Author Topic: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!  (Read 44679 times)

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Offline retrochick

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Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 16:41:14 »
Hello everyone!

Curiosity got the better of me and I've decided to try my hand at keycap making. I've seen a lot of great work crop up recently and felt really inspired by some of the artisans on here (namely Bro, Binge, Booper, and Whizzard) and plus, I wanted to learn a few things about sculpting, mold-making, and resin casting. Additionally, there is a wealth of information on here about how to best go about making keycaps, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I have a lifetime love of drawing and sketching, so I figured I would also enjoy sculpting. It's a medium I've never really explored, however there is always a first for everything!

I drew up a few keycap inspirations and ordered some Super Sculpey and some tools. As I await some thick blank pbts from Singapore (thanks Gutz!), I decided to prototype out one of my keycap designs. I've found that I tend to prefer harder clays - Super Sculpey gives a nice range of flexibility when it comes to malleability: it warms up and softens nicely, however it can also harden up a bit and still allow you to sculpt the finer details. It's extremely versatile and I like that I can go back and refine the design with no 'hard-stop.' This is especially important in the first design/prototype phase.

Here is my initial design of a keycap:
105903-0

I've always loved the idea of a fantasy figure keycap and am a sucker for all things weird/strange. I have a few other ideas along similar veins that I'm looking to explore as well.  :eek:

I also enjoy sculpting more lifelike/humanoid forms because they are easily relatable. I'd like introduce Goyle, my goblin to everyone:
105911-1
105905-2
105907-3
105909-4

I am about 70% satisfied with how he came out (I decided to forgo the conehead) - there are still lots of adjustments to be made (ears, nose, etc), however I wanted to share and document my progress. Once the keycaps arrive I'll proceed to adapt Goyle to his keycap base and I'm sure there will need to be adjustments to accomodate the form of the keycap. I just wanted to get an overall undestanding of sculpting something and how to treat a 3d object as opposed to a 2d object. You have to consider each and every angle and make sure it looks acceptable. I think that's the hardest part - adapting my designs to multiple perspectives.

Overall this has been a pretty fun experience so far. I know this is just the beginning - there's still TONs to learn about mold-making and resin casting. If any of you have any advice or tips, I'll gladly take it!


TLDR;
I like drawing and decided to make some keycaps.

[UPDATE 9-13-15]
New Keycap design! I'm proud to present to you:
SHARPEI BÉRET! :)
110904-5
110906-6



[UPDATE 10-12-15]
Casted some caps! Crappy potato pics below:
Sharpei Béret
113587-7

Frank N Cap
113589-8

Cold Yeti
113591-9
« Last Edit: Sun, 24 September 2017, 22:10:56 by retrochick »


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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 16:43:01 »
reserved


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Offline ImpendingxDoom

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 16:47:42 »
Looks great! I am also learning quite a bit about casting if you need any info or ideas!

Looking forward to seeing the end result

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 16:49:03 »
Looks like a great start, unfortunate clay colour though - it looks more chubby baby face than goblin at first glance :))
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Offline ironpup

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 17:31:23 »
Looking good, keep up the good work

Offline Booper

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 17:36:30 »
COOL!!! Nice start!

I'm not a pro, but I know a few things about the process! Feel free to ask if you have any questions about casting, and keep up the good work! I'm eager to see this thread develop.   :thumb:
**** slack. DM me here if you need me!


Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 19:56:38 »
Thanks you guys for your kind words! And thanks to Doom and Booper for your generosity! I'm sure I'll be asking a lot of questions once I get to the molding/casting phase!

Looks like a great start, unfortunate clay colour though - it looks more chubby baby face than goblin at first glance :))

Haha I know. The beige clay was the only one on sale so I bought it. Once I start casting I'll be aiming for a trans or neon green color for the goblin :).


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Offline rm-rf

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 19:59:45 »
yep, i need this.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 18 July 2015, 22:05:41 »
Awww he's so cute grumpy.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 19 July 2015, 05:14:33 »
Thanks you guys for your kind words! And thanks to Doom and Booper for your generosity! I'm sure I'll be asking a lot of questions once I get to the molding/casting phase!

