In my last post I assembled a Corne keyboard. At the start of the build I didn’t yet have keycaps to spare for it. How was I able to get good looking keycaps without breaking the bank?
I remembered seeing a few posts on the subreddit mechmarket that listed keycaps from typewriters. Sometimes they use the same profile as Cherry switches do. It turns out there is a rather exhaustive list of Triumph-Adler typewriters on the Deskthority wiki, which in turn also lists several sources with Cherry-switch compatible typewriters.
I turned to our local Craigslist-like secondhand site and found a Triumph-Adler Gabriele 7007L electronic typewriter in a very acceptable condition. The caps and the overal typewriter were quite dirty, but it was without any damage, so all it needed was a thorough cleaning.
To clean the caps:
- Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and hand sanitizer. Some kinds of soap may be bad for the plastic. I figured hand sanitizer would not be as aggressive as other kinds of soap, so it shouldn’t harm the plastic. If you’re worried: test the cleaning process with a single cap first.
- Add the keycaps.
- Let the caps soak for about an hour.
- Rinse the keycaps. You can use a strainer to keep the keycaps in place, especially if there’s other parts like stabilizers that might fall into the drain.
- Clean the keycaps with a soft cloth or with your fingers. You may need to rinse them again.
- Optionally: If you’re in a hurry, you can use a salad spinner to get most of the water out of the caps.
- Let the caps airdry, ideally for about 24 hours, though maybe less. Don’t put them in the sun, especially in the summer: it might get too hot and the caps could deform.
- Done! You can now use the clean keycaps!
With about an hour of effort and only €15, I was able to use typewriter keycaps for my new build. The legends might not be appropriate for all keys, but I think they look quite nice.