Sculpted Keys » Linux Magazine

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Artisan keycaps elevate the mechanical to the magnificent.

The keyboard has a long history. Though the first typewriter was made in 1867, the concept dates back to a 1714 patent for a “Machine For Transcribing Letters.” And it was more than 100 years after the first typewriter that the modern keyboard appeared, 1986’s IBM Model M. A mere 21 years after the Model M, the mechanical keyboard community took flight with the birth of the geekhack forum. This was by all accounts the beginning of the keyboard renaissance that ushered in today’s highly customized keyboards: those with patterned colors, hot swappable switches, and so many variations of the keyboard’s classic click clack.

By 2009 keyboards had become more than a tool; for some, customizing them became a hobby. And within the beating hearts of this hobby’s diehards, two art forms were born: case modding and the artisan keycap. (Based on the number of followers on their respective subreddits, artisan keycap fans are only a minute portion of the mechanical keyboard community as a whole. The mechanical keyboard subreddit has more than 1.2 million followers [1], while the keycap subreddit has over 33,000 [2].) Though remaking and replacing keyboard cases has died down from the height of its popularity due to the extreme availability of keyboards of any style imaginable, the number of keycap artisans has continued to grow.

What Is an Artisan Keycap?

An artisan keycap is an Esc key, a spacebar, a backspace, or any other keyboard key that has been designed and sculpted by hand. Most often these are cast in resin, but metalwork and whittled keycaps exist too.

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