Author Topic: How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)  (Read 10741 times)

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Offline AKIMbO

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« on: Sun, 10 June 2012, 08:18:20 »
I saw the discontent with another member's modding services so I figured I would make this post and let others know that you do not need a fancy jig to modify a stepped caps lock key.

Tools needed:
End nipper
Sharp knife or razor blade
Epoxy glue
Ruler or level
Metal file or dremel

Step 1) Harvest a stem from a spare key you no longer need or want.  I used a spare SP key cap stem as the heights are similar to imsto's key caps (the key cap I will be modding).  A very sharp knife or a pair of wire cutters will work fine to harvest the stem.  Do not use the end nipper to cut the stem off directly.  You must cut around the stem with the end nippers.  Once you cut the majority of the key cap away from the stem then you use a sharp knife/razor blade to slice the stem away from the remaining portion of the key cap.  The stem must be sliced evenly.  If it is not, you can use a metal file or dremel to level the stem.

Step 2) Cut the off-center stem out of the key cap directly (i.e. do not cut around the stem).  I use an end nipper (seen below).  Sand down the remaining off-center stem with a metal file or dremel.  Some off-center stepped caps lock key caps have a ridge that slightly protrudes from the key cap.  This ridge must also be filed down.  I used a dremel to file this ridge down.


Step 3) Place a center stemmed caps lock key parallel to the now de-stemmed stepped caps lock key.  Line up the keys as best as possible and mark on the stepped caps lock key cap both sides of where the center stem will be placed.  To do this, I use a ruler and line up the stem off the center stemmed caps lock with the now de-stemmed stepped caps lock key cap.



Step 4) Use epoxy glue to glue the harvested stem in the stepped caps lock key.  Glue the stem inside the lines you marked in step  3.  As an added precaution, I keep the center stemmed non-stepped caps lock key cap evenly parallel while gluing to eyeball the stem placement in the stepped caps lock key cap.  

Step 5) Let the glue sit for 30 seconds.  During this time period the glue will firm up a tad but still remain pliable.  After 30 seconds, fine tune the stem placement and twist the stem left or right so that the cross pattern matches that of the center stemmed non-stepped caps lock key cap.

Step 6) Let sit for a few hours.

Step 7) Place stepped caps lock key cap on keyboard and enjoy.


Things to note:
-You can do this process multiple times on a keycap until it is perfect.  This is not a one shot deal.  If the placement is off, simply use a sharp metal tool (I used a sewing needle) to get under the glue and pry the glued stem away from the key cap.  All of the glue, along with the stem, will cleanly separate from the key cap thus allowing you to do the mod on the same key cap again.

-It will be nearly impossible to get the height of the key cap perfect.  As you can see in the the pictures below, the height is not exactly perfect.  My stepped caps lock key is a fraction of a millimeter too high, but I can live with it.  Especially since this mod only takes ten minutes to complete and it is FREE.





This post is still a work in progress.  If anyone is interested in further instruction on this mod I will elaborate on the techniques above. See post#5 for a jig vs no jig comparison.
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 June 2012, 18:29:48 by AKIMbO »
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Offline placebo guy

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #1 on: Tue, 12 June 2012, 04:52:49 »
Looks good.  I'll be doing this for my Leopold FC500 spacebar.
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Offline MadScientist46

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 12 June 2012, 05:28:29 »
Very, very nice work!

Last weekend I modded my stepped capslock, too.
Personally, I built a jig, because I'm not a very talented guy when it comes to this kind of work. But that didn't seem like Algebra either, so I decided to give it a shot. In retroperspective, it also might have worked as well without the jig....
I would encourage everyone thinking about doing this: Do it! With all the help in this forum, you can do it yourself and don't need someone to do it for you!

Like your capslock, mine is also slightly too high, estimated 1mm. The step seems to stop it from going further down when mounting it on the switch. I already tried to grind off some plastic from the inside, but that doesn't seem to be enough.

