Artisan Keycap History

Artisan keycaps have evolved significantly as both an art form and collectible hobby, belying its niche status within the mechanical keyboard market. The dynamic interplay between a rapidly growing community of makers and collectors continues to fuel this evolution. This section chronicles the development of the artisan keycap hobby, will expand as history is uncovered or new milestones are achieved, and is not expected to satisfy any particular standards for completeness. You can help by proving suggestions for the timeline via our feedback form.

Note: You can drill into each milestone through the header, to read more or follow links to source information. Orange highlighted maker milestones include links to the maker profile.

1868
Jun 1868

First QWERTY Layout

First QWERTY Layout

Typewriter with QWERTY layout first developed and patented in 1868 by Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel W. Soule. The first keyboard with a Shift key..Read More

1984
Aug 1984

First MX Switch Patent Filed

MX Switch Patent

ZF Electronics UK Ltd. files the first patent for MX switches, titled “Mechanical keyboard with membrane switch array“, with the European Patent Association.

2007
Aug 2007

Geekhack Founded

Geekhack Founded

iMav creates geekhack.org (domain registered), the first major community where artisan makers and collectors gathered. The logo was created by aggiejy and Krogenar.

2009
Mar 2009

EliteKeyboards Founded

EliteKeyboards

EliteKeyboards (EK) was one of the early mech keyboard online sellers, and later became the exclusive vendor to sell Clack Factory artisans. EK was the US..Read More

Aug 2009

ClickClack Runs Giveaway for Skull Prototype

Clack Giveaway

ClickClack’s earliest post on Geekhack was about his impressive keyboard collection (250+) and how he likes to disassemble them to examine various switch types. He then..Read More

2010
May 2010

Clack Factory Launches

Clack Factory Launches

Clickclack of Clack Factory creates account on Geekhack and begins selling the first known hand-sculpted, resin-cast artisans for Topre and Cherry MX switches. Whether he knew..Read More

2011
Jan 2011

Deskthority Founded

Deskthority Founded

Deskthority.net domain registered to launch a keyboard-focused discussion forum. Creates the Deskthority Awards, to eventually include “Best Artisan Keycap” category.

Nov 2011

Ishtob Blanks and Zergling Artisans

Ishtob Zergling

Ishtob was an early hobbyist who made some cherry blanks and a sculpted DSA blank called a Zergling.

2012
Jan 2012

Niqmods Airbrushed Keycaps

Niqmods Airbrushed Keycaps

Nascent artisan efforts often took the form of painted blanks. Niqmods are one of the earliest examples of this style, with automotive spray paint on OEM..Read More

Apr 2012

Boost Posts Superhero Artisan

Boost Pupil Superhero

Early artisan maker Boost posts a prototype version of his Superhero keycap to Geekhack, and runs a few small sales later that year.

Jul 2012

Massdrop Founded

Massdrop

Steve El-Hage and Nelson Wu, originally from Toronto, move to Sillcon Valley and launch Massdrop. The site enabled group buys for enthusiast communities, including mechanical keyboards..Read More

Jul 2012

Korean Maker GirlDC Casts Metal Keycaps

Korean Maker GirlDC Casts Metal Keycaps

Korean maker GirlDC starts series of posts on Geekhack showing metal artisan keycaps. This is one of the earliest Asian makers with high quality metal keycaps,..Read More

Jul 2012

Techkeys.us Launches

Techkeys

Techkeys is an early US vendor that sold mech keyboard accessories and artisans. Like EK, they sold some artisans, including early work from makers such as..Read More

Sep 2012

Gas Mask Keycaps

HKP Gas Masks

Gas Mask Keycaps, based in Hong Kong, one of the first larger scale artisan makers, releases their first keycap, the Gas Mask.

Oct 2012

Bro Caps Launched

Bro Caps Brobot v1

Bro Caps launched his first cap (Brobot v1) at some point in 2012, sold initially via email sales. Bro would go on to become a highly..Read More

Oct 2012

Alessandro Painted Artisan Blanks

Alessandro Sweet Caps

Alessandro used nail polish to paint OEM keycaps styled after sweets or candy. A few low production sales were hosted on Geekhack with caps starting at..Read More

Oct 2012

DIPCAPS: Custom Dipped Keycaps

DIPCAPS

Jeroplane and his significant other in Australia offer a group buy for painted blanks on Geekhack. They employ a process called “dip painting” – where a..Read More

Oct 2012

Reddit /MechanicalKeyboards founded

Reddit /MechanicalKeyboards founded

r/mechanicalkeyboards sub is created by Ripster (following some Geekhack drama), and becomes one of the largest mechanical keyboard and artisan communities.

