Looking For Help With A Build

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Sandpaper600

16 Oct 2021, 03:43

So, I like using key/mouse for gaming, however I ABHOR using the "WASD" keys. As a result, I move the keyboard to my left and use the arrow keys and the associated keys surrounding them.

Recently, there are games that use more keys than I can comfortably reach with this setup and I find that I still have to reach left to access the other keys on my keyboard.

"So, what's the big deal?", I hear you ask. Just reach over and use the keys you need. Well, normally yeah no biggie, but I live in a motor-home and my computer table is only 24" square. Half of the keyboard hangs off into space while I am gaming.

Inevitably, I need to hit a key on the left side of the keyboard and that usually causes the keyboard to upend! Oops

So, long story longer....I see all these "gaming keyboards" made and they really are just standard keyboards but with different paint jobs and lights. "But this keyboard has the fastest clicking mechanical red switches!", you say.

Big deal. Doesn't help me at all.

What I'd really love is something like this:

https://ibb.co/album/9bVNfy

This isn't an actual thing. Obviously I just did a half-@$$ed job of copy and paste to create this. But, that not withstanding, this is the piece of hardware I dream of.

Now...to the reason I'm here. Is there anyone out there who has the knowledge/desire to help me design/make something like this that would function as a game controller on a Windows PC?

Obviously, the case wouldn't necessarily come out like this, probably more of a homemade plexi-sort-of-a-thing.

I would also appreciate hearing if this would be impossible to implement, due to some Windows stumbling block or other insurmountable obstacle. Is it even possible to use a 44 key controller like this with Windows?

Thanks for reading!

Lucid

16 Oct 2021, 04:44


User avatar
Sandpaper600

16 Oct 2021, 05:17

The main points about the keypad I want are:

1) size - While the split keyboard somewhat addresses this issue, both pieces of the KB have to be used together. I guess you could hang one of the halfs over the side of the table, but not ideal.

2) I want to get away from the keys being in a "brick" pattern. Instead my ideal pad would have the keys aligned in columns/rows.

3) Isolated set of arrow keys. A must have for me. Even now using a full KB, I can't stand/don"t use a KB that has other keys around the arrow keys.

I appreciate the input about hardware currently out there. Trust me when I say I have made an exhaustive search of products offered around the world have yet to see anything I would consider.

Lanrefni

16 Oct 2021, 05:49

BFO-9000 with a custom plate that puts the arrow keys and nav cluster to the left on the left side,you can get laser cut plates that leave the arrow keys isolated.

Something like this maybe,you can also get a plate cut that puts both halves together as a single plate if you would prefer a non split.

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Polecat

16 Oct 2021, 07:53

Your picture reminds of me of the old numeric keypad from Apple seen here:

wiki/Apple_Adjustable_Keyboard

It's only halfway close, and ADB instead of USB (converters are available...), so probably not helpful. Maybe there's something closer out there?

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Muirium
µ

16 Oct 2021, 11:55

Sounds like you want to *build* something for yourself. So, putting the layout aside for a moment, how does something like this strike you?

Image

That's a handmade custom designed keyboard in a layered, laser-cut case. They're a fair bit of work, but they can be done, and you can certainly have nice bare aluminium between groups of keys as you wish. In fact, you can design whatever you want.

Here's a couple of threads by the master of this stuff—Matteo—showing how it's done.

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5761
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6050

Read through those a bit and see. Does the work look like something you'd want to do? Or can do? Because that's the way to get exactly what you want. If not, well, then Plan B is to convert something pre-existing, as people were suggesting. ;)

Oh, something you want to get your head around is: what exactly can keyboards do? Essentially, USB keyboards can send all these keys. Here's a graphical way of looking at it: Hasu's TMK keymap editor. Explore the Action Codes section a bit: everything a keyboard can do is in there. There's a lot of stuff! And because you're making a custom keyboard, you can choose any of it, on any key you like.

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vvp

16 Oct 2021, 16:15

Looks like you are considering building it yourself. If so then build yourself one half of K80CS.

I know you said that you need separated arrow keys but you must realize that in a column staggered or gird keyboard any 3 inverted T keys are just like the arrow keys. E.g. on the right side of K80CS it is the keys IJKL (you do not need to use UO keys if you insist (or you may not even put keycaps & switches there if you really insist)). On the left hand side it would be ESDF. The advantage is that you have many easily reachable keys near to the inverted T keys.

You can build either right side of K80CS or you can mirror the right side (for your left hand use). PCB is designed so that it can be used also in a mirrored case. The side which does not contain the controller does not need to be connected. Or you can build both sides and connect them for typing, used the controller side alone when gaming.