Looks like a great start, unfortunate clay colour though - it looks more chubby baby face than goblin at first glance :))

Haha I know. The beige clay was the only one on sale so I bought it. Once I start casting I'll be aiming for a trans or neon green color for the goblin :).

Excellent, I like caps in appropriate colours :thumb:
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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 21 July 2015, 23:22:46 »
Goyle the goblin got put on a keycap! It took me 3 tries before I was finally happy with this reincarnation of him. I must say, having the model master totally helped and served as a style guide for how I wanted him to look. My first two tries were 1) too low profile and 2) too high profile. The third try was too small to fit on the keycap and details were lost. This latest try is a bit better. I was able to stretch his features out a bit on the keycap base.

106160-0106162-1106164-2106166-3106168-4106170-5106172-6

Still need to test fitment (whether or not the ears will interfere with the other neighboring keycaps), and needs some more refinement.

Progress it's getting there.  :))

In other news I'll probably drive down to Harbor Freight this weekend and get some pressure pot/vacuum supplies.  :eek:


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Offline v0idtek

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 21 July 2015, 23:44:26 »
This looks pretty great already. Cool design too, kind of getting tired of variants of robots.
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Offline zazie_rx

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 22 July 2015, 09:47:06 »
Very cool! can't wait to see some of your casts.

Offline whizzard

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 23 July 2015, 06:47:46 »
retro I LOVE it!  I am so impressed by your first sclupt :)  looks so good... you put my early attempts to shame!

If you have any questions, feel free to message me.  This hobby is about trial and error to start with, so don't ever be upset if casts don't come out right at first.  I have a jar on my desk FULL of duds, at least 100 probably more... luckily since our parts are so small, it doesn't break the bank on resin to keep trying new methods and ideas.  Be ready to make a mess as well, I am clean as possible and my hands are still always get stained some different color.  You have the right idea working on a craft mat... be prepared to get tons of stuff stuck to it!

You have the right idea about starting with some kind of idea of what you want to sculpt (the sketching)... I do that and it helps so much.  I know you like the sculpey... but if you want to try something a bit different, look into epoxy putty.  A lot of designers find it too hard to work with, but since I practiced with it a lot I love it and I can't go back to clay.  It is used by sculptors to create miniatures (like tiny figures) so it has its advantages in making keycaps.  My favorite brand is called "Procreate" and you can find it on Amazon.  It is like 20 bucks for a packet of it, but it lasts forever.  I have made tons of little sclupts and I am not even 1/3 of the way thru the material.  Once you learn to work with it you can do some really fun stuff.

Once you make some clean casts of your design there I want one!!  I know he is a goblin, but since you used that color he looks like an angry old man to me :) (with some crazy teeth) I love it.
« Last Edit: Thu, 23 July 2015, 07:06:50 by whizzard »

Offline whizzard

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 23 July 2015, 06:59:29 »

In other news I'll probably drive down to Harbor Freight this weekend and get some pressure pot/vacuum supplies.  :eek:


Just a note on the pressure pot... if you are working indoors,  you might want to invest in an air compressor that is designed to be quiet.  I ended up ordering one made by California Air Tools.  The compressors at Harbor Freight are unspeakably loud.  Again shoot me a message with any questions... if there is a mistake to be made when doing this hobby, I have made it  ;)

edit:  the level of detail you achieved on this key using sculpey is amazing!  You must have small and steady hands  :thumb:
« Last Edit: Thu, 23 July 2015, 19:30:48 by whizzard »

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 23 July 2015, 22:22:02 »
Wow whizzard, thank you SO much for your kind words and awesome pieces of advice! I'll be sure to message you once I get all my supplies/equipment ready for casting (I had no idea there are so many components, oi!).

I will for sure try and get a quiet air compressor - I'll likely be doing this in my garage, however it's still nice to not disturb your neighbors.