Nov 2012

Nail Polish Painted Keycaps from akuJIWA

akuJIWA Painted Caps

Another Australian Geekhack user, akuJIWA, and his wife do an interest check for nail polish painted keycaps on Geekhack, after receiving inquires from the community.

Nov 2012

Reddit /MechMarket Founded

Reddit /MechMarket Founded

r/mechmarket sub founded, and gains traction as one of the most active trading platforms for artisans. Makers start to post sales on the platform.

Dec 2012

3D Printed Keycap Models on Shapeways

3d Printed Artisans

The first 3D printed artisan keycap models start to appear on Shapeways, heralding what would eventually become an important medium for keycap making.  (Photo by Liang Kong)

2013
Jan 2013

CtrlAlt Launches to Sell Artisans and Keysets

CtrlAlt Logo

CtrlAlt was an active early vendor in the community for many years, who ran several artisan sales for Bro Caps and KWK, and also ran several..Read More

Mar 2013

Nubbinator Debuts

Nubbinator Early Sculpts

Nubbinator posts to Geekhack about his casting adventures and begins to share photos of his initial caps. He later follows this up with sale sculpts and..Read More

Apr 2013

Bunnylake Painted Keycaps

BunnyLake Confetti Blank

Bunnylake releases a series of nail polish painted blanks with confetti and glitter effects. The caps came as single Esc, WASD, and arrow sets in a..Read More

Jul 2013

Binge Caps Launches

Binge Caps Wadson and Moose

Binge shares his initial artisan keycap prototyping and casting journey on Geekhack, and starts to release his first sculpts. He notes his inspiration from predecessors such..Read More

Aug 2013

First Annual Keycon – 2013

Keycon 2013

About 30 hobbyists attend the first annual Keycon on August 17, 2013 at the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. Organized by i3oilermaker from Techkeys, the..Read More

Sep 2013

Hypnocaps Painted Keycaps

Hypnocaps

Geeekhack user do_Og@n shares initial painted keycaps he made for friends, and subsequently runs a few sales under the Hypnocaps brand.

Nov 2013

HipsterPunks – Killed by Kaps

KBK

HipsterPunks starts sculpting and casting early versions of Mummies and Death Lives in late 2013, and sends them to various folks within the community. In early..Read More

2014
Feb 2014

Dodgy Keycaps

Dodgy Keycaps

Geekhack user Dodgy is inspired by Binge and Nubbinator’s threads on keycap making and decides to try his hand at it. His initial sculpts are a..Read More

Jun 2014

Gasmask Keycap Rebrands to Hot Keys Project

HKP Warmaster

Martin of Gasmask Keycaps notifies the community that he is rebranding to Hot Keys Project (HKP), featuring a larger variety of new products, and shares prototypes..Read More

Jun 2014

SSIPAK’s Bootlegcaps

Bootlegcaps

Geekhack user SSIPAK posts his experiments with keycap making and sculpts Necrocap, based on the Necronomicon book in the Evil Dead series. He follows up with..Read More

Aug 2014

Krytone’s KRAP Keycaps

Krytone

Krytone shares his first attempts at sculpting and casting with great detail and progression photos, which is characteristic of early makers starting out. He continues the..Read More

Sep 2014

KatzenKinder Capworks

KatzenKinder Sculpts

KatzenKinder posts about his efforts at “amateur cap-crafting to sort of rejuvenate the creative mindset”. He sculpts various organic and robotic faces on stock PBT caps..Read More

Nov 2014

Elsea Keys

Elsea Keys

Connorelsea and some friends make painted key caps using a hydrographic printing technique, and offer made-to-order custom keycaps starting at $15 each. They thank Nubbinator for..Read More

Nov 2014

Mandolin Artkeycaps

Mandolin

Brief artisan maker Mandolin launches his first sale with Demon Cat and El Chihuahua.

