rods and 2 wooden dowel rods. One of the metal rods was securely attached using a lot of jb-weld to the lower end of the keyboard. The length of the rods were longer then the keyboard itself, allowing it to protrude 1/2″ from each end. The 1/2″ ends fit into the freshly drilled holes of the side pieces. The 2nd metal rod was the same length and also connected the two side pieces together. It was located higher up which allowed the keyboard to just rest on it. Once resting on the top rod, it was secured only through gaffing tape to the underside of the keyboard. The two wooden dowel rods were just used to hold the 2 decorative brass tubes that frame the top and bottom of the keyboard. Before permanently fixing the pieces together, I then proceeded to stained the sides with the same shade as the face plate.

I wanted the LED’s to retain its functionality, but the original lights were green. So after a quick trip to radio shack, I removed the existing LED’s and soldered in red ones. I then cut a faceplate for the indicator lights from brass sheet metal and drilled holes in it. After much polishing, I attached jeweled red indicator lights and connected it to the keyboard. Each light gives a BRIGHT glowing red indication for the activation of the Caps Lock, Number Lock, and Scroll Lock. I couldn’t capture the brilliant red light in these images. I think it turned out really nice!

All that was left now was to add the final decorations. I cut the horns to the correct length using a dremel. Be warned that this creates a very awful smell akin to burning hair or fingernails! It was then mounted and a brass trim was added. Brass rivets normally used on leather, a custom wood and brass spacebar, and Victorian doll house trim and parts were used to add the final touches.

And finally its finished and now everyone knows where Ive been for the last month of my life!!

~ by Paradox009 on March 24, 2009.

32 Responses to “The Antediluvian Keyboard”

  1. Utterly mind-wateringly stunning!

  2. That is beautiful.
    Your are an artist and a craftsman.
    The choice of font is perfect.
    Now I have to go read your entire site. I just spotted the mouse.

  3. Wow. VERY impressive, one of the best I’ve seen. Love the wood and attention to clean details.

  4. hello man.
    ok, how much? that would be just perfect gift. I am considering it. and I do respect all the tedious amount of effort.

    cheers

  5. CAN YOU DO A WIRELESS SET UP, I AM INTERESTED IN ONE FOR A MAC MEDIA CENTER I AM WORKING ON.

  6. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about you ripping apart a vintage Model M, but I’m sure the Great Karma Gatekeepers of the Universe will accept this token of Pure Awesome to balance it out. Great work!

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  8. I don’t want jewelry, I don’t want a new wardrobe, I don’t want a trip to Paris….I just want one of these keyboards!

    But then, I dream large.

    [BTW: The feet say it all.]

  9. This is phenomenal

  10. [...] Altre immagini qui. [...]

  11. I envy your patience! That lovely smell was from sulphur compounds released as a result of friction burning the keratin in the horn. Engraving them is such a pleasant experience….

  12. Bloody Brilliant!
    Do you happen to remember the font you used? I love it muchly.

  13. absolutely beautiful.. I am speechless

  14. Fantastic!

  15. fantastic work!!

  16. nice keyboard, i want one, how much i gotta shell out…mike

  17. I recently saw the episode on G4 about Steampunk. lets just say my interests are peaked now. Don’t know if i’ll get intot he dress up and such much, but the making things like these keyboards and frames for monitors and such are for sure in my future. keep up the good work.

  18. Wow. This is “ZOMG!!! BEST KEYBOARD EVARRR!!!!!1111″

    Just “how” expensive would we be talking? “I want” but am not really wanting to waste your time… :(

  19. Came here via Mr. von Slatt’s site. Incredible job you’ve done here. The best part?

    “…since I do not have a workshop and am lacking in many necessary tools…”

    It gives me hope for my projects to come to life without all the tools that I’ve seen others use.

    That and the 20+ year old Doritos crumbs!

  20. Amazing construction sir,you are indeed a master craftsman. I lift my hat to you in salutation.

  21. This is an awesome project. So I read some where that you’re not working. Man I know it took you some time to build this but I am pretty sure that making some of these part time or even full time could be pretty profitable. You should look into finding a way to get a license for it and have some one else mass produce it for you.

  22. All I have to say is: incredible work! I’m genuinely amazed.

  23. Cooooooooooool!!!

  24. Did you happen to do the computer setup for the show Warehouse 13?

  25. Does this come in Dvorak layout? Symbolics Space Cadet? But seriously, this should be put in a time capsule just to nonplus the archeologists of 2525 A.D. There was something very similar on the dashboard of the guy who went to visit the Eloi and the Morlocks in 1895.

  26. Awesome dude, that mouse looks wicked as well.

  27. This is a true work of beauty. Best keyboard I have ever seen.

  28. Hey,
    I only found out about a week ago about steampunk and I am really thrilled by all this beauty.
    It is so inspiring to me.
    Planning to make my own keyboard pretty soon.
    Thanx very much for letting me know that without a well equipped workshop it is still possible.
    All I need is much of patience I guess.:-)

  29. I, too came here via Mr. von Slatt’s site. Sir, You are a true genius, letting nothing stand in the way of your truly wonderful creation. You are to be commended on your skill dedication and triumphant achievement! I salute You! M.

  30. O M G ! These items are beautiful!!! This is my first time seeing them and I’m currious if you decided on a price to charge yet? I would like a keyboard (if wireless) and if it’s affordable. I would even pay in advance! Let me know at “151Dorothy@msn.com”. I was originally looking for a 68 Dodge Charger shaped Mini mouse (wireless) when I came accross your web site. If you know where I should look for something like that, I would greatly appreciate your intell. Thanks, Dorothy

  31. Let me tell you what, I have a very well tooled shop and this would still take a long time to do. Very impressive indeed!

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