Keyboard Builders' Digest
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Issue 106 / Week 49 / 2022

This is a hand-picked selection of last week's content from a keyboard enthusiast's perspective. Posts that may teach you something, make you think and contribute to the common knowledge of the DIY builder community.

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Behind the Scenes of Issue 106

Giveaway follow-up, advent calendar, new discount, updates, etc.

Hey y'all,

Welcome back for another edition of Keyboard Builders' Digest (this time Issue #106), a weekly roundup of this DIY keyboard focused newsletter and blog from Tamas Dovenyi – that's me. If you are new to this, you can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.


PSA / Giveaway follow-up

I'm pretty sure a lot of my emails land in your spam folder. Check it now. I've contacted more "winners" than prizes I have, but there are still about 20 goodies left to give away.

69/109 prizes on their way or already shipped by 40/50 sponsors. I'll reach out to the remaining sponsors once all their offerings have been claimed.

Feel free to send me photos of your prize like Astra did with this Mellowcaps artisan:


Or here is Nick's new custom cable offered by Custom Keyboard Co.


Advent Calendar

Articles of the advent calendar are still popular. However, with many drafts arriving in the last minute before publication, it's a scary and stressful race against time.

I can't guarantee all the posts will be published in time so expect some blank days.

Seeed Keyboard Contest results

The final results are here. There are 11 winners in total.

Vendor database


  • Upgrade Keyboards raised their monthly donation and sent me some extra money as well. Thanks!
  • A donation from Alexander! Yay!
  • And Diana, my first ever supporter resubscribed directly via PayPal. She was the first member back in the Patreon days, then on BMC, and stayed there after the BMC/PP catfight. Until yesterday. Thanks!

And many thanks to everyone who supports this project, I'm especially grateful for recurring donations.

Maintaining the site and databases takes a lot of time. If you'd like and can afford to help, here is the donation form.

Small developments

  • Markdown update – more harm than good. I possibly broke the formatting of earlier posts, especially lists.
  • Researching best practices to implement dark mode. I mean, there was a dark mode already earlier, but I removed it for some reason. Can't remember why. I'll try to reimplement it.


That's all for today. Thanks for reading.

Feel free to comment in this issue's r/mk thread, and as always: keep learning and building.

Cheers, Tamás

Advent Calendar

The Data Driven Future of Switches

The always verbose and never short on switches ThereminGoat gives his take on the data he has collected with switches in the previous year as well as what the future may hold for such.

I must say at the start of this that I feel both incredibly honored and out of place in a series of articles as such. When I was initially reached out to by dovenyi, who is the awesome individual who put all of this together, I was more than welcome to sign up for the prospect of getting to write about switches more than I already do. However, looking at the significant slant toward the DIY side of the hobby in the articles before and after me, I have to admit that it feels a bit out of place. The people who have all contributed to this project are people with some pretty serious hands-on technical knowledge or produce real, historical driven content and I more or less just rant my opinions about switches over on my website. In fact it is for this reason that I am surrounded by so many talented people in this hobby that I felt I should write about something that I am much less known for than the switch reviews – data.

While there is no doubt in my mind that I am known (and probably somewhat hated) for my overly verbose writing and switch reviews, a lesser-known series of projects that I’ve taken on in the past year or so has been around collecting as much tangible data as possible about switches. On one side of this project I’ve got my caliper-based switch measurement sheet, which takes a look at 13 different dimensions present within switches including things such as the overall stem length, dimensions of the top housing hole for the stem, and quite a few more. On the other side of this project, I was gifted a rather professional force curve meter by Drop earlier this year which has kicked off a downhill pace of collecting force curves for as many switches as I can. While these have produced infinitely more files and consumed a lot more time than I think many people recognize, I’m sure there’s one question that comes to everyone’s mind when they see the extent of data that has been collected thus far: “Why?”

Measurements and data about switches on every single sales page are among the most considered and also least explicitly recognized pieces of information that inform switch purchases.

Sure, things such as price, color, manufacturer, and materials all ring out in our minds as the first things we consider when purchasing switches. But what about bottom out spring weight? What about the type of switch? Has anyone ever looked at the travel distance of a switch to find out if it’s ‘long pole’ before? With the nuance in switches being increased seemingly daily with all the recent releases from every manufacturer you can think of, these types of small details have begun to become the separation points to help people decide between ‘Switch A’ and ‘Switch B’ for their endgame board. And for the record, while that might not mean much for someone’s Keychron board who just joined the hobby, these are the types of decisions that more experienced community members have to weigh when building a $5,000 TGR board, or a $3,000 Keycult – and that’s an expensive decision to make with so little data. While I am but just one goat, it’s because of these sorts of considerations people are having to make, as well as purely selfish curiosity, that I’ve picked up this data collecting project at mine.

Pic: Figure 1: Lets be real though, everyone is building every board with these next year.

Figure 1: Lets be real though, everyone is building every board with these next year.

Aside the explicit points of note that I brought up above, with force curves for over 400 switches and measurements for over 200 different ones as of the time of writing this article, there’s a surprising amount of trends that I and other switch nerds have been able to pick out of all of this. On first glance, looking at all of the switch measurements on the caliper-based side, of which there are more than 24,000 different ones, it may seem like a bit of a mess to pick anything out. However, if you plot all of the stem length measurements (marked as ‘G’ in the raw data sheet) together, what we actually find about the average stem length is quite contrary to popular opinion. Whereas many people may initially think of Tecsee as the long stem pole champion, it turns out that on average TTC has the longest stem poles, beating out Tecsee by over 0.200 mm in total stem length.

Pic: Figure 2: Stem length box and whisker plot by manufacturer.

Figure 2: Stem length box and whisker plot by manufacturer.

Looking next at the force curve measurement data set, we’ve actually been able to identify a rather interesting trend that is noticed in switches that come unlubed from the factory. Very specifically, if you look at the post bump linear travel region in unlubed tactile switches, it’s not all that uncommon to see a sort of serrated edge type look. While the exact mechanism of this has yet to be fully fleshed out, and there are various hypotheses being tossed around as to what may cause this, the appearance of this in a good handful of these switches definitely points to some sort of mechanistic nuance that completely escapes the average user experience.

Pic: Figure 3: Doom Tactile switch force curve showing serrated post-bump linear travel region.

Figure 3: Doom Tactile switch force curve showing serrated post-bump linear travel region.

To be entirely honest, these two examples just touch the tip of the iceberg in trends and interesting data points that have been able to be pulled from the woodwork over the past year of collecting data. In fact, these projects also both have incredible potential to expand beyond their current frameworks and likely will be doing so in the upcoming years’ time. With respect to the caliper measurement sheet, I have currently been working over the last few months to expand these measurements to the keycap mounting stem and would like to release it once I’ve passed something like 150 switches measured in order to provide a really neat data set that doesn’t need to grow as slowly as this first one. (Plus, it may be tied up in other content projects as well!) As for the force curve measurement sheet, I can assure you that there’s even more potential out there that hasn’t been considered nor attempted yet as far as I can tell.

Take an average linear switch, for example. Given that these articles are written in majority by DIY people, I can imagine that the average audience member would likely recognize a linear switch’s force curve rather easily – it’s flat. The entire downstroke region, save for the initial start and bottoming out, are as the name implies in the type of switch mostly linear. However, upon testing over 400 of these switches I’ve begun to notice that not all linear switches are created equally – some have very steep curves and others have flat ones where the initial downstroke weight is within only a few grams at most of the bottoming out weight of the spring. From this, I’ve begun to rationalize and flesh out a way (that I would like to share soon-ish) to quantify and describe the sort of ‘strength’ of linear switches – in which more steep switches with a big change in force between the start and end of the downstroke are “strong” as opposed to the “weak” switches that hardly have a difference between the two ends. While quantifying tactility has been attempted in the community quite a few times prior, to the best of my knowledge this would be the first time that anyone has attempted to ever squeeze more information out of solely linear force curves. Don’t worry though, I definitely do want to take on the big task of quantifying tactility in due time.

Pic: Figure 4: Comparison of downstroke steepness in several linear switches.

Figure 4: Comparison of downstroke steepness in several linear switches.

At the end of this year’s worth of data collecting, as frenzied and fast paced as it has been, I definitely have appreciated the chance to get to sit down and flesh out my thoughts for an audience like this. While I will almost certainly continue to expand and extract more data from the numbers I have and will keep continuing to grow, it’s only with the recognition by the community at large of the value that these types of measurements have to offer will they begin to be utilized as I’ve initially set out to provide. Though, I don’t want you to have left this article thinking “Damn, this Goat guy really needs to get a life, that’s way too much work”, rather I want you recognizing that there is so much switch data out there to be collected that you also could be a part of. You don’t need a fancy set of calipers or even a force curve machine of your own – something as simple as tracking mold markings, switch colors, spring lengths, etc. are all things that can be done with a bare minimum set of documentation skills that could unlock trends that none of us are immediately aware of yet. I implore any and all of you out there interested in switches of any type, shape, or size to go out there and collect information about your favorite switches and to help drive the future of switches to a more data driven one.


This article was written on a Prototype Alchemist Keyboards Petrichor with highly modified Techno Violet V2 switches and SA Phantom for an all-out purple look.

Squeezebox Scorecard

Peter Lyons reviews results of over a dozen experimental DIY keyboard feature prototypes he has built within the Squeezebox R&D and how each fared in hindsight.


Hi! I'm Pete Lyons and I have a background in backend software development as well as saxophone playing. I've been working on a unique split ergonomic keyboard project called the Squeezebox since winter of 2021. One of the main driving factors in this build is reducing overall hand movement by putting smaller switches within easy reach of the fingers. It is in the same group as the Azeron or Datahand, but never does fingernail-side switches which don't feel comfortable to me.

Squeezebox Scorecard

In this article I'll review some of the design experiments I've conducted in my squeezebox prototyping efforts and discuss each individually through the lens of an experimental hypothesis, trial in a prototype build, and results.

The scooped column: 3 switches at 100° & 160° angles

Pic: Figure 1.

Figure 1.

This is probably the most fundamental idea that drove me to build the squeezebox. I played saxophone most of my life and it can be played very fast and accurately using primarily the pads of the fingers in a trigger motion, not the points of the fingers in a typing motion. I thought these should be combined with the pad resting on one "home corner" switch and the point resting on another switch, either of which could be pressed without moving the hand or the base knuckle.