Nov 2014

CG Keycaps / Shadowcaps

CG Keycaps

Geekhack member SavvyBird posts about her artisan making, with sculpts of a cat, nose, and ouija planchette on top of Poker keycaps. She would later cast..Read More

Nov 2014

Killed by Kaps (KBK) Returns as Kult Worship Kaps (KWK)

KWK

After KBK abruptly ended, Punksdead returns a year later under the Kult Worship Kaps (KWK) brand, with a variety of micro sales (1 – 4 kaps)..Read More

2015
Jan 2015

V0idtek 3D Printed Skull Cap

Voidward 3D Skull

Voidward posts high resolution pics of his 3D printed V0idtek Skull Cap on the Reddit Mechanical Keyboards sub. The prototypes were made using a Craftbot printer..Read More

Feb 2015

Fendent of Polymer Salon Early Casting

Polymer Salon

Fedent was a long-time member of Geekhack by the time he decided to share his initial sculpting experiments in February 2015. He would spend nearly two..Read More

Feb 2015

War of Betrayal Artisans by HiddenPower

War of Betrayal

HiddenPower launches a story-driven series of futuristic masked soldier keycaps, with blanks and a key-puller based on a rifle, using 3d modeling, casting, and painting.

Mar 2015

WinterWinds / Defect Artisans

WinterWinds / Defect

WinterWinds posts a photo of a watermelon style artisan blank on Reddit, that he plans to make available for sale. Later that year, in August, he..Read More

Mar 2015

KeyKollectiv Launches

Keykollectiv

Kudos makes an introductory post on Geekhack after some initial casting efforts with his partner Koala (now spouses). Their initial focus is on Topre and MX..Read More

Apr 2015

Lootkeys Keycap Project

Lootkeys

Lootkeys starts posting his various hand sculpted and cast artisan keycaps on Geekhack, and runs a few sales. He also institutes a loyalty program called “lootscore”,..Read More

Apr 2015

Adamski Artisans

Adamski Skull Prototype

Adamski, an early hobbyist that was heavily into DIY, posts on Geekhack about his attempts at keycap making. He shows pictures of his prototype hooded Skull..Read More

May 2015

DOOMCAPS Launches

DOOMCAPS

ImpendingxDoom launches DOOMCAPS on Geekhack with Topre and MX Esc and Function blank sets and several sculpted blanks. He would continue to refine his work over..Read More

Jun 2015

RoastPotatoes Keycaps and Blog

RoastPotatoes

RoastPotatoes was a Geekhack member who ventured into sculpted artisans and eventually held a few sales on Geekhack. He was also published his own blog covering..Read More

Jun 2015

R.A.G Caps

R.A.G. Caps

Australian reddit user flehrad, who now runs a mk-related podcast called The Board, posts his first casts of sculpted Sakura blank. Later that year he sells..Read More

Jun 2015

Zazie’s Keycaps

Zazie Keycaps

Aspiring beekeeper and mead maker shares their efforts on Geekhack at making Cherry MX custom keycaps. Inspired by the warm tones and colors, zazie_rx casts their..Read More

Jul 2015

KappaKapps 3D Artisan Keycaps

KappaKapps Undead Clackin

KappaKapps was an early vendor run by two community members, /u/KappaKappsLogistics and /u/KappaKappsKeyboards, who made 3D printed artisan caps and sold keyboard related accessories on their..Read More

Jul 2015

Retrocaps by Retrochick

Retrocaps

Retrocaps had an unorthodox start by today’s standards. Retrochick, the maker, cast for 1.5 years before her first public sale. During this time, she documented the..Read More

Aug 2015

Gen.s Artisan Caps

Gen.s Gem Caps

Gen.s from China posts photos of his Gem keycaps on Geekhack. He used a CNC to make the prototype, and then cast caps using silica gel...Read More

Aug 2015

ZorbCaps Launches

ZorbCaps

Zorb sells his first sculpt on Geekhack, a medieval Templar made with a combination of casting and hand painting. He goes on to become one of..Read More