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hellothere

16 Oct 2021, 22:16

Muirium wrote:
16 Oct 2021, 11:55
Here's a couple of threads by the master of this stuff—Matteo—showing how it's done.

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5761
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6050
Mu, thanks very much for posting those links and, of course, thanks to Matteo for posting that build log. I will eventually get to doing something like that.

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Sandpaper600

17 Oct 2021, 00:31

@vvp...I get what you're saying, but for me the isolation of the arrow keys for gaming is something I need.

@Mu...Yeah. That's the way I'm going to go. I have looked at this wiring guide;

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=87689.0

I am thinking seriously about doing it. The skills I see required are in my wheelhouse. Probably the trouble for me will be in the programming of the controller. I'm also not sure about the cost involved in the cutting of the baseplate. I would be OK using plastic, as it's just a game controller.

Would I need to unplug my main keyboard when I use it or would Windows recognize multiple keyboards?

I guess what I really need is a place I can come to get questions answered for when I run into problems. I think I have found it. :D

I guess if I scratch build, there's not really a limit as to what I can make or how it looks. Now I just need to save a few nickels to get some parts. I may have to build as the $ becomes available.

Can you point me to a source for the baseplate cutting?

Thanks to everyone for their input on this.

SP

Lanrefni

17 Oct 2021, 03:47

Windows has no issue with multiple keyboards,at one point I had 3 of them plugged in because I was compiling and testing firmware on 2 of them.

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Sandpaper600

17 Oct 2021, 22:28

Thanks. Just after I posted, I Googled it & found that out. I'm sure as this project progresses I'll be reaching out to this forum for help.

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Sandpaper600

19 Oct 2021, 02:50

So, just starting to think about this build and trying to map out the keys I will be using. It occurs to me: Do I need a Num Lock key for windows to recognize number pad keys? Or does this key just provide the dual functions of some keys on the num pad.

I'm thinking that with no Num Lock key, Windows will just see these as KP numbers. Will it recognize a KP 7 or is it just a "seven" like the top row numbers?

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Sandpaper600

19 Oct 2021, 03:44

OK Backup Question...Can I get, or have you ever seen, the typical square keyboard keys (1.5's?) that are labeled things like "Shift" or Ctrl?

Also, should I be taking the rest of these questions out of this thread and starting new ones? (asking for a friend)

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hellothere

19 Oct 2021, 06:51

Sandpaper600 wrote:
19 Oct 2021, 02:50
So, just starting to think about this build and trying to map out the keys I will be using. It occurs to me: Do I need a Num Lock key for windows to recognize number pad keys? Or does this key just provide the dual functions of some keys on the num pad.

I'm thinking that with no Num Lock key, Windows will just see these as KP numbers. Will it recognize a KP 7 or is it just a "seven" like the top row numbers?
I just tested with my full size KB and my Targus num pad. Both have num lock keys and they work independently of each other, i.e. if I have the num lock turned on on the Targus, it outputs numbers, regardless of the num lock state on the full-sized keyboard. The opposite also applies: if I have the num lock turned on on the KB, it outputs numbers, regardless of the num lock state on the Targus. YMMV with different num pads.
Sandpaper600 wrote:
19 Oct 2021, 03:44
OK Backup Question...Can I get, or have you ever seen, the typical square keyboard keys (1.5's?) that are labeled things like "Shift" or Ctrl?
Yes. There are a quintillion keycap you can get for key switches with the Cherry MX cross-mount, which is probably the switch you're going to be using in your build. However, the "U" in "1.5U" is based on a regular key, say, "F" being 1U. 1.5U would be a very small shift key. As I really don't fiddle with keycap sizes, you might want to take a look at WASD's sizes. Note that some keyboard manufacturers use non-standard (with Cherry being the standard) sizes for their bottom row. That's the row that has CTRL, ALT, the spacebar, etc. Logitech immediately springs to mind. Some or all of the below TKL sizes (40%, 20%, 2%) have different sizes. Lots of mostly pre-1995 keyboards have different sizes all over the place.

Almost forgot to add: check your profile. Simplified example: if you swap the "F" key and "1" key off your MX-compatible keyboard, you'll find that they're just wrong. They're the wrong height. I think ortholinear keysets are all the same height.
Sandpaper600 wrote:
19 Oct 2021, 03:44
Also, should I be taking the rest of these questions out of this thread and starting new ones? (asking for a friend)
Personally ... I really don't know if I should post build-related stuff in this topic or in the Workshop topic. IMO, all questions about the same build should be in the same thread, but it's just an opinion.

BTW, because I really don't like doing wiring, I'd look at a Tipro or something similar. You can also look for control pads or keypads on ebay. Make sure you check out the POS (point of sale) stuff.

