Author Topic: Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...  (Read 5259 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« on: Sun, 11 December 2011, 09:10:28 »
Long story short, I'm thinking about making myself a replica of the keyboards that you see in the Aperture Laboratories (from the Portal series of videogames). I've seen a couple of similar projects around, including one here from a fellow GeekHacker, but I'm looking to make as close a replica as possible. If it turns out to be as easy as I'm thinking it might be, I might make a couple more for some friends of mine who are also Portal fans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Portal, the ultimate goal is a keyboard that looks like this.

I was originally planning on using a Cherry G80-3000 as the base for this project, mainly because of the fact that it is the closest looking (mechanical) keyboard that I could find to the shape of the Portal keyboard I’m intending to recreate, but also because the keyboard seems to have a pretty decent reputation both around here, and with the few reviewers I looked at. I had intended to get one with MX Blue switches, as those are my favourite, but ran into a very weird availability issue. Basically, I couldn’t get a G80-3000 in Australia with both the US ANSI layout and MX Blue switches. Don’t ask me why. All of the suppliers I talked to evidently get all their keyboards from Cherry Direct Australia, who only have MX Blues and Browns in the ISO format, and the G80-3494 (with MX Reds) in the ANSI layout I wanted. I ended up getting the one with MX Reds, and its in the mail now.

I ended up deciding to change switch type for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t mind MX Reds, so it wasn’t like I was going to hate the keyboard. Secondly, I can change the stems and springs over to whatever I like, so even if I do want Blues down the track, I can order the parts from WASD Keyboards, and convert them myself. Thirdly, as I mentioned, this was the only variant of the G80 available in Australia with the ANSI layout (that I could find). I didn’t really want to go overseas for shipping cost related reasons, and because the ANSI layout is the layout featured on the keyboards in Portal, I wanted to keep it the same. Also I’m used to typing on the ANSI layout, so I wanted to keep it for that reason as well. The G80-3494 ended up costing me $80(AUD) plus $8(AUD) in shipping.

When the keyboard comes in the mail, I’ll be sanding the housing and painting it white. I’ll also attempt to stencil the Aperture Laboratories logo in orange over the top part of the housing. Following that I’ll be ordering the matching keycaps to fit the weird colour layout from WASD, and fitting those. All in all, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

I’ll keep updating this article with progress as the mod continues, and hopefully add some nice photos at the end. Any other questions/comments/ideas are *very* welcome, particularly if any of you have experience stencilling plastic, as I’m not 100% sure how to go about painting the logo on yet.

Cheers.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 11 December 2011, 21:34:05 »
For the record, guys, I've decided to go ahead with this mod.

I'll post photos and stuff as I progress, but don't expect things to happen very quickly.
Its all subject to how quick I can get my hands on a G80-3000, and my available spare time (of which there hasn't been much lately, with work and everything).

Don't hesitate to post comments/questions/ideas if you've got any.

Cheers.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline SmallFry

  • ** Moderator Emeritus
  • Posts: 3887
  • Location: Wisconsin, USA
  • Leaving 6/15; returning 6/22 or so.
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 15:06:55 »
What's so spectacular about this board? I've only played portal a little (amazing it may be) but the weird otaku caps throw me off something horrible.

Offline Findecanor

  • Posts: 4297
  • Location: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Dans öl tarvö... "Pöngö"
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 16:06:25 »
Quote
Obviously I can buy all the different coloured keys from WASD Keyboards, so there's no issue there

I believe that the Caps Lock key is different. Centered stem on the WASD, and offset stem on the Cherry G80-3000.

Instead of WASD, then maybe you could get a black G80-3000 to get the black (POM) keys. A drawback is that Cherry's POM keys are more slippery.
For the coloured, keys, get some light grey (PBT) keys from fellow Geekhackers and dye them with Rit Dye.
I don't think that you would have any problems painting a black case white.

I have tried to dye light grey PBT keys black with Rit Dye, but failed at that... but that may be just me.

Quote
Thats why I was hoping there would be some of you that could explain to me a bit better about the construction/finish of the casing of the G80-3000, and how easy it is to take apart.

