Author Topic: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps  (Read 20923 times)

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Offline widdlekitty

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widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 20:51:32 »
First and foremost, I must thank EVERYONE on this board for all of the invaluable resources that have been made available to long time lurkers like myself. I opted to give this whole keycap making thing a try, because so many of you made it look like fun.

I wanted to start with a basic blank, as that could serve as a foundation for everything else. I like the thicker caps, so I knew cloning straight from a stock keycap wouldn't work for me. I tried reinforcing them with some combination of resin and/or sculpting clay, but I couldn't get it clean enough for nice transparent blanks. See these two:




That lead me to making a bunch of measurements with a caliper, and getting a family friend to help machine a new piece from scratch.




The casts I made from the new piece




On the keyboard.




It fits fairly well, but maybe a touch awkwardly. Its definitely heavier than any other key on my keyboard. The key is not quite 100% a match, so I'm torn whether to go back to the drawing board, and cut a new piece (this was a pain in the ass as it was), or just be happy with it, flaws included.

Sculpting with epoxy putty is the next item on my agenda.

Offline ApocalypseMaow

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 20:52:33 »
Looking pretty good!!! Keep us updated!!!

That cast looks amazing by the way.
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Offline nmur

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 20:58:14 »
wow man those look crisp as hell, very nice

other makers have had some issues with topre stems for their artisans, so they must be pretty fiddly

looking forward to whatever you work on next

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 21:07:06 »
wow man those look crisp as hell, very nice

other makers have had some issues with topre stems for their artisans, so they must be pretty fiddly

looking forward to whatever you work on next

Thanks. Yeah, the stem seams like it should be easier than it is. In the modified stock key I made, I wound up jamming a cut down popsicle stick in the center to make it a single piece. The first time around, it wound up making the stem slightly too big and wouldn't fit in the switch. Just barely didn't fit. Second time around, it worked when I made sure it didn't distort it at all.

The machined piece, I just made the cylinder, and made sure the openings were similar to the stock caps, and could fit the depth of the notches on the actual switch. I think its working okay.

Offline piemancoder

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 21:18:10 »
These look pretty high quality. Are you going to make MX caps?
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Offline bcredbottle

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 21:39:24 »
Perfectly bubble free transparent cast, first time casting. Did you just happen to have a pressure pot laying around?

Offline cryptokey

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 22:14:01 »
I'm impressed, that's an amazing first try.  I'd love to see more!  :thumb:
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Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 22:48:05 »
I'm impressed, that's an amazing first try.  I'd love to see more!  :thumb:

Perfectly bubble free transparent cast, first time casting. Did you just happen to have a pressure pot laying around?

Sorry, I should have clarified. I've been refining my casting technique over the past 2 months, with this and other projects I've been tackling. I did get a degasing chamber somewhere in that time period to help out.

Offline S1llyC0ne

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 02:19:23 »
Impressive results, kudos ! 👍

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 02:24:17 »
That looks great, hopefully you're just as good at sculpting :)
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Offline bocahgundul

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 02:40:42 »
The no 3 that really catch my eyes  :thumb:

Offline rowdy

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 03:07:58 »
That looks very clean!

How many iterations did you have before you got as good as this?
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Offline joey

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 03:42:03 »
What is that machined piece made from?

Offline shhbbyisok

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 07:38:29 »
So clean!
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Offline RoastPotatoes

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 07:49:38 »
This is really cool.

Offline heedpantsnow

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 09:40:39 »
Wow, that looks pretty amazing!  Keep up the good work!
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Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 12:46:49 »
Thanks for the nice words. I'm hitting the drawing board again to make some slight design changes, that should solve the awkwardness I'm sensing from its current fit. It'll probably be at least another week before I have anything new to show.

That looks very clean!

How many iterations did you have before you got as good as this?

