Author Topic: Continued experiments in homemade key caps...with interesting results.  (Read 52232 times)

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Offline nubbinator

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So making homemade key caps is something that I've been wanting to try for a while.  I'm not what you would call a skilled artist, but I figured that if I can get the technique figured out, I might be able to get a friend who is to assist me.  I figured I'd share my results and my process so that anyone else who wanted to try to do the same could do it.


To begin, you'll need a volunteer key cap, masking tape, a razor blade, and some carving wax or some other carving medium (you could probably use some Crayons if you wanted).  For my key cap, I used one from the WASD sample kit.

16031-0

Set the cap on the masking tape.  Try to make it as flat as possible.  Then cut the tape flush with the key cap.

16033-1
16035-2

If you did it correctly, the base should look like this.

16037-3

Next, you need to melt the wax.  Use some sort of double boiler method to melt the wax.  I did mine by using a canning jar in a sauce pan.  Medium to medium high heat should do it.  You may need to use something to stir it to make sure it's properly melted.

16039-4

This was my first go at a wax mold. It's a wooden shim lined with saran wrap and taped together.  Just carefully place the key cap in face down.

Later I used a cardboard mold lined with saran wrap that was a little easier and seemed to work better.

16041-5

When the wax is melted, slowly pour it over the key cap.  Following that, let the wax sit for a little bit to cool down, but make sure not to wait too long.

16043-6

16045-7

Open up your mold and let it loose.  If you did it correctly, the wax should look something like this.

16047-8

16049-9

Next, you'll need to trim the wax to your carving size.  I highly recommend doing this while the wax is still warm and easily pliable.  You'll want to trim and even the base and get as close to the side wall as you can.  If you don't get close enough to the sides, your cap will be too wide for your keyboard, a problem I ran into with this first attempt.  To get the wax close enough to the side walls, you'll likely need to wait until it fully cools, but for the major trimming, it's best to do it while it's still warm.

16051-10

Here are the tools I used to then carve the key cap.

16053-11

Here's the finished product.  I'm not the most skilled artists, so I wanted to start with something a little easier to carve.

There are some problems with this cap that I didn't notice at first go.  First, it's way too tall and looks silly.  I had about 1/8" more room to carve down that I just didn't think about.  Second, I didn't follow my advice and left the sides a little too thick.  Third, I carved it sideways.  I forgot to check which side was the front of the cap and carved it 90 degrees off.  I corrected that last problem by rotating half the mold 90 degrees, but the other two weren't noticed until the mold was already made.

16055-12

For the molding supplies, I bought some Alumilite stuff from Hobby Lobby.  If you use their 40% off coupon they always have, it's not too expensive.  I think I bought the wrong molding silicon though and got a softer mold than I would like.

16057-13

Next you need to find some sort of form to put your mold in.  For mine, I used an old laundry detergent measuring cup.  You'll also want to put something in the bottom to lock the two halves of the mold together in the proper orientation.  For mine, I used some modeling clay.

16059-14

Mix your silicon with the reacting agent and pour it onto your keycap.  Wait overnight before pulling it out.  Since your mold is a two part mold, know that the mold making process is at least a two day job.

16061-15

To keep the two halves of the mold from bonding, you'll need some sort of mold release.  I used petroleum jelly for mine.  I just melted some in a spoon and applied it with a Q-tip. 

I also cut the base off of the detergent cup so I could slide it over the first half of the mold instead of pushing it to the bottom.

Then just mix and pour the silicon like before and wait till the next day.

16063-16

When you're done, you should get a mold like this.

16065-17

For my first try at a key cap, I used some resin. You'll naturally have some resin that pours out the edges that you'll need to trim up.  When you pour the resin, you'll need to wait 48 hours before attempting to demold the cap.

I'm not really happy with how it turned out.  The top half turned out alright (the eyes are a little messed up)...but there are some issues once you flip it over.

16067-18
16069-19

As you can see, the stem didn't turn out quite right.  It still fits just fine and actually holds it to the Cherry stem, but it has some wobble and play.

