Modern keyboards aren't as functy as they used to be.

Letters, some claim, can be used to spell things.

Here's a trick for recycling old computer keyboards by taking off the keys, fitting them with magnets, and using them as refrigerator magnets, functionally just like the commercial magnetic letters, such as those below, which are commonly sold as toys. Although not as brightly colored, D-funct has the advantage of promoting direct recycling. (Plus that cool "ReadyMade" look.) The original concept is not mine. The version I've produced here is a slight improvement on a basic idea I saw at a local crafts fair a couple of years ago.

Commercial magnetic letters by Melissa & Doug.

The process is simple: An old keyboard (or three) is disassembled using a screwdriver, at which point the keys themselves can usually just be dumped out. Each key will have a hollow prong or peg protroduing from its rear surface; these are cut flush with the back edge of the key using a razor knife and a bit of shoulder-strength.

An individual key from behind. Same key with plastic 'prong' cut flush.

My improvement on the original concept is invisible when the letters are in use, but improves their usefulness and durability dramatically. It consists in the means whereby the magnetic material is attached to the back of each key. In the prototype I bought at the craft fair (below left), a flat square of magnetized rubber is slathered with glue and attached to the minimal surface area provided by the flush-cut square-tubular plastic prong. In my version (below right), a 3/16" cubical rare-earth magnet (from Amazing Magnets) is fit almost exactly into the tubular recess itself with a minimal amount of two-part epoxy.

The prototype magnet, reverse, showing magnetic material and attachment. My version, reverse, showing improved magnet and attachment thereof.

My version provides superior magnetic strength, superior attachment surface area and durability, and superior aesthetics. It is, however, notably more expensive, and the original version works well enough to be useful for most applications. It should also be noted that, since keyboards (unlike English words and phrases) have a completely uniform distribution of letters, you will need several keyboards to produce a set of letters which can actually be used to spell out normal text. This "limitation," however, also suggests a new game which can be played with d-funct magnets, viz. the creation of pangrams, which are phrases containing all the letters of the alphabet. The most common example of a pangram is, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," although it should be noted that even this contains a nonuniform distribution over certain letters. A final d-fect in d-funct is that, like my earlier handset pulls, it suffers from what I've begun to call the "buffalo problem" (See below). This is a common problem in creative reuse: Once you take an old product apart and put pieces of it to new uses, what do you do with the eviscerated corpse?

A typical problem in creative reuse.