I went from making straight clones of topre caps, to about 5 different variations (one of which also had resin) of modified stock keys with clay, to this machined piece. The clay I could never get good enough for nice transparencies. Buffing it down with a dremel helped, but there was too much inconsistency with the thickness of the walls.

Something else I battled with, was the stem. Like I mentioned earlier, what ultimately worked prior to the machined piece was just shoving a cut piece of Popsicle stick into the stem. The key was to create just enough tension to hold it in place and seal the walls, but not distort the shape of the stem. Before that I tried filling it with clay, modeling one by hand from scratch (I don't recommend this at all!), and other objects like cotton swab stems.


These look pretty high quality. Are you going to make MX caps?

Yes! I want to iron out my topre cap and have a solid mx cap before I even think about giving these suckers out.

What is that machined piece made from?

Aluminun

Offline FLFisherman

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 12:51:43 »
Thanks for the nice words. I'm hitting the drawing board again to make some slight design changes, that should solve the awkwardness I'm sensing from its current fit. It'll probably be at least another week before I have anything new to show.

That looks very clean!

How many iterations did you have before you got as good as this?

I went from making straight clones of topre caps, to about 5 different variations (one of which also had resin) of modified stock keys with clay, to this machined piece. The clay I could never get good enough for nice transparencies. Buffing it down with a dremel helped, but there was too much inconsistency with the thickness of the walls.

Something else I battled with, was the stem. Like I mentioned earlier, what ultimately worked prior to the machined piece was just shoving a cut piece of Popsicle stick into the stem. The key was to create just enough tension to hold it in place and seal the walls, but not distort the shape of the stem. Before that I tried filling it with clay, modeling one by hand from scratch (I don't recommend this at all!), and other objects like cotton swab stems.


These look pretty high quality. Are you going to make MX caps?

Yes! I want to iron out my topre cap and have a solid mx cap before I even think about giving these suckers out.

What is that machined piece made from?

Aluminun

You've got a lot of support here. I hope you keep up the great work!

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 14 February 2016, 21:52:18 »
Nope. I'm not dead. I refined my blank design, and was able to get rid of all the wonkiness I didn't like from the original design:



In addition, I'm working on a sculpted key which I've merely dubbed John. Its a balaclava topped keycap.




I'm still trying sort out the best way of casting this. I like having the separation between the balaclava and key, so I feel like having a separate mold for each of the two parts would be the best way to go about it. Thats what I did in the above keycap, but it requires quite a bit of cleanup with an xacto knife to get rid of the excess resin from the second shot. Does anyone have tips are far as dealing with more complex multi-shots?

Sorry for the potato quality pics!

Offline Sneaky Potato

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 10:50:15 »
First and foremost, I must thank EVERYONE on this board for all of the invaluable resources that have been made available to long time lurkers like myself. I opted to give this whole keycap making thing a try, because so many of you made it look like fun.

I wanted to start with a basic blank, as that could serve as a foundation for everything else. I like the thicker caps, so I knew cloning straight from a stock keycap wouldn't work for me. I tried reinforcing them with some combination of resin and/or sculpting clay, but I couldn't get it clean enough for nice transparent blanks. See these two:

Show Image

Show Image


That lead me to making a bunch of measurements with a caliper, and getting a family friend to help machine a new piece from scratch.

Show Image

Show Image


The casts I made from the new piece

Show Image

Show Image


On the keyboard.

Show Image

Show Image


It fits fairly well, but maybe a touch awkwardly. Its definitely heavier than any other key on my keyboard. The key is not quite 100% a match, so I'm torn whether to go back to the drawing board, and cut a new piece (this was a pain in the ass as it was), or just be happy with it, flaws included.

Sculpting with epoxy putty is the next item on my agenda.

Can you give us any insight into your process? What materials/equipment you use, tips or tricks for casting?

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 11:13:06 »
Can you give us any insight into your process? What materials/equipment you use, tips or tricks for casting?

Materials, I've been using primarily the various smooth-cast resins and mold star silicone. I do have access to a pressure pot as well.