16071-20
16073-21

For a first try, it wasn't horrible, but there certainly needs to be more experimentation with materials used to make it right.

In the future, I might try for lost-wax casting with a fine medium like plaster of paris so I can make a metal cap or see if I can find another fairly affordable medium to use that's better than resin, but not as costly as trying to make a homemade plastic injection mold (which would set me back at least $400).
« Last Edit: Tue, 21 January 2014, 21:38:24 by nubbinator »

Offline Dgsbllx

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 16:17:40 »
Looks really good for a first attempt. Too much work at the moment but I'd love to have a go at creating my own as well. Your end result reminds me of a wine gum  :p

Offline blueasjim

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 16:19:06 »
I cannot see the stem pictures. Anyone else having this issue?

Great first run! Maybe a more square top would be easier than the circular face?
Either way, great job. :"D
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Offline Tym

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 16:19:58 »
Photoshop level: 99
unless they have some unforeseeable downside (like they're actually made of cream cheese cunningly disguised as ABS)


Offline blueasjim

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 16:27:19 »
I cannot see the stem pictures. Anyone else having this issue?

Great first run! Maybe a more square top would be easier than the circular face?
Either way, great job. :"D

Stem pics fixed and you have WAY more patience than I. :D
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Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 16:30:02 »
Looks really good for a first attempt. Too much work at the moment but I'd love to have a go at creating my own as well. Your end result reminds me of a wine gum  :p

Haha, yeah, it is quite a bit of work, but once I get it figured out, it will be nice to have some completely unique keycaps to set my keyboards apart a little more.  If I can get some nice metal ones made at home, it will be even better.

I was thinking more of black licorice, but now that I looked up wine gum, I can definitely see that too.

I cannot see the stem pictures. Anyone else having this issue?

Great first run! Maybe a more square top would be easier than the circular face?
Either way, great job. :"D

The upload was borked, so I re-uploaded them and they appear to be there now.  Originally it said something about guests not being able to see the picture.

The circular face was actually pretty easy.  The main issues were just me not thinking things all the way through...like making a side too thick, not knowing exactly where the top of the donor cap was, and not double checking the key orientation before I started carving.

Offline mkawa

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 07:28:28 »
an excellent first attempt! all i can think of when i see that is that it would make an excellent gummy snack :D

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Offline jcrouse

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Re: Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 07:39:02 »
an excellent first attempt! all i can think of when i see that is that it would make an excellent gummy snack :D

I think of a Rolo.

Offline whiskerBox

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My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 07:39:27 »
Very cool nice work!
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Offline agodinhost

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 17:33:46 »
an excellent first attempt! all i can think of when i see that is that it would make an excellent gummy snack :D
yup, gummy snack!  :D
Excellent first try, you didn't lost any finger right?

Try again, don't quit, you know that old adage don't you?
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Offline eth0s

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 17:42:55 »
So how much for that first nubbinator 'cap?  :p

[It could be worth something some day, you never know.]
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Offline esoomenona

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 17:45:07 »
Hmm, that thing looks familiar...

Offline hashbaz

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #12 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:03:44 »
Nice!  Can't wait to see G2.

Offline Turkishrambo

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #13 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:05:56 »
wasnt there a picture of this cap shopped with "Kill me" lol

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #14 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:25:19 »
an excellent first attempt! all i can think of when i see that is that it would make an excellent gummy snack :D

I think of a Rolo.

Keep on trying!

.... I thought of Michelangelo.

Not the artist, the teenaged mutant turtle ninja. Cowabunga! LOL!

Joking aside, thanks for posting this. Don't give up.
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Offline esoomenona

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #15 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:27:50 »
wasnt there a picture of this cap shopped with "Kill me" lol
There was, which is what made me want it the most. If I had been drinking something, I would've spit it up when I saw that picture.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #16 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:33:54 »
So how much for that first nubbinator 'cap?  :p

[It could be worth something some day, you never know.]

It went for the price of shipping.  So if it goes for something someday, I expect 30% of sales.  I'm not a greedy man.

Hmm, that thing looks familiar...