It is not that difficult. The case consists of a top and a bottom snapped together. Turn the keyboard over and pry open each snap in turn with a flat-head screwdriver while using your other hand to hold the halves apart.
Once you have the top off, lift the keyboard PCB over to expose two screws on the controller PCB under the ribbon cable. Once those are off, you just lift the guts out. Be careful not to bend the paper-ribbon cable too much.

Quote
If I need to sand the housing back to get rid of the Cherry logo, and make the finish less glossy, I don't mind putting in the effort to make that happen.

Like most electronics, it is textured plastic. It is not glossy. You can feel the Cherry logo, though, so it would be best to sand it off, I think.

Here is a modified MX-11801 that I painted white. The case (was) not that different from the G80-3000's, except for the layout and that it has screws instead of snaps. (I did some modifications to both the PCB and the case to get this custom layout, but that is another topic...)
I did sand off the logo and sanded the case smoother before I painted it. I painted the halves with a few coats of "primer" (spray can), sanded them with 400 grit sand paper and then painted a few coats of Duplicolor Satin White (spray can).

"Wet-sanding" is better than dry, because dust is not flying around. Rinse and leave to dry after each sanding. If you use different grit, don't have too large steps: because that won't eliminate streaks from lower grit. 250 - 400 - 600 is good.

When painting, follow the instructions on the cans to the letter. It is better to spray many thin layers -- especially when painting the top coats, so that you avoid paint runs. The surface does not have to get entirely covered the first time.  Spray from all sides, and make sure to get paint inside each key well and in the seam between case halves also. Do it outside or in a well ventilated area, with something to cover the table underneath. I had mine propped up on a few empty toiled paper rolls on a table on the balcony during the summer.
It might take a few days to get it painted, including time it takes for the paint to dry. However, in actual work-time, you spend more sanding and cleaning than doing actual painting. As harrison typed above: the quality of the result depends on the prep.

I don't think there are any problems with using a black case. The primer will cover the black.

I don't think that you need to worry about the white paint wearing off. The case does not get that much wear, at least not compared to the keys. My keyboard was used every day at work for three months before the picture was taken.
« Last Edit: Thu, 15 December 2011, 16:21:33 by Findecanor »

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 18:09:49 »
Quote from: SmallFry;471571
What's so spectacular about this board? I've only played portal a little (amazing it may be) but the weird otaku caps throw me off something horrible.

Nothing spectacular, to be honest, I guess it was just a cool idea I had while I was playing Portal. Figured it was a good way to get to learn a bit more about modding and painting, etc., before I try to do anything serious.
With respect to the weird otaku keycaps, it shouldn't be too much of a problem for me, as I can touch type. I kind of feel like I should try to replicate the keyboard from the game as close as I can, especially considering how easy it becomes when WASD can supply the keycaps. There doesn't seem like there's much point if I'm going to half-arse it, I guess.

Quote from: harrison;471608
well, WASD keycaps make this a very simple mod to do, unless you're doing something with Cherry ABS DS keys and RIT dye (which would make this a mod worth bragging about).  As for painting the case, it's all about prep.  There's number of posts about case painting, and there's an unending ammount of youtube resources on the topic, 90% of the end result is the prep and duration of time between coats.

Like I said, I'm a bit green, and I'm not terribly keen on jumping straight in to dying keys, etc.
Glad to know that its not going to matter terribly which colour base keyboard I get. Thats going to make finding one a bit easier. At the moment its looking like I'll have to get one from either Amazon.UK or KeyboardCo, although I haven't checked to see if KBC ship to Australia.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 18:19:29 »
Quote from: Findecanor;471620
I believe that the Caps Lock key is different. Centered stem on the WASD, and offset stem on the Cherry G80-3000.

Thats not good news. I did notice that the Caps Lock keycap on the Cherry is the kind with the little step in it, whereas WASD don't seem to make those.
This kind of throws a spanner in the works because, as I mentioned earlier, I was planning for this to be kind of a newb mod without any dying or anything.