I think the biggest thing that has helped my casting, is using pipettes (like the ones here http://www.amazon.com/Plastic-Transfer-Pipettes-Gradulated-Pack/dp/B00KWFV58O) to inject resin into the mold. I find the extra pressure from pushing it in (over gravity feeding) helps minimize the chances of air pockets forming. They're also super cheap.

Everything else in my process is pretty similar to all of the other guides and processes I've seen here.

Offline Bambino

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 14:15:46 »
Are you using just a single sprue on your machined Topre cap mold? Great work so far!

Offline Sneaky Potato

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 14:20:49 »
Can you give us any insight into your process? What materials/equipment you use, tips or tricks for casting?

Materials, I've been using primarily the various smooth-cast resins and mold star silicone. I do have access to a pressure pot as well.

I think the biggest thing that has helped my casting, is using pipettes (like the ones here http://www.amazon.com/Plastic-Transfer-Pipettes-Gradulated-Pack/dp/B00KWFV58O) to inject resin into the mold. I find the extra pressure from pushing it in (over gravity feeding) helps minimize the chances of air pockets forming. They're also super cheap.

Everything else in my process is pretty similar to all of the other guides and processes I've seen here.

Extremely helpful, thank you! Quick question about the pipettes...there seem to be two methods casting I've seen. One is to fill the mold, and then smash the two halves together (excess comes out of vents), or to close the mold and inject/pour directly in. What is your method? Do you have a hole for the pipette in the mold that you use to inject?

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 14:44:19 »
Are you using just a single sprue on your machined Topre cap mold? Great work so far!

Thank you! I'm quite fond of your work, so I appreciate the support.

Regarding sprues, I tend to drill in atleast 1 more with a spade drill bit after making the silicone mold. Typically in one of the back corners. Then I make cuts in the remaining corners with an xacto knife to serve as vents. I can't say for certain how well the vents work, but I've been getting more consistent results/less air pockets with them there. They don't seem to hurt the cast at the very least. The drilled sprue tends to require a little bit of sanding afterward to remove its traces.


Extremely helpful, thank you! Quick question about the pipettes...there seem to be two methods casting I've seen. One is to fill the mold, and then smash the two halves together (excess comes out of vents), or to close the mold and inject/pour directly in. What is your method? Do you have a hole for the pipette in the mold that you use to inject?

I typically inject directly into the mold via pipette through a sprue. Sometimes, I might put a little in the mold before putting them together to ensure some of the finer details get covered. Certain molds of mine have been more difficult than others, so I tend to go for the mixed route when purely injecting didnt work for me.


Offline Bambino

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #24 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 16:10:08 »
Regarding sprues, I tend to drill in atleast 1 more with a spade drill bit after making the silicone mold. Typically in one of the back corners. Then I make cuts in the remaining corners with an xacto knife to serve as vents. I can't say for certain how well the vents work, but I've been getting more consistent results/less air pockets with them there. They don't seem to hurt the cast at the very least. The drilled sprue tends to require a little bit of sanding afterward to remove its traces.

Xacto knife cuts? That sounds interesting.  Are you cutting a bore through a block of mold rubber with the knife, or are you cutting a channel in the side of your mold?

I'm surprised to hear you are using a spade bit.  That must make demolding a hassle.  Small sprues are your friend.

I find that mold making is one of the most difficult aspects of keycap making, so I like to see how other people tackle it.  I have used various vent-making methods, including pre-glued Q-tips (this sucks), burr-cutting the rubber (decent and sometimes necessary), tube punching (get mixed results), and piercing the rubber (the best AFAIK).

Offline Bambino

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #25 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 16:13:10 »
I'm still trying sort out the best way of casting this. I like having the separation between the balaclava and key, so I feel like having a separate mold for each of the two parts would be the best way to go about it. Thats what I did in the above keycap, but it requires quite a bit of cleanup with an xacto knife to get rid of the excess resin from the second shot. Does anyone have tips are far as dealing with more complex multi-shots?