Yeah, I posted it to /r/mechanicalkeyboards a little while back.

Keep on trying!

.... I thought of Michelangelo.

Not the artist, the teenaged mutant turtle ninja. Cowabunga! LOL!

Joking aside, thanks for posting this. Don't give up.

Definitely not giving up.   I need to finish my RK-9000 Clear mod first, then I'll be back to experimenting some more.  I really need to try and find a better cap material.

wasnt there a picture of this cap shopped with "Kill me" lol

Yes, yes there was.



There was, which is what made me want it the most. If I had been drinking something, I would've spit it up when I saw that picture.

Are you the person I ended up sending it to from Reddit?
« Last Edit: Tue, 19 March 2013, 18:37:24 by nubbinator »

Offline esoomenona

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #17 on: Tue, 19 March 2013, 19:58:07 »
^Yes sir, I am. <3 that picture

Offline Tarzan

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #18 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 07:44:21 »
Nubbinator;

Your post inspired me to get way too much stuff at my local craft supply store yesterday, to try my hand at making a custom keycap.  Going to be the most expensive keycap around, by the time I actually produce one. 

So far I'm at the mold-making stage, already managed to melt several stock keycaps (don't ask).  Wish me luck!

Offline ideus

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #19 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 07:51:41 »
Interesting work, keep the good work. The main difference with high pressure injection molding is the hardness of the final product. The hand made one depends on material density, :o and gravity.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #20 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 12:29:11 »
Nubbinator;

Your post inspired me to get way too much stuff at my local craft supply store yesterday, to try my hand at making a custom keycap.  Going to be the most expensive keycap around, by the time I actually produce one. 

So far I'm at the mold-making stage, already managed to melt several stock keycaps (don't ask).  Wish me luck!

What did you decide to use as the key cap material.  I used Alumilite resin, but I'm not sure I quite like it.

I have to ask since you said not to.  How did you melt several caps already?

Interesting work, keep the good work. The main difference with high pressure injection molding is the hardness of the final product. The hand made one depends on material density, :o and gravity.

I don't have the ability to do injection molding, but I was thinking about trying to adapt some bottle rocket launchers (you know the ones with 2 liter bottles and water) that I have around the home and turn them into pressure chambers for the mold.  Obviously it won't get a super high PSI, but it might help some.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #21 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 12:30:29 »
I guess I somehow double posted.
« Last Edit: Wed, 20 March 2013, 13:38:49 by nubbinator »

Offline ideus

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #22 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 12:42:20 »
A bench press, or other mechanical manual press may be of help and it can apply a huge pressure if properly operated. For the size of a single cavity mold even a small one will fit.

Nubbinator;

Your post inspired me to get way too much stuff at my local craft supply store yesterday, to try my hand at making a custom keycap.  Going to be the most expensive keycap around, by the time I actually produce one. 

So far I'm at the mold-making stage, already managed to melt several stock keycaps (don't ask).  Wish me luck!

What did you decide to use as the key cap material.  I used Alumilite resin, but I'm not sure I quite like it.

I have to ask since you said not to.  How did you melt several caps already?

Interesting work, keep the good work. The main difference with high pressure injection molding is the hardness of the final product. The hand made one depends on material density, :o and gravity.

I don't have the ability to do injection molding, but I was thinking about trying to adapt some bottle rocket launchers (you know the ones with 2 liter bottles and water) that I have around the home and turn them into pressure chambers for the mold.  Obviously it won't get a super high PSI, but it might help some.

Offline Tarzan

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #23 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 13:10:01 »
Nubbinator;

Your post inspired me to get way too much stuff at my local craft supply store yesterday, to try my hand at making a custom keycap.  Going to be the most expensive keycap around, by the time I actually produce one. 

So far I'm at the mold-making stage, already managed to melt several stock keycaps (don't ask).  Wish me luck!

What did you decide to use as the key cap material.  I used Alumilite resin, but I'm not sure I quite like it.

I have to ask since you said not to.  How did you melt several caps already?