Result: Yup, it's good. Certainly for index, middle, and ring fingers. It's less clear for the pinky and not applicable to the thumb.

The home corner 1-finger chord

Pic: Figure 2. Chording the pinkie corner on v2104

Figure 2. Chording the pinkie corner on v2104

By poking at the corner between row 1 and 2, both keys could be chorded down with a single finger.

Result: Abandoned with caveat. Not reliable on current QMK. Might be possible with more carefully tuned/specialized handling in firmware, but too many misfires during testing.

Type directly on choc stems without keycaps

Pic: Figure 3. v2112 with capless choc red switches

Figure 3. v2112 with capless choc red switches

This was not really a design intention, it was just a kludge/shrug that fell out of early prototyping of the scooped column where tight spacing made it impossible to fit keycaps in and get the corner mechanics that I wanted.

Result: Works fine. Has been in every squeezebox prototype.

Mechanical adjustments with slots and bolts for tailor fit

Pic: Figure 4. prototype with slots for adjustment

Figure 4. prototype with slots for adjustment

I wanted to adjust the column offset near/far on a per-finger basis and be able to adjust fit without reprinting any parts or rebuilding any wiring. Early prototypes had the slots on the keywells and later slots were moved to the base plate instead.

Result: Yup, works fine within a certain narrow range

Custom near/far tailor fit

Hypothesis was that each column should be adjusted with fine granularity to fit the varying lengths of fingers and distance between the knuckle and the finger tip.

Result: This is only really true for the pinky. For my hand, index, middle, and ring the offset is so small that even having them all the same is fine for me.

Custom column height for each finger

Pic: Figure 5. Posts for custom height on a prototype

Figure 5. Posts for custom height on a prototype

The hypothesis was that each column should have a finely tuned height to exactly fit each finger's natural resting position.

Result: Only really true for the pinky finger. For the index, middle, and ring fingers it's actually better to have all the same height so proprioception can sense where the bottom is across fingers.

Height adjustment with threaded bolt

Pic: Figure 6. Post with threaded bolt and captured nut

Figure 6. Post with threaded bolt and captured nut

The hypothesis was each keywell could sit atop a post incorporating a nut and bolt such that by twisting the post you could easily adjust the height.

Result: Abandoned. Height changes are not that necessary and it's really just about getting the pinky right. This was a bit too fiddly and easy to go out of adjustment so I abandoned it. The idea still seems kind of neat though.

Per-finger granular splay tailor fit

Pic: Figure 7. Side view showing splay angles

Figure 7. Side view showing splay angles

The hypothesis was as the fingers extend, each column should closely follow the natural splay angle.

Result: Mixed. I don't like any on the ring finger, a tiny bit for index is OK but probably not necessary, and a moderate amount on the pinky I think is legit but also might be unnecessary.

3D print many small components and assemble into a product mechanically

The hypothesis was iteration will be faster and cheaper and easier to motivate with a componentized approach instead of dactyl-style large complex parts to print.

Results: Holds true for prototyping for sure. If this were ever to get to production run quality, there's probably a flavor where at least the 4 fingers per hand type on a single large part containing all the columns and switches.

Mechanical adjustments with magnets on a steel plate

Pic: Figure 8. The prototype with magnets and steel base plate

Figure 8. The prototype with magnets and steel base plate

The hypothesis was granular adjustment of keywell position across both axes of a base plate can be achieved by each keywell having strong magnets in the base and mounting them on a steel base plate.

Results: Abandoned. It's too fragile and easy to accidentally reposition. Won't hold up for transportation, etc.

Chopped chocs for tighter spacing

Pic: Figure 9. 2x3 column with chopped chocs for tight spacing side to side

Figure 9. 2x3 column with chopped chocs for tight spacing side to side

I observed that even the smallest commercially-available switches seemed too far apart for my aspirations. I learned on discord that at least 30% of the area of a choc is non-essential space for housing a LED. That section of the switch can be cut off and the switch will still work fine. I did not invent this approach and probably never would have thought to do so. I learned about this on discord from others who had already pioneered it.

The hypothesis was to adopt this technique to pack switches closer together. This was first incorporated as an swap-in index column component (yay modularity!) in a 2x3 index column so the innermost reach column could be as close as possible to the home column.

Result: Validated. It's a lot more work, hard to do consistently with DIY tools, and makes it much harder to seat a switch into a housing once it's chopped, but it's worth it in my opinion. It's a close call though. The tight spacing does not cause me any issues in typing; No mistypes by hitting neighbor keys by accident. So the technique works, but whether the tighter spacing is worth the significant extra work in building the keyboard isn't clear. For now, yes, it's worth it. 3 or 4 prototypes further down the road, I wouldn't be surprised if my motivation runs out.

Wide split (shoulder width)

Pic: Figure 10. v2209 with wide split stand

Figure 10. v2209 with wide split stand

The hypothesis of split keyboards: put them further apart.

Result: Yup, it's great. I've been doing this since my first ergodox in 2013 and no regrets.

Steep tent (80°)

Pic: Figure 11. v2112 with steep tenting on Z camera stands

Figure 11. v2112 with steep tenting on Z camera stands

The hypothesis is that hands should be turned with palms facing inward, similar to how they are when resting at your side while standing and relaxing. This reduces ulnar rotation and is a straighter path for muscles and tendons when compared to traditional position with palms down facing the desktop surface.

Result: Still unclear. Ergonomics seem clearly superior but logistics are very hard. It requires a large stand that is not very portable. It's really easy for the halves to want to rotate in place, slide around, get misaligned, or topple over. Tenting also gets in the way of reaching around the desk for mouse, coffee, etc. Easy to smack into the keyboard.

I spent a lot of energy and time on this one:

  • custom tenting posts
  • Z camera stands
  • bolting things to the desk
  • various ways of attaching to chair armrests
  • etc

I'm thinking about trying to go back to flat on the desk as long as the ulnar rotation doesn't hurt.

Low activation distance

Pic: Figure 12. A prototype with mouse switches

Figure 12. A prototype with mouse switches

Hypothesis is that (warning: keeb heresy) laptop keyboards with their low activation distance and solid bottom out are better for me to type on. Chocs are better than MX, and choc minis are a teensy bit better than that even, but I still want even lower. On choc minis I still push the switch thinking it typed, but didn't press down far enough and it doesn't actuate.

I did some prototyping with mouse switches and plan to continue some more in the future, but the truly tiny size of those things is really hard to work with in a DIY situation.

The scooped column: 4 switches at 100° & 160° angles

Pic: Figure 13. A 1x4 scooped column prototype

Figure 13. A 1x4 scooped column prototype

The motivation came out of daily driver work on v2112 noticing my index reaching for the innermost column was throwing my hand off position and causing de-homing and typos. The hypothesis is that each finger should stay in exactly one column and never reach across to a neighbor column. I've eliminated the outermost pinky reach column from my builds since just after v2112, but the innermost index column remains on my daily driver setup still.

The challenge is once you remove that column, you get deep into obscure layout land and can no longer implement any popular layout including qwerty, dvorak, colemak, etc. But the premise is with 2 1x4 columns on each hand that's 13 switches per hand which is enough for the entire English alphabet without any punctuation.

I have a prototype build and mapped with a variation on the engram layout.

Pic: Figure 14. v2209 key layout

Figure 14. v2209 key layout

Results: I am still practicing and learning the engram layout, so no true results yet, but likely will be fine for index and middle but not ring nor pinky.

Hand wiring on columns to PCB inside the case

Pic: Figure 15. Inside of case with column cables wired to the PCB

Figure 15. Inside of case with column cables wired to the PCB

The challenge here is the scooped columns don't really work with flat PCBs. They make flexible PCBs which BastardKB incorporates nicely, but I'm mostly at too early stages of prototyping to wait for flexible PCB iterations, so I have gotten by with hand wiring so far. Early builds were wired straight to the MCU and only recently have I added a small PCB to help tidy things up.

Result: Seems OK. My more recent builds are down to 32 switches total, so I don't think I actually need diodes anymore if I switch to MCUs with more GPIO pins. I could probably get away with a very simple PCB that just houses some TBD plug connectors: one for each finger's column and the MCU footprint plus some mounting holes.

Future Aspirations

Pointing device: I'd love to get one or more pointing devices integrated. Either a touchpad (there's a very interesting prototype doing the rounds on reddit lately), or a small trackball, or a trackpoint or some combination of these, plus a scroll wheel would be great.

Your Ideas and Suggestions

I'm always inspired by suggestions from the community so feel free to send me any ideas you have!

I typed this article on v2112 of the Squeezebox (which has subsequently gotten new thumb arcs and index columns). It's Kailh Choc Red switches, plus some chopped reds and chopped whites on the index columns. The MCU is an Elite-C and it's handwired with no PCB. Most of the keyboard is 3D printed and assembled with M3 bolts and threaded inserts. It tents in a wooden stand I built.

Peter Lyons

LocationNY, USA
DescriptionI just thought the rows could be closer together
OccupationI run creative retreats for coders
Joined2013 2nd ErgoDox Mass Drop
NicheDeep scoops, mechanically adjustable
Fav. switchKailh Choc Mini Black
Fav. keycap profileNONE: I type on bare choc stems
Other hobbiessaxophone, woodworking, sewing, rock climbing
Site & blog
Focus Retreat Center

Admiral’s Shark-tastic IBM updates of 2022!

Kali aka Sharktastica, expert and enjoyer of vintage IBM keyboards, looks back at some of the accomplishments and events of the last year.

I’m Admiral Shark (Kali, aka sharktastica), a vintage keyboard enjoyer from Wales, author of the eponymous Admiral Shark’s Keyboards and mod at /r/modelm! I represent the more historical and documentation side of the vintage/keyboard hobby. For this article, I will look back at some of the events and accomplishments of the last year, hopefully sharing with you an insight into the sort of things I do and giving you an appreciation for this really nerdy side of the hobby!

But first, an introduction…

I’ve been in the hobby since the summer of 2019, although I lurked geekhack and deskthority for many years before that. I have always been interested in [vintage] tech, but 2019 was when I finally decided to buy my first ‘serious’ keyboard and actively engage with the community. Mostly, after watching videos by chyrosran22. The beginnings of my website and content were somewhat of a marriage of convenience though - I was applying for a web development job and needed some stuff to stick in my portfolio, and what I created happened to be themed on my current passion of the time - vintage IBM. Three years on and recently celebrating its third anniversary in September, the project has far eclipsed that goal, becoming a pastime during the pandemic and now became a serious passion project with no sign of slowing down!


