Modding the IBM Model M Keyboard

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Phase 1 - Disassembly, Cleaning, and Prep

IBM Model M keyboards have many features clearly superior to today's disposable keyboards. Take, for example, how easy it is to clean them. The keys and key caps are easily popped off and run through the dishwasher, and the entire case can be disassembled and thouroughly scrubbed.

Back of an IBM Model M 1391401

Flip an M over and along with a very cool birth certificate sticker, you'll find four screws holding the case together. Take these out with the help of a 7/32" hex driver and the whole case just lifts apart.

Inside an IBM Model M 1391401

Once inside, note the thick steel backplate that supports the keys. It's something you'll never see on a modern keyboard, and a big part of why the M is so solid. The whole key assembly and PCB underneath just lift right out once things are open. It can get pretty dirty inside a keyboard, so you'll usually find all kinds of crud once you get it opened up (I had recently given this one a cleaning so it's still all shiny inside). This is where you pop off the keys for a run through the dishwasher and give everything else a good scrubbing with some rubbing alcohol. We want a nice clean surface for the vinyl dye to bond with.

After a thourough cleaning it's time for masking. Normally you'd mask off the IBM logo and LED cover on the front, but since I'm replacing these with some from my broken black trackpoint, I just took them off. Both of these items can be carefully lifted off although the LED cover is more likely to be salvagable. I wouldn't recommend removing the logo unless you don't plan on using it again. Here are some comparison shots of the LED covers and logos.

Black metal trackpoint logo on the left, white plastic 1391401 logo on the right Black trackpoint LED cover on the left, 1391401 cover on the right

With the logo and LED cover removed, that just left the born on date certificate on the back. Sure you could take it off too, or try painting over it, but that's lame. Instead I carefully masked mine off with some blue painters tape.

Born on date masked off

Now we're ready to paint!


Phase 1 - Disassembly, Cleaning, and Prep

Phase 2 - All Black

Phase 3 - New LEDs

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