Interesting work, keep the good work. The main difference with high pressure injection molding is the hardness of the final product. The hand made one depends on material density, :o and gravity.

I don't have the ability to do injection molding, but I was thinking about trying to adapt some bottle rocket launchers (you know the ones with 2 liter bottles and water) that I have around the home and turn them into pressure chambers for the mold.  Obviously it won't get a super high PSI, but it might help some.

I was trying to make a mold from a stock cap, using Fimo (modeling clay).  This clay is oven-hardening, at 110 Celsius.  I left the key caps in the clay, as it's pretty soft, and found out the hard way that that temperature is plenty hot enough to warp stock Cherry keycaps.  Yeah, I'm a dumbass.  :-[

Interestingly, though, the PBT keycap kept it's shape just fine. 

Now I'm letting the second mold harden without heat, see if that works.

Offline Krogenar

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #24 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 16:44:20 »
Maybe this could help?

feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.

« Last Edit: Wed, 20 March 2013, 16:47:54 by Krogenar »
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #25 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 17:01:36 »
Maybe this could help?

feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.

That's pretty cool!  I've found a variety of mold-making resources online, including pressure (and/or vacuum) pots, but I had not seen anything about roto-molding! Might do something with a hollow key cap, filled with another color resin...  Hmm.

I did manage to extricate my sample key from the second mold I'd made.  I used a two-part rubber kind for stuff for the base, that's the yellow.  Once that was set, I sprayed it all down with mold release and poured a two-part epoxy casting over it, brand name is EasyCast. 

16334-0
16336-1
16338-2
16340-3

Pretty happy with how it turned out, the details are nice and crisp for the key stem, which is what I was worried about.  Label says the product sets in 24 hours, but fully hardens in 72 hours, so I'm going to let it cure before trying to cast a key cap.

By the way, the epoxy product is clear, I tried my hand at tinting it a light blue.  I also noticed that the two Escape keys I had on hand were different profiles, one was shorter (OEM?) than the PBT unit.  I used the taller cap for the impression in  the rubber mold, and the shorter cap for the epoxy base casting, figuring this will give me an option to cast a thick-topped key, perhaps in a different color-way for the top part of the cap.  Not sure I'm explaining that very clearly, but I'll post samples once I have some.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #26 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 17:08:29 »
Maybe this could help?

feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.

That would give more consistently even coverage in the mold, but I'm not sure it would be great for keycaps since it's oriented toward hollow core resin casting.  It also would be suboptimal for the resin I have right now.  Not ruling it out just yet, but doesn't seem ideal.  I'd be more inclined to try and jerry rig something together with a large bore needle and constant pressure system (cheap homemade plunger?) to get a consistent full fill.  I need to switch to a harder silicone, clay, or other material mold for that though.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #27 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 17:13:45 »
That's pretty cool!  I've found a variety of mold-making resources online, including pressure (and/or vacuum) pots, but I had not seen anything about roto-molding! Might do something with a hollow key cap, filled with another color resin...  Hmm.

I did manage to extricate my sample key from the second mold I'd made.  I used a two-part rubber kind for stuff for the base, that's the yellow.  Once that was set, I sprayed it all down with mold release and poured a two-part epoxy casting over it, brand name is EasyCast. 

Pretty happy with how it turned out, the details are nice and crisp for the key stem, which is what I was worried about.  Label says the product sets in 24 hours, but fully hardens in 72 hours, so I'm going to let it cure before trying to cast a key cap.

By the way, the epoxy product is clear, I tried my hand at tinting it a light blue.  I also noticed that the two Escape keys I had on hand were different profiles, one was shorter (OEM?) than the PBT unit.  I used the taller cap for the impression in  the rubber mold, and the shorter cap for the epoxy base casting, figuring this will give me an option to cast a thick-topped key, perhaps in a different color-way for the top part of the cap.  Not sure I'm explaining that very clearly, but I'll post samples once I have some.

I've heard good things about that brand.  They were actually the one I was looking for, but they ended up costing a lot more than the Alumilite stuff I bought.  Since it was an early prototyping experiment, I decided to cheap a little.  It looks like that casting material has a higher fidelity, so that's nice to know.

