Lighted Keyboard Mod: January 2006

In January of 2006, I salvaged a MS Natural Keyboard and decided to replace my old AT class keyboard. So, I decided that I had better make the mod on it match the case. I did some research and planned the Mod. A couple of days for planning and about a week to execute. There are a lot more pictures here than text, so just scroll down to see them.

(click thumbnails for larger images)

Pic#1 The basic MS Natural Keyboard

Pic#2 Orignal aluminum vs. clear plastic.

Pic#3 support plates to let light pass.

Pic#4 click for animated gif of before & after

Pic#5 paint the bottom black

Pic#6 Paint the top black

Pic#7 texture added before painting.

Pic#8 Silver paint to add reflection.

Pic#9 Keys identified

Pic#10. Soon to be black keys.

Pic#11. Fun with a magnifyer.

Pic#12. and a small paintbrush.

Pic#13. Finished keys. U I O P

Pic#14. fun with a soldering iron

Pic#15. The working guts.

Pic#16. Putting in the LEDs.

Pic#17. Closeup of the LED.

Pic#18. Testing the LEDs.

Pic#19 The final Keyboard mod

Pic#20 In low light

Pic#21 In for a close look.
  I started with a Microsoft Natural keyboard as seen in pic#1. I popped all the keys off, then unscrewed the back and completely disassembled the rubber key pad, and the underlying circuit sheets. The circuit sheets are held in place by aluminum plates that I would have to replace with clear plastic in order to let the LEDs shine through. Pic#2 & #3.

  Next came the fun part. Since the upper shell of the keyboard was not transparent, I had to have a way to let light to come out between the keys. The only solution was to drill holes through the keyboard at each key position. Several. Per key. All in all, I counted 456 holes drilled where light could come out without effecting the structure of the keyboard. Click on Pic#4 for an animated gif of the shell before and after the holes were drilled.

  Next, I used the expanding foam to add lumpy texture around the top of the keyboard. I did not want too much as it would get worn by use. Pic# 7. Then I painted both top and bottom with gloss black paint. The inside bottom was painted silver to help reflect light back up to the top. Pic#8

   Next came the keys. First I took all the keys and marked the back of them so that I could identify them after being painted black. See Pic#9. Next, was spraying them gloss black. ( mounted them on a board for easy access and to make them hold still. Pic#10)

  Pic#11 shows me hand painting the letters on the black keys. Twice. First, with an opaque white paint (Pic#12), then with a metallic green to make them stand out. Some were done creatively, as you can see in Pic#13.

  After the painting was done, I worked on the lighting. My work on the main Case Mod made this easy. I used 12 superbright, green LEDS, some salvaged ethernet wire, a blank circuit board and 12 resistors. For power, I salvaged a USB cable and used a meter to determine where the power leads were. This was soldered to the board, linked to the resistors then over to the wires leading off of it. Pic#14 & Pic#15 show the circuit and the whole wiring setup.

  With the LEDs and wire all set, I next used a hot glue gun to secure it to the bottom shell. I also glued the wires down and had to do test-fits of the keyboard circuits. Pic#16 shows the work that was being done and Pic#17 shows a closeup of one of the LEDs. In Pic #18 you can see a (blurry) test of the lights.

   With all this finished, I reassembled everything. The final work was to use the same green paint from the case mod and do highlighting over the textures. A final spray coat of a high gloss clear helps to protect the paint and give the keyboard a "wet" look. The final pictures below show several of the final mod. Overall, I'm please with how this came out as far as the outside. The lighting is not as bright as I would like, mostly due to the fact that the upper shell of the keyboard blocks too much. I may revisit this later.