Ideally, you don't take the first shot of your keycap out of the mold until the second shot has cured.  If you can't do that, your most time-effective option at this point would be to redesign your keycap so you can follow this rule.

Also, once you nail down a design you like, add your stuff to the Artisan Directory! Link: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79502.0
« Last Edit: Mon, 15 February 2016, 16:16:17 by Bambino »

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #26 on: Mon, 15 February 2016, 16:58:17 »
Regarding sprues, I tend to drill in atleast 1 more with a spade drill bit after making the silicone mold. Typically in one of the back corners. Then I make cuts in the remaining corners with an xacto knife to serve as vents. I can't say for certain how well the vents work, but I've been getting more consistent results/less air pockets with them there. They don't seem to hurt the cast at the very least. The drilled sprue tends to require a little bit of sanding afterward to remove its traces.

Xacto knife cuts? That sounds interesting.  Are you cutting a bore through a block of mold rubber with the knife, or are you cutting a channel in the side of your mold?

I'm surprised to hear you are using a spade bit.  That must make demolding a hassle.  Small sprues are your friend.

I find that mold making is one of the most difficult aspects of keycap making, so I like to see how other people tackle it.  I have used various vent-making methods, including pre-glued Q-tips (this sucks), burr-cutting the rubber (decent and sometimes necessary), tube punching (get mixed results), and piercing the rubber (the best AFAIK).

The xacto cuts I run through the block in the same direction as the sprues. Figure this gives air the most amount of chances to escape while injecting.

As far as the spade bit; it's been working for me. Im using the smallest one I could find, and the hole still ends up being smaller. Probably because the silicone stretches as its being drilled. The holes end up being threaded. It's a mixed bag though, I'd say half the time the sprue pops off during demolding. 15% of the time it pops off and takes a chunk with it. The rest I just clip it once it's out.

I might try piercing on my next mold. Do you just use a regular piercer hand tool?

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #27 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 11:18:17 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.


Offline FLFisherman

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #28 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 11:19:08 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


Those look great! I'll bet the coffee afficionados love it.

Offline RoastPotatoes

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #29 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 11:23:58 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image

That is awesome.

Offline bcredbottle

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #30 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 11:57:36 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


I think you're onto something!

Offline piemancoder

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #31 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 12:53:51 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


This doesn't belong on a keyboard, it belongs in a coffee machine! It's awesome  :thumb:
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Offline heedpantsnow

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #32 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 12:56:29 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


Man oh man I love coffee and that espresso cap is right up my alley!  Here's a work log of my espresso machine overhaul if you're interested: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=78261.0
I'm back.

Espresso machine overhaul: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=78261.0

Carbon Fiber keyboard base: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=54825

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #33 on: Sat, 27 February 2016, 13:31:33 »
Man oh man I love coffee and that espresso cap is right up my alley!  Here's a work log of my espresso machine overhaul if you're interested: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=78261.0

You are doing great work! I've desperately wanted an espresso machine for ages now.

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #34 on: Wed, 02 March 2016, 19:46:42 »
Playing around with different mediums. These are letters cut out of a magazine, ala an old fashion ransom note. They sit on top of more cut up magazine parts, that were mixed into the resin (the letters were dipped), which made the ink bleed into a thick dark mass. These are just as tricky as my coffee bean caps.


Offline tigersharkdude

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #35 on: Wed, 02 March 2016, 20:16:04 »
^that's awesome .. lol

I now want an enter key with tigersharkdude on it :P

Offline btctopre

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #36 on: Wed, 02 March 2016, 20:19:20 »
Playing around with different mediums. These are letters cut out of a magazine, ala an old fashion ransom note. They sit on top of more cut up magazine parts, that were mixed into the resin (the letters were dipped), which made the ink bleed into a thick dark mass. These are just as tricky as my coffee bean caps.