Keep in mind that once you switch over to a two part mold for the top and bottom, it becomes a more difficult.  Doing something like that rotomold might help a little, but I wonder how it affects the strength of the cap.

I think I get you.  I've been trying to figure out a way to rig up a ghetto double shot mold and it sounds like that's what you're talking about.

Offline Tarzan

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #28 on: Wed, 20 March 2013, 17:39:23 »
That's pretty cool!  I've found a variety of mold-making resources online, including pressure (and/or vacuum) pots, but I had not seen anything about roto-molding! Might do something with a hollow key cap, filled with another color resin...  Hmm.

I did manage to extricate my sample key from the second mold I'd made.  I used a two-part rubber kind for stuff for the base, that's the yellow.  Once that was set, I sprayed it all down with mold release and poured a two-part epoxy casting over it, brand name is EasyCast. 

Pretty happy with how it turned out, the details are nice and crisp for the key stem, which is what I was worried about.  Label says the product sets in 24 hours, but fully hardens in 72 hours, so I'm going to let it cure before trying to cast a key cap.

By the way, the epoxy product is clear, I tried my hand at tinting it a light blue.  I also noticed that the two Escape keys I had on hand were different profiles, one was shorter (OEM?) than the PBT unit.  I used the taller cap for the impression in  the rubber mold, and the shorter cap for the epoxy base casting, figuring this will give me an option to cast a thick-topped key, perhaps in a different color-way for the top part of the cap.  Not sure I'm explaining that very clearly, but I'll post samples once I have some.

I've heard good things about that brand.  They were actually the one I was looking for, but they ended up costing a lot more than the Alumilite stuff I bought.  Since it was an early prototyping experiment, I decided to cheap a little.  It looks like that casting material has a higher fidelity, so that's nice to know.

Keep in mind that once you switch over to a two part mold for the top and bottom, it becomes a more difficult.  Doing something like that rotomold might help a little, but I wonder how it affects the strength of the cap.

I think I get you.  I've been trying to figure out a way to rig up a ghetto double shot mold and it sounds like that's what you're talking about.

The local Michael's has the EasyCast kit with two small bottles - each about four (?) ounces.  I didn't want to get a lot of stuff to try at first, eventually I've got a larger project in mind.  I also picked up some resin+hardener of a different brand, which was absolutely horrible to use indoors.  The stuff stank up the whole house, I moved it all out to the garage and last I checked it still hasn't cured. 

I'm a bit worried about using epoxy as both the mold and the product, but I like the details on the mold so far.  Keeping my fingers crossed...

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #29 on: Fri, 03 May 2013, 05:54:02 »
(Attachment Link)
Dude just thinking about that meme makes me want to laugh :))

Poor keycap, it's smiling but deep inside it wants to die!
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Offline esoomenona

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« Reply #30 on: Fri, 03 May 2013, 06:20:58 »
.
« Last Edit: Tue, 27 October 2015, 08:42:28 by esoomenona »

Offline F u r u y

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 03 May 2013, 07:19:32 »
I hope he's really happy and doesn't want to die anymore!


PS:

lmao
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Offline Krogenar

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 03 May 2013, 09:38:57 »
Bro, no. All he needed was a place he could call his own, where he is loved for who he is.

(Attachment Link)

This keycap absolutely slays me. The Sloth Keycap.


Just don't sing 'When the Bough Breaks' and we're good.

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Quote from: Samuel Adams
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Offline Thechemist

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 03 May 2013, 10:17:43 »
Quote
Hey you guys.. hahahaha



Offline cdemasy

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #34 on: Sat, 08 June 2013, 16:51:42 »
Have you made another? Would be awesome to see how it turned out!

Offline mkawa

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #35 on: Sat, 08 June 2013, 20:44:28 »
nubbin's made all kinds of cool crap. we're supposed to go checkout hacker spaces together, but he's busy like "getting a job" and junk like that. i mean, seriously. COME ON

to all the brilliant friends who have left us, and all the students who climb on their shoulders.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #36 on: Sat, 08 June 2013, 21:01:59 »
Have you made another? Would be awesome to see how it turned out!

