Custom 65% finally finished

Everything originated from this post. After approx 2 months I've been able to build my first custom keyboard (if you exclude this of course).

This is the end result. It still misses a decent cable sleeve and possibly better screws, but it's 100% functional (I'm writing on it right now).

steely.jpg


steely2.jpg


steely3.jpg


As I said this is my first experiment and it has been an entertaining project. Before this I had no idea how to build a keyboard from scratch and I have very little electronics skill, so if I can do it I encourage everyone to try.

The case is 100% stainless steel. I wouldn't recommend using SS actually. It's a hell to work with. If I had to start over I'd probably go aluminum or even acrylic.

steely5.jpg
The case 100% stainless steel


The good about SS is that the keyboard is rock solid, there's no vibration or rattling parts. It's so firm that makes a Filco feel cheap. All you hear is the sound of the switches. Very pleasing to listen.

The bad is that it's really too solid :) After a long session of typing my fingers almost hurt. It's probably just a matter typing with a little less energy, but it's something that must be considered.

I was not able to find someone who could help me design a PCB so I ended up with wires :)

steely8.jpg
Wiring and teensy


Being the case all metal I had some problems with shorts, but I've been able to sort them out. Soldering took me almost two days. The firmware is a modified version of the GH60.

What next? The idea was to make a group buy. I don't know if there's enough interest in such a thing. I'm definitely going to build a second keyboard, this time with ALPS and a more standard layout, basically a 60% + arrows similar to the Leopold 660m/c

I'd like to try a mixed aluminum/acrylic case next time, though.

If you have any question regarding the making of the keyboard, don't hesitate to ask.
Last edited by matt3o on 26 Apr 2013, 17:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:03

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A group buy? Are you serious!? Because I am in more than just a little awe of your keyboard!

*takes deep breath*

Why yes, I express my interest.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:14

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That looks fantastic.

Would definitely be interested in a group buy.

Also making me wish I'd gone in on the GH60...
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:38

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Nice work, hope you chose the right switches.
You selected the "a bit too far" layout? - i'm curious whether you get side effects from the non-standard staggering on top row.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:49

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no issue with the top row actually. maybe a little with the tiny back space, but I'll try to make it 2u with the button on the right.

switches are MX Blue of course.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:56

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Only thing I'd like to know, how much (roughly) did it cost you?

(PM if you want)
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 16:57

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GeorgeStorm wrote:Only thing I'd like to know, how much (roughly) did it cost you?

this is very hard to answer. it costed a lot but mainly because I started from scratch with no experience in the field (for example I've burnt a teensy). The raw cost of components excluding production whoops should be:

- Case €60
- Switches €35
- Teensy €15
- Misc electronics components and amenities (diodes, wires, headers, ...) €10
- Keycaps (hard to say, the value of just the used keys should be approx...) €25
- just 1 stabilizer (costar) + custom bent wire €1
- Having a custom keyboard: priceless
total: € 146
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matt3o wrote:
GeorgeStorm wrote:Only thing I'd like to know, how much (roughly) did it cost you?

this is very hard to answer. it costed a lot but mainly because I started from scratch with no experience in the field (for example I've burnt a teensy). The raw cost of components excluding production whoops should be:

- Case €60
- Switches €35
- Teensy €15
- Misc electronics components and amenities (diodes, wires, headers, ...) €10
- Keycaps (hard to say, the value of just the used keys should be approx...) €25
- just 1 stabilizer (costar) + custom bent wire €1
- Having a custom keyboard: priceless
total: € 146

Wow that is so much cheaper than I thought it was going to be....
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146 EUR / £125 is very reasonable indeed for something as striking as this!

Being GH60 and Teensy-based, the layout is customisable of course?

I'd just love this thing in blank PBT caps! MX whites, greens and blues are all good by me, too.

Absolute music to my ears if you fancy putting together a little production line of these. I've no desire to get into the nitty gritty of GH60 construction, and wouldn't mind paying you for your expertise and superb design.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 17:18

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GeorgeStorm wrote:Wow that is so much cheaper than I thought it was going to be....

