Building a Custom Keyboard Case

My build log of a custom oak keyboard case

February 26th, 2017

I’ve talked before about my weird hobbies and interests. I have a collection of random impulse buys that would probably baffle future archiologists if the earths population and records were almost completely erased. One of these interests is the wonderful land of mechanical keyboards.

This somewhat niche and geeky field is unknown even to a lot of folk in my profession; the inheritently geeky and nerdy software development practise. Owning a mechnical keyboard (or keyboards for the somewhat obsessed) have an array of advantages which I plan to talk about in another blog post, but for now I want to enthuse about customisation.

Keyboard with custom keycaps

You can customise most mechanical keyboards from everything from keycap colour, to switch type, key mappings, and casing. After being inspired by DIY projects spotted around the Internet (mainly the DIY and MechanicalKeyboard subreddits) and somewhat put off by the outrageous cost of purchasing one, I thought I’d attempt to make a wooden keyboard case myself. Being my first woodwork project since school, I was nervous. I documented the process fairly well, so what follows is my build log! Enjoy.

The finished product####

The finished board

Materials used####

  • Slab of wood, purchased from B&Q
  • Handheld router
  • Circular saw (any strong saw will do though)
  • Chisel
  • Electric sander
  • Sandpaper (course, medium, and fine)
  • Cork sanding block
  • Stained varnish
  • Paintbrush

Build Log####

  1. I started by taking the keyboard to a hardware shop to ensure that I was buying wood of adequate size. Warning: This will attract strange looks from other shoppers. Measuring the keyboard against wood in the hardware shop

  2. I removed all of the keys from the board and penciled an outline on the wood. This is the pilot line for when I do the routing. I made sure to indent this somewhat in case of a drastic error. About to start measuring

  3. I prepared the router and adjusted the height of the bit in order to get the desired depth in the wood. Getting the router ready

  4. This is the result from the first cut with the router. I suspected that this would be trial and error to a certain degree as I wasn’t sure how deep it would have to be or how it would turn out. Probably just as well that I needed to go deeper as I made a pigs ear of this. First cut

  5. This it the result of the second deeper cut. The board fits better in it now. Second cut with keyboard placed in it

  6. A circular saw was used to cut the wood close to the route to give a nice close bezel. This ended up being a lot closer than intended. Dangerously so. Second cut with keyboard placed in it

  7. From another angle… Second cut with keyboard placed in it

  8. And another… Second cut with keyboard placed in it

  9. Cutting the cable hole was undocumented mainly because I was convinced that it wouldn’t work. The hole was created by drilling smaller spaced holes through the wood, and knocking it through with a chisel. I then used the chisel to smooth it out and clean it up. Note: If I had access to the correct tools I would use a coping saw or similar. Using a chisel to smooth out the wood

  10. The result of placing the keyboard back into the wood and plugging it in. It fits! This needs to be properly cleaned up. Cable fitting through the hole

  11. I then used a power sander to smooth out the wood. This is the first of many rounds of sanding as I plan to hand-sand it before varnishing. Sanding the board

  12. Placing the keycaps back on the keyboard! Let’s see how this bad boy looks so far… Putting the keycaps back on the keyboard

  13. Artsy black and white photo of the unfinished board. Black and white artsy picture of the unvarnished board

  14. The unvarnished board! Next step is to sand it and coat it with varnish. Unvarnished board

  15. I call this the ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ picture. I think I stood here for the best part of an hour. Picking out the varnish

  16. Let the second round of sanding begin! A lot of imperfections needed sanding out with varied grit levels. Starting the second round of sanding

  17. More sanding! More sanding!

  18. Even more sanding. Even more sanding.

  19. This desperately needed sorting out. The cable hole is now a bit tidier! Cleaning up the cable hole

  20. Wiping the board down after the sanding. This removes all of the sawdust and general dirt from the wood in preparation for varnishing. Wiping the board

  21. About to start the varnishing! I chose a coloured varnish because I couldn’t justify spending money on wood stain as well as varnish. This two in one seemed more sensible. About to start the varnishing

  22. This turned out awful. I have to admit, I was pretty worried after I did this. I put it on wayyyyyy too thick, and thought it was too dark. It was just a good job that I did it in a place that would be hidden! First bit of varnishing

  23. I waited until the routed bit had dried and it didn’t actually look too bad. It dried a lot lighter so I did the rest of the board. This is the result of the first layer of varnishing. At this point I’m not too sure if I want to apply more coats due to the fact that it will get a lot darker with each coat. This also massively accentuated every imperfection in the routed part of the board. You can really see how bad I did this! First later of varnish

  24. The finished board! Top view The finished board top view

  25. The finished board! Back view Unvarnished board back view

  26. The finished board! The finished board

I hope you enjoyed reading this, maybe even learning something along the way. I know I sure did!

By Smittey
Posted on February 26th, 2017

Buy Me a Coffee