In keeping with the Steampunk look, I think that the "unlit" LEDs should be all set to a dim yelowish glow. Prehaps with a bit of "breathe" to cause you to envision this in front of a fireplace of gas light.
I like your buy one before deciding to use it approach. There's so much you can't tell until you've got some wonderful (maybe....) piece of equipment in your hand.
I like to do this myself; often, I'll add a cool connector I haven't played with to an order, or buy some groovy automation stuff from eBay if the price is right, and sometimes it will get used in production later.
I can't do that with expensive stuff, but when buying from our distributors, we'll sometimes use eval P.O.'s.
@ElizabethSimon: I think that the "unlit" LEDs should be all set to a dim yelowish glow.
Funnily enough, I was just chatting about this with my chum Ivan (the guy doing the battery articles -- his office is in the next bay over in this bulding).
I was saying much the same as you -- that in keeping with the Steampunk look, in normal operation the LEDs shoudl be different shades of yellow, orange, and red ... maybe violet also, but I'll have to think about that.
I can't wait to get the brass front panel in my hands -- hopefully we'll finish the layout tomorrow and then I'll have to see how long the machine shop will take...
In that century :-) buttons were often 2-shot molded ie. the text was a separate pinjection molding process. If this is the case you will see telltale signs looking into the back of the button.
As far as hiding the text, these days they print the text onto the background and then heat it with a laser to fuse the dye into the base plastic. Perhaps you can use this method to fuse a recoat with a solid colour??
It would take some experimenting with a laser engraving service that is willing to play or getting in contact with a button manufacturer
OR with all of the 3D printing services out there why not get some new buttons SLA'd, all you need to do is draw up an accurate 3D model and email off the STL file. This is probably your best and cheapest option.
Googling "3D printing services" turned up a whole swathe of them for me. Just don't do FDM or the powder method (can't remember the official name), SLA or polyjet type processes will be best.
@Etmax: In that century :-) buttons were often 2-shot molded ie. the text was a separate pinjection molding process. If this is the case you will see telltale signs looking into the back of the button....
I'm not sure if I can remove the buttons -- I'll have to check that out.
I do like the white because it goes with the white bobbles on the antique switches.
An alternative is to use the metal parts from old typewriter keys and replace the existing inlays with mother-of-pearl ... so many things to try...
@Max, that was a time of having everything servicable. What I'm saying is I'd be very surprised if it won't disassemble. I do understand your desire to keep it looking as "authentic" and "in character" as possible. I'm pretty sure bone is a colour available in 3D prointing. I guess the journey is an important part of this :-)
@Etmax: ...that was a time of having everything servicable. What I'm saying is I'd be very surprised if it won't disassemble.
Actually, I'd have to agree with you on that one -- I'll take a closer look at it as soon as it's back in my sweaty hands (currently it's with my chum Willie who is measuring it with a micrometer and creating the CAD models we'll use to machine the brass front panel),