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Making exotic wood artisan keycaps

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TomahawkLabs:
I'm in the process of building my own CNC, well currently working on an enclosure, but do you have a formal background in CNC operation? My goals are to create custom cases and reimaged layouts of vintage keyboards, specifically Alps and Snow White design era Apple Keyboards. Were there any resources that really helped with the workflow of creating your own parts?

failKeys:
I have been doing this for almost 20 years. My dad was a machinist. So a lot of this is just experience, especially figuring out how to fixture things. Fixturing is 90% of the job on little irregular parts like keycaps.

Easiest place to start I think would be designing your part in fusion 360, and then using their CAM tools to learn how to set up machining. There are plenty of tutorials on how to use it. Cases cover a pretty big range of complexity. Tray cases are popular (sorry to burst anyone's bubble) because they are super cheap and easy to make, not because they have any other redeeming features. Stick block of aluminium in vise. Cut bottom. Flip. Cut top. Done. Charge $125 for $22 worth of aluminium and 1 hours labour. Profit! :)

TomahawkLabs:

--- Quote from: failKeys on Fri, 15 December 2023, 10:02:35 ---I have been doing this for almost 20 years. My dad was a machinist. So a lot of this is just experience, especially figuring out how to fixture things. Fixturing is 90% of the job on little irregular parts like keycaps.

Easiest place to start I think would be designing your part in fusion 360, and then using their CAM tools to learn how to set up machining. There are plenty of tutorials on how to use it. Cases cover a pretty big range of complexity. Tray cases are popular (sorry to burst anyone's bubble) because they are super cheap and easy to make, not because they have any other redeeming features. Stick block of aluminium in vise. Cut bottom. Flip. Cut top. Done. Charge $125 for $22 worth of aluminium and 1 hours labour. Profit! :)

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I love the honesty. My plan was to create a top mount case with bottom cover, so the top part of the case is a double sided milling operation where you would mill the flat bottom pockets and mounting holes and then mill the top side details since the top will be angled and not be easily machined first. Thank you for all the tips!

failKeys:
That was the premise of this design. But it threw up some roadblocks primarily about the angle and USB location. I then separated into smaller parts that bolt together, with an ABS plate. Still a bit annoying. To be clear, making ONE is easy. you just do what you gotta do and if it take 9 hours of personal time and a bunch of hot glue, no big deal. But if you want to "produce" them, it is a whole different topic.

TomahawkLabs:

--- Quote from: failKeys on Fri, 15 December 2023, 10:44:24 ---That was the premise of this design. But it threw up some roadblocks primarily about the angle and USB location. I then separated into smaller parts that bolt together, with an ABS plate. Still a bit annoying. To be clear, making ONE is easy. you just do what you gotta do and if it take 9 hours of personal time and a bunch of hot glue, no big deal. But if you want to "produce" them, it is a whole different topic.

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I saw my spouse spin up a business and I have seen other makers in the KB space unable to handle orders due to life and I don't want that stress nor do I want people to think lowly of me because I overcommitted. I have 2 kids who are in activities and a full time job. I want to create keyboards for myself. Keyboards that don't exist and keyboards I want to use. My personal favorite keyboard is the Apple M3501, which I have hand wired and use at work.

So yeah, if it takes 40hrs of prep/milling/finishing for a single keyboard, i'd never be able to sell the product for it's "value" and would either be undercutting existing maker businesses or undervaluing myself and I want neither of those things.

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