As for sculpey, I'm not bonded to it by any means - and actually having worked with it for a bit now I would say it's still a tad too soft for my tastes. I want to be able to carve finer details and am struggling with executing that with clay. I may have to give epoxy putty a try! I will still prototype with sculpey, as it has no set time so I can always go back and refine my designs indefinitely. Thank you for the recommendation - you're awesome. And I was totally going to surprise you with the goblin keycap once I had a good one, but you beat me to the surprise  :D.

In other news, I ran into some fitment issues with my latest sculpt, so I went back to the drawing board on how to best translate my goblin onto a keycap. The latest prototype was too big, as his ears and neck fat were interfering with neighboring keycaps. So, I've gone with this design which does not interfere with the other neighboring keycaps:

106398-0
106400-1
106402-2
106404-3 some details of the forehead
106406-4 here you can see it next to the last prototype

The sizing is much better, and I feel pretty good about where the keycap is finally headed.

I think I've reached (from a design standpoint) a happy compromise between staying true to the original concept while making adjustments to make it fit properly on a keycap. I have to work with the keycap, not against it.

I did have one question that I'm hoping some fellow makers can answer:
What's the purpose of partially filling in the bottom of the keycap where the stem is? Is it for structural purposes to make the keycap more stable?

Also, yes, I do have small hands and they totally come in handy when it comes to sculpting tiny things! (Bad joke, sorry folks)  ^-^


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Offline KatzenKinder

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 00:50:19 »
Nice! I dig the pointy ears~

I think it blends well with the shape of the cap; I think it's easy sometimes to just pile stuff on top and not really integrate the form into the cap, but I think you've done a good job with this sculpt.

Offline whizzard

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 01:22:24 »
I did have one question that I'm hoping some fellow makers can answer:
What's the purpose of partially filling in the bottom of the keycap where the stem is? Is it for structural purposes to make the keycap more stable?


Yes you have it, helps with stability.  It also gives the key a little more weight and feels more well made and less flimsy.  You also don't want the stem too long or it might break or warp.  That's why I make sure to have a nice little fill anyhow.

And I see you ran into the old clearance problem.  Looks like you dealt with it pretty well.  Not easy when you are molding on top of a cap... is that what your doing?  Because you cant really use the little bit of space that is vacant on the inside part of the cap.  If you look at my angry cap, you can see how I tried using the clearance problem to my advantage by working inwards instead of outwards.   You don't really notice it much with the naked eye, but you can get away with a lot more stuff on the top of the key than you can on the bottom.  Unless you work in like I said earlier, the bottom 1/4 or so can't be built on barely at all or it will rub with it's neighbor and have clearance issues.

Here is a pic of my second sculpt.. it was "Biggie Smalls".  I snapped a pic next to a standard keycap for scale so u see what I mean.  I loved it, but had to scrap it immediately as I was so far off on clearance (being new) that it was basically un-recoverable.  Yep so keep clearance in mind and try to use it to your advantage .... keep it up  :thumb:

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Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 20:31:41 »
Hint 1:  If you're worried about clearance, sand the sides of the caps down.  GMK and Cherry caps give you more room on the outside after sanding than SP caps do. 

Hint 2:  Painting the inside of the stem prior to making your mold helps significantly with fitment.

Word of advice:  If you do buy a pressure pot, avoid Harbor Freight and get something legit.

Offline ImpendingxDoom

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 21:07:20 »

Word of advice:  If you do buy a pressure pot, avoid Harbor Freight and get something legit.

No joke.

Highly recommend a rated pot. Its basically a bomb that you keep in your house.

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 22:59:05 »
Thanks Whizzard, Nubs and Doom for your tips and advice!

To answer your question, yes I'm sculpting on top of the cap. It's given me a pretty limited canvas to work on as is, so instead of working in, I decided to work up and out ever so slightly. In the future I may sand down the sides as Nubs suggested, and use epoxy or clay to bulk up the sides from the inside. A belt sander would take care of that pretty well in a jiffy.

p.s. love the biggie smalls. You should cast it in resin anyway and use it as a desk charm hehe.

I am looking into a used Binks from CL or a pot from Grizzly (not ASME rated, however) or one from CA Technologies. The Grizzly has way better clamps on the lid than the Harbor Freight one. So far that's the last piece of the puzzle I'm still trying to figure out.