Today, my motivation is educating and preserving information. Specifically on IBM and family keyboards - a phrase I use a lot, meaning any company that makes/made keyboards for IBM, were a former division of IBM, or purchased IBM's IP and continues producing their former or derivative designs. Namely, this includes IBM itself, Lexmark, Unicomp, Lenovo and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS). IBM and family keyboards throughout history are fascinating and always surprise me with new details and nuance. I love nuance, and there is so much of it to be found. I simply love finding it and sharing it with others.

Attending MKUK 6

Starting with a recent event, I attended the sixth MKUK meetup in London in September. I brought with me a sample of IBM keyboards (as seen below) and even gave a talk on the generations of IBM keyboards that was - thankfully - well received. Unfortunately due to travelling by coach, I couldn’t take any of IBM’s ‘big guns’ so I opted for a diverse selection of smaller keyboards with an emphasis on IBM’s ‘buckling sleeve’ keyboards (explained later on) many were eager to try out. Indeed, the LPFK (the left-most keypad) and all the buckling sleeve keyboards got the most attention. Big thanks to MKUK Discord and MechKey staff for making this meetup a reality!



The collection

My keyboard collection is also a marriage of convenience. I get many interesting keyboards to play with, and I get a lot of useful instruments for content and documenting! Win-win. These are some of the more interesting pickups over the last year.

IBM Electronic Typewriter 50/60/75 Keyboard Assembly (1440401)

Pic: IBM Electronic Typewriter 50/60/75 Keyboard Assembly

IBM Electronic Typewriter 50/60/75 Keyboard Assembly

This brick was the keyboard assembly from IBM’s first electronic typewriter series, which was IBM’s attempt at ‘modernising’ typewriters in the late ‘70s before they became completely obsolete. This thing with fewer keys than a 60%-er weighs about 5kg… Keystrokes are sensed via a series of reed sensors on the back. (Also don’t worry, I didn’t sacrifice a typewriter for this keyboard.)

IBM 4704 Display Terminal Model 100 Functional Keypad (6019273)

Pic: IBM 4704 Display Terminal Model 100 Functional Keypad

IBM 4704 Display Terminal Model 100 Functional Keypad

This “Model F50” financial communications keypad is the smallest Model F buckling spring keyboard capable of supporting an alphameric layout… if you so desire (the segregated sections don’t make typing on it easy). It’s otherwise a great macro pad.

IBM Wheelwriter 5 Keyboard Assembly (1351000)

Pic: IBM Wheelwriter 5 Keyboard Assembly

IBM Wheelwriter 5 Keyboard Assembly

This is a keyboard assembly from a later IBM electronic typewriter. Wheelwriters that used these were in fact the first vessels of the core Model M buckling spring keyboard assembly design when they were released in late 1984, and what’s special about this one is its date – 27th June 1984, the earliest production Model M-type keyboard I’ve seen thus far.

IBM 3471 InfoWindow Display Station Quiet Touch Keyboard (09F4231)

Pic: IBM 3471 InfoWindow Display Station Quiet Touch Keyboard

IBM 3471 InfoWindow Display Station Quiet Touch Keyboard

This is like the much-beloved (and costly) Model F unsaver, except it doesn’t have buckling springs. It has Micro Switch’s ST series dome with slider switches instead. A bummer but it’s a very cool keyboard nonetheless, and I think the switches are good enough for use. Just makes me long for a buckling spring one…

IBM Screen Reader/2 Keypad (1393387)

Pic: IBM Screen Reader/2 Keypad

IBM Screen Reader/2 Keypad

This is as small as buckling-spring Model Ms get. The SR/2 keypad was the peripheral component of the IBM Screen Reader/2, the first GUI-based screen reader designed to help people with hard or lack of sight access a PC.

IBM 5576-A01 Japanese Keyboard (79F0167)

Pic: IBM 5576-A01 Japanese Keyboard

IBM 5576-A01 Japanese Keyboard

Buckling spring but not a Model F or Model M… Brother (the same one known for printers today) made several keyboards for IBM exclusively for Japan for use with their PS/55 series of computers including this one. It uses Brother’s unique buckling spring implementation that features removable barrels that allow the springs and flippers to be ‘hot-swapped’ without opening the entire keyboard assembly. Oh yeah, it’s membrane-driven yet seemingly NKRO. I believe it has some capacitive or resistive tech to achieve this - I’m still investigating.

IBM Industrial Keyboard with Pointing Stick (06H4173)

Pic: IBM Industrial Keyboard with Pointing Stick

IBM Industrial Keyboard with Pointing Stick

As a ThinkPad user, I’m pretty fond of the little red dot in the middle of their keyboards. Thus, I always enjoy playing around with one if I find it on a desktop-sized keyboard. This is a Model M13, but specifically the rarer industrial grey version.

IBM RANPOS Keyboard (86H1066)

Pic: IBM RANPOS Keyboard


This Model M9 - the Retail Alphanumeric Point of Sale (RANPOS) Keyboard - is a member of what’s in my opinion a criminally underrated subsection of the Model M family, the buckling sleeve Model Ms. It’s a point of sale keyboard, thus it has unique features like a magnetic stripe reader and a manager’s key-lock. But what’s unique about this one is that it’s new enough to be USB but old enough to have dye-sub PBT keycaps. Nice.

Site content

Basically everything I know about IBM and family keyboards is being poured into my website. Unfortunately, this isn’t a quick process but it allows me to break down and talk about some of the interesting developments over the last year easily!

Site reorganisation

To start off, those who may have visited my site just a year ago may be surprised by how much it has changed since then. I’ve been thinking about accessibility to information and the flow between areas of the site since then and have tried to make using the site a more clear and more guided experience. The order of the links on the nav bar is an example of this:

  1. Intro – You meet the core keyboard families, the companies that marketed them, and a bit about the site and myself.
  2. Directory – List of known keyboards and where to find out more. No over-the-top info, just a photo, year of introduction, what switches it has, a link to find out more and some part numbers (mostly for SEO purposes).
  3. Database – If you need specific per-part number info.
  4. Wiki – Where the good, descriptive, and properly cited stuff is.
  5. Articles – If you’re interested in ‘cutting-edge’ research and reference material.

Some of the aforementioned pages we’ll get back to shortly! Each section is usually more dense and complex than the previous one, so if you’re completely new to the hobby and IBM keyboards in general, the first pages you can visit will help give you the basic understanding needed for later.

Discovering Apple turned to Lexmark for a Model M-related keyboard design

In April, I released an article presenting my evidence that the Apple Newton MessagePad Keyboard (model X0044) from 1996 is technically related to the Model M family. To clear things up, because if you’re familiar with Model Ms, you’re probably thinking “how is that keyboard buckling spring?” The “Model M” designation was far from limited to just buckling spring keyboards. Maybe that was the initial intent, but it essentially became a declaration that the keyboard was an IBM flagship keyboard design in a given market. For laptop keyboards, the Models M6 and M6-1 were IBM’s flagship designs, using their “buckling sleeve” switches. These were found on famous IBM portables such as the IBM ThinkPads 365, 700, 720, 750, 755, 850, and RS/6000 N40 and 860. Turns out the X0044 is in fact an M6-1 Lexmark designed for Apple, based on the ThinkPad 500 keyboard design. In my opinion, the X0044 isn’t the best representation of IBM buckling sleeves but it's a very cool footnote in history. An IBM-Apple crossover would have been hard to imagine in the previous decade.


Writing the book on IBM ‘buckling sleeves’ switches

I’ve mentioned them a few times already, IBM ‘buckling sleeves’ (their real name isn’t even certain) are a seldom documented low-profile (by early ‘90s standard) tactile key-switch employed by IBM on various laptop and POS keyboards since 1991. Keyboards using this switch design make up a significant portion of Model M history yet many are probably unfamiliar with them. In a way, they were IBM's 'last stand' before employing traditional rubber dome (full-travel or scissor-switch) actuators for its keyboards. I think they’re very underrated, so I’ve set out to document them and make their place in history known! If you’ve used an IBM PS/2 L40SX laptop, an early to mid-'90s IBM ThinkPad or a modern IBM POS terminal, chances are, you’ve actually tried them!


Digging into the IBM 5576-C01’s insides and successors

My latest article features the IBM Japanese Keyboard/TrackPoint II (model 5576-C01). It's a Japanese-exclusive Model M variant with a TrackPoint, JIS layout and many unique design elements. It's very likely the rarest IBM TrackPoint keyboard. Very cool, but a detailed analysis of it is hard to come by in the west (unsurprisingly, the Japanese side of the hobby is way ahead of us on this) and its relationship with the later Unicomp EnduraPro and Ultra Classic isn't widely known with some believing the overall design to be a Unicomp original. This article addresses that.


The database reached 2,500+ keyboards

Perhaps the most important feature of my website hit a milestone in June - the Keyboard [Part Number] Database now has 2,500+ individual part numbers recorded! This database is one of the largest repositories of [IBM] keyboard data on the internet and is made available for research, reference and posterity. It contains per part number - the usually 7-digit code IBM assigned to individual keyboards by language and feature - design and chronological information on IBM and family keyboards. It’s built upon data collected from many sources. Other than satisfying curiosity, one of its useful benefits is being able to verify what keyboard should have what visual and electrical properties - for example, it could help people realise if a keyboard they’re interested in buying has the right connection they need or if a Model M they’re interested in is a rubber dome model being missold as a “clicky” (buckling spring) version.

Making a ‘yellow pages’ for IBM keyboards

Sometime in August and as part of my accessibility focus, I was thinking of ways I could make it easier for someone to find out all possible IBM and family keyboard designs, perhaps each listed with a photo, basic facts and a link to where to find out more. Nothing too overwhelming. The Keyboard Directory is my answer to that. The Yellow Pages is what I like to draw parallels to for this site feature and the yellow buttons for links are a nod to this. It’s still W.I.P. It notably lacks many beam spring keyboards, keypads such as LPFKs, and many post-PS/2 era keyboards. I aim to plug these gaps as soon as possible.


Expanding my wiki

Technically, I started work on this mid-last year, but this year has seen a lot of my personal wiki-style pages start to mature and work their way to being put live. Right now, I have dozens of yet-to-be-public pages maturing when I have the time to write for them. I’m presently focusing on the big family summary pages, keyboards that have been seldom documented elsewhere, and some of the more famous individual keyboards. Everything in-between will come later.

