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Custom keyboard build!


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#1

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Posted 23 December 2017 - 08:58 PM

You may remember my wood computer chassis, and then wood mouse. (Both linked in my sig, and both still going strong. Looking at the old photos of the mouse, I think I need to add some new ones to show it nearly four years on!) If so, you may also remember that I suggested I wanted to do a wood keyboard to match. Well, the keyboard is starting!

 

I had wanted to make it with my own buckling-spring capacitive switches, but could never come up with how to make them properly – that's why nothing has happened on it in about four years. Recently I was thinking about mechanical keyboards and thinking I wanted one, but still thinking about this too... I really wanted to make my own board! I decided to see if I could find the normal mechanical keyswitches at a reasonable price. I did. So I experimented with making keycaps, and was successful enough to decide to go ahead. So it is finally happening!

 

Specs:

Normal 104-key layout, but with function keys to get some other bits

Gateron Brown (Cherry clone) switches

N-key rollover

Integrated IBM TrackPoint "mouse"

Flat profile (far easier for making keycaps)

 

The keycaps are custom, being manually milled by me. I'm making them out of some kind of cherry (because it is nice wood and also strong, not anything to do with the switches). I started with rimu or similar, but decided that it wasn't strong enough for my liking. The cherry is a big improvement in that aspect, and if anything looks even better. (Cherry is beautiful timber, but I'm not sure how well it'll show up as keycaps – if it was just a flat slab there wouldn't be any question.) They're time-consuming to make, but not too bad as I do several (20+) at a time.

 

The firmware is based on an existing open-source one, and is nearly done. The most important thing it needs is testing – and I need hardware to do that properly! But I know that it does at least partially work (a single switch that I've got temporarily connected to a microcontroller the same as the final keyboard controller works, and so does the TrackPoint [which also goes through the keyboard controller]).

 

I'll be posting more in the coming days, and will definitely be posting photos once I've got some worthwhile.


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I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


#2

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 08:31 PM

Here's some keycaps I made a week or two ago, while I was still working out the best way to do things. Some of them have got blemishes (e.g. off-centre curvature on the tops, uneven wall thickness at the base), so they may not all be used, but they definitely show what they should end up like.

Attached File  keycaps sm.jpg   42.14KB   0 downloads

 

Also, I've got some slabs that I've cut, left for a while to dry in case they were going to (I want them flat), and milled flat and to roughly the right thickness (the exact thickness will be taken care of later on). If you haven't seen cherry before, this might give you an idea. The colour is actually better than in the photo, particularly the greens. They're top-side up. There are some splits on the two right-hand ones that I'll just avoid.

Attached File  blanks sm.jpg   34.34KB   0 downloads

 

Unfortunately, neither photo turned out as well as I expected. Must have been the lighting...


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i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


#3

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 02:42 PM

Sorry for no updates for a while – I wanted to wait until I'd done a bit more, but then got held up. Here are some more photos of progress, including showing how I'm making the keys.

 

So, starting with the blanks I showed in the last update, they've progressed as follows:

1. Mill slots in one direction

Attached File  Step 1.jpg   66.49KB   0 downloads

 

Attached File  mill.jpg   73.76KB   0 downloads

 

2. Mill slots in the other direction, creating the underside of the key

Attached File  Step 2.jpg   74.77KB   0 downloads

 

All the longer keys except for tab and backslash:

Attached File  Modifiers.jpg   65.09KB   0 downloads

 

3. Drill 11 1.2 mm overlapping holes each key to create the + for the key stem, 7 horizontal and 5 vertical with the centre one shared

Attached File  Some drilled.jpg   55.34KB   0 downloads

 

I do that rather than actually milling the slots because 1.2 mm wide and ~4 mm deep is pretty hard. Most end mills that size don't come that long, and would require several passes anyway. This is where I was held up. I drilled most of the holes in the board in the first three photos, and then broke my last bit. I'm using 1.2 mm tungsten carbide drills, and while they're great in that they don't bend (giving good precision, and making the very necessary overlapping holes possible), that also means they break quite easily. I tried using a high speed steel bit, but it was far too flexible – first it easily decides on an incorrect location to drill, and secondly it is completely unreasonable to try drilling overlapping holes. So I had to wait for shipping from China which was held up for ages, probably in Customs over the holiday period... While I was waiting I did steps 1 and 2 with the rest of the blanks.

 

All the extra holes are so I can see where stuff is when I'm working on the top!