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Muirium
µ

19 Oct 2021, 11:44

POS keys are real. Spot the single unit modifier keys. ;)

IMG_9429.jpg
IMG_9429.jpg (202.31 KiB) Viewed 970 times
That little ortholinear matrix keyboard of mine has a simple uniform grid of switches. I wouldn't advise using 2 unit or 4 unit wide keys, if you're designing your own thing. Those keys all feel just as heavy as you'd expect with the extra switches underneath!

As for numpad keys: they have specific scancodes in the USB keyboard spec, so your computer definitely knows you're pressing numpad 7 rather than numrow 7. But here's a question: what keys do you actually need? I'd advise starting small. You can leave out whatever you want.

Lanrefni

19 Oct 2021, 14:21

The trick to using 2U POS caps that span 2 switches is to cut the spring in the second switch in half,makes it feel much nicer,you will have to replace the spring if you ever want to use that switch again though.

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Muirium
µ

19 Oct 2021, 16:15

Sure. But they still don't stabilise right: they don't go down straight unless you press them dead centre. I wouldn't advise multi-switch caps when you're doing your own design.

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Sandpaper600

19 Oct 2021, 22:36

@Mu...That OLM KB screams harmony to me. :ugeek: I absolutely love the way it looks. As for my build, yeah, I'm going to be going with all keys 1 unit. The keys that I actually require are fairly few. I was more asking about recognition just because I thought about calling out KP nums on the right side and Num row on the left. I'll use other keys as required until I fill in all available spaces.

I'm wanting to build this non standard thing to use as a "gaming keyboard":

https://ibb.co/F32wfDM

Instead of the doubles, I will make all keys singles. That will give me 44 keys + the arrow keys in a much smaller form. That will provide all the inputs I can foresee needing in any gaming instance. I don't think I'll need to vary the height of any keys, so I should look for ortholinear keys?

@hellothere...
Simplified example: if you swap the "F" key and "1" key off your MX-compatible keyboard, you'll find that they're just wrong. They're the wrong height.
I'm currently using an old Saitek Eclipse II as my main KB. I've had this thing for about 15 years and have used it in literally thousands of hours of gaming and it's still very responsive. I checked the keycaps on it and they are all the same height (letters and numbers). My bottom row is about 1.25 units wide with a spacebar around 5.5 x 1.5. Not sure if that's something they just started doing since this old KB was made.

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Muirium
µ

20 Oct 2021, 11:14

Time to show us your actual layout idea then. Maybe it’s just me but I doubt you just want two numpads really. ;)

As for modifier keys—like Alt, Control and Shift—do you want them on this gaming pad? It’s entirely up to you what keys you include or not. (Windows will just see all the missing keys as present but never pressed.) If you do want modifiers, you may want them bigger than single unit wide keys. 1.5u is a good size (same as most Tab keys or backslash keys on ANSI) because it feels easier to reach when you’re chording, and isn’t so big it wobbles. 2u is when stabilising is required.

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Sandpaper600

21 Oct 2021, 00:34

Mu, I've been thinking about this controller for a long time. I really do think I basically want 2 num pads and a set of arrows. It will give me more than enough inputs to cover the gaming controls I typically use. I have been working with the Keyboard Layout Editor and this is what I have so far:

https://i.ibb.co/f4YP8jT/KP-Layout.png

At this point I'm not sure those will be the final legends. Also, you can see I still have 2 blank keys. I want to use RBG back lighting, so I will probable make one of those keys control that.

The keys on 3 of the 4 corners are required for some functions (hard coded) on a couple of games and Steam uses some also. The center 6 I just used because that's what they are on a full sized KB. I'm open to suggestions.

I haven't given much thought to switches, (i'm kinda leaning towards Cherry Black). I think I want at least some special color keycaps on the 4 corners and maybe a different color for the arrow group, but I think I probably want black keycaps with shine through letters for the rest.

Thoughts/pointers?

As an aside...How are you u/l images? Do I need to host them or are you attaching them somehow. I'm not having any luck getting the image in the post.

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Muirium
µ

21 Oct 2021, 01:00

Use [ img ] tags around the url, like this:

Image

You'll find them in the post editor. The wee pictureframe icon up the top, or you can always type them. To see what they look like behind the scenes, you can always press the quote button on any post in the forum, which shows the markup in your editor.

As for your layout: you should be able to source all those keys quite easily, apart from the 1u Enter key. A blank key should do fine for your 1u spacebar. I mean, who wants a legend on their spacebar?

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Sandpaper600

21 Oct 2021, 23:01

Yeah, that's what I thought. But every time I use that all I get is a link to an image. yours just said "IMG_9429.jpg". So where did that pic come from?

I'm sorry to hear that the enter & space keycap will be a problem. I guess I could just go with a color for those 2.