Next time I want to try to build a PCB, that would add approx €20 to the mix (€5 if home made). I'd also like to try SMD diodes, don't know if they are cheaper.
Muirium wrote:Being GH60 and Teensy-based, the layout is customisable of course?

yes, layout is customizable. Just press RSHIFT+LSHIFT+PAUSE and burn a new firmware, you don't even need to open the case. Easy like 123.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 17:23

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Nice keyboard! Very heavy duty looking.

I was hoping for a group buy of a 16x5 PCB for Cherry MX that has standard ISO layout and arrow keys like the one you posted earlier.

Image
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 20:27

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This is great! I love all the DIY keyboards.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 22:30

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Dat fat ass ISO enter would look disgraceful on such a pristine keyboard!
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 22:40

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tlt wrote:Nice keyboard! Very heavy duty looking.

I was hoping for a group buy of a 16x5 PCB for Cherry MX that has standard ISO layout and arrow keys like the one you posted earlier.

Image

that is definitely easier to the eye :) since it has more standard layout, but you know, I wanted to do something original.

PCB has two problems: 1) you need to be able to design it, test it, debug it (and it's long and costly) 2) you need to produce a fair amount of them. Anyway it's my intention to learn kicad and keep making custom keyboards :) too much fun

Problem is that until october/november we don't see any more cherry MX that's why my next one will be probably with matias alps
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 22:48

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We need more hand wiring. It's superior. Easy to mod, easy to repair, truly custom. PCB is for THE MASSES!
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 22:52

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Wow, that looks incredible!!! I really want to try and build something like that. I dream of a pokersized matrix keyboard, which fits into a standard poker case. That would probably require a pcb though. But the case you build with exposed switches is so hot I think its even better then fitting it into a standard case.

One question though, was it a deliberate decision not to use a plate which allows for opening switches in order to increase the stability of the switches since they have no pcb to stabilize them? Or is it simply that you know exactly which switches you want and don't expect to change them?
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Matias switches are pretty interesting in their own right. Especially once MX keycap adapters show up.

As for layouts: I'm not an ISO fan (aaargh, that monstrous return on a tiny keyboard!) but I do like a nice big backspace. Swings and roundabouts, as always. Which is why I'm with Webwit: handwiring is a good thing. Unless you're making hardware by the thousands!

Also interested in the switch accessibility / hackabilty situation like TDub.
Last edited by Muirium on 26 Apr 2013, 23:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 23:00

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There is only one real back space. The HHKB has corrupted me to dislike all others.
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 23:04

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webwit wrote:There is only one real back space. The HHKB has corrupted me to dislike all others.

That too! Who needs a double height return when the upper deck is where backspace should be?
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 23:09

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TDub wrote:One question though, was it a deliberate decision not to use a plate which allows for opening switches in order to increase the stability of the switches since they have no pcb to stabilize them? Or is it simply that you know exactly which switches you want and don't expect to change them?

Many reasons for that actually. First, I have no PCB, so replacing a switch is pretty trivial. Secondly, as you said I wanted them to be very stable without a pcb. Thirdly, I like only mx blue even thought I'm probably going to have green in the spacebar. Lastly, since it's an open case, I didn't want strange holes here and there.
webwit wrote:We need more hand wiring. It's superior. Easy to mod, easy to repair, truly custom. PCB is for THE MASSES!

I agree hand wiring is great but it's time consuming, it's easy to get shorts, you need a case with a lot a space. My case has just 10mm clearance and that's really the bare minimum, but 12mm would be better. Still small but really insane to handle. If you can live with bigger cases then hand wiring is much easier.
Muirium wrote:As for layouts: I'm not as ISO fan (aaargh, that monstrous return on a tiny keyboard!) but I do like a nice big backspace. Swings and roundabouts, as always. Which is why I'm with Webwit: handwiring is a good thing. Unless you're making hardware by the thousands!

honestly I prefer a big enter to a big backslash :)
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Unread post26 Apr 2013, 23:12

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I've been poking on the clicky and non-clicky Matias switches as supplied by 7bit, but I'm not entirely convinced yet. I need to try them mounted on a keyboard. They are interesting. On one hand they're very subtle, delicate and light but on the other they may lack substance and smoothness (the non-clicky is not as smooth as for example a complicated green Alps). But again, need to try a fully equipped keyboard with them first. In any case it will be personal taste, I think there will be fans because it provides slightly alternative switches in the Cherry Blue/Brown/Red range, where Alps switches normally require more activation force than that. Nice click, not as sharp as Cherry Blue. I love the transparent housing, you can see exactly what happens with the leaf and such.
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if I can find nice alps caps I'll give it a shot.