 

I've also started on the circuit board. The first fun was printing the ~480 mm long pages – one printer refused to use anything other than standard paper sizes, and the wouldn't feed correctly because of a curl in the paper (it came off a roll) until I straightened it out a bit. But I'm getting along there too.


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i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


#4

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Posted 26 February 2018 - 11:54 PM

Mate. Can't wait to see to more, this is awesome!


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#5

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 09:45 AM

Thanks! It's coming along fairly nicely, I'm up to doing the tops of the keys now. Just hoping I've got enough keys, and don't have to do some more...


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i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


#6

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 02:39 PM

I can't believe I haven't posted an update here since February! But nothing much had happened between then and a month or two ago – I got busy with other projects. And I was up to doing the tops of the keys, which is not the easiest part of the job.

 

The first step with doing the tops is getting the panels mounted with the correct rotation, and then finding their position. Not easy, especially as a mistake could, and in one case, did, ruin several keys (depending on how soon it was spotted). As my brother told me later, I should have milled the sides of the panels and mounted them in a jig, which would have made it far easier.

 

Then I milled some shallow V notches between some of the keys, to help with alignment for milling the curve in the key top. After that I milled the curve. I mostly didn't with the larger keys because they need a different curve (same depth over a wider key), although in some cases I did to get the correct depth / key height.

 

Attached File  Milling curve.jpg   63.15KB   0 downloads

 

Attached File  Mill curve setup.jpg   64.07KB   0 downloads

 

Then I milled the actual V notches between the keys... Initially I was using a specially-sharpened 6 mm drill bit, which required three passes (two to remove 8 mm width, and another to lower the bottom). But it was just a very cheap bit, and at one stage I hit a screw head that was holding the panel down – which put a dent in the cutting edge. So I tried to sharpen it, but I did a bad job that made it cut a curve instead of a line. So I made a replacement from a broken 9.5 mm drill bit, which had two benefits: it came to almost a point (instead of an edge), and it only required one pass. Here's the only photo I took of milling the notches, with the first cutter.

 

Attached File  Milling V.jpg   63.32KB   0 downloads

 

After all that, here's what I got:

 

Attached File  Milled keys top.jpg   50.41KB   0 downloads

 

So I cut them apart by hand with a saw, which left a bit of excess on them. I sanded that off, and have sanded the sides as well. Now I'm part way through sanding the curved tops. Here's a photo of them all, the ones arranged in the container have had their sides sanded:

 

Attached File  All keys some sanded.jpg   116.66KB   0 downloads

 

And another of those ones close up:

 

Attached File  Partially sanded closeup.jpg   77.99KB   0 downloads

 

I think I'm going to have enough, but that's only because I'm using some of the lesser quality ones. I've got three extra normal-size keys at this stage. Some minor cracking and similar isn't problematic, and the initial ones that had the top curve off-centre are OK because I'll sand them down flat, and will use them somewhere where that's suitable (probably the escape / function row, with exceptions for commonly-used ones).


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i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


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Posted 01 December 2018 - 08:11 PM

OK, they're sanded on top now, and tidied up some sides that got missed too. So that means they just need legends and any finish / coating. The legends will be poker-work, probably on the front. (I mostly touch-type but not for the lesser-used stuff, and I don't think having only some legends would look any good.)

 

Attached File  Sanded keys.jpg   145.27KB   1 downloads


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i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13


#8

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Posted 11 February 2021 - 09:09 AM

Wow, two years since I updated this! Either way I've made a lot of slow progress in that time.

 

I've got the PCBs made (milled on a modified 3D printer), labels on the keycaps, an enclosure partially done, and the Trackpoint installed. Unfortunately I haven't taken as many photos while doing this as I should have, but here's some I've just taken. The firmware is also functional, and I have tested it but with many missing keycaps! And yes, it does work well.

Attached Files


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Recommended Power Supplies Recommended review sites Why stores shouldn't be removed RAM voltage

i5 7400, Gigabyte GA-B250M-D3H, 16 GB DDR4, integrated graphics, Adata XPG SX8200 480 GB (NVMe), 3x Kingston SSDNow KC380 120 GB, Corsair MX100 128 GB, Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD, DVD writer, all inside a wood case I built, Dell U2412M 24", U2311H 23" IPS and Philips 150B4 15" monitors, wood-bodied mouse, Dvorak keyboard, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Windows 8.1 Pro in a VB VM inside Linux

I may occasionally give advice regarding (consumer) law, but it is only my opinion based on my reading – I am not a lawyer.

Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10,13





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