Aug 2015

Keypress Graphics Artisan Painting Services

Keypress Graphics

Keypress Graphics lists an assortment of artisans for sale on Geekhack, made by other makers that he painted. He offers the first professional keycap painting services,..Read More

Sep 2015

Gloyz Artisans

Gloyz

Gloyz introduces himself to Geekhack as a “family of glass blowers that took on the challenge of making keycaps”, which was not an easy transition despite..Read More

Oct 2015

Binge Caps Rebrands as Hunger Work Studio

Hunger Work Studio (HWS)

Binge and WidgiePidge rebrand Binge Caps to Hunger Work Studio, continue to release new sculpts, launch a web site, and develop various products under this brand...Read More

Oct 2015

BCBRNR Caps

BCBRNR Caps

Bcredbottle runs giveaways on Geekhack for his multi-shot Cherry profile artisan blanks. He would later experiment with Alps stems.

Oct 2015

Omniclectic by Booper

Omniclectic

Booper started casting in late 2014, gave out some initial caps in 2015, and had her first Omniclectic sale on Geekhack in Oct 2015. The first..Read More

Oct 2015

First Artisan Collaboration on Massdrop

Massdrop HWS DWI Jack

Binge collaborates with Massdrop on a Deal with it Jack (DWI) Topre Artisan for a Realforce Numpad drop. This event marked the first time a major..Read More

Nov 2015

Tinymakesthings Clay Artisans

Tinymakesthings

Inspired by artisan keycap makers on Geekhack, Tinymakesthings explores how methods used to make jewelry, keychains, and other items with polymer clay can be applied to..Read More

2016
Jan 2016

Widdlekitty Caps

Widdlekitty

Widdlekitty posts his keycap making progress on the Geekhack Making Stuff Together forum, and has a debut sale for some beautiful artisan blanks a couple months..Read More

Jan 2016

:~$ynth Tool Released

:~$ynth

The first commercial tool to help artisan keycap makers called “:~$ynth” is released. Binge describes the solution on Geekhack as,  “a new opportunity for artisans and..Read More

Jan 2016

Suited Up Keycaps (SUK) Launches

Suited Up Keycaps (SUK)

Bambino posts his initial sculpts for feedback: the tall Spartan helmet, a bulldog named Duke, and one of his most popular, the samurai mask Keybuto. The..Read More

Jan 2016

Badnewscaps / Key Cap Dungeon

Badnewscaps

Badnewscaps starts sculpting in late 2015, and in Jan 2016 releases several artisan keycaps for sale in MX and Alps stems. Early sculpts include Ent, Lucky..Read More

Feb 2016

Nightcaps Keycaps Debut

Nightcaps

Eat_the_food was a fan of artisans before being a maker, and after a series of frustrating raffle losses (especially KeyKollectiv), decided to embark on his own..Read More

Feb 2016

Rama Aluminum Artisan

Rama Aluminum Artisan

Australian maker Rama debuts with an aluminum milled keycap blank, with vacuum sealed packaging. Rama would go on to become a popular manufacturer of keyboards, keycaps,..Read More

Feb 2016

Ramage Makes CNC’d Wooden Artisans

Ramage Wooden Artisans

After posting details of how he used a CNC machine to build a CNC router (how meta), and making wooden blanks, Ramage has his first sale..Read More

Feb 2016

Coz Caps Debuts from Down Under

Coz Caps

Australian picture framer Cozmosis holds his debut sale on Reddit with No Esc Keys, BucketHeads, Volkeynoes, MOBA Sets and blanks. He would go on to be..Read More

Feb 2016

Solidnitrogen Artisans (and drama)

Solidnitrogen Admiral Clackbar

Solidnitrogen introduces himself and his first artisan, Admiral Clackbar, on Geekhack. After a sale of another StarWars themed Rancor artisan on Reddit, several users complain of..Read More

Mar 2016

Jelly Key Debut

Jelly Key

Jelly Key is a Vietnamese brand that was created by Trần Mạnh Hùng in late 2015 to make artisan keycaps. This was the keycap product line..Read More

Mar 2016

Keyforge Unveils Initial Sculpts

KeyForge

In March 2016, SneakyPotato starts sharing his sculpting progress under the KeyForge brand on Geekhack. His initial sculpts are the Sabre v1 and Mulder v1, decent..Read More

Mar 2016

Ericaps Artisans

Ericaps

Ericaps has a debut sale on Reddit of their artisan blanks. They describe themselves on Instagram as having a “background in design and former crafters and..Read More

Mar 2016

Artisan Livestream – March 2016

Geekhack user Bcredbottle organizes an artisan livestream with Binge (from HungerWorkStudio), KatzenKinder, Bambino (from Suited up Keycaps), and Eat_The_Food (from Nightcaps).

