About this project
Heads up, this project has moved to a new Kickstarter page: www.kickstarter.com/projects/rawbkny/wood-keys-for-macbook-and-apple-keyboards
Raw is a creative manufacturing studio that was founded in Industry City of Brooklyn NY. Industry city is a creative enclave and business accelerator that is home to many designers, artists, and others alike. Being a part of this unique environment allowed us to design and manufacture our ideas in house with a high attention to quality and craftsmanship.
We have a unique creation process here that starts with an idea on our blackboard which eventually evolves into a prototype. After numerous tests we discuss our prototype with a select group of designers who share their feedback, which drives the necessary change for perfection.
When the product is ready for production, we ensure that each step of manufacturing is handled with attention to detail but most importantly quality.
We began development for the wooden keys in October of 2012 after being inspired by Robbie Tilton's Natural keyboard constructed from moss and wood. We found his attempt to bring nature back to the desktop keyboard fascinating. Our goal was to simplify the process without voiding the warranty yet still maintaining the same aesthetic and tactile function.
The materials are Santos Rosewood and Bamboo. Rosewood provides a dark and rich finish while the bamboo is more pure and light.
We needed a perfect adhesive that could provide maximum adhesion while leaving no residue when removed. After numerous tests and samples from 3M, the perfect match was found. With the adhesive and wood in place, we set out to create a pattern for the laser. The final design can be seen below:
Prep work involves sanding to a perfectly smooth finish and applying the adhesive. It is then up to the machine to complete the task
It is almost a must to re-finish the wood after the laser because of the residue. Fine sandpaper does the trick with a coat of beeswax, but most importantly a nice layer of lacquer.
It was finally time to install the first set of our wooden keys. The very cool thing here is we made sure that the caps lock indicator still functions with the keys in place so a cut out was necessary:
As the installation went on we became annoyed because it's quite tedious to install 78 keys with perfect alignment so that got us thinking; what if we can make a special jig that will ensure a perfect alignment. Looking at the layout, the most difficult keys are the ones that carry the letters/numbers and the functions, such as the screen brightness. In essence what we have done is create a small cap that attaches to the shape of the actual key but has a top layer that is to the size of the wooden key. This ensures 100% perfect alignment every single time.
We will be including this handy tool with each keyboard, one for the letters/numbers and one for the functions on the top row
Risks and challenges
The most challenging part of the manufacturing process for these keys is the time it takes to produce each set. With the current equipment we have been testing, each keyboard takes 30 minutes to produce however that is only because the technology used for production is not up to standard. With multiple machines present at our workshop, production can be 4x-6x faster. This will allow us to steadily manage fulfillment and mass produce these keyboards in house. We are putting a strong focus on international compatibility so layouts for different languages are being developed and will be delivered at the same fulfillment date as the US version.
At this point we already unified compatibility for the Macbook Pro, Air, and Retina by incorporating an extra set of keys that are different between the two models. This allows us to build a unified product that is compatible with all three models.
We are also testing out a new method of installation, this should help with perfect alignment of the wood for those tedious keys. The packaging details are being worked out as well and some prototypes have been made but nothing concrete has been set forth. We want you to participate in the shaping of this product's future as much as possible so with every update, your feedback can drive the necessary change for improvement.
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We plan to release every language for all the three keyboards in the lifetime of our campaign. It is already in development and all international pledgers will have the same fulfillment date as the US based pledges.
We used a very low profile wood that is about 0.6 mm thin. This type of wood doesn't have any contact with the actual display so you will not scratch the glass what so ever. It has been tested and we guarantee it.