More Mechanical Keyboards

I’m sure I’ve talked about mechanical keyboards here before, but I want to talk about them again today, because I’m working on some new ones (and an old one).

For starters, I’m writing today’s post on a keyboard I made for Michael Gallowglas. It’s the second one I made based on the Sick68 design I found on Thingiverse. As a sophomore project, it boasts some improvements on the original, while also carrying brand new problems I’ve never had to deal with. Double striking, inconsistencies with performance… my soldering improved so much by the time I got to this keyboard that I made connections with less solder. Which also meant that they were weaker, and that with rigorous use, the keyboard came apart in subtle ways.

Michael returned it to me, and I’ve been tinkering on it from time to time for a little while. Several weeks ago, when I finally worked up the courage to query The Repossessed Ghost to an independent press I met at Baycon, I used this keyboard to send it. After all, it was Michael giving me the encouragement at the time to submit the story. It felt correct to use his keyboard to create and send the email.

Then the “g” key stopped working on the keyboard, and I had to go back to tinkering on it again.

I reprinted the base. It’s now a proper yellow instead of the weird orange I used before. I used more solder. I cut an aluminum bar and placed it inside the keyboard to give it rigidity and support, just as I recently did for my keyboard.

I dedicated a bunch of time to this keyboard today, and I think it’s in the best shape it’s ever been. I’m looking forward to the next time I see Michael so I can give it to him. Actually, I’m just looking forward to seeing Michael again. It’s been a little while.

I have plans to make one more keyboard like this one, bringing the total up to 4. That is, my red and blue one (that I’m going to use to write the Cyberpunk story with), Michael’s, the one I gave away at the Writing Excuses retreat, and this new one which will be a Christmas present. I don’t know if she reads my blog or not, so I won’t say who it is for.

All of that alone would be enough to warrant talking about keyboards. It doesn’t take that much to get me to talk about this, though. This is a fun hobby for me, and it’s kind of perfect. It’s both technical and creative. It involves expression and problem solving, and when everything goes right, there’s something very useful produced at the end. Something that can be used for writing.

I will complete 4 with this original style. As of today, I’m starting a new one of a completely different style. One that looks more like this:

I like ergo keyboards, and Melissa likes ergo keyboards. She won’t use a keyboard these days unless it’s ergonomic. So, I’m starting one of these, and we’ll see how we like it.

Again, I’ll take the first one, which will bear all of the scars and imperfections that come from learning how to make these things. I’ll let Melissa try it, and if she likes it, I’ll make another one, customized for her.

This new keyboard will replace the keyboard on my desk. I will be able to write with it, but I’ll mostly use it for programming and gaming. I think it will improve my productivity with work, because I won’t have to move my hands off the keyboard nearly as much.

So far, I ordered the PCBs and electronics. I found some print files for the base, and I’ve printed half of it in glow-in-the-dark PLA, which should be really amazing. I still need to order some cables, keycaps, and buy some hardware. I think this keyboard is going to come together very quickly. Possibly by the end of the week.

This one is a bit more expensive than the ones I’ve been making. The PCBs and the electronics raise the price of materials by around $80. I won’t be making a ton of these.

I think that’s all I have to say on the subject of mechanical keyboards today. I’m sure I’ll talk about them some more, especially once I’ve finished putting together the new one.

But if I’m only making one or two of this new style, and I don’t have any intention of making more than 4 of the original style, what am I going to do with this hobby? What’s next?

I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll make more for friends or family. I think it would be neat if my kids were into keyboards, because I’d love to make one for each of them. Chris wants one with a 10 key, though, and Bryanna also doesn’t seem that interested.

If you have any thoughts on this, let me know.