Show Image

that is seriously ****ing cool- excellent idea and execution!

Offline romevi

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #37 on: Wed, 02 March 2016, 20:37:33 »
Will keep on home row.

Offline bcredbottle

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #38 on: Thu, 03 March 2016, 11:09:49 »
****ing awesome :eek:

Is it available for sale or trade?

God I want it so bad

Offline piemancoder

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #39 on: Thu, 03 March 2016, 16:23:40 »
That is truly amazing. I need an MX one with a pie.
Yoda grammar best has

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #40 on: Sat, 05 March 2016, 12:04:03 »
Experimenting more with how resins of different colors and opacities interact with each other. Here's a triple shot semi transparent cap that looks different from above than in profile.





Back lighting certainly makes a difference, too.

Offline FLFisherman

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #41 on: Sat, 05 March 2016, 12:05:16 »
Experimenting more with how resins of different colors and opacities interact with each other. Here's a triple shot semi transparent cap that looks different from above than in profile.

Show Image


Show Image


Back lighting certainly makes a difference, too.

Very clean caps. And you've just shown everyone why backlit keyboards are great.

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #42 on: Sat, 05 March 2016, 12:11:05 »
Very clean caps. And you've just shown everyone why backlit keyboards are great.

I just wish there were more topre options for backlit boards!

Offline FLFisherman

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #43 on: Sat, 05 March 2016, 12:11:51 »
Very clean caps. And you've just shown everyone why backlit keyboards are great.

I just wish there were more topre options for backlit boards!

HHKB Pro 3 backlit please.  :(

Offline beehatch

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #44 on: Sat, 05 March 2016, 12:14:39 »
Experimenting more with how resins of different colors and opacities interact with each other. Here's a triple shot semi transparent cap that looks different from above than in profile.

Show Image


Show Image


Back lighting certainly makes a difference, too.

This looks fantastic so far. Plus, I enjoy the topre love ;_;

Offline wockytocky

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #45 on: Fri, 01 April 2016, 21:55:06 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


These coffee caps (Cap-uccinos?) look amazing and they'd easily be some of my favorite artisans if you ever sold them! Hope to see you bring these back in the future :D

Offline widdlekitty

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #46 on: Sun, 03 April 2016, 03:16:22 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


These coffee caps (Cap-uccinos?) look amazing and they'd easily be some of my favorite artisans if you ever sold them! Hope to see you bring these back in the future :D

Thanks. MaKEYatos, actually. They're temporarily on hold while I figure out the challenges this specific type of encapsulations proves (an inlay effect). I do plan on making these, or some variation of, available eventually.

In other news, I've successfully designed an Fn topre key. Again, following the same workflow as my top row keys, this Fn was designed from scratch and then machined.


Offline beehatch

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #47 on: Sun, 03 April 2016, 03:23:13 »
I've been working on encapsulation projects this past week. What a pain in the butt! Below is what I'm just calling The MaKEYato. "Cream" with infused coffee grounds on top of a very dark brown "espresso", with and without a full coffee bean.

Show Image


These coffee caps (Cap-uccinos?) look amazing and they'd easily be some of my favorite artisans if you ever sold them! Hope to see you bring these back in the future :D

Thanks. MaKEYatos, actually. They're temporarily on hold while I figure out the challenges this specific type of encapsulations proves (an inlay effect). I do plan on making these, or some variation of, available eventually.

In other news, I've successfully designed an Fn topre key. Again, following the same workflow as my top row keys, this Fn was designed from scratch and then machined.

Show Image


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Offline demik

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #48 on: Sun, 03 April 2016, 03:23:26 »
WIDDLE SEND ME THAT RIGHT MEOW
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Offline asdfjkl36

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Re: widdlekitty tries to make keycaps
« Reply #49 on: Sun, 03 April 2016, 04:28:15 »
Oh **** that looks nice