There’s are a couple of reasons why computer keyboards are made from plastic and not wood. 1) Wood doesn’t lend itself to mass manufacturing like plastic does and 2) the amount of abuse and hand oils absorbed by the wooden keys would wear faster than the myth of George Washington’s wooden teeth.
But that won’t stop YouTuber The Q, who throws caution to the wind and jumps at the chance to show a step-by-step process on how to create a wooden computer keyboard of your very own:
1. Make The Wooden Backboard
Using a cheap plastic keyboard as a basis for his design, cut a keyboard outline onto a thin piece of wood. Place the innards of the plastic keyboard on the backboard and screws the circuit board in the upper area, matching the layout of the original keyboard.
Don’t forget to sand it, though. Even though your hands won’t be touching the back portion of the keyboard, it would look unprofessional to leave a side of your work unsanded.
2. Glue Together A Frame
With a backboard in place, use the shape and position of the keys to layout the keyboard frame and supports. This involves a lot of measuring, cutting, and gluing different sized pieces of wood together to make a suitable housing for the keyboard, as well as spacing for the arrow and function keys. As with the backboard, reference the plastic keyboard as a basis for making the different parts of the frame. After sanding the edges smooth, the keyboard frame is ready to glue to the backboard.
3. Craft Those Wooden Keys
Now comes the hardest and most time-consuming part: making the individual keys. Measure each unique key from the plastic keyboard. This is where a set of digital calipers (Mitutoyo 6″/150mm is our favorite) will come in handy.
Sand and shape to resemble the smooth keys of a keyboard then use a wood burner with a fine tip to carefully label each key with their corresponding keyboard function. This is where I would have used a desktop CNC milling machine to cut all keys and labels at once.
This is actually the trickiest part of the key-making process. Anyone who has ever cleaned their keyboard knows just how hard it is to put the keys back in their proper place. This feat is only made more difficult when you realize you’re labelling these keys and one mistake means you’ll have to make a new key from scratch.
4. Glue The Keys to The Keyboard
Unlike a traditional plastic keyboard that has hollow keys, The Q’s wooden keyboard features solid keys that need to be glued onto the keyboard. This means you’ll never be able to clean the keyboard thoroughly, as you can’t remove these keys without ripping off the glue which binds them to the keyboard. Even if you manage such a time-consuming task, would you really want to glue all of these keys back together again?
5. Get to Typing!
Nitpicks aside, this is a fun way to add some personality to your workstation. A wooden keyboard definitely sticks out amidst all the plastic peripherals of a normal computer, plus it is way easier on the eyes (especially when it’s brand new). Just don’t expect the keyboard to remain looking that way.
You can find more do-it-yourself goodness on The Q’s YouTube channel.