I did but didn't photograph it.  My molds were then butchered for another project.  Before I go back to resin casting, I need to try and figure out a couple of things.  First, I need to figure out how to make a cheap, yet safe, pressure chamber for resin casting.  Hopefully that will help me with some of the issues I've had with some of the direct pour casting.  Second, I need to find a better resin.  I've been checking out some and I think I found one that would work better, but it's $50+ and I don't really have the spare cash for it right now.  Third, I need some better silicon mold making material, again, a funds issue.  If some of my USB cables sell and some of my keycap pullers sell, I should get some more money to put back into experimenting.

I may have found a place where I can use their centrifugal caster, so I might be able to experiment some more with my metal caps I've been messing with.  I just need to find a place where I can buy a small amount of zinc at a reasonable price.

nubbin's made all kinds of cool crap. we're supposed to go checkout hacker spaces together, but he's busy like "getting a job" and junk like that. i mean, seriously. COME ON

I just got back from Austin today for that very reason and have another interview for a different job coming up.  Once I get a steady source of income and a steady schedule, I'll definitely be able to delve more into my experiments and share my processes more.

Offline ApocalypseMaow

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #37 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 23:45:31 »
Maybe this could help?

feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.
That "emo" background music is Radiohead you uncultured swine!  ;D
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Offline Michael

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #38 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 23:52:54 »
Maybe this could help?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok4fAqjKMoI&feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.
That "emo" background music is Radiohead you uncultured swine!  ;D



Offline ApocalypseMaow

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #39 on: Sun, 30 June 2013, 00:38:31 »
Maybe this could help?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok4fAqjKMoI&feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.
That "emo" background music is Radiohead you uncultured swine!  ;D


Show Image

Don't you start with me!
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Offline Krogenar

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #40 on: Sun, 30 June 2013, 19:09:25 »
Maybe this could help?

feature=player_embedded

(ignore emo background music, LOL)

EDIT: Your keycap mold gets to experience SpaceCamp.
That "emo" background music is Radiohead you uncultured swine!  ;D

"Now is ze time on Sprockets vhen ve dance!"



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Quote from: Samuel Adams
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Offline korrelate

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #41 on: Sun, 30 June 2013, 23:07:59 »
So making homemade key caps is something that I've been wanting to try for a while.  I'm not what you would call a skilled artist, but I figured that if I can get the technique figured out, I might be able to get a friend who is to assist me.  I figured I'd share my results and my process so that anyone else who wanted to try to do the same could do it.


To begin, you'll need a volunteer key cap, masking tape, a razor blade, and some carving wax or some other carving medium (you could probably use some Crayons if you wanted).  For my key cap, I used one from the WASD sample kit.

(Attachment Link)

Set the cap on the masking tape.  Try to make it as flat as possible.  Then cut the tape flush with the key cap.

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

If you did it correctly, the base should look like this.

(Attachment Link)

Next, you need to melt the wax.  Use some sort of double boiler method to melt the wax.  I did mine by using a canning jar in a sauce pan.  Medium to medium high heat should do it.  You may need to use something to stir it to make sure it's properly melted.

(Attachment Link)

This was my first go at a wax mold. It's a wooden shim lined with saran wrap and taped together.  Just carefully place the key cap in face down.

Later I used a cardboard mold lined with saran wrap that was a little easier and seemed to work better.

(Attachment Link)

When the wax is melted, slowly pour it over the key cap.  Following that, let the wax sit for a little bit to cool down, but make sure not to wait too long.

(Attachment Link)

(Attachment Link)

Open up your mold and let it loose.  If you did it correctly, the wax should look something like this.

(Attachment Link)

(Attachment Link)

Next, you'll need to trim the wax to your carving size.  I highly recommend doing this while the wax is still warm and easily pliable.  You'll want to trim and even the base and get as close to the side wall as you can.  If you don't get close enough to the sides, your cap will be too wide for your keyboard, a problem I ran into with this first attempt.  To get the wax close enough to the side walls, you'll likely need to wait until it fully cools, but for the major trimming, it's best to do it while it's still warm.