Quote from: Findecanor;471620
It is not that difficult. The case consists of a top and a bottom snapped together. Turn the keyboard over and pry open each snap in turn with a flat-head screwdriver while using your other hand to hold the halves apart.
Once you have the top off, lift the keyboard PCB over to expose two screws on the controller PCB under the ribbon cable. Once those are off, you just lift the guts out. Be careful not to bend the paper-ribbon cable too much.

Thanks. I wasn't expecting there to be any major issues with respect to the disassembly of the keyboard, I just thought I had better ask as a precaution so I don't $80+ bucks on a keyboard that is pretty cool on its own, but not really what I wanted. It wouldn't have been a total loss. From what I hear they're still a very nice board, although the consensus seems to be that they're not built like a Filco.

Quote from: Findecanor;471620
Like most electronics, it is textured plastic. It is not glossy. You can feel the Cherry logo, though, so it would be best to sand it off, I think.

I expected this, too. I don't really mind that I'm going to have to sand it. Time and effort is something I've got plenty to spend lately, which is half the reason I thought I'd undertake this.

Also, thanks for the pile of advice with respect to painting. Between the stuff you've just given me, and YouTube I'm not so worried about the painting any more. Good to hear that it doesn't wear off, as well.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline Findecanor

  • Posts: 4297
  • Location: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Dans öl tarvö... "Pöngö"
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 19:11:16 »
Quote from: Henry Allen Venture;471674
Thats not good news. I did notice that the Caps Lock keycap on the Cherry is the kind with the little step in it, whereas WASD don't seem to make those.
This kind of throws a spanner in the works because, as I mentioned earlier, I was planning for this to be kind of a newb mod without any dying or anything.
You could order a WASD Row 1, Size 1×1.25 key cap separately, and put at the Caps Lock position. It is not the exact profile for that row and there would be a gap on the right, but at least the keyboard is black inside ... :-/

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 15 December 2011, 21:05:56 »
Quote from: Findecanor;471697
You could order a WASD Row 1, Size 1×1.25 key cap separately, and put at the Caps Lock position. It is not the exact profile for that row and there would be a gap on the right, but at least the keyboard is black inside ... :-/

That sounds like a pretty good idea. Seeing as how keycaps are so cheap, I'll probably get a few extra just in case.
I suppose if I'm not happy with how it looks I can just dye the caps lock key from the G80-3000. Then that'll probably stand out from the rest of the WASD keys, and I'll end up dying all of them.
I'll get a full set of blank black keys in case this happens, that way I can still use the black ones on one of my other boards if I feel like it, rather than having a bunch missing, and get the coloured ones individually.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #8 on: Fri, 06 January 2012, 02:19:23 »
Update:

Had to put this idea back on the shelf for a while, things have picked up heaps at work and my spare time is prettymuch non-existent at the moment.

At this stage, I'm still looking for a reasonably priced G80-3000 to be shipped to Australia.

At any rate, I'll keep this article up-to-date as things move forward, but I wouldn't be expecting any serious progress to be made in the near future.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns

Offline Henry Allen Venture

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 183
Yet Another Portal Keyboard Mod...
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 29 January 2012, 20:39:31 »
Another update:

Updated the main article a couple of days ago.

Received my G80-3494 in the mail today. I'll probably buy the sandpaper and paint today, but I want to use the keyboard as-is for a while before I start to destroy it.

I'll take some photos and update the article again when things progress further. No telling when that will be. I'm flat out at work, so it won't be at least until this weekend.
Current collection:
Filco Majestouch 104-Key, w/ MX Browns
IBM Model M 52G9700
Leopold FC200R, "white" w/ MX Clears
Ducky DK9008S \'Shining\', white backlit w/ MX Blues
Cherry G80-3494(LCYUS-2), w/ MX Reds for Portal Mod

Not mine, but I\'ve got access to:
Filco Majestouch Linear R Limited Edition, w/ MX Reds
Filco Majestouch 2 \'Ninja\' Tenkeyless, w/ MX Blues
Leopold FC500R, w/ MX Browns