I will make sure to fill in the bottom of the cap before I make my mold. I'm probably going to do so with clay, however I just thought it would be cool to 3D print that part and just 'slide' it in once you're done with your sculpt. Of course, there would be several models to use, depending ono the keycap base profile and manufacturer, e.g. GMK Cherry, SP DSA, etc. Does that make any sense? I'm a bit weird when it comes to explaining things sometimes.


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Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 24 July 2015, 23:04:36 »
I will make sure to fill in the bottom of the cap before I make my mold. I'm probably going to do so with clay, however I just thought it would be cool to 3D print that part and just 'slide' it in once you're done with your sculpt. Of course, there would be several models to use, depending ono the keycap base profile and manufacturer, e.g. GMK Cherry, SP DSA, etc. Does that make any sense? I'm a bit weird when it comes to explaining things sometimes.

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=69433.0

It's on haitus, but I plan on refining the Topre and BS part.

Offline whizzard

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #22 on: Sat, 25 July 2015, 11:34:04 »

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=69433.0

It's on haitus, but I plan on refining the Topre and BS part.

That is pretty ingenious! 

Nubb and Doom are right on the pressure pot.  Harbor Freight only has one that is used for painting houses I think.  It is not cheap and not really right for what your trying to do.  One issue is the size of it, so it takes longer to pressurize than one made for doing this (among others).  And always be careful working with air pressure and pressure pots, it is no joke and really does become a bomb.   :eek:

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #23 on: Sat, 25 July 2015, 21:27:09 »
Ya, I am staying away from HF for sure. Just won a used Binks Paint Pressure pot on Ebay so will attempt to convert it to a pressure pot when it arrives!  :thumb:
« Last Edit: Sun, 26 July 2015, 00:18:39 by retrochick »


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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #24 on: Sun, 26 July 2015, 12:11:56 »
I will make sure to fill in the bottom of the cap before I make my mold. I'm probably going to do so with clay, however I just thought it would be cool to 3D print that part and just 'slide' it in once you're done with your sculpt. Of course, there would be several models to use, depending ono the keycap base profile and manufacturer, e.g. GMK Cherry, SP DSA, etc. Does that make any sense? I'm a bit weird when it comes to explaining things sometimes.

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=69433.0

It's on haitus, but I plan on refining the Topre and BS part.
Also Nubs, that's pretty great! The Topre and BS swappable would be amazing. At the very least, Topre  :thumb:


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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #25 on: Mon, 03 August 2015, 10:46:39 »
Just a small update for everyone. Finally got an acceptable mold made. The hardest part was capturing the stem. Also, working with OOMOO is quite messy. If I have time tonight I'll start casting!



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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #26 on: Tue, 04 August 2015, 03:00:04 »
So how did it go, if it did?  Do I need to add you to my (purely mental for now) list of cap makers yet? :)
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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 04 August 2015, 10:44:26 »
So how did it go, if it did?  Do I need to add you to my (purely mental for now) list of cap makers yet? :)

Soon! Trying to find a color appropriate resin and trying to devise a method of delivering the resin in the tiny pour holes I made  :blank:  :blank:


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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #28 on: Thu, 06 August 2015, 12:07:01 »
I think i ruined my mold by pouring in poorly measured resin + some acrylic paint+water. The water caused the resin to foam and froth violently and now there are chunks of weird gunky resin stuck to both sides of my mold. I then tried a regular resin pour to try and extract the gunky resin and ended up pulling the stem part of my mold because I didn't use mold release. Ahhhhh the trials and tribulations!

Also, I molded uncured sculpey because I didn't feel like sacrificing my imsto thick pbt esc. key just yet. The mold turned out fine  :thumb:.

Also, I got a paint pressure pot that I will attempt to convert into a pressure pot this weekend! It's a used brand (binks I think?) and not from Harbor Freight. Yay! I'll have a better update this weekend hopefully.


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Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #29 on: Thu, 06 August 2015, 12:36:44 »
The water caused the resin to foam and froth violently and now there are chunks of weird gunky resin stuck to both sides of my mold.