(Attachment Link)

Here are the tools I used to then carve the key cap.

(Attachment Link)

Here's the finished product.  I'm not the most skilled artists, so I wanted to start with something a little easier to carve.

There are some problems with this cap that I didn't notice at first go.  First, it's way too tall and looks silly.  I had about 1/8" more room to carve down that I just didn't think about.  Second, I didn't follow my advice and left the sides a little too thick.  Third, I carved it sideways.  I forgot to check which side was the front of the cap and carved it 90 degrees off.  I corrected that last problem by rotating half the mold 90 degrees, but the other two weren't noticed until the mold was already made.

(Attachment Link)

For the molding supplies, I bought some Alumilite stuff from Hobby Lobby.  If you use their 40% off coupon they always have, it's not too expensive.  I think I bought the wrong molding silicon though and got a softer mold than I would like.

(Attachment Link)

Next you need to find some sort of form to put your mold in.  For mine, I used an old laundry detergent measuring cup.  You'll also want to put something in the bottom to lock the two halves of the mold together in the proper orientation.  For mine, I used some modeling clay.

(Attachment Link)

Mix your silicon with the reacting agent and pour it onto your keycap.  Wait overnight before pulling it out.  Since your mold is a two part mold, know that the mold making process is at least a two day job.

(Attachment Link)

To keep the two halves of the mold from bonding, you'll need some sort of mold release.  I used petroleum jelly for mine.  I just melted some in a spoon and applied it with a Q-tip. 

I also cut the base off of the detergent cup so I could slide it over the first half of the mold instead of pushing it to the bottom.

Then just mix and pour the silicon like before and wait till the next day.

(Attachment Link)

When you're done, you should get a mold like this.

(Attachment Link)

For my first try at a key cap, I used some resin. You'll naturally have some resin that pours out the edges that you'll need to trim up.  When you pour the resin, you'll need to wait 48 hours before attempting to demold the cap.

I'm not really happy with how it turned out.  The top half turned out alright (the eyes are a little messed up)...but there are some issues once you flip it over.

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

As you can see, the stem didn't turn out quite right.  It still fits just fine and actually holds it to the Cherry stem, but it has some wobble and play.

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

For a first try, it wasn't horrible, but there certainly needs to be more experimentation with materials used to make it right.

In the future, I might try for lost-wax casting with a fine medium like plaster of paris so I can make a metal cap or see if I can find another fairly affordable medium to use that's better than resin, but not as costly as trying to make a homemade plastic injection mold (which would set me back at least $400).

Very cool post! Yeah, it isn't MILSPEC or anything but I bet it was a lot of fun to do! Keep it up!!

Topre REALFORCE

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #42 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:10:52 »
I've been playing around with cap making some more of late.  TO be honest, I haven't really stopped since I've been playing with sand casting, wood, and other mediums.  About two months ago I decided to go back to resin though.  As such, Derp Cap v2 is alive.



I'm sitting here and can't stop laughing at the stupid thing.  For some reason I love it in spite of the flaws. 

It's so derpy looking for two reasons.  First, the master got all messed up when I was drying it.  I did some slap dash repairs that, truthfully, didn't help much.  In spite of that, I went ahead and made a mold for it.  Thus comes in part two.  Instead of being a good mold and separating into two parts, it decided I had to cut it in half, messing it up more.  In spite of all the obvious defects (which were clearly present in the original), I love this guy.  I've got a cyclops I should be posting tomorrow or the day after that should look a lot better since there weren't glaring defects with the master.

Hopefully once I get a degassing chamber set up and a find an affordable pressure pot, I'll start to get better results.  I've already gotten good results with more refined models than this special guy, so I have hope.
« Last Edit: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:13:12 by nubbinator »

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #43 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:13:34 »
I want some derp caps I will name them after some of my favorite people here.