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Muirium
µ

22 Oct 2021, 10:24

Well, Here’s a little edit to trick the syntax into exposing itself:
Muirium wrote:
21 Oct 2021, 01:00
Use [ img ] tags around the url, like this:

[ixg]https://i.ibb.co/f4YP8jT/KP-Layout.png[/img]
Change that ixg back to img and you’ve got it. They should be img and /img

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Sandpaper600

22 Oct 2021, 23:03

Mu...I promise you I'm not stupid :lol: But for the life of me I can't get an image to display here. I've not had any trouble doing this kind of thing on other forums, but noting I've tried works here.

I tried clicking the little pic and adding my link to the pic and all I get is:

Image

Which looks like this:

"img]https://ibb.co/F32wfDM[/img"

(I removed the beginning and ending brackets to show the actual text.)

I've never seen the tag [ixg] on my pic attempts.

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Muirium
µ

23 Oct 2021, 14:26

Sandpaper600 wrote:
22 Oct 2021, 23:03
I tried clicking the little pic and adding my link to the pic and all I get is:

Image
You mean this? ;)

Image

The image's url is really: https://i.ibb.co/H46zMHs/Gaming-Pad.jpg

I found that by opening your link, seeing it was an image host's webpage with a bunch of stuff, then right clicking on the *image* itself to copy its true url. img tags aren't smart enough to go find the image for you, they need the exact url, is all. Fiddly internet! :D

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Sandpaper600

23 Oct 2021, 21:00

It would be simpler if they would just let you copy and paste an image in the post. 😠

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Sandpaper600

25 Oct 2021, 00:49

So, after looking around at keycaps, I found out that I'm asking for a large portion of "Nope" when deciding to use some of the keys I had previously wanted, like a 1 x 1 Enter or a 1 x 1 labeled Spce.

So I dropped back and thought about what the keys really needed to be. A lot of the games I play have a numbered hotbar, so I want numbers to call that out. Otherwise I see, upon reflection that I think all the other keys could be anything, with the exception of some "F" keys. I decided that the easiest thing I could do for myself is to just call all the rest letters.

Image

The "EFG" and "TUV" are kinda' yanking on my OCD, but not sure what to do about it. I'll probably look at this some more before I'm happy about it.

Anyone got any thoughts?

On a separate note...I want to have back lighting. I know that shine through keys aren't really a thing with mech switches, and I don't want to get into wiring led switches, so I am wondering how back lighting is done. Google doesn't seem to be my friend here. All I keep seeing is videos about how cool finished custom lighting is and how do you like my board posts. Can anyone point me to info on how to do and materials needed posts/videos? (asking 'cause I'm inept :roll: )

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vvp

26 Oct 2021, 18:13

  • LED under each switch. Easy because your keyboard is flat and you can use PCB and even surfrace mount LEDs.
  • LEDs in a row on some side(s). You need an acrylic plate to diffuse light over the keyboard surface. "Diffusing mirror" finish on the bottom and the sides. Similar approach how LCD backlit works. There may be some tinkering where to place LEDs to get somewhat even backlit.

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Sandpaper600

27 Oct 2021, 00:19

vvp wrote:
26 Oct 2021, 18:13
  • LED under each switch. Easy because your keyboard is flat and you can use PCB and even surfrace mount LEDs.
Although I said I don't want to wire switches with LEDs, I am planning to wire my switch setup. I know "what's the difference?" From what I've been able to sus out, there seems to be a whole other layer of complexity to soldering in and making it work to the LED switches. I already suspect that I'm going to have trouble making this build actually work (from the controller/programming standpoint.) I don't need to muddy it up any further.
vvp wrote:
26 Oct 2021, 18:13
  • LEDs in a row on some side(s). You need an acrylic plate to diffuse light over the keyboard surface. "Diffusing mirror" finish on the bottom and the sides. Similar approach how LCD backlit works. There may be some tinkering where to place LEDs to get somewhat even backlit.
I had thought about something like this. I think I'm wanting to use some sort of sandwich style plastic thing for my case build-up, so that may work out to my advantage. I need some tutorial about how to go about wiring/controlling this sort of setup. I wonder if I could use chrome spray paint to give the reflective finish on the inside? I could tape off areas on the sides where I wanted the light to shine through.

On another thought...Why is it that nearly every mech KB I see, the keys are bald faced? Why does no one use a "bezel" around the key area to give it a somewhat more finished look? Do they all like that raw look? Is it something with keeping dirt out?

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Sandpaper600

27 Oct 2021, 00:21

...And another thing....Should I be thinking about moving the legends to an off center position to give them a better chance to be lit. I'm thinking of using a pudding type keycap.

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