Anything water based tends to react aggressively with most resins out there.  Alcohol based pigments can work, but some make for a softer cure (also depending on the resin).

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #30 on: Thu, 06 August 2015, 12:42:15 »
Oops!  Better luck next time :)
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GMK Hyperfuse
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MX Clear
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Vortex OEM PBT
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Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 07 August 2015, 11:38:13 »
The water caused the resin to foam and froth violently and now there are chunks of weird gunky resin stuck to both sides of my mold.

Anything water based tends to react aggressively with most resins out there.  Alcohol based pigments can work, but some make for a softer cure (also depending on the resin).

Thanks for the info Nubs. I'm using just the regular Alumnite Casting Resin (white). I think I might head over to my local art store this weekend and pick up some alcohol based dye. Do you know if this resin will cure soft with alcohol dye?

Got the first half of my mold made last night - I made some minor adjustments to the sculpt (no one will know the difference anyway  :blank:) and made the clay base smoother by rolling it out with a rolling pin. I will cast the stem part of the mold tonight. Hopefully that'll give me the whole weekend to cast resin.  :eek:


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Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 07 August 2015, 11:40:49 »
If you put too much in, yes.  You'll need to experiment to find out how much is enough and how much is too much for your ratios. 

Offline Meika

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 07 August 2015, 12:29:06 »
It's really interesting to read posts like this (since I'm starting like you as well). The struggles!

I have been using sculpeys for my minis and it does get pretty mushy when you overknead it. Airing it out hardens it a little (or literally putting it inside the freezer lol). I'm learning a lot from you guys! And resin is very tricky too! if you put anything in it, that'll create bubbles. I've tried using resin before with my mini bottles and you have no idea how crazy the bubble gets.

Anyway looking forward to your work! It looks pretty good so far, mainly because good design and skill :thumb:
« Last Edit: Fri, 07 August 2015, 12:37:10 by Meika »

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #34 on: Sun, 09 August 2015, 13:50:06 »
I was able to cast some keycaps last night. To keep everyone updated, I made some topre fn & esc molds. The casts from these molds came out better than the goblin mold - I'm still getting big bubbles and the stem part of the mold is still really fragile. Anywho, here are some pics of a set that I deem 'acceptable b-stock' from a hand-cast/pour:

107848-0
107850-1

As you can see, lots of air bubbles. I don't think I'll be able to cast these perfectly without a pressure pot. I'll need to get that set up asap. If anyone is feeling bored, feel free to send me your set up technical notes. I'm converting a used pressure paint pot.


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Offline Meika

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #35 on: Sun, 09 August 2015, 15:10:17 »
I was able to cast some keycaps last night. To keep everyone updated, I made some topre fn & esc molds. The casts from these molds came out better than the goblin mold - I'm still getting big bubbles and the stem part of the mold is still really fragile. Anywho, here are some pics of a set that I deem 'acceptable b-stock' from a hand-cast/pour:

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

As you can see, lots of air bubbles. I don't think I'll be able to cast these perfectly without a pressure pot. I'll need to get that set up asap. If anyone is feeling bored, feel free to send me your set up technical notes. I'm converting a used pressure paint pot.

I'm envious.

The top part looks pretty solid. There may be some air bubbles at the bottom but you pretty much got the base worked out. Have you tried using heat with your resins to lift the bubbles?

Sorry for the noob question since i really am one in this area  :(

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #36 on: Sun, 09 August 2015, 21:10:25 »
Good news: got a decent cast of goblin Goyle.
Bad news: ruined my bottom mold, again. Because the pesky stem part stuck to the resin when trying to extract it. Okay, who has tips for this? Should I do some sort of modification? It's so annoying having to recast that stem part of the mold...  :mad:

Here's some pics:

107889-0
107891-1
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107897-4

I see a lot of bubbles - but not too bad for something done sans pressure. I'll probably start focusing on getting the proper set up before doing more casts. Also, stay tuned for goblin v2!  :eek:



I'm envious.