I was thinking it would be nice to make a "group build", where we all proceed with the same project to cut some expenses (eg laser cut), but each might make something different (different wiring, different switches, ...). We might share project files, firmware, ... and like I said split some of the expenses. A sort of DIY keyboard hackathon for I'd say 5-15 people.
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Matt3o, this came out really nicely; i remember looking through your minimal layouts and wondering what you'd finally decide on. Congratulations!

And I'd be curious if you had a rough accounting of the time it took you to wire everything up; i've found the hand-wiring to be the most tedious part and would *definitely* design a PCB were i to do it over again, probably a single sided one with a few jumps.

Btw, when you say you have 10mm of clearance, where are you measuring from? I have about 8mm and i'm finding it *very* challenging to squeeze everything in...

Anyway, congratulations & very impressive! If you have a formal IC, you could put me down for one -- always happy to support fellow DIY'ers ;)
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 07:12

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Oh, and if you do a 5-15 group build, ponoko seems to be worldwide, and 5-15 would be a pretty good sweet spot for either Osh Park or Seeedstudios for PCBs.
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 07:17

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bearcat wrote:Btw, when you say you have 10mm of clearance, where are you measuring from? I have about 8mm and i'm finding it *very* challenging to squeeze everything in...

10mm from plate bottom top base top. REAL space for wires and components is 6.5mm, with a PCB would be 4.9mm which means it wouldn't fit a teensy.

With a PCB we need at least 6mm, so the whole case height should be approx 15mm (with 12mm inside the case). The best of course would be to have an angled case but don't think that would be possible with laser cut layers.

Without PCB:
Code: Select all
        _
     __|_|__
    /       \
+-------------------+
|                   | 1.5mm Plate
+-------------------+
|   |       |       |
|   \_______/       | 3.5mm Switch bottom w/o pins
|     |   |         |
|     |   |         |
|                   |
|                   | 6.5mm Clearance
+-------------------+


With PCB
Code: Select all
        _
     __|_|__
    /       \
+-------------------+
|                   | 1.5mm Plate
+-------------------+
|   |       |       |
|   \_______/       | 3.5mm Switch bottom w/o pins
|-----|---|---------|
|-----|---|---------| 1.6mm PCB
|                   |
|                   | 4.9mm Clearance
+-------------------+


A teensy is a little over 5mm (if you remove headers standoff), so I'd say the minimum clearance would be 7mm (which translates into a case 15mm tall).
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 08:34

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PCB takes away the fun. How sensible, do you think, it would be to make this into a kit for interested DIYers where the main thing we would have to do is look up all those time consuming wires? I wouldn't mind taking on the boring task myself, if it means I can ride your coattails with this sweet design and enjoy a few group buy benefits too. Besides, the saved height — with a Teensy! — is too good to pass.
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 09:04

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Muirium wrote:PCB takes away the fun. How sensible, do you think, it would be to make this into a kit for interested DIYers where the main thing we would have to do is look up all those time consuming wires?

Hard to say, depends on the number of participants I'd say. Probably we could cut the cost of the plate a bit and of the components. The real discount would be on the PCB if we want one.

It would be great to be able to find a controller with a micro-usb (smaller) or even without an USB and just D+ D-, but I couldn't find one.
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 09:28

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matt3o wrote:if I can find nice alps caps I'll give it a shot.

I was thinking it would be nice to make a "group build", where we all proceed with the same project to cut some expenses (eg laser cut), but each might make something different (different wiring, different switches, ...). We might share project files, firmware, ... and like I said split some of the expenses. A sort of DIY keyboard hackathon for I'd say 5-15 people.

If this happens PLEASE let me know :D
Or can I dibs a spot on it now :P
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Love the look. would be interested if there was some group build or group buy thing going on :)
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 17:11

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Did you cut out parts of the case yourself, or did someone laser it for you?

Thumbs up for that 3,5" floppy disk :)
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Unread post28 Apr 2013, 10:38

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