My current recommendations are:


Making a gallery of IBM keyboard rear labels

A gallery for the rear labels (aka, keyboard ‘birth certificates’) IBM keyboards could have. IBM since at least introducing the Model F had a habit of including such strong documentation on the back of their keyboards that usually displays the keyboard's part number along with a date of manufacture and country of origin. The style of the label could vary from factory to factory, within the same country and between other countries. As IBM spun off its keyboard-producing and marketing organs, those offspring such as Lexmark, Unicomp, Lenovo and TGCS also once or currently retain this practice. This page is designed to document as many variations as possible!


Developing matrix simulators for Model M keyboard matrices

I recently made previews of my keyboard matrix simulator public! They’re targeted towards Model M matrix designs as my attempt to clarify how a Model M’s membrane works. Many people know Model Ms are 2KRO only, but there are some misconceptions about what 2KRO means and how capable the Model M matrices can be. These simulators allow you to ‘press’ keys on a virtual keyboard and you’ll be able to see what other keys you can or cannot press due to matrix limitations in real time! You can also make it display colour-coded representations of the matrices’ columns and rows across the virtual keyboard. One motivation for this site feature was how often I get asked “can my game combos work on a Model M?”, and this could allow you to find out for yourself before purchasing a Model M.



For now, the future of my website is simply maturing content. It probably wouldn’t be wise to introduce any new site features at the moment as I still have the Keyboard Directory and the wiki to polish. Q1 2023 will be a busy period for finishing those. I also eventually plan to try testing the waters on my YouTube as well. I have some ideas for content, but I need to build up some confidence and procure some better camera gear. Maybe next year I’ll make my move!

I’m also working on developing my first piece of hardware - the Modular Keyboard Converter. This is a Pro Micro or Elite-C driven board designed to allow one to easily convert several types of [mostly-vintage] keyboards using one board with swappable sockets. It’s currently undergoing many rounds of prototyping, each including more features and testing various ways of connecting sockets to MCU boards in an attempt to find and test the most convenient and secure way of doing so. I plan on open-sourcing the final design.

That’s pretty much it for today. Thank you to Tamas @ for letting me write this for this advent calendar! If you want to stay informed about what I’m doing, please feel free to bookmark my website and follow my socials! I’m also always looking for more feedback to help me improve my site and figure out what people might want to see more of, so please feel free to get in touch and let me know what you think.

I wrote this article with an IBM Model M9 RANPOS Keyboard made by Maxi Switch in 2000 with IBM buckling sleeve switches and dye-sublimated PBT keycaps, connected to my PC via a jerry-rigged cable since the originals are hard to find and expensive... My end-game buckling sleeve keyboard nonetheless!

Kali (25)

DescriptionIBM keyboard content creator, documentor and collector
OccupationSoftware & web development, research, teaching
NicheIBM, vintage, history, (usually) clicky
Fav. switchIBM capacitive buckling spring (vint-clicky), IBM ‘buckling sleeve’ (vint-tactile), Kailh BOX Navy (modern-clicky)
Fav. keycap profileIBM beamspring, MT3, maybe OG Cherry
Other hobbiesRobotics, vintage computing, herpetology, bingeing Star Trek & Stargate

Year of the Ortho: sporewoh's 2022

Christian Lo (a.k.a. sporewoh), a rabid ortholinear fan, outlines his experimental projects and provides a behind the scenes look of his highlights of the year.

I want to give a thank you to Tamas for reaching out to me about, as well as a thank you to the DIY keyboard community, who have been nothing but kind, curious, and passionate.

My name is Christian, though I tend to go by the alias of sporewoh for these kinds of things. My current schtick is that I’m a big fan of ortholinear keyboards, and that I try to bias towards making open-source experimental keyboard designs. Over this past year, I’ve gotten to explore the hobby of custom keyboards, from learning electronics, CAD, firmware etc. This article will retread through this year’s projects, as well sprinkle in a narrative of my personal thoughts. I hope to use this article to give interested readers a “behind the scenes” look at my projects, my current direction, as well as my love for ortholinear keyboards :).



The youwu36 was the first keyboard I ever made, which was around in March of this year. I was using a Planck back then, and absolutely loved its compact form factor. I made the youwu36 since I had a paranoia that ortholinear keyboards were on its way out, considering that keyboards like the Niu Mini and the M50-A keyboards were being discontinued, and I wasn’t sure if Drop would do the same with the Planck. Looking back, I think it was a little extreme to worry about such a thing, though it was fun nonetheless to make something I could call my own.

Fun fact: I made this keyboard effectively a 4x10 since that was the only way I could have printed my case with my Ender3. I was moving at the time, so I hyper optimized portability the same way some people in this community hyper optimize for sound, ergonomics, or key count. Little did I know this layout choice would affect all later keyboards to come.



The banime40 is a refinement of the youwu36. It’s a 4x10 ortholinear with hotswap sockets and gasket mounting. One of the gimmicks with it is that there’s several layouts you can use with it, and later revisions allow for rotary encoders. It was an awesome project to get me to hone in on my ability to work with CAD and basic PCB design.

I was getting fairly good at typing on a 4x10 at this point, and I loved how portable and compact it was. I think one of big draws of ortholinears in general for me is the fact that they are the most optimized for space: you get the most keys for a given amount of space.

Fun fact: I had made it since I wasn’t particularly good with home row mods when I was playing around with the 36 key layout Miryoku. I have instead opted to use my homebrew 4x10 layout, which is a bit of a fusion between the Miryoku and the OLKB Planck layout. I have given this layout an equally elegant name: TypeBeastXD+ Home Edition.



I think the KBD article summed this up well, but the freaku4X was an experiment of moving the Pro Micro controller to the top of the board, rather than the bottom. One of the biggest challenges with designing an ortholinear keyboard is the same reason why I love it so much: almost all of the space on the pcb is used for keys, with little real estate for the microcontroller and other features. I added a rotary encoder and an oled display to take up some of the real estate created by the additional row for the microcontroller.

Fun fact: While I think some people really took to the design, the general popularity of the banime40 over the freaku4x felt to me as if either:

  • people in the ortho community prefer compactness over frills such as OLEDs
  • having a nice case was the major separator in the “quality” of a project
  • some other factor(s) (feel free to reach out to me what your thoughts are on this, in a polite way of course)



In a pursuit of being even _more_ portable, I wanted to play around with low profile designs. Design wise, the keezyboost40 is one of my favorite projects of the year. It’s a low profile 4x10 with an LCD display, kailh chocs, and a Raspberry Pi Pico. I think my favorite part about this project is how all the elements come together to complement each other: the Pico is large but powerful and has castellated pins, the LCD is computationally expensive but can easily cover up the pico, etc.

The LCD also opens up the door of writing user programs on top of a keyboard firmware (e.g. games, macropad GUIs, tamagotchis, etc.), if I so choose to ever go down that rabbit hole.

Fun fact: This keyboard also highlights another aspect I love about ortholinears: It’d be hard to have something fun like a screen in the middle with a staggered row layout. I’m not the first to do this, but keyboards like tzarc’s Ghoul shows off what kind of fun you can have when you have a spot to put anything you’d like.



beyblock20 is a modular, magnetic, macropad system where each module can be chained together with an I2C bus. I had made this for the Seeeduino XIAO keyboard competition, and I thought the bus was kind of a cute way of making an actual keyboard despite having so few microcontroller pins.

I think the general concept really resonated with people, and this seems to be my most watched and starred project. The biggest challenge of this was writing firmware for this project. I had to write some code on top of KMK to get the modules to talk to each other via I2C. I am happy to report though, that this does currently seem to have full compatibility with KMK, and I can use the beyblock20 like a split ortho with TRRS jacks. Big shoutout to the awesome work and support the contributors have done with KMK, I highly recommend it if you’re looking to prototype a wild keyboard firmware idea.

If modular designs catch your interest, I highly recommend looking at Kiser’s upcoming board: Queso. My understanding at a glance is that it uses a round robin design, which in many ways circumvents the yucky hotswap/power challenges that comes with using an I2C bus. You can find information about it in the 40% Discord.

Fun fact: Modular keyboards are hard! There’s a lot of use edge cases a designer has to worry about since there’s a plethora of combinations of different modules, as well as a lot of different ways the user would want to interact with all of the modules. I hope someday someone can nail the concept, though if they’re using an I2C bus design, I have reservations that they will be able to solve every problem with the hardware or firmware, much less solve it well. As such, they better open source it so the community can fix the problems themselves!

Other projects

For the sake of brevity, I have left out other projects I’ve worked on that are starting to roll out. Feel free to check my reddit for the latest updates though!

Upcoming Projects, reflection, and new year

Happy to say that I still have a few more fresh ideas for the upcoming year. I think the ones currently in the pipeline are refinements or additions of what seemed to stick this year.

In terms of learning skills, something I want to try is learning how to do integrated pcb design (i.e. no Pro Micros) as well as a better understanding of QMK internals, so that I can hopefully write user programs on top of it. I think portability and customizability are my favorite qualities of a keyboard, and I think both skills can help me push the boundaries of said qualities.

I think I might also want to pivot my strategy of releasing projects. This year has been a boom in terms of what I threw against the wall to see what stuck. While it gave me a good understanding of what worked and what didn’t, the issue with that strategy is that the cost of materials starts to ramp up and accumulate quickly, and I worry that I can now make designs fast enough to the point that finances are now the rate limiting factor for me. I think next year may see fewer projects, though I hope to invest more time into the ones that I do have. Alternatively, I start to consider different ways of subsidizing my hobby to become more sustainable. Being experimental and open source will continue to be the core of what I do though.

He didn’t tell me to write this, but I’m very grateful for all of the help Liam from PCBWay has given me. I wouldn’t have been able to make nearly as many projects this year without his support. On that note, if you would like to see more open source projects from me, or continued support for existing ones, please consider donating!

Finally, if you’d like to stay in the loop on new projects, as well as get a sneak peek of what’s in the works, or ask me any kind of questions, feel free to join my new discord channel!

Happy new year everyone! Here’s to another year of an awesome hobby!

This article was written with a banime40 + NK Yellow Dry switches (spring swapped with 48g springs and lubed with Krytox 205g0) + Akko ASA PBT keycaps.