The top part looks pretty solid. There may be some air bubbles at the bottom but you pretty much got the base worked out. Have you tried using heat with your resins to lift the bubbles?

Sorry for the noob question since i really am one in this area  :(

Thanks! No I haven't tried using heat - what method would you suggest to get rid of the bubbles? Something like an oven?


Cherry is love. Topre is life. ~raymogi

Offline Meika

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #37 on: Sun, 09 August 2015, 21:48:07 »
Good news: got a decent cast of goblin Goyle.
Bad news: ruined my bottom mold, again. Because the pesky stem part stuck to the resin when trying to extract it. Okay, who has tips for this? Should I do some sort of modification? It's so annoying having to recast that stem part of the mold...  :mad:

Here's some pics:

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

I see a lot of bubbles - but not too bad for something done sans pressure. I'll probably start focusing on getting the proper set up before doing more casts. Also, stay tuned for goblin v2!  :eek:



I'm envious.

The top part looks pretty solid. There may be some air bubbles at the bottom but you pretty much got the base worked out. Have you tried using heat with your resins to lift the bubbles?

Sorry for the noob question since i really am one in this area  :(

Thanks! No I haven't tried using heat - what method would you suggest to get rid of the bubbles? Something like an oven?


For the stem, it would help a lot I think if you use a releasing agent on the stems so it won't stick to the resin since that part is small and tricky. Might want to give it a try. (you can apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly just on the stem)

For the heat, when I watched the tutorials in youtube of resin charms, using a lighter near the resin actually raises the bubbles upward and pops them (or you can pop it using a toothpick). As far as I know resin isn't really flammable so holding it close should be okay. Just make sure not to burn your mold though.

I hope it helps!

Offline whizzard

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #38 on: Mon, 10 August 2015, 16:40:44 »
Spray release agent is the best for problems with the stem in my experience so far.  I use Mann Ease Release 200, and have gone through a few cans of it.  It's not super cheap, and petroleum jelly has worked for me as well, but it makes up for itself in making the casts come out way easier and less duds.  You don't need a whole lot of it, I usually just spray a bit on the bottom of the key and use a fine paintbrush to brush it into the hole of the stem.  I use it on all my molds as well, because it will extend the life of it.  The worst is when you have a great mold and pull a key out and the rubber stem part rips off into the key you just molded because you forgot release!  :mad:

On another note, you really should give epoxy putty (ProCreate) a shot as a sculpting material.  Even if you don't like it and stop using it you owe it to yourself to try it out.  It is designed for people who sculpt miniatures, which is close to what we are doing.  Your clay sculpts look so amazing I can only imagine if you used putty.  If you are just starting out you can get experience using putty as a medium and just perfect it.  You can also do your sculpts in layers or bit by bit.  It does harden after a few hours, but I find that to be a great asset, because you can sand it down or do whatever with it after you sculpt it.  If you use a little water on your tool, you can work with it for a long time.  Once it hardens you don't have to be as delicate with the prototype to avoid fingerprints, dents, mistakes and stuff when working with it.  I am beating a dead horse a bit, but I love the stuff for cap sculpting and modding, and never really use clay at all anymore.  One packet lasts forever as well, I have used it so much and still have only used about 20% of the little package of it.  Of all the tips I would give to someone starting this, using putty would be my first suggestion.  Not saying clay is a bad medium, it does the job for sure, but it is more useful in larger sculptures in my opinion.  OK I will shut up about putty now ;)

Think about it for your next sculpt, this one looks amazing!  No idea how you got that as nicely as you did with no pressure or vacuum... pretty incredible.  Keep it up  ;D

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #39 on: Mon, 10 August 2015, 20:33:18 »
Thanks Meika and whizzard for the advice! I will get mold release for sure. And as for Epoxy putty, you've convinced me and I'll give it a shot!  :thumb: :thumb: I'll probably also switch my resin as alumnite + colorant doesn't harden as much as I would like. And thanks for the words of encouragement! I'll post the 'duds' as well on this thread - those keycaps were the ones that came out halfway decent but I think it's also important to show and learn from our failures.


