Retrobrighting at home in less than 4 hours

By Alexey

Guardian (3236)

Alexey's picture

22-01-2021, 01:04

WARNING! A dangerous chemical and powerful UV lamps were used in this project! The hydrogen peroxide can cause burns and skin irritation. The UV light can cause damage to the eyes. So if you are going to repeat this project, make sure that you use protective gloves and glasses that block UV light (good sunglasses will do). Do not expose yourself to large doses of UV radiation! Shield the UV lamps from humans and pets with UV blocking material, but make sure that the lamps are well ventilated to prevent overheating!

How to restore the original color of Yamaha MSX's keycaps in just 4 hours? After a few experiments I figured out how to make this happen relatively cheap and fast. The first experiment was done with a UV lamp from an EEPROM eraser. That one failed completely - the lamp was not powerful enough. Then the experiment was repeated with three 8W standard UV lamps (glass tubes). That had a little success, not enough to satisfy a perfectionist like me. And only the last experiment succeeded.

I've purchased two 30W UV LED lamps on aluminium chassis. These ones. Then I bought a deep transparent plastic box 250x180x140mm in size, with a cover. One of the UV lamps was placed onto the top cover, the other was placed on the bottom of the box. The sides of the box were wrapped by 2 layers of aluminium foil that was glued to the box with adhesive tape. Then the whole assembly was placed inside an IKEA garbage bin (no joke!) made out of metal. The bin's sides are made out of metal net, so there's enough airflow for the proper cooling of the lamps. I could have designed the proper holder, but why bother when a garbage bin worked so well? :)

Here are a few photos of my Retrobrighting device:

The keycaps were removed with the special cheap extractor that can be bought here for just 2 bucks. The extractor's wires are placed under a keycap and then it is removed by gently tilting the tool from left to write while gently pulling it upwards. This should be done very carefully in order not to break the center pin located inside the keycap.

It should be also noted that these Chinese-made UV lamps come with plastic-coated metal parts. This plastic film should be removed before the first use because the lamps heat up to high temperatures. It's recommended to switch the lamps off for 5 minutes every 1.5 hours to cool themdown. There's also another problem - the wiring of the lamp is quite lousy. The 220v power cable goes through a hole in the thin metal and it is not fixed to the lamp's case properly. So, it's highly recommended to use 2 cable ties to secure the power cable like shown on this picture:

I used 12% water-based hydrogen peroxide (not gel!) in my project. My peroxide is already 2 years old, but it still works well enough. In just 4 hours I've managed to restore the original color of my Yamaha's keycaps. It's recommended to gently rock the box every 10-15 minutes in order to mix the peroxide and shuffle the keycaps for the better UV exposure. At the end of the procedure it's necessary to rinse the keycaps in fresh water and to dry them before installation. The peroxide may heat up to 50-60 degrees during the procedure, so it's important to close the box's cover properly in order to prevent evaporation. Here's the photo of the end result:

As someone said - one picture is better than thousand words!

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By Alexey

Guardian (3236)

Alexey's picture

26-01-2021, 12:43

Before/after (estimation):

By Manuel

Ascended (18238)

Manuel's picture

26-01-2021, 13:18

Very nice! But how long will it last?

By wbahnassi

Master (147)

wbahnassi's picture

26-01-2021, 13:31

Wow amazing work!

I didn't know you could pull the keys out with the key cap puller. Does that work on the special keys as well? (Enter, Shift, CAPS, F1)?

By Alexey

Guardian (3236)

Alexey's picture

27-01-2021, 09:06

Manuel wrote:

Very nice! But how long will it last?

Hopefully, for a few years. I cover the computer to protect it from the light. Besides, the procedure can be repeated many times without harming the plastic.

By Alexey

Guardian (3236)

Alexey's picture

27-01-2021, 09:12

wbahnassi wrote:

Wow amazing work!
I didn't know you could pull the keys out with the key cap puller. Does that work on the special keys as well? (Enter, Shift, CAPS, F1)?

Yes, you can remove all buttons, but some of them have metal brackets. So, you have to be really careful not to break the clamp's holders. Putting those buttons back could be tricky...

By Manuel

Ascended (18238)

Manuel's picture

27-01-2021, 11:27

What I found weird is that my Sony HB-G900P's keyboard was never yellowed. But then I put it in the box, as I bought my FS-A1GT in 2004. Years later, I opened the box and it was completely yellowed! Looks like it *needs* the UV from ambient light to stay white?

By Meits

Scribe (6458)

Meits's picture

27-01-2021, 12:05

Manuel wrote:

What I found weird is that my Sony HB-G900P's keyboard was never yellowed. But then I put it in the box, as I bought my FS-A1GT in 2004. Years later, I opened the box and it was completely yellowed! Looks like it *needs* the UV from ambient light to stay white?

I read somewhere that the reason of yellowing plastic is not so much the light of the sun. The quality of air has a lot more impact. In fact, last summer I brightened the white keys of a synthesizer with just sunlight.

By Alexey

Guardian (3236)

Alexey's picture

27-01-2021, 13:22

I heard that certain plastic may emit chemicals into the environment and these chemicals could cause other plastic in the same box/room to become yellow or even melt. Quite a few of Russian computers had cable sleeves made out of crappy plastic that melted all around it - making "scars" on computer and keyboard cases.