Offline jiggityjane

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #44 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:17:21 »
I've been playing around with cap making some more of late.  TO be honest, I haven't really stopped since I've been playing with sand casting, wood, and other mediums.  About two months ago I decided to go back to resin though.  As such, Derp Cap v2 is alive.

Show Image


I'm sitting here and can't stop laughing at the stupid thing.  For some reason I love it in spite of the flaws. 

It's so derpy looking for two reasons.  First, the master got all messed up when I was drying it.  I did some slap dash repairs that, truthfully, didn't help much.  In spite of that, I went ahead and made a mold for it.  Thus comes in part two.  Instead of being a good mold and separating into two parts, it decided I had to cut it in half, messing it up more.  In spite of all the obvious defects (which were clearly present in the original), I love this guy.  I've got a cyclops I should be posting tomorrow or the day after that should look a lot better since there weren't glaring defects with the master.

Hopefully once I get a degassing chamber set up and a find an affordable pressure pot, I'll start to get better results.  I've already gotten good results with more refined models than this special guy, so I have hope.

I love how I can see your thumbprint in it :D

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #45 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:18:11 »
I've been playing around with cap making some more of late.  TO be honest, I haven't really stopped since I've been playing with sand casting, wood, and other mediums.  About two months ago I decided to go back to resin though.  As such, Derp Cap v2 is alive.

Show Image


I'm sitting here and can't stop laughing at the stupid thing.  For some reason I love it in spite of the flaws. 

It's so derpy looking for two reasons.  First, the master got all messed up when I was drying it.  I did some slap dash repairs that, truthfully, didn't help much.  In spite of that, I went ahead and made a mold for it.  Thus comes in part two.  Instead of being a good mold and separating into two parts, it decided I had to cut it in half, messing it up more.  In spite of all the obvious defects (which were clearly present in the original), I love this guy.  I've got a cyclops I should be posting tomorrow or the day after that should look a lot better since there weren't glaring defects with the master.

Hopefully once I get a degassing chamber set up and a find an affordable pressure pot, I'll start to get better results.  I've already gotten good results with more refined models than this special guy, so I have hope.

I love how I can see your thumbprint in it :D

That's the little guys hair!! ;)

Offline Krogenar

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #46 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 13:45:06 »
I love how I can see your thumbprint in it :D

Yeah, that makes it cooler. Awesome work nubbs.  :thumb:
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #47 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 15:30:56 »
I want some derp caps I will name them after some of my favorite people here.

Oh, believe me, I will share the derp.  The bottom turned out fantastic, just the top was all messed up.  I'm just playing around and experimenting more with different designs.  Sadly, one of my favorite ones I did got all messed up when I went to dry it out.  It was just this stupid grin on a cap with no eyes, nose, or any other part of a face.  Kind of like the don't panic face, but oh so much better.  I'm going to try and recreate it because it really was awesome.

I love how I can see your thumbprint in it :D

That's not a thumb print, it's totally hair :shifty eyes:. 

Yeah, that makes it cooler. Awesome work nubbs.  :thumb:

Thanks.  I'm hoping once I get the degasser set up for my silicone molds and figure out an affordable pressure pot, it will start to turn out much better.  I've already done some that turned out pretty awesome, but I'm not showing off that design yet.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #48 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 16:10:03 »
And new color for the derp cap:



I'm having too much fun with these.

And for all of those aspiring cap makers out there, my word of advice is to try a bunch of different resins, experiment with different mold making techniques, and find what works best for you. 

When it comes to coloring the caps, the only stuff I've had consistently good results with is the resin dyes like Alumilite makes and alcohol inks.  Alcohol inks actually seem to help harden up the resin faster and create an overall harder cap.  I want to try India ink, but it's a bit pricey.  And Jacquard Pearl-Ex doesn't work with the resins I've used, but it may work with some polyester resins based on what I've seen.

Offline domoaligato

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Re: My first attempt at homemade key caps...with interesting results.
« Reply #49 on: Mon, 02 December 2013, 16:33:41 »
I use bondo to fill and then resand again. Your imperfections can very easily be removed for a new master.