Here's some pics of the topre keycaps on my HHKB:
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« Last Edit: Mon, 10 August 2015, 20:39:42 by retrochick »


Cherry is love. Topre is life. ~raymogi

Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #40 on: Mon, 10 August 2015, 20:36:00 »
Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #41 on: Mon, 10 August 2015, 20:58:01 »
Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Offline Zorberema

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #42 on: Tue, 11 August 2015, 14:14:47 »
Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Oh, I haven't encountered this yet; what happens if you leave the caps in too long?

Offline KatzenKinder

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #43 on: Thu, 13 August 2015, 18:08:03 »

Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Oh, I haven't encountered this yet; what happens if you leave the caps in too long?

Sometimes the resin is a little too brittle to cleanly remove the excess resin without damaging the cap. Haven't had any other problems that I can think of from leaving it in too long.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #44 on: Thu, 13 August 2015, 18:10:13 »

Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Oh, I haven't encountered this yet; what happens if you leave the caps in too long?

Sometimes the resin is a little too brittle to cleanly remove the excess resin without damaging the cap. Haven't had any other problems that I can think of from leaving it in too long.

The resin can start to grip the mold even with mold release.

Offline KatzenKinder

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #45 on: Thu, 13 August 2015, 18:12:02 »


Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Oh, I haven't encountered this yet; what happens if you leave the caps in too long?

Sometimes the resin is a little too brittle to cleanly remove the excess resin without damaging the cap. Haven't had any other problems that I can think of from leaving it in too long.

The resin can start to grip the mold even with mold release.

Ooo. How long into the cure are we talking about? I don't think I've left a batch in for more than like 12 hours, while I usually demold at about 2.5 hours with the resin I'm currently using.

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #46 on: Thu, 13 August 2015, 19:34:27 »
We should compile all the demold times plus the type of resin people are using into a google spreadsheet so others can use it as a reference/guideline for demold times of different resins.


Cherry is love. Topre is life. ~raymogi

Offline Zorberema

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #47 on: Fri, 14 August 2015, 05:55:30 »


Mold release only does so much.  Another huge thing is timing.  Leave a cast in too long and it can cause issues even with mold release.  Don't leave it in long enough and you can throw your stem out of whack.

Yea completely agree.  With the two part resins timing the pot life and de-mold time is very important as far as getting a clean cast.

Oh, I haven't encountered this yet; what happens if you leave the caps in too long?

Sometimes the resin is a little too brittle to cleanly remove the excess resin without damaging the cap. Haven't had any other problems that I can think of from leaving it in too long.

The resin can start to grip the mold even with mold release.

Ooo. How long into the cure are we talking about? I don't think I've left a batch in for more than like 12 hours, while I usually demold at about 2.5 hours with the resin I'm currently using.

I accidentaly left a very small amount of resin from a failed stem while molding my latest cap. The cap itself stuck to the underside so hard that I accidentaly removed it from the upper part just by pulling (something that normally takes a lot of wiggling and pulling). After I finally managed to remove it, the leftover resin had stuck to the mold, and while removing it i accidentaly destroyed half of my mold in the process... The other half is still fine, but I'll have to remake the destroyed mold tonight. 0/10, would not do again.

Offline Zorberema

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #48 on: Fri, 14 August 2015, 06:43:57 »
We should compile all the demold times plus the type of resin people are using into a google spreadsheet so others can use it as a reference/guideline for demold times of different resins.

That's actually a really good idea!

Offline retrochick

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Re: Retro's Hand-crafted Keycaps Adventure!
« Reply #49 on: Sat, 29 August 2015, 14:12:17 »
Tried my hand at doubleshots today. Pretty pleased with the results. Still hand-pouring my resin (air compressor arrives on Monday) so there are bubbles, but on the underside of the cap, which is not too bad.

So far I'm just exploring different techniques. I'm quickly going through my bottles of aluminite resin and will probably look to get some smooth on 300 for my next batch to see if the resin dries harder.

Also got some apoxie sculpt and really enjoying what that has to offer! Will update soon with new designs and such  :thumb:


Cherry is love. Topre is life. ~raymogi