But since its only noticable for me because I know it, and I can't feel the difference while typing, I just start to forget it and can live with it.
(BTW, if somebody knows how to get rid of the slightly bigger height, pls post ur recommendations^^)

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« Last Edit: Tue, 12 June 2012, 08:42:56 by MadScientist46 »
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Offline Maarten

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 12 June 2012, 09:13:29 »
The higher placement is because you are not able to bottom out all the way, so the cap's sleeve will not slide down as far over the switches stem as its supposed to cuz the caps shoulder bottoms out before the switch does. You either have to mod the cap so it can bottom out (remove dangerous amounts of plastic from the inside of the shoulder), remove plastic from the top of the switch housing (weakening the housing so it could break when pulling caps off) OR you could use my patented center-stem-modded-stepped-caps-mounting-trick (tm)!

This trick actually involves dis-assembly of the board in question and modification of the actual capslock switch so it is not for the faint of heart. Basically what you do is when looking at the back of the PCB use the pointiest hobby/x-acto knife you can find and drill a tiny little hole in the mounting base of the switch (the plastic round thing you should be able to see sticking out of the back of the PCB). Put a little toohpick through the hole to prevent the switches stem from moving to the actuating position and press down your modded capslock cap, it will now slide all the way over the switches stem like you want it to. When doing this, be very careful that you dont get any plastic inside the housing as it could mess up the switch functionality very very easy.

Good luck modders!

Offline AKIMbO

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 15 June 2012, 18:18:49 »
I was asked by a couple Geekhackers to modify some off-center stepped caps lock key caps for them.  In an effort to produce a more uniform and precise result every single time, I built a jig today.  

The jig allowed me to use a wider plastic base for the key cap stem.  This greatly improved the feel of the modded key cap.  The key cap that I modded without the jig felt mushy and muddy when pressed.  The feel was due to the glue hitting the cherry mx switch housing.  With the jig, the plastic base of the key cap stem now makes contact with the cherry mx switch housing.  The modded key cap now feels nearly identical to a stock center-stemmed caps lock key cap...plus, the stem gluing looks a lot cleaner too.

Some pictures of the key cap being glued on the jig:





A picture of the modded key cap with a stock center stemmed caps lock key cap:
Done with a jig


Done without a jig


The final result:






As you can see in the pictures above, the height of the stepped key cap is still a little higher than a stock center stemmed caps lock key cap.  The main advantage to using a jig is keeping as close as possible the original feel of the key cap actuating the cherry mx switch.  

If anyone would like me to mod their off center stepped caps lock key cap to center stemmed please PM me.  
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 June 2012, 18:30:47 by AKIMbO »
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Offline Maarten

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 16 June 2012, 05:17:24 »
More glue does not a stonger bond make.... ever.

You should just make sure that the two pieces your are gluing together fit like a glove and that the two mating surfaces are as rough as can be without having any loose debris (roughness = more surface area for the glue to work on)

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Also the choice of glue is very important, if you are for example gluing a ABS stem to a ABS cap you could use some specific ABS glue which is basically a strong solvent that slightly dissolves the mating surfaces and mixes them together creating a bond as strong as the material itself when the solvent evaporates (unlike 'universal' glues that will never be stronger than the amount of stickyness they can produce at the surfaces).

Simple test to see if your glue is good for the material; Glue two test-pieces together, let the glue set and rip em apart. If all of the glue ends up cleanly on either one of the parts then the glue is wrong or incorrectly applied. A good result would be the glue breaking in the middle of 'itself' if using a weaker than the material glue (leaving residue on both glued parts) or if one of the two actual parts breaks (so one part having all the glue and a bit of the other part).

Offline AKIMbO

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 16 June 2012, 07:14:01 »
Yes...I don't know if I mentioned it above, but I use a metal file and sand paper to rough up the bottom of the key cap stem which allows the glue to better adhere to the key cap.  

