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I'm thinking about building a mechanical keyboard; seeing as the nice ones are fairly expensive to buy I figure I might as well go the whole hog and make a project out of it.

Has anyone any experience with a project like this and advice on where I should start?


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I always wanted an ergodox, that's what I'd build if I could get the parts.
However what I like is the diy, free firmware and ergonomy.
Are mech keys better for programming (read: a lot of typing) than, say, chiclet keys or a cheap plastic kb?


Yes. Start with /r/mechanicalkeyboards wiki.


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I have wide shoulder so for me spacing is more important than key type. I have a Microsoft Natural 4000 [http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/natural-ergonomic-keyboard-4000] and it's worked out well for me, except they aux. numpad means I have to reach really far to use my mouse, which causes wrist pain.


I'd like to have an Ergodox too some day, but the way they're distributing it (the whole massdrop thing) seems to have ignored the new vote for ergodexes: the necessary amount of votes has been reached months ago, but nothing's happening. I don't have to cash to let someone else print the case for me, sadly.


I have built a couple Phantoms and will soon be building a duck Orion V2.

A Phantom is a good place to start. You need switches, caps, diodes, stabilizers, pcb, plate, teensy, and case. I think the plate and the case are the hardest to come by, as you have to fab your own or buy an existing one. Check out Deskthority's phantom guide.


i have exactly the same keyboard. friends laugh at me saying i have a skatepark not a keyboard. but wrists are comfy as fuarrrk.
the numpad being far is true, but its not annoying once you get used to it.
i work in audio production, and most hotkey dualities got separated (for example, G and H for timeline zoom in and out), and it feels better than it sounds, really organic.


ergodox and phantom keyboards are legit

they use teensy as the base which is nice :D


it is because despite the votes few people will buy them. they are very expensive.


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I've got an atreus. Its all-beeswax construction is great if you rely on hipsterdom to get jobs, and it's almost an ergodox! That's two things!


Ben Hack is building a Novena with a mechanical keyboard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlnLqKL5IHE

No Idea how it'll turn out but it could be something I want.


oh my god I want to build my own rgb mech now after watching this

teensy is so rad


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someday i will get back to this and actually build it


I'm not sure if any of you are fans of the Ben Heck Show, but in this one him and Felix (linux guy) build a Novena (if you don't know what this is look it up) laptop with a backlit Phantom Keyboard. Ignore Ben's linux noobiness. Episode 3 should be out in the next 2-3 weeks.

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaOP1orfeqI
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlnLqKL5IHE


Saw that. Not sure what to think about the show in general though. I used to follow Ben before he had the whole element14-sponsored show and stuff; he had some really unique mods like the 360 and ps3 laptops, the wii laptop, etc. Now it seems kind of overproduced and goofy though now... Cool to see the novena though despite the goofyness and Ben's lack of linux experience.


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From what Ive heard, they still havent shipped the last drop, so I guess it makes sense that they arent starting a new drop yet.
Im currently building one myself. I moved a few keys around and am using a ribbon cable instead of the I/O expander and 3.5mm jack to connect the halves. Biggest issue is getting key caps. There are only a few places that stock DSA caps, and they are quite expensive, especially postage to Australia. DSA caps are important though, or you will end up with a lumpy keyboard.


ergdox infinity is back on massdrop again as of today!



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Been wanting to do a DVORAK Planck.

Was going to wait for new massdrop.

How is yours coming along?


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Sorry for the shitty picture but all I have is my phone.

What do you think?




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>>1545 here
Coming along very nice I think.
I learned that the trick to decent soldering is to not use a $10 pos iron.


Planck will Massdrop again this month, cant wait.

I too use DVORAK layout.

Post more pictures of the build!


I'm going to make a mech this summer can anyone help me make a plate based on the keys?


Does anyone know how I could go about wiring a PowerBook duo keyboard to a teensy?


would spoil it with my juices all over it


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Wew, here is my Planck!

Starting to get the hang of the Default firmware.


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Depending on where you are you can get parts for it on falbatech.pl or mechanicalkeyboards, I am currently making one and will post pictures and a bit of documentation soon. Since I do not have access to a cnc router I will use a normal router with a template to make the inner shapes. Here's the not yet cut template.

The holes in the picture are to make cutting it out easier.


Does anyone know where I can get "cheap" Japanese key caps?


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Here's another progress pic, I did it with 4 pieces of 12mm thick nut wood, if I knew it before and had the appropriate wood lying around I would have used 2 routed 18mm pieces and used 2 6mm flat ones as the bottom pieces.
If you have access to a cnc router, use it, that is faster, easier and it will save you from needing to make a template. Unfortunately it won't give you the same sense of accomplishment. If you are crazy and hardcore, do it with your bare hands.


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Now I get to try and figure out the firmware and hope I didn't mess anything up along the way.


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Firmware successful - Posting from it.
I can't begin to express how fun and exciting this is, that I made it and it's beautiful and working.

Phase II now will be incorporating that BeagleBone Black and making it into a functioning mini laptop thing.

Phase III is a motorcycle helmet with headphones and a VR HUD.


Came here to be like "you wont do it" - saw you did it. Good job OP. Good job.


Congrats, lain! Keep us up about the Beaglebone thing, sounds like a cool project. I've had the same idea for some time but I don't know if I'll choose a BB, it's very expensive where I live and IIRC it was the only fully FOSS and open hardware SBC.

Be careful with the helmet though, you'll want to hear the traffic.


So i got some laser etched PBT keycaps from a few old cherry g80-1800 keyboards now. Unfortunately getting the etching away is not easy, i managed to do it by sanding it down on the nodifier keys.
i used sanding paper meant for wet usage to reduce dust and get it to be a bit cleaner.
For fastening the pcb i thought about glueing 10-12mm m5 screws with their flat head to the bottom so that i can put rubber rings on them an lay the pcb on top and then tighten it by putting rings on the pcb and screwing it down with a nut.
Since i do not want any screws to be visible from the top i will probably use sunken woodscrews from the botton but i am not fully sure on that yet.
If anyone has a good idea please let me know.


Any candidates for the HUD?

Also wouldn't VR be stretching it for a BBB?


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I'm going for the poor man's ergodox, getting my hands sticky with X's kb events mgmt right now. Definitely not a trivial setup so I'll be forum-diving and reading manpages until I manage to hack up some configs.


Did anyone else have to fight X's keyboard configuration?
I've been trying to get this >>2542 working for a couple days but setxkbmap is such a undocumented mother fuarrrker for making custom layouts. xmodmap is easy but it can not choose which keyboard it will apply the layout to. I know the ergodox has the layout set in firmware, but having two keyboards with different custom layouts is harder than it should be. I'll write a program to get it done easily without messing with xkb's syntax, if I even manage to do it myself before giving up.

~: setxkbmap -device 8 test
Error loading new keyboard description
~: setxkbmap -device 8 -verbose test
Warning! Multiple definitions of keyboard layout
Using command line, ignoring X server
Trying to build keymap using the following components:
keycodes: evdev+aliases(qwerty)
types: complete
compat: complete
symbols: test+pu+inet(evdev)
geometry: pc(pc105)
Error loading new keyboard description
Windows' something happened isn't that worse than this.


How is that to type on (if you can answer as it sounds like it isn't really working)? I've wanted to try a keyboard that isn't staggered for a while now but I'm not sure how much of an improvement a non staggered keyboard would be when it keeps your hands close together (which is how the options $150 or under are).


getting key caps is hard? Couldn't you just get some from a broken keyboard?



Congrats! Just out of curiosity, how much did this whole project cost?


thus far:
$29.22 dsa pbt blank keycaps (x50)
$24.50 cherry blue switches (x50)
$22.61 planck top plate
$17.52 teensy2.0
$04.00 1n4148 diodes (x50)
$03.00 solder
$01.00 ribon wire
$10.99 back plate
$01.36 bolts and spacers


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I couldn't get the mapping to work, but I tried just typing with them unplugged and it's actually very comfortable. I woul've lowered the pinky's part on the map, like in this drawing, so I don't have to stretch it too much. I underlined the home row, plus the keys where my thumbs naturally fall on. Also they are tilted towards the front, and when you rotate them like that the slope is actually comfortable for the hands, I pictured that side view in the pic. That the keys are not staggered is actually good, the movements are more natural, just up and down. For example, in a normal keyboard if you have your left hand over ASDF and you want to reach Q with your pinky, you'd have to move it diagonally, and most strokes are awkward, that doesn't happen with these two. I would be using them every day but the problems configuring them beat me.


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Run `xev`, I wonder if you have multiple keycodes mapped to something


Tried that, the same key of different numpads has the same keycode but is shown as coming from a different device. Problem is xmodmap doesn't differenciate between devices, setxkbmap does but I couldn't manage to write a map file, even when editing an existing map, because they're much more complicated than in xmodmap, I couldn't find sane documentation on how to do it and error messages are too vague.
Thanks for the input anyway.


setxkbmap −config [file] −device [\d*]
with custom XkbVariant in the config?

Or old school loadkeys
if showkeys has different values for them?


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After I read this post about the Ergodox at the beginning of the year, I have been slowly researching and getting the bits and pieces together to build myself one!

I got the components, boards, and plates from falbatech and took the switches from a 2nd hand as new keyboard being sold on ebay near me. Caps I'm still not decided on. No case, I'm trying to this for (relatively) cheap.

It took me 7 hours to desolder the switches a month ago (never again) and Im gonna take a swing at it tonight and see if I can finish.
Thanks lain.


Yup, it seems like desoldering is like kicking dead whales down the beach. Some day when I get the money I'll build something like this. Good luck lain, be sure to post photos!


Is it possible to build a buckling-spring keyboard? I'd be interested in building my own keyboard, but it would have to be something I'd using, and I am [i]not[/i] replacing a my Model M with MX switches.


thats a lot of brouzouf


Model M style membrane+hammer buckling springs are married to, well, the membrane. Can't really get those as individual switches. The model F style capacitive BS switches are often considered even better and have a more modular construction but good luck finding any. The modelfkeyboards.com guy might or might not be able to help, but don't expect it to be easy.


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In typical fashion, I did not complete it that night, but a whole month later.
Not too happy with the keycaps and Ill need to pick some more up that I can use for the weird keys, but I have been using it today and its good! If I was to do it over, I would try to do without the PCB to keep the price dpwn and leave more of the design and maintenance down to me.


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Space Cadette


Go for plate mount switches if you can, assuming you have access to say a cnc rounter or mill. Also getting a pcb made is going to be quite expensive, its honestly just not worth the time imo, get a ergo dox or something tbh. Microcontrollers are a real pita especially for keyboards, deboucngina nd roll over are just horrid to deal with.


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Not 100% a keyboard, but I do have an idea I've been sitting on for a while. I bought myself a for-parts original Nintendo DS because it has some of the most satisfying, clicky buttons of any console/handheld ever. What I'd like to do is gut the lower half except for the buttons, and install a 4x3 or 4x4 grid of mechanical keys where the lower center screen is, then hook it all up to a teensy and use it as a macro board/gamepad/whatever else. Maybe install a sliding joystick from a PSP as well. Still need to do a lot of planning, but eventually I hope I can make something I get daily use out of from this.


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The profile wouldn't match, you need to make sure you either have a uniform profile like DSA or non sculpted SA or you get a specific keycap set, but those are usually pretty expensive.