Alps TKL with SKCM Browns [Endgame Candidate]

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Scarpia

24 Jul 2018, 18:07

For a few years now, I have been contemplating how to combine:
  1. My love for Alps SKCM Browns
  2. A usable, compact layout *with* arrow keys (screw 60% layouts!)
  3. A sleek, modern case -- i.e. not a vintage one complete with numpad and yellowed plastic
  4. And a quality keyset with a good looking colorway and working stabilizers
And until very recently, it wasn't really doable without a lot of custom work on both the wiring and the case - and maybe some compromises in the keycaps department. But LFKeyboards now sells a PCB, and Aliexpress a case, that makes my dream board possible in a TKL form factor.

So last night, I finished this beauty:

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A few snapshots from the build:

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And here's the full build gallery: https://imgur.com/gallery/VNiE2Y3

BOM:
Total cost of materials: $776.5 (plus some additional Swedish import taxes and fees which I don't even want to think about)
Last edited by Scarpia on 26 Jul 2018, 12:19, edited 5 times in total.

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kakan

24 Jul 2018, 21:25

Damn this is really a beauty and unique. How deos the browns feel to type on for a long period of time? I've always enjoyed light switches and Browns are to stiff for my liking but the feel just blows everything else. I have tried them with 40g Sprit springs but 30g is probably to my liking.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

24 Jul 2018, 21:40

Very well done - looks gorgeous! The red plate really looks great with the SKCM browns! You should totally give us a sound-demo!

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scottc

24 Jul 2018, 22:11

How did you get the plate done?

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Scarpia

24 Jul 2018, 22:24

Hi kakan :) I can't say for sure what it will be like to live with this board for a longer period, since I just finished it last night. I built a 60% with brown Alps before, but the switches were scratchy and I couldn't get used to the layout at all, so I didn't actually use that for long either.

What I can say is that it feels and sounds amazing. My daily drivers in 2018 have been Topres - a Leopold FC660C (45g) at home and a Realforce 89u (55g) at work, and I would say this is as good as either of them, and better in some key ways.

Compared to the Leopold FC660C, my Alps board is:
  • Louder: Leopold is near-mute on the downstroke and fairly quiet on the upstroke, while my board is neither - but it sounds *real good* -- kind of like a Hollywood 1980s typewriter sound effect two cubicles away.
  • Less rattly: My board has less rattle (as in zero) than the Leopold, in particular on the stabilised keys, where the Leopold has a bit of unwanted rattle (though far less than the Realforce which is so rattly on the space bar and backspace keys that I initially wondered if I had assembled it wrong)
  • Heavier (in switch weighting): The 45g Topres in the Leopold are very well balanced for typing, and the brown Alps are noticeably heavier than that. Not sure if that would make my board tiring to use for a 4-hour typing session, but time will tell.
Compared to the Realforce 87u 55g, my Alps board is:
  • Louder, but a lot less rattly: Next to mine, the Realforce sounds muted, but noticeably rattly - and rattlier than the Leopold as well. The distinct clacking of the brown Alps bottoming out is still much louder than the upstroke rattle of the Realforce's Topres, but it's a decidedly more satisfying sound.
  • Fairly similar in switch weighting to my unsophisticated fingertips.
  • Less smooth: The Topres are consistently smooth on both the Leopold and the Realforce, while some of the brown Alps in my board are slightly scratchy (just a touch though, and only on the least used keys).
Last edited by Scarpia on 17 Aug 2018, 20:10, edited 1 time in total.

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Scarpia

24 Jul 2018, 22:31

scottc wrote: How did you get the plate done?
I read somewhere that the Phantom TKL universal plate supported Alps switches as well, and after a bit of research and a lot of nail-biting, I ordered one from mechanicalkeyboards.com for $44 (plus shipping and a bunch of swedish import taxes). It doesn't support vintage Alps stabs though, so you'll have to use Costar or Cherry stabs. This meant I couldn't use any of the vintage keysets I have, so the Granite was ultimately my only choice for keycaps.

There are several colours available, and they are still in stock: https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/in ... ail&p=2551

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Scarpia

24 Jul 2018, 22:48

//gainsborough wrote: Very well done - looks gorgeous! The red plate really looks great with the SKCM browns! You should totally give us a sound-demo!
Good point. Here is a typing test.

I type: "This is a quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. [enter x5] [space x5] [backspace x5]"

Alps SKCM Brown TKL typing

And for comparison:

Leopold FC660C typing

Realforce 87U typing
Last edited by Scarpia on 17 Aug 2018, 20:29, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

24 Jul 2018, 23:07

Scarpia wrote:
//gainsborough wrote: Very well done - looks gorgeous! The red plate really looks great with the SKCM browns! You should totally give us a sound-demo!
Good point. Here is a typing test.

I type: "This is a quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. [enter x5] [space x5] [backspace x5]"

Alps SKCM Brown TKL typing

And for comparison:

Leopold FC660C typing

Thanks, sounds awesome! I love the sound of brown alps =)

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XMIT
[ XMIT ]

24 Jul 2018, 23:47

Alps mods are great. The KBparadise V80 Alps is a handy donor board for alps projects. I for one find Brown Alps way too heavy and can't use them on a daily basis. But, well done!

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Scarpia

26 Jul 2018, 11:24

Good tip on the V80 XMIT! I had looked at that one before, but IIRC some people were saying that it's fiddly to desolder, so I decided against it. OTOH I think the 'vintage' style keycaps that come with it are truly elegant (and the sculpted profile > DSA).

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Scarpia

26 Jul 2018, 12:05

Added a BOM and costs for the build

EnthusiastDude

07 Nov 2019, 11:06

Hi! I want to build something similar with the same case. I have two problems that I was hoping you could help me with since you obviously solved them:
How is the plate (or the pcb) fixed within the case? I don't see any holes in your plate and I was wondering if you put it in there loose?
How did you fit the usb c daughterboard into the smaller cut out for the mini usb?
Edit: I think I figured out that you used the two holes in the middle of the plate, but is that enough to make it sturdy?

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Scarpia

07 Nov 2019, 21:49

The holes in the middle yes - the PCB is screwed down there. The issue is the bottom part is not resting on anything so if you press hard on e.g. the spacebar you’ll feel the inner assembly give a bit, not nice.

One solution is to 3D print (or fashion from a few pieces of wood?) a piece that can sit in the bottom case and support the bottom lip of the PCB or plate. It’s been done before, but I actually haven’t. Mine still has a bit of wobble on the bottom row.

As for the USB-C board, I haven’t tested it since my personal computer only has USB A.. I just installed the micro USB board and put the other one away for the future.

EnthusiastDude

07 Nov 2019, 23:27

Thanks for the reply, 3D printing is really a good idea.
Really nice build btw, truly a inspiration for alps-endgame that does not completely break the bank (at least compared to a tgr jane v2 or other alps compatible TKLs).

User avatar
Scarpia

08 Nov 2019, 09:54

Thanks for the kind words :)

The Jane case is gorgeous, but yeah it breaks the bank a bit. The Aliexpress case is plain looking, but the material and finish fit my minimum requirements for endgame at a great price. And if I were to sink another couple hundred bucks into this build I think a set of sculpted profile Alps caps (hard to come by, and may not even be possible with these stabs) would be higher on my list than a new case.

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