I don't use a plastics hobby glue that will melt the key cap stem onto the key cap itself because I like to be able to redo the key cap mod if it isn't 100% perfect.  The epoxy glue I use it rated at 2500 psi so it is exceptionally strong.  Strong enough for key cap mods and then some.
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Offline Maarten

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 16 June 2012, 07:37:23 »
Quote from: AKIMbO;614685
Yes...I don't know if I mentioned it above, but I use a metal file and sand paper to rough up the bottom of the key cap stem which allows the glue to better adhere to the key cap.  

I don't use a plastics hobby glue that will melt the key cap stem onto the key cap itself because I like to be able to redo the key cap mod if it isn't 100% perfect.  The epoxy glue I use it rated at 2500 psi so it is exceptionally strong.  Strong enough for key cap mods and then some.

Unfortunately those beautiful ratings that glue manufacturers love to put on their products are ratings on the glue itself under optimal conditions between optimal materials and they will say nothing about the adhesive properties on all materials in existence (what will always be the problem for any glue). But as long as its working well enough for you then its ok.

However, about the hobby-bonding glues they should be no problem with that beautiful rig you built there as it will always guarantee a straight fit. If for whatever reason the stem did not come out 100% after all you can always remove it the hard way like you did with the original stem, if you do not use too much glue then a couple tries should be no problem for thick caps (too much glue will make the solvent soak into the cap itself damaging and weakening the material). Might be worth a try or two with cheapy caps youll throw out otherwise....

Offline AKIMbO

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 16 June 2012, 07:43:26 »
Quote from: Maarten;614688
Unfortunately those beautiful ratings that glue manufacturers love to put on their products are ratings on the glue itself under optimal conditions between optimal materials and they will say nothing about the adhesive properties on all materials in existence (what will always be the problem for any glue). But as long as its working well enough for you then its ok.

However, about the hobby-bonding glues they should be no problem with that beautiful rig you built there as it will always guarantee a straight fit. If for whatever reason the stem did not come out 100% after all you can always remove it the hard way like you did with the original stem, if you do not use too much glue then a couple tries should be no problem for thick caps (too much glue will make the solvent soak into the cap itself damaging and weakening the material). Might be worth a try or two with cheapy caps youll throw out otherwise....

Maybe I will experiment with some plastics hobby glue then since you say the mod would be reversible if I don't use too much of it.  

The jig is good and ensures a great alignment (both vertical and horizontal) 99% of the time.  However, there are some weird variances with Filco chasis that I've noticed around the tab-capslock-left shift area.  For example, on my camo filco very few cherry capslock key caps fit without grinding the left side of the keycap down a little...but on my Filco ninja, cherry capslock keycaps fit perfectly without any grinding/sanding.  Same thing happened with SP keycaps from the Ragnorock blood keycap set.  I had to grind down the left side of the caps lock keycap to get it to fit on the camo...but it fit fine on the Filco ninja (a few other Geekhackers had this problem too...albeit on different Filco boards).

Maarten, if there any glue you recommend in particular?
« Last Edit: Sat, 16 June 2012, 07:48:20 by AKIMbO »
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Offline Maarten

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How to: Modify stepped caps lock key cap (jig vs. no jig)
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 16 June 2012, 08:03:38 »
Well, its not exactly reversible (no destructive method is) but you can just snap the misaligned stem off with your pliers if you're unhappy with the result. However you should always try new methods on parts you're willing to lose (so dont start experimenting on those super rare quadruple-shots just in case).

As far as recommendations go id say just hop on to a local hobby store and see whats available and what the seller suggests (dont talk to the 12yo behind the counter, see if you can find the owner lol). Keep in mind that these glues unlike many epoxy's do need evaporative space so 'trapping' your glue under a cap in a rig might not be a wise idea, better drill an extra hole or two in the rig so the glue can breathe a bit.