In search of a creative diversion from his job in IT, Jake von Slatt found it no further away than his computer keyboard. A devotee of Steampunk, an aesthetic genre combining modern and Victorian elements, von Slatt spent two months on his brass-trimmed mod of a 1989 IBM Model M keyboard. He spared no detail, from the status lights to the Roman-numeral-marked function keys. Get all the information on his build at

  • Project: build a vintage keyboard
  • Cost: $100
  • Time: 2 months
  • Difficulty: easy | | | | | hard (Editor’s note: 4/5)


1. Remove the key caps from the IBM keyboard, and strip off all but the bare base of each one using a drill press and a plumber’s torch.

2. Cut out holes for the key bases in a piece of black felt, and lay it on the keyboard bed to cover it.

3. Shape the brass carriage pieces with a band saw, and cut out interior holes with a drill and a saw. Smooth and lacquer the brass, and attach the carriage to the keyboard.

4. Buy ’50s-era Royal and Smith Corona typewriter keys on eBay ($65 total). Cut off the plastic on each key top so it lies flush on a key base, and glue them together.

More cutting-edge antiques

A vintage TV that now houses a working computer.
Onomy Labs’ 1960s TV-puter. Courtesy of Rebecca Hinden

Onomy Labs modded this iconic Philco Predicta “Continental” TV to house a computer with a 1,600-by-1,200-pixel LCD screen, as well as an iSight webcam. The original speaker and volume knob still work, and the channel knob can be used as a controller for teleconferencing and other applications. Details at

A wooden vintage computer case.
Nick McGill’s 1907 Skype phone. Courtesy of Nick McGill

Nick McGill salvaged this case from a secondhand shop and reengineered it to plug into a PC and make calls over the internet. He whittled down parts from a computer headset and hot-glued them into the mouthpiece and earpieces. The microphone wires had to be cut, soldered, and heat-shrunk back together.

A nautical rpm gauge converted into an internet traffic counter.
PopSci’s Instructables contest winner, by Pauric O’Callaghan. Courtesy of Pauric O’Callaghan

Pauric O’Callaghan ( wired a small router to an old rpm counter from a motorboat and engineered the device to display the amount of traffic between his home network and the internet on its elegant analog gauge. The finished product is truly a work of high-tech art. Back in March, O’Callaghan’s wireless router won the grand prize (a Canon DSLR camera) in PopSci‘s “Use It Again” contest—held with DIY site—which challenged readers to transform their old tech equipment into something new.

This story has been updated. It was originally featured in the July 2007 issue of Popular Science magazine.