Apr 2016

DCcaps Enters the Scene

DCcaps

Kenda, a student in Vietnam, shares his initial artisan casting on Geekhack, with several sculpts from ogres to owls to skulls. Latee that year in September,..Read More

Apr 2016

Aconic’s First Artisans

Aconic Goo

Juahenza, a Malaysian community member, posts photos of his initial artisan sculpts on keycaps: the Screamer, Kappa, Goo, and Lil Tim. The Goo would go on..Read More

May 2016

Navacaps Artisans

Navacaps

Nocturalowl made a Navcaps post on Geekhack, in May 2016, saying that he started making caps exactly one year earlier. He mentioned that his family owns..Read More

Jun 2016

JTM Sea Caps Initial Sale

JTM Sea Caps Initial Sale

After sharing detailed progress of his initial sculpting and casting efforts on Geekhack, JT Sea (u/jtm_sea) runs his first public sale for his Bonk R1 sculpt,..Read More

Jul 2016

MFCAPS Initial Sale

MFCaps

Dgneo runs his first “Alpha” sale of his Zev sculpt, based on the Mf Doom mask. His initial sale was mx pre-synth caps. In subsequent sales,..Read More

Jul 2016

Aero Keys Artisans

Areo Keys

Raenbo posts his artisan keycap making progress on Geekhack’s Making Stuff Together forum, sharing photos of Topre blanks and Aero Keys’ initial released sculpts, the Mechashark..Read More

Jul 2016

Just Another Keymaker (JAK) Debut

Just Another Keymaker (JAK)

Reddit user RocketGruntJake starts sharing his initial sculpting and casting experiments in April 2016, and after getting a Synth, debuts his Gramps sculpt and has his..Read More

Jul 2016

BrewCaps Launches

BrewCaps Ogre

BrewCaps shares his debut Ogre-themed sculpt on Geekhack, and launches a sale shortly thereafter on his Esty store (this might be one of the earliest known..Read More

Aug 2016

Switzcaps Debut Sale

Switzcaps Octo v1

Switzcaps shows off his Octo v1 sculpt in June 2016, and holds a debut sale on r/mm in August that year, for the Octo, Skullface, and..Read More

Aug 2016

BadMojo Caps

BadMojo Pyro

Canadian members Baddy126 and /u/MojoM1ke release photos of their Pyro sculpt on Reddit and Geekhack, and run their several sales shortly thereafter. They take a hiatus,..Read More

Sep 2016

Lost Keys Artisans

Lost Keys

Mattc777 introduces Lost Keys and his first artisan sculpt. In his words, “this  sculpt started as a fox, turned into a dino, and then began to..Read More

Nov 2016

Caps Simulacra Debuts from Indonesia

Caps Simulacra

Indonesian craftsman, gadzkun, shares a “skeletor artisan” that he made on Nubbinator’s GMK skeletor Geekhack thread.  He proceeds to have a sale of the sculpt, officially..Read More

Nov 2016

ipee9932cd (BRIZ) Previews First Sale Artisan

ipee9932cd

Avid artisan collector ipee9932cd shares a preview of Step the Ceph, his own debut sale cap, with colorful multi-shot designs. His earlier sculpting and casting efforts..Read More

Dec 2016

2016 Deskthority Awards Includes Artisan Category

DT Awards 2016 Best Artisan Keycap

Deskthority was running annual awards since 2011, nominating products, vendors, or members across various keyboard categories, with winners chosen by popular vote by the DT community...Read More

2017
Jan 2017
Special thanks to Joey Quinn for collaborating with me to compile a significant chunk of early history, initially for the Board Culture Podcast we did together (see links below), and also to RoastPotatoes for his blog archive that helped to fill in the blanks.
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