Christian Lo (23)

LocationWinnipeg, Canada
DescriptionDIY Keyboard Maker
OccupationSoftware Developer
NicheOrtholinear, ortholinear layouts, experimental designs
Fav. switchKailh Pro Red Chocs, Gazzew Bobagums, NK Yellows
Fav. keycap profileChosfox CFX, ASA, Cherry
Other hobbiesuhhhhhhh

Designing Keycaps for Fun and Profit

A quick overview of Matt3o’s 10-years experience in the mechanical keyboard industry before delving into future projects including a collaboration with GMK.

It was around summer of 2011 that I started developing a wrist and thumb pain caused by the long coding hours. At the time I was using a low profile Apple keyboard and little I knew about the mechanical keyboards world.

What I knew was that if I wanted to keep doing my job as a developer I had to solve my posture problem before the pain turned chronic, so I started lurking around the rather small at the time MK community. The best stuff came from South Korea, they were years ahead of us, already designing customs and organizing the first group buys. Eventually I ended up buying a tenkeyless Filco Majestouch with Cherry MX red. Investing over $150 in a keyboard was unthinkable to me…

How it all started

I very quickly realized that the Filco wasn’t doing much for my wrist pain even though it helped: I needed to design a keyboard that eased my day work. I’ve always been a tinkerer and I like to DIY my way through problems without having a real qualification in any specific field, a kind of professional generalist.

So in 2012 I joined Geekhack and Deskthority and I started building my first keyboard. It was a kinda 65% but the problem was finding compatible keycaps. While today 65% are the norm, back then even finding a 1.75U shift was an endeavor, let alone a 1.5U Backspace.

If I wanted a custom keyboard I needed also custom keycaps and that’s how DSA Retro was born.

Pic: An original DSA rendering from 2013 :D

An original DSA rendering from 2013 :D

Apart from some South Korean group buys I believe DSA Retro was the first widely available DSA set ever made and it sold what the historians describe as a “fuckton” considering the incredibly smaller market of 10 years ago. The DSA profile was selected because of its versatility, keys are all on the same row so it’s easy to mix and match to cover basically any custom keyboard.

I had the layout and the keycaps, I just needed the keyboard. There was very little documentation so it took me quite some time but ultimately I had my first keyboard hand-wired: it was the glorious Brownfox.


The next logical step was to make it available to the community, so I started talking with Drop first (at the time Massdrop) and Input:Club later and we partnered to make 65% keyboards widely available to the western market.

The collaboration finally resulted in the lovely Whitefox! The first iteration of the keyboard (when it was still a customizable kit) is probably one of the projects I’m most fond of. I know it’s pretty “raw” by today’s standards but it was meant as a very inexpensive kit with interchangeable plates so we had to take some shortcuts with the design.


That was the beginning of my new career. Up to that point it was still a hobby but it was taking more and more of my spare and work time.

Many more projects followed, notably DSA Granite (a less-niche DSA set), but what really changed my life was MT3.

MT3: high profile galore

Around 2014 Topre released The RealForce HiPro, and I knew something was missing in my life. It’s true that SA was already kicking but I’ve always seen that profile as a hack and anyway Signature Plastics production time was already 8+ months.

It took me a while but in 2015 I started working on a new High Profile Spherical Top keycap directly inspired by the best keyboards ever made; of course I’m talking about IBM beamspring. The market was growing fast but we were nowhere near the critical mass we are seeing today. Manufacturing a completely new profile was no easy task, Chinese factories were not very experienced in the process and the road was bumpy. In 2018, after three years from the initial concept and with the benevolent sponsorship of Drop, we finally released MT3! I have a full story about it if you are interested.

Pic: First ever MT3 prototypes

First ever MT3 prototypes

The goal was to create a high profile key that had some kind of sense in the modern mechanical keyboard scenario. SA has a flat R3, while MT3 has a row-3 that is (mostly) flat on a 5-9 degree angle, which is a sweet spot for keyboards today. The rest of the rows are designed around R3. That being said, it’s still a pretty tall profile and you gotta like that. :)

Fortunately many shared the love for MT3 and at that point I left the software development world and keyboards and keycaps became my full time job.

The future is MTNU

Don’t get me wrong, I love MT3 but it was done mostly for the look. I wanted to push those nostalgia buttons and I tried my best to make it as ergonomic as a high-profile could be but I understand that MT3 is not for everybody.

I wanted a spherical top keycap that could be a valid alternative to a cylindrical. What would a “cherry profile” look like if it were spherical? That’s how MTNU (pronounced MTNew) began.

I gathered quite some feedback from MT3 users over the years and the main concerns are: 1) too tall, 2) edges too sharp. So I started from there.

The hitting area has to be very comfortable and should not cause any harm to your feeble fingers. Back to the drawing board I ended up with a soft spherical scoop with a round top edge profile like so:


The finger happily snugs into the keycap and doesn’t find any hard edge on the front and back, much like on a cylindrical keycap.

At the beginning I had no idea who was going to manufacture MTNU and it was only because of an unpredictable series of fortunate events that I ended up collaborating with GMK.

It turned out that GMK was developing a similar profile and seemed tragically unfruitful to compete, so we joined forces. I’ll be honest with ya: It wasn’t an easy decision to make. GMK reputation was slowly declining mostly because of the very long production times and delays, but I always appreciated their work and after many meetings and emails I ultimately agreed to collaborate and honestly I’m so glad I did because working with them is fantastic and a true honor.

I worked with many Chinese, Taiwanese and American manufacturers but nowhere I’ve seen the level of professionalism that I experienced at GMK. It’s true that they went through a series of hiccups due to various “perfect storm”-like events but they are getting back on track and their new production line is ready to deal with the increased demand.

It’s thanks to the collaboration with GMK that MTNU went from a sweet dream to a working product. It took just a few weeks to get the first double-shot prototypes and I was blown away.


When you go from seeing your creation on screen to holding it in your hands, it’s always a tear inducing moment for me. The texture is just absolutely perfect. As much as I’d love a super smooth surface, a very slight texture helps hide injection lines, so we went for the lightest texture possible that still ensures the best visual result.

Since MTNU is a no compromise profile it will be full blown doubleshot PBT. No wearing ABS, no compromising PBT-blend, just plain old durable 100% PBT. This might scare some of the designers because color matching will be more complicated, but c’mon guys, you can do it. :)

Pic: MTNU prototype-1 vs SA

MTNU prototype-1 vs SA

So what’s the deal with MTNU?

The profile is meant as a medium height, general purpose, very pleasing to type on alternative to cherry. The spherical scoop is inviting but not too deep to cause a sharp edge and the curved top outline softens the hitting area even more. Your fingers don’t hit on anything when floating over the keyboard; that makes MTNU a kind of “advanced” profile as your only reference when touch typing are the homing keys (F and J). The cherry profile, for example, has a very strong step from R1 to R2 and that makes it easier to locate the rows.

MTNU – despide being a modern profile – still borrows the look of vintage keycaps and for that reason we decided to go with a “retro” font. The typeface is clearly inspired by old IBM and Radioshack keyboards but it has been designed from scratch to be a bit less… archaic.

Pic: Early rendering of an MTNU beige set

Early rendering of an MTNU beige set

At first sight it might look like a DIN font, but then you start noticing a few defining characteristics, like the barred 0 (zero) or the old school A.

At the time of this writing we are producing the second round of prototypes. I don’t expect any surprise as the first batch was already great. If all goes according to plan I should have them in a couple of weeks and so final production should start in January. I believe from there it’s another 4 months, so crossing all fingers we should have our first set around summer 2023.

I could go on forever talking about MTNU but I have more things to cover so if you want to know more I invite you to follow my blog or join my discord.

Penguin Belly Slide

I feel that uniform profiles have been neglected, but I always appreciated the custom-keyboard friendliness of profiles like DSA even though —I’ll admit— it’s not the best keycap shape in the world.

We need to fix that and here comes Penguin Belly Slide (PBS, working title).

Pic: PBS 3D printed prototypes

PBS 3D printed prototypes

PBS is a weird cookie. It has a spherical scoop but then the top is cut by a cylinder. So the front/back edges are round while the left/right are straight like in cherry profile, but still the hitting area is deep and round like a spherical keycap.

The result is a top surface that looks shaped over the belly of a penguin, hence the name “Penguin Belly”. “Slide” comes from... Well, because typing on them is just fun!


As mentioned the purpose of PBS is to make custom keyboards and weird layouts easy to cover and for the same reason it’s also very important for me to make this profile as inexpensive as possible. PBS doesn’t have rows, all 1U keys are the same and that helps keep the cost down but to further limit expenses I’m thinking of going dye-sublimation. Although not set in stone yet (double-shot can still happen) a dye-sub version would allow a simpler production process and simpler generally means cheaper.

I’ve already sent a few 3D printed prototypes around and the feedback has been very good so far.

Pic: PBS Prototypes in the wild. Photo courtesy of user M4NU on Discord.

PBS Prototypes in the wild. Photo courtesy of user M4NU on Discord.

Designing a “flat” profile might seem trivial but it is actually taking more time than I anticipated. With sculpted keycaps it’s the key angle that helps with ergonomics but when you don’t have that all you can do is play with the flat key shape. That’s why I’m running so many prototypes for PBS, far more than I usually do. If you are interested in testing the profile please join my Discord server and check the #PBS channel. I’m always looking forward to receiving feedback but bear in mind that so far I have only 3D printed samples.

Now the bad news. PBS doesn’t have a manufacturer yet. I have to sponsor myself the tooling and it’s not a small sum to put together and with all the projects that I have cooking It's not easy to find a spot for the Penguin in my timeline. I understand it’s a niche keycap but I do hope we can start the pre-order phase in 2023 and if all goes according to plan the uniform revolution will begin by the end of next year.

Open Programmatic Keycap (OPK)

In the many years I’ve been designing keycaps I’ve always found the 3D modeling process a bit tedious. I’m a coder at heart so when I find myself doing the same thing twice I ask myself if there’s a better way and if the process can be streamlined. It’s true that you generally work with parametric CAD like Solidwork or Fusion360 but still the process is never 100% automated.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just set a few parameters and the software created all the keys you needed, including ISO enter, stepped capslock, spacebars,...?

That’s why I started working at OPK.


OPK is an open source library to generate spherical top keycaps written in python and powered by CadQuery. It’s not the most stable option (OpenSCAD is definitely more mature) but it lets you export in STEP format which is exactly what I needed.

The library is still in its infancy but it can already generate a wide array of keycaps of any size and height including carved or embossed legends. I believe it’s a great tool for DIYers who need to 3D print a custom set and for 3D artists who can export a whole set ready for rendering.

Pic: User Emburglar on Discord having fun with OPK

User Emburglar on Discord having fun with OPK

OPK can also do legends but of course we can’t double-shoot at home (well yeah technically we can but it’s complicated and time consuming). With an FDM printer you could try multi color printing but the end result is not great, for higher quality we need to go resin. I made a video recently where I show that decent results can be achieved very easily using resin or putty infill; it won’t be perfect but good enough and it’s a lot of fun anyway.

If you like the idea please check out OPK and send feedback, if you know CadQuery maybe you can also help with the development.

What next?

2022 has been a busy year, we are finally leaving the pandemic behind (even though don’t forget that China still has a zero-covid policy and that impacts production) and the keyboard community literally exploded. Building customs is extremely easy compared to a few years ago, keycaps are often in stock and you don’t need to join a years-long group buy (if you don’t want to), there are so many switches that we ran out of stem colors and names (Holy Pony Giraffe Lubed Ghetto Violet Retooled anyone?).

Things are overall better, the market has matured and reached a more casual audience and that caused a kind of short circuit. 10 years ago a group buy that sold 100 kits was considered a huge success, today the figures are 10-fold and nobody is willing to add that weird kit that sells only 10 copies because over 1000 it’s nothing, just wasted resources. So on one side we have a lot of options, better prices, wider audience, resources, youtubers, ... ; on the other we lost that camaraderie and pioneerism that usually distinguish the early adopters. The market is steered by the trend of the moment more than the passion of true passionate users.

The mechanical keyboard phenomenon inflated too much and too fast. The question is: is this a bubble? Will it explode or normalize? And at what stage of the curve are we? Are we rising or descending? These are all questions I asked to many people in the business and nobody really knows. Personally I believe we are still riding the high tide but to me it doesn’t matter that much.

When I tell people that mechanical keyboards are my day-job they can hardly believe me, and honestly it’s kind of a dream for me too. It’s not that I’m better or smarter than others in the business, my only merit is being… persistent. I have been here since the beginning and the flame is still burning. I don’t care if mechanical keyboards won’t be trendy anymore in a few years, I will still be here, this is just what I like to do.

This article was written on a custom ZMK based 65% with a 3D printed case, Kailh Box Pale Blue switches and DSA Granite keycaps. Split backspace is the way. God gave us capslock so it could be used as CTRL.

Matteo Spinelli

LocationFlorence, Italy
DescriptionRobot Extraordinaire
OccupationMad Scientist
Fav. switchanything that clicks or clacks
Other hobbies3D printing, retro computing, scifi, painting, kitbashing, prop making… sorry guys, I’m a real nerd
LinksBlog:, Video:, Discord:

Designing for Wireless

Pete Johanson, keyboard designer and creator/project lead of the ZMK firmware, offers some guidance for keyboard designers new to wireless designs.

Pete Johanson has been toiling away on ZMK since he first got annoyed by the wires on his split and decided it was time to do something about it. He's been leading the project since it's start in early 2020, and recently did the crazy thing and quit his day job to focus on family and ZMK/keyboards.


Many of the core concepts covered in excellent existing guides like the ai03 keyboard guide offer fundamental concepts needed to design and create wired keyboards. However, with the increase in availability of wireless controllers like the nice!nano and Seeed XIAO BLE, and firmware options like ZMK, there are additional design guidelines that can help designers to create power and RF efficient keyboards.

Before diving in, I would like to acknowledge all of the amazing folks who have helped me learn all this along the way. I do not come from an EE/embedded/hardware background, so I am only able to share this thanks to the knowledge others have shared with me.

Power Efficiency

Wireless keyboards spend the majority of their time powered by a battery (typically rechargeable LiPo). Unlike wired keyboards, which have an effectively limitless supply of 5V power (up to 500mA on USB, typically), wireless keyboards may need to operate on a battery with a total max charge of 100mAh or less! Hardware and firmware choices that may have previously worked perfectly may turn out to have disastrous implications for the current consumption of a power constrained device.

Categories of Draw

There are two main categories of power consumption that can affect a design, persistent passive/quiescent draw at the hardware level, and MCU draw due to a design that prevents the MCU from idling and entering low power states.

1. Passive/Quiescent Current

Passive/quiescent draw is current drawn by passives and ICs an ongoing basis whenever power is supplied to them. Any such draw adds to the baseline power usage of the keyboard at all times, and can end up significantly impacting the total draw of the device.

2. MCU Idling

A design of both hardware and firmware working together to allow the CPU to idle/sleep can have a huge impact on the current draw of a device. For example, on nRF52840, the sleep draw is on the order of several uA, while an active CPU may draw several mA. Given that stark difference, any design choices that allow for sleeping the CPU will result in huge wins in reducing power draw and extending the battery life of a device.

Passive/Quiescent Draw

The most common sources of passive/quiescent draw are in specialized ICs that have some base current draw for them to operate or components creating a direct path between power and ground (usually through resistor used as a pull-up/-down) that leads to a constant leak of current.

Addressable RGB LEDs

The ubiquitous addressable RGB LEDs found on many keyboards are a convenient way to add programmable RGB to a board in a way that is relatively easy to design/route, cost effective, and easy enough to solder.

Unfortunately, they come with a major drawback; even when turned off, each individual LED in the strip can draw about 1mA of power, far more than even the core of the nRF52840 CPU. Given this, it is a must to put the power to these behind a MOSFET that can be used to cut power from them entirely when they are not in use.

Designs using a controller like the nice!nano, nRFMicro, etc. already include the ability to cut the VCC pin power, but beware: if you also have other peripherals that need power from VCC, e.g. OLEDs, shift registers, etc, then you won't be able to get the power savings from cutting the LED power. Work is ongoing to have ZMK support multiple "power domains", so that you can easily have dedicated FETs for different peripherals as needed.


The OLEDs found on many wired keyboard designs are not as power hungry as addressable RGB LEDs, but they take a close second. An excellent blog post on OLED current draw has the full details, but expect them to draw at least 15mA when on, and potentially 0.5mA when blanked.

Consider using other display technologies such as memory-in-pixel, e.g. SHARP Memory Displays, or e-paper/-ink which have significantly less current consumption compared to OLEDs.

(Quadrature) Encoders

The commonly used encoders found on many keyboards use A, B, and C/Z pins, where C/Z is tied to ground, and A and B are used as inputs with internal or external pull-ups applied to bias their value. Unfortunately, many of the commonly found encoders will end up having the A or B lines (or worse both) connected to the C/Z pin at rest. This results in a constant draw of current through the pull ups. At 3.3v, with a 10k ohm resistor, Ohm's law says that an extra 330uA of draw will be present for just one encoder.

Here's a visualization with an external pull-up for clarity, showing where the current will leak if using an encoder where the A and C/Z line are connected when the encoder is at rest:

Pic: Rotary encoder leak

Rotary encoder leak

If using encoders, research the resting state of the specific encoders; Alps encoders will often cause such leaks, but many Bourns encoders do not.

Voltage Dividers

Voltage dividers are a commonly used pattern to bring the voltage from the positive cathode of a battery into a range that a connected analog pin can read, in order to use voltage estimation to determine the charge of the battery. Unfortunately, this allows current to leak through the resistors from the battery to ground.

Pic: Basic voltage divider with leak

Basic voltage divider with leak

The usual fix for this is to connect the voltage divider not to ground directly, but to a GPIO pin that can be set low only long enough for the voltage to be read, then set back into a high-Z state.

Pic: Basic voltage divider with enable pin

Basic voltage divider with enable pin

If designing a board with onboard CPU and battery circuitry, use this approach if you have an extra pin available.

Other Pull Ups/Downs

Whenever using any design that requires additional externally biasing resistors, consider how often, and for how long, that resistor may have current flowing through it.

Other passives/ICs

Most IC datasheets will include line items describing the current draw for various states in the "Electrical Characteristic" section. For example, if you compare two different LDOs, the XC6206 and XC6220, the "Supply Current" of the two is 1uA and 8uA/50uA, respectively. Seeing this, if the XC6206 satisfies your other requirements, then you would favor it for your design.

Similarly, when looking at components like MOSFETs, shift registers, IO expanders, etc. you should always inspect the datasheet to be sure you understand the impact to your design's baseline power draw.

CPU Idling

Here, we can dive into the various design choices we can make (or avoid!) to ensure we can keep our CPU idling/asleep more of the time, saving on power.

Key Matrix/Direct Wire

Most firmwares designed for wired keyboards perform constant scanning of the keyboard's switches to detect presses/releases and handle them. One major side effect of this approach is a MCU which is unable to idle. To avoid this, ZMK (and maybe other firmwares?) uses an interrupt based approach by default to detect initial key presses in key matrixes. Unfortunately, there are several matrix design considerations that need to be taken into account to ensure this is possible, and ZMK does not need to revert to constant polling of the matrix.

The general behavior for the interrupt based approach is as follows:

1. Enter idle state by setting all matrix output pins to active (high or low depending on the specifics) and enabling interrupts on all matrix input pins. This is an important requirement. Doing so means that pressing any key in the matrix will generate an interrupt and wake the sleeping CPU.

Pic: Idle state, with columns all set high/active

Idle state, with columns all set high/active

2. When a key is pressed in the matrix, the GPIO interrupt will be generated. In the example here, when SW3 is pressed, current will then flow to row1, causing the interrupt on that pin to fire:

Pic: Switch pressed, an interrupt will be generated on row1

Switch pressed, an interrupt will be generated on row1

3. Upon receipt of the interrupt, the CPU is awoken, and the active matrix scanning commences. All output pins are set inactive, output pins interrupts are disabled, and the matrix is actively scanned by iterating over each output pin, enabling it, and checking the state of the input pins of the matrix. Any keys detected as newly pressed or released are then handled by the firmware.

4. When the scanning process detects that all keys have been released, the matrix code returns to step #1, entering an idle state, enabling all outputs and input interrupts. Once done, the CPU can again idle.

The above approach requires the following to be possible for the hardware design:

  1. It must be possible to enable all output pins simultaneously, so that a press of any key in the matrix will generate an input pin interrupt.
    1. In particular, this means you should avoid using a demux IC to achieve more output pins than are available.
    2. Instead, favor using shift registers or IO expanders to obtain more output pins for your matrix.
  2. It must be possible for all input pins to generate interrupts for the CPU.
    1. Avoid using a mux IC for your matrix inputs
    2. When using an IO expander, be sure to use one has an interrupt pin/pins, and has a ZMK/Zephyr driver that supports interrupts.

    A few other potential gotchas:

    1. Stay away from "round-robin" matrix designs, since those use pins as both inputs and outputs, making it impossible to set all outputs active while also having all inputs awaiting an event to generate an interrupt.
    2. Avoid using QMK's handedness by matrix pin as that results in a key always being "pressed" which means the matrix scanning code will never enter the idle state, not wanting to risk missing a key release that will never actually happen.


    There are a few ways to determine/estimate the battery life of your design.

    If using mostly standard keyboard peripherals, you can use the ZMK Power Profiler to enter some basic details to get a rough estimate of the runtime based on the planned battery capacity.

    It can be very useful, if serious about your design, to measure the actual power draw of your design to see how you have done. There are a few ways to do this, a commonly used tool is the Nordic Power Profiler Kit 2.

    RF Efficiency

    Even if an incredibly power efficient design is accomplished, if the wireless signal between peripheral and host suffers, then end users will not be pleased. There are some basic best practices to use to help ensure the wireless signal strength/integrity.

    Creating a pathway for RF signals with minimal interference is of vital importance for your design to have a usable range.

    Material Selection

    The material selection for any case/enclosure can make a huge difference. The absolute worst case for a wireless keyboard is placing the antenna in a metal case with metal switch plate, with zero cutouts anywhere with other materials. You might as well call a design like that the Faraday60.

    If researching a particular material, search for the "dielectric loss factor" of the material to gain an understanding of the impact that material will have on the signals from the final device.

    If using metal, say an aluminum case, try to improve the signal by using a different, less interfering material for the switch plate, or create a polycarbonate cutout in a portion of the case body, etc.

    Here's an example, from the LowProKB Corne-ish Zen, showing where the designer intentionally cut away the top case's aluminum corner and extended the plastic base plate to allow for better RF signal:

    Pic: Corne-ish Zen Antenna Clearance

    Corne-ish Zen Antenna Clearance

    FR4 Plates

    FR4 is often used for switch plates in designs. FR4 substrate, typically fiberglass, has a fairly low dielectric loss factor, however the copper fill layers found on the bottom/top of PCBs is exactly the opposite. If using FR4, be sure to either skip using a copper fill on both sides, or add a keep out for the fill in the region over the antenna.

    Here is an example switch plate where the fill has been excluded from the corner for improved RF transmissibility:

    Pic: Switch plate keep out example

    Switch plate keep out example

    Antenna Placement

    Where you place your antenna, and the materials immediately surrounding it, plays just a crucial a role in your design.

    Most BLE modules will include documentation on the suggested keep out area around the module's antenna region, both for the PCB/ground fill, and any enclosure around it. The general rule is to try place the antenna on the edge of the PCB, with ground fill excluded around and below the antenna. However, if the edge of your PCB is closer to a metal case, consider moving the module/antenna to the interior, and ensure that you keep ground pour, components clear of it.

    Here is an example PCB where the copper fill is excluded around the module antenna, and further more there is a PCB edge cut for a battery compartment after that:

    Pic: Module Keep Out Example

    Module Keep Out Example

    More Keyboards, Less Wires

    Designing for wireless adds an additional set of factors to consider. When done well, users can experience the joy and flexibility of a device unencumbered by wires. Hopefully the information here will empower more folks to design a wireless keyboard.

    Go forth and create!

    Written on a revxlp prototype, a variant of the reviung41 keyboard, but low profile, and using the XIAO footprint of controllers. This particular build sports the Seeed XIAO BLE, Choc Sunset switches, and LDSA keycaps.


    1. ZMK Discord:
    2. ZMK Design Guide:
    3. ai03 PCB Guide:
    4. ZMK Power Profiler:

    Pete Johanson (40)

    LocationFull time RV'ing across the US
    DescriptionFirmware developer and keyboard designer
    OccupationEmbedded engineer, designer
    NicheWireless, low profile, 34-keys, unibody splits
    Fav. switchChocs (Sunsets and 30g whites)
    Fav. profileChicago Steno, LDSA, MBK
    LayoutColemak DH
    Other hobbiesdisc golf
    Links,, @[email protected]

On collecting and modern keyboard innovation

Thomas, the guy behind the Chyrosran22 YouTube channel, sums up how keyboards changed during the last fifty years and takes a look at the explosion of innovations that have happened in the field over the last few years.

(Mechanical) keyboards have a long and strange history. In the 70s and early 80s, even a bog-standard computer keyboard would set you back, adjusted for inflation, hundreds of dollars. This might sound strange nowadays, but it was a trifle compared to the cost of the computers themselves. The keyboards, like the computers, then, were expected to last for a very long time — and were built to, too.

However, as the cost of computers decreased, the cost of their peripherals had to come down as well. Keyboards would, over time, lose their steel plates, high-performance switches, quality materials and keycaps, and shrivel up into the rubber dome-laden, cheap plastic rubbish that most consumers are used to now. The quality that was once taken for granted had to make way in favour of the cheapness of the rubber dome menace. A standard office keyboard nowadays only costs a few dollars to produce and ship; a far cry from what it used to be.

Although often chided for being garish, superficial fashion accessories, the trend of "gaming keyboards" is most definitely one of the primary reasons for the resurgence of interest in mechanical keyboards. One of the first (and most well-known) gaming keyboards of this type was the Razer Blackwidow, back in 2010. Ever since then, mechanical keyboards have become more and more mainstream, with a vast array to choose from. Although cheap rubber dome or chiclet keyboards are often still the office norm, a simple mechanical keyboard can be had for as little as $35 — if branding isn't something you particularly care about.

However, sparkly new RGB 'boards are not the only choice on the market. For many years, buying "vintage" keyboards has been a thing. Originally these tended to be dirt cheap, as collecting mechanical keyboards was — let's be generous — a "niche" hobby. Even new old stock (brand-new, unused, but from a different time) keyboards could be had for pennies; a fantastic deal considering these old keyboards were still from the era where people cared about what they typed on. Their quality would, in many cases, vastly exceed anything made today, yet for a fraction of the price. With some work, these could be converted for use with any modern computer.

Of course, with the rise of popularity of mechanical keyboards, these vintage alternatives couldn't keep their low cost forever. Their cost peaked a few years ago; I've seen the Dell AT101 (one of the most common Alps-based mechanical keyboards from the 90s) go from a board that people could hardly give away to one that commanded a price of at least $100 apiece. Although those are now a bit cheaper, you're still looking to pay at least that for a good IBM Model M keyboard — and considerably more if you want one of the rarer or more desirable models.

Although there are of course exceptions, a general rule of thumb for keyboards is: the older it is, the more well-made it often turns out to be. The Model M keyboard — arguably the most famous keyboard of all time, a steel-backed behemoth coming in at over 2 kg with a divine typing feel — was a cheap, membrane (!) based alternative to its predecessor, the Model F keyboard, which used capacitive switches and even more steel in its chassis. The Model F itself was yet again a cheapification of the "beamspring"-based Model D keyboards that IBM used in the 1970s; they used what I still consider the best-feeling switches of all time, plus the quality of their construction was absurd (my IBM 4798 "beamship" weighs in at 6.8 kilos — I daren't even imagine how heavy the 259-key IBM "Beamhemoth" is). Despite being around 50 years old, a USB conversion made it able to be used on a modern computer, and it still types like a dream. That thing is older than me, and aged considerably more gracefully.

Although nowadays almost all mechanical keyboards use Cherry MX or one of its countless clones — Kailh, Gateron, TTC, Holy Pandas, Zealios, etc. — most enthusiasts aren't aware that this is just one single design in a sea of many hundreds of others. Many will stem swap, housing swap, lube and otherwise mod these switches into oblivion, but effectively it's still the same switch with very little physical change. Most keyboard switch designs have gone the way of the dodo and are only found on old, sometimes highly obscure and rare keyboards, but the difference between these and MX is often vastly greater than between stock MX and even the most extensively modded MX-type switches. Even relatively similar designs, such as NMB's Series 725 "Space Invaders" switches, or Alps Electric's SKCL/SKCM series (both contemporary competitors of Cherry MX from the mid-80s!) are so different from stock MX that it feels, at times, rather bizarre to watch what feels like the majority of the community obsess trying to achieve the greatest (yet in reality often microscopic) changes in the same single switch out of what must be thousands of (radically different and yet largely ignored) designs out there.

Being not just a keyboard enthusiast, but also a collector, I am fortunate to have a wide library of reference material for this. At about 350 different models spanning more than five decades, my keyboards range from keyless to 189% form factors, from flimsy plastic crap to metal bricks, from horrible to type on to heavenly, from beige to black to blue and all other colours you can imagine, and from metal contact-based like MX, Alps etc. to membrane, Hall effect, optoelectric, magnetic reed, magnetic valve, inductive, capacitive etc. I have keyboards not just to type on, but also to play around with. And many of these offer types of keyfeel that enthusiasts would drool over — if they only had the chance to try them out.

Thankfully, the popularity of mechanical keyboards has reached a critical enough mass that developers have slowly been trying out new things. A few years ago, Ace Pad Tech and Steelseries have brought back Hall effect switches; these have now been optimised and several companies offer these new, absurdly smooth linear switches.

Bloody and Wooting have done something similar by bringing back optoelectric switches, and these are also freely available. No longer do you need to dive into eBay listings, e-cyclers, dumpsters and second hand shops to get god-tier linear keyboards from the 70s and 80s; you can buy them brand-new online, and in modern chassis, with all the conveniences of such. Better still, these "contactless" linears have arguably even surpassed their vintage forbears in smoothness and keyfeel.

Clicky switches and especially tactile switches are harder to design, and need more work still. Kaihua's invention of the clickbar switch caused a major paradigm shift away from the now-standard click jacket-type MX-like clicky switches. These clickbars are an original design with no vintage origin, and are a highly competent alternative. Razer's optoelectric switches have a most intriguing — and quite pleasant — click bolt version of their optoelectric switches, Outemu have made snap-action switches, and there are remakes of Model F capacitive buckling spring keyboards, and recently even of beamspring keyboards, on the market. A second, redesigned round of the latter is to follow in the new year.

ZealPC now sell an MX-compatible switch with an Alps-type click leaf; a very special design, as it allows ready and reversible interconversion between clicky, linear and tactile modes using only a single switch type. Clicky switches, it seems, are soon to follow a similar Renaissance to linears.

Tactile switches still need the most attention, partly because it is not easy to come up with any design that is tactile but not clicky, and also because arguably even throughout history, very few good tactile designs have existed, and so there is little to start off from. Oftentimes, tactile designs are a kind of "reined in" variation of a clicky design, and this restraint can be felt in the end result. MX-type switches in particular use a very primitive means of generating tactility; a simple, tiny notch in the slider, against which the contacts brush when pressing a key. This generates a slight disruption in the key travel, which is felt as a small tactile bump, although personally, I think that's a generous description of a barely noticeable event, and not a very clean-feeling one at that.

Very few switch designs have managed to make for tactile events that feel both "clean" and genuinely tactile. The notch-type design was brought to excessive proportions with the advent of Box Royals, a switch that felt balky and not very elegant, but now, maybe, we are getting there as well. With the semi-return of Alps switches in the form of ZealPC Clickiez, a tactile version seems possible, and this could make for a fantastic return to form, as Alps click leaves were singularly well-suited to generating tactility. A bizarre, 3D-printed "magnetic levitation" switch design that uses no springs at all but instead relies on a trio of magnets is also highly promising. So perhaps there is hope for the future after all. And of course, the good old Topre is still a niche, but highly prized (pun intended) option in this segment.

Overall, it seems we are at the cusp of many great developments for mechanical keyboards. The time when people care what they type (or game) on seems to slowly return. More and more offerings appear on the market, and both retro and modern developments are at one's fingertips (again, pun intended). The time where you could easily score fantastic vintage boards for loose change may have passed, but perhaps, in the future, we won't need them as much.

This article was written almost entirely on an AHEK95, a largely 3D-printed keyboard (case, keycaps, switches, stabilisers, knobs, etc.) with magnetic levitation "void" switches, made by Riskable.

Thomas Ran

Chyrosran22 / Chyros
LocationUtrecht, the Netherlands
Descriptionkeyboard YouTuber
Nichecollector, esp. vintage and/or weird
Fav. switchAlps SKCM Blue
Fav. profileIBM, OEM
Other hobbiestravelling, gaming, airsoft


LHM Morph

LifeHackerMax published all the files necessary to build his LHM Morph modular platform.

LifeHackerMax came out with a new 32-key split design: the LHM Morph is more than a keyboard, it's a modular platform that allows you to choose the best setup for your keys based on your hands' anatomy.

Six months ago, in the video on his previous LHM keyboard, Max said this: "building keyboards can be highly addictive". It turns out he was right. :D


This flexible platform allows you to test different layouts and button positions that will eventually enable you to build the best keyboard for your fingers.

According to Max, it's a huge improvement compared to the original 26-key split LHM keyboard because it allows him to fine-tune anything he wants.

Interesting thing – after adjusting the keyboard based on what feels good to me, I noticed that the right side keys are positioned slightly differently then the ones from the left side. This platform allowed me to do this – Max.

Some adjustable parameters are: tenting angle, slide each key module individually back and forth depending on the finger length, tilt each module or rotate it based on the geometry of your hand. The wrist rests can be tilted as well, and they act as a box for fitting the electronics and wiring inside (similarly to the mammoth by @illness072).


That said, it's interesting to compare these features to the results of Pete Lyons's Squeezebox scorecard.

The author used copper wire to connect the pieces together thus creating a hinge-like binding between moving parts.

The 2-key modules are mounted onto the sliders with 4mm nuts and bolts.

Inside the wrist rest there is an ESP32 T18 TTGO residing with a built-in battery system.



Pete Johanson's revxlp is a variant of the Reviung41 keyboard, but low profile, and supports controllers with the XIAO footprint.

The revxlp is a variant of the Reviung41 – designed by Pete Johanson. Monoblock split, low profile, and using the XIAO footprint of controllers.

This project was brought to my attention by Pete himself, better said by the draft of his advent calendar post, which will mention this model in two days. ;)

The revxlp is a 41/42 key low profile (choc v1) unibody split keyboard, supporting hotswap sockets, two thumb layouts, and single color backlight per-key LEDs. It is a remix of the revlp by Cyril, who created it off the original reviung41 by gtips.

Besides being low profile, the revxlp is designed to use Seeed Studio XIAO or compatible controllers, e.g. the Adafruit Qt PY controllers.



The revxlp by Cyril279 was inspired by the Reviung series, but it is designed for Choc switches.

The revlp or Rev-lp is not new, it was published almost a year and a half ago. However, referenced by Pete Johanson's revxpl, I wanted to post about it for the sake of completeness.

Designed by cyril279, the revlp is based on the Reviung41/39 by gtips, but supports v1 and v2 Kailh choc switches (pg1350 & pg1353), and comes in three flavors:

  • 39_1350: 39-key Reviung, 18x17mm spacing, v1 switches; hotswap, single-color backlit
  • 41_1350: 41-key Reviung, 18x17mm spacing, v1 switches; hotswap, single-color backlit
  • 41_1353: 41-key Reviung, 19mm square spacing, v2 (& v1) switches; soldered switches, no lighting


Dust keyboard

Jason Hazel's dust is an ultrathin sweep-alike split keyboard.

After his ortholinear Crepe, Jason Hazel aka quirk published his dust, an ultrathin Sweep derivative with Kailh X switches.

To further justify my purchase of X Switches, I decided to make the thinnest sweep-alike I could – quirk.


  • 7mm tall
  • reversible PCB
  • Surface mounted XIAO controllers with jumperless install




Keebsmas 2022

Keebsmas is an annual holiday charity event. Twitch streamers host giveaways, and raise donations. This year for DIY Girls.

As already mentioned in my recent editorial, Keebsmas is an online event brought to my attention by Susan of Mintlodica.

What is the 12 Days of Keebsmas?

Keebsmas is an annual charity fundraising event for the mechanical keyboard community originally started in 2020 by keebnewb, jnlybean, and Davis of 3DKeebs.

To date we have raised over $21,000 for charity thanks to our generous donors and participants from the keyboard community! We hope to continue this tradition this year by raising money for DIY Girls.

How Does Keebsmas Work?

During the 12 days leading up to December 25th there will be daily giveaways hosted on Twitch by featured streamers in the keyboard community as well as a 12-hour stream on Christmas Day. During each stream the featured streamer will be promoting the fundraising campaign, soliciting donations, as well as doing giveaways.


Join the event starting on December 13th for 12 days of Twitch streams.

The official Keebsmas site has been updated with the most up-to-date schedule. Check out the line-up!



@keebnewb has been posting announcements on her Instagram as well.

DIY Girls

This year’s charity is DIY Girls, a non-profit organization based in the Los Angeles area. Their mission is to increase interest, access, & success in technology for girls in low-income communities. The organizers believe this aligns closely with the skills of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts.

Did you know that currently, women represent just 28% of overall employed scientists and engineers in the United States, of which only 5% are women of color? This inequality begins early in the education pipeline and nationally, only 15% of girls between 4th-8th grade demonstrate, or even express, an interest in STEM.

DIY Girls works to change this inequality by increasing girls’ interest and success in technology, engineering and making through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships. Donations during Keebsmas will go directly towards DIY Girls #GivingTuesday campaign.


You may donate directly to the Keebsmas 2022 campaign on Streamlabs Charity.

We've set a goal of $8,000 this year so hopefully we can meet or exceed it! Can't wait to see all of you in chat and have some fun for a good cause – keebnewb.


Epi controller

A new open-source controller with tiny footprint: Epi by rallekralle11.

Named after the Epipactis genus or orchids, the Epi by Rasmus (aka rallekralle11) is a tiny controller barely wider than the USB-C connector.

Announced and open sourced in late October, the first prototypes arrived and proved to be working fine.

This is something I've been working on for a while. It's based on the Atmega32U4 but is quite a lot smaller than a Pro Micro and has more pins broken out. The pin spacing is 1,27mm which lets the entire thing be tiny. You can see how it's barely wider than the USB-C port – rallekralle11.



  • Atmega32U4 chip
  • 23(?) GPIO pins
  • 1.27mm pin spacing
  • Dimensions: 23x12.5mm
  • castellated pins
  • Data line ESD protection
  • USB-C connector sunk into the board, and slightly protruding from the end for panel mounting
  • Holes where M2 bolts can be used to hold it in place


Despite the tiny footprint, it has most features of a classic Pro Micro:

Only thing it lacks are TX/RX LEDs, voltage regulators and a fuse. None of which should matter for a keyboard. Otherwise it's the same as a Pro Micro but smaller and with more usable pins.

So no integrated voltage regulator, only runs at 4.5-5.5V (down to 2.7 if you make it with an 8MHz crystal, or use the internal oscillator) which is totally fine for USB. No RX/TX/power LEDs either, only one on pin 13 for testing.


Jankey Press 6000

A DIY dye sub keycap press by ericausome: the Jankey Press 6000.

The Jankey Press 6000 is a "quicky and dirty" press ericausome made because he got his dye sub ink, a new printer and papers all within 3 days of each other. Made from white oak scrap and an old door hinge.

What you need are bits of wood you’ve hoarded for 10 years, an impulse ptc heater buy off Amazon, a broken door you can steal a hinge from and some luck.

To up the factor, the cable relief is courtesy of two large zip ties.

The author laser cut a quick jig for holding 1u keys, which is replaceable and can be swapped out for larger keys later with more jigs.


The heart of the press is a 12V 200C PTC heating element. Kapton tape protects the wood from getting scorched. It’s powered by a $1 DC power supply bought from Sally Anne.

Cut up silicone baking mat keeps heat transfer even across the whole cap.

More photos in the original r/mk post.

That was Issue #106. Thanks for stopping by.

This issue was made possible by the support of:, MoErgo Glove80, PCBWay, Aiksplace, u/chad3814, @keebio, @kaleid1990, MKUltra, Upgrade Keyboards, Sean Grady, cdc,, u/motfalcon, KEEBD, kiyejoco, Bob Cotton, FFKeebs, Richard Sutherland, Jacob Mikesell, @therick0996, Joel Simpson, Lev Popov, Keebstuff, littlemer-the-second, Christian Mladenov, Christian Lo, Spencer Blackwood, Yuan Liu, Daniel Nikolov, Alexander Karmanov, u/eighty58five, Caleb Rand, Skyler Thuss, Davidjohn Gerena, Fabian Suceveanu, Arto Olli, anonymous, Hating TheFruit

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.

Discussion over at r/mk!