Looking for reccomendations for good, solidly built keyboard chassis

Ahten Xevious

11 Mar 2019, 20:07

I'm looking to make a custom keyboard, and I'd love to get a really solidly built chassis like on Wyse or IBM boards, but one that I could put my own switches in (BOX Jade) and, if it doesn't use PS/2 or USB, convert without too much hassle. I'd preferably want a full-size, or at least one with a numpad. I appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

Hak Foo

12 Mar 2019, 06:15

If you like the build quality of a WYSE board, why not get one, desolder the switches, and wire up a Soarer's Controller? They're plentiful and modestly priced. Do note the bottom rows tend to be a bit nonstandard.

Ahten Xevious

12 Mar 2019, 07:32

Well that's the thing, I suppose, I've been trying to convert a WY-50 for a while now, and I haven't had any luck with it. I don't know exactly how to troubleshoot issues with it, since there's so many variables. Like am I installing the firmware properly, do I have everything wired up right, and does the board itself still work? It's just a lot of effort, and I haven't really seen much progress with it, so I'm inclined to just sorta give up on it (maybe not quite yet), which is why I'm looking for something a bit more straightforward.

Findecanor

12 Mar 2019, 09:21

Get a Wyse PCE which talks AT/PS/2 to begin with. Then just change the switches. ;)
Those models are flat above the function keys. model no 900840 and 900866 respectively.

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zrrion

12 Mar 2019, 15:58

The PCE bottom row is great and the caps are nice, leave that alone.
That said they would be very nice with some click bar or SMK clicky switches.

Ahten Xevious

12 Mar 2019, 17:11

Findecanor wrote:
12 Mar 2019, 09:21
Get a Wyse PCE which talks AT/PS/2 to begin with. Then just change the switches. ;)
Those models are flat above the function keys. model no 900840 and 900866 respectively.
Oh damn, I had no idea Wyse made PS/2 compatible boards. I'm definitely gonna keep an eye out for that. Thanks for the suggestion.

Findecanor

12 Mar 2019, 19:54

zrrion wrote:
12 Mar 2019, 15:58
That said they would be very nice with some click bar or SMK clicky switches.
Would have... One cracks keycaps, the other is not compatible with the PCB.

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ZedTheMan

12 Mar 2019, 19:55

Findecanor wrote:
12 Mar 2019, 19:54
zrrion wrote:
12 Mar 2019, 15:58
That said they would be very nice with some click bar or SMK clicky switches.
Would have... One cracks keycaps, the other is not compatible with the PCB.
Only one of those things is true if you buy them new.

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Hypersphere

12 Mar 2019, 20:13

If you would be willing to go with Alps switches, the Northgate Omnikey 101 US ANSI is one of my favorite full-size vintage keyboards. It is also one of the most solid keyboards ever made. It comes with SKCM white Alps switches -- not much need to change these or do anything to them unless you prefer a different type of Alps of if you want to clean and lube them. The board has a detachable PS/2 cable. It is easy to convert to USB. I use an internal Orihalcon-Soarer converter and a flush-mount micro-USB connector that lines up perfectly with the existing PS/2 connector -- no need to drill any holes in the metal back of the case.

If you could accept TKL instead of full-size, Massdrop is currently running a drop on its "Ctrl" keyboard. It has a hot-swappable PCB that will accept almost any Cherry mx or clone switch. You can buy it "barebones" with no switches or keycaps if you like.

Wazrach

12 Mar 2019, 23:16

Ahten Xevious wrote:
11 Mar 2019, 20:07
I'm looking to make a custom keyboard, and I'd love to get a really solidly built chassis like on Wyse or IBM boards, but one that I could put my own switches in (BOX Jade) and, if it doesn't use PS/2 or USB, convert without too much hassle. I'd preferably want a full-size, or at least one with a numpad. I appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.
Have you tried a Model F? They're exceptionally well-made and have some of the best switches ever made, as well as keycaps. If you can get used to the primitive layout of a Model F XT and don't mind shelling out for a converter, I think you will love it! The XT is the most underappreciated due to its layout and the fact it is the most common model. I personally got used to the layout pretty easily, so much so that the unusual shift and backspace keys do not bother me in the slightest. I have never used my keyboards for work though, so your mileage may vary.

Of course, you can't put BOX Jades in it - but I can't see why you'd want to. The key feel is just that good. Not everyone likes the sound, although it is perfect for me.

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Hypersphere

13 Mar 2019, 00:05

I second the motion made by Wazrach regarding the IBM Model F XT. Before getting into keyboards in a major way, I had used Model M boards at work for several years. After deciding to make keyboards an obsession hobby, the XT was my first refurbishing project. I found one for $19 on eBay. It worked okay as it was, but I decided to make it as "like new" as possible, so I took it apart, replaced the foam, sanded and painted the plate, installed a Teensy with Soarer's converter, and reassembled it.

Indeed, the XT is an extremely solid board -- much more so than the Model M, as it has no plastic rivets, and it has a steel top plate, steel rear plate, and steel back on the case. The sound and feel are superb, and it has beautiful dye-sublimated PBT keycaps. The layout is strange, but with some judicious remapping by the converter and some keycap swapping, I made it quite usable.

Both the Model M and the XT ruined Cherry mx for me. I still keep some Cherry mx and clones around, but my main boards have Topre, Alps, or IBM Model M or F switches.

I'm typing this on a Northgate Omnikey 101 with hybrid SKCM white and orange Alps switches, keycaps from several different vintage and contemporary Alps sets, black-painted case, and internal Orihalcon-Soarer USB converter.
NG_White-Orange_25a.jpg
NG_White-Orange_25a.jpg (267.81 KiB) Viewed 